Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pathetic Lack of Leadership

It might come as a surprise to some of my readers that I'm a little bit partisan. It might also come as a surprise that as a former army officer, I'm very observant regarding matters of leadership.

And we're seeing none from the Congressional "leadership".

Nancy Pelosi is the top dog in the House, and Harry Reid is the majority leader of the Senate. Based on their recent actions and words, neither of them would know leadership if it jumped out of a bag and bit them on the butt.

Instapundit reports:
Reader Greg Shea writes:
Here's what I don't understand:

When Republicans have control of Congress, it is Republicans' fault for not passing legislation to stave off economic trouble.

When Democrats have control of Congress, it is Republicans' fault for not passing the bailout. Must be nice...

Harry and Nancy have been in charge of their respective houses of the Congress for almost 2 years now. They are in charge. They run the show. Yet they act like they're still the leaders of the "loyal opposition" rather than of the parties in charge. Folks in the minority can (and sometimes should) nip at the ankles of the majority, if for no other reason than to keep them honest. When you're in charge, though, you try to herd all those cats in the direction you want them to go.

And you're not going to get them to go where you want to by blaming your own failures on them, by insulting them, and by being nasty to them. That's not leadership.

Of course, I don't really expect Nancy and Harry to demonstrate true leadership. No, they're partisan hacks, not real leaders. They can't even get their own people to follow them--in this "bailout", for example. Nancy blames the entire problem, and the lack of a solution, on Republicans, and instead of leading, then expects Republicans to give her political cover for this unpopular bailout. She said she didn't want to pass this without significant Republican support, preferably 100 votes. At least the Dems in the House in the early 90's had the strength of their convictions and voted to pass the federal budget without a single Republican vote. When you're in the majority, you can do that. But not Nancy:

NANCY'S DISASTER: "The fact is, 95 Democrats - 40 percent of the party's House membership - voted against the bill. Pelosi - who allegedly controls the chamber - couldn't even deliver her own members. How humiliating is that?" Many of those Democrats who voted against, of course, did so with Pelosi's blessing.

Nancy and Harry are playing political games. Yes, they're politicians, and perhaps the House Republicans are playing political games, too, but Harry and Nancy are (supposed to be) the leaders in the Congress. And are they acting like this is a crisis? No, they're acting like this is a game to win. Oh, and they're taking two days off for a religious holiday. If this were a real emergency, perhaps they'd have found a way to continue working for two days without those of the Jewish faith. If you're telling me we're on the verge of the next Great Depression, everyone can't take two days off.

Who has shown some leadership? The President. Not only has he called key people from both houses of Congress, and appropriate federal agencies (e.g. Treasury) to the White House for talks, but you haven't heard one partisan comment from him on this matter. McCain may have been playing politics by "suspending his campaign" so that he can do what he's paid to do in the Senate and work on this issue, but it was still the right thing to do. Obama did nothing, waiting for others to tell him what he should do.

I'm seeing no leadership at all from anyone in the Democratic Party. Not one drop of it.

You Democrats, you should demand better of your people. I know that we as a country certainly deserve better.

And I'm apparently not the only one to think so:

Let me go on the record today with an opinion I've held for a while, but hadn't yet expressed publicly: Nancy Pelosi needs to go as Speaker of the House...

However, the speech was incredibly inappropriate. At a moment when the Speaker should have been rallying the entire membership of the House to pull together as Americans and solve the crisis before them, Pelosi chose instead to use her pulpit to lay blame and point fingers...

Yesterday was a time for statesmanship and gravitas, qualities that are critical in the individual who is only a few degrees away from the presidency, and who is vested with representing the entire body of the House of Representatives. In our two party system, there is no way to leave partisan politics out of the Speaker's role, but Pelosi acts more like a House majority or minority leader, or a whip - or even like the DNC Chair - than she does like the great Speakers of yore, like Sam Rayburn and Tip O'Neill...

It demeans the role of Speaker for Pelosi to use her position to take every possible opportunity to aggressively bash the GOP, no matter how inappropriate the setting or context. And I say this as a voter who likely agrees with Pelosi on specific policy issues 95% of the time.

Hear hear.

Update, 10/1/08: But wait, there's more:


Pelosi deserves no praise for her leadership on Monday. Even stipulating that we are in the closing weeks of one of the most important political campaigns in a generation, her inability to rise above the tendency to score political points was inexcusable. Monday's vote was a moment to set aside those instincts and talk about the package as an example of Washington's ability to work cooperatively in a time of crisis.

Instead, Pelosi accused Bush of economic policies that create "budgetary recklessness" and "an anything-goes mentality." And she closed with a partisan call to arms.

(Via Extreme Mortman). Plus this conclusion: "For the next president and the next
Congress, whatever its makeup, Monday's performance should be looked at as an
example of what it was, a performance designed to undermine the public's confidence in its elected leadership." Strikingly, these criticisms come from The Washington Post, not some right-leaning publication.

That last line is telling.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Is The Common Thread?

According to Yahoo and Forbes.com:

The crisis on Wall Street has New Yorkers alarmed. But it’s nothing compared to the levels of anxiety those living in the Windy City feel each day.

Chicago's rising unemployment rate, expensive gas, high population density and relatively poor air quality create a perfect storm of stress, according to measures we used to calculate the country's anxiety hot spots.

New Yorkers can relate, though. Locals in the country's most densely packed metro have to fiercely compete for subway seats, cabs, apartments, elite preschools, dinner reservations and bartenders' attention. This constant grind compounds the area's other anxiety factors including costly housing (the country's third least affordable) and allergy-inducing pollution. Throw in Wall Street's woes, and you've got a Molotov cocktail of concern.

Detroit, Mich., Los Angeles, Calif., and San Francisco, Calif., ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

If you had to think of a political party to associate with each of those 5 cities, which party would it be? If you assigned a red/blue political color to each of those 5 cities, what color would it be? If you were to guess which presidential candidate would get a large majority of the votes in each of those 5 cities, which candidate would it be?

I'm just saying.

What Is Up With Some Parents?

I've had more than a couple students already this year come to me and ask for some piece of data--missing homework, clarification of policy, or some such--and when I ask why they seem so down, they say something like, "My mom just told (or texted) me to ask you."

WTF? Pardon my virtual foul language, but seriously.

For starters, the student is admitting to violating our school rules, which are draconian but clear: no phone/pager/PDA usage of any kind during the school day. That's bad enough.

But why would parents, who clearly know this policy, insist that their child violate it by calling or texting during school? Unless they really expect that baby has turned the phone off (no one does), and they'll go straight to voice mail or their text message will be stored, parents shouldn't be doing this. They're actively assisting their kids in violating school rules, and it's the kids, not the parents, who will pay the penalty when we catch them on their phones.

I don't get this.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Finally, A Math Teacher!

Being Teacher of the Year isn't an award that math teachers often earn, so congratulations to this one!

Carole Schwab, a math teacher at Woodcreek High School, has been selected as Placer County's Teacher of the Year.

Better Teachers

I received a newsletter with a most thought-provoking cover story:

What if "improving teacher quality" isn't the answer?

Think of the ramifications for public education if it's not. It's a chilling thought, and one that merits some serious thought.

There is the broader/bolder crowd, that argues that it's unfair to hold schools accountable for raising student achievement because so much that influences achievement is outside of schools' control. There is the growing chorus of voices that wonders whether "closing the achievement gap" should continue to be the primary objective of our education system, mostly because such an objective implies that we are not much interested in maximizing the progress of white, middle-class, and/or high-achieving students.

While I agree that schools alone can't fix the problem of student achievement, that does mean that schools shouldn't do everything in their power to affect what and who they can. Let's not use "we can't control what goes on in the home" as an excuse not to do anything.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Another Teacher-Student Sex Story

So much wrong with this story:

PORTLAND, Tenn. - Police have arrested a Middle Tennessee high school teacher who allegedly had sex with a student.

WTVF-TV in Nashville reports Portland High School math teacher Sandra Binkley turned herself into police Thursday.

She was charged with statutory rape by an authority figure for allegedly having sex with a 17-year-old student on campus during school hours. Al West of the Portland Police Department said the sexual relations happened in March.

The teenager told his parents, who reported the incident to school administrators this week.

It's bad enough that a teacher is having sex with a student. But to do it on campus and during school hours? Ewwwwww!

And if the kid is going to do a teacher, why would he then go home and tell mumsie and dadsie? There's something not being reported here.

13 Million-digit Mersenne Prime Discovered

I was an Applied Math major. In fact, my school only offered three different math majors: applied, computational, and operations research. None of that theoretical math.

So this story about a new Mersenne prime number's discovery doesn't excite me as much as it perhaps should, but the article is still fairly interesting.

And this number was discovered at my almost-Alma-Mater; I was offered admission but couldn't afford to go. I also didn't even pursue National Merit status or ROTC because I was so convinced I was going to be accepted to the Air Force Academy. Moral of the story: don't be arrogant, cover a few bases!

Politics in the University Classroom

This article, with its characterization of lefty academics who try to indoctrinate students, is alternately an entertaining and frightening read.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tonight's Debate

6:30 The first words out of Senator Obama's mouth were an attack on President Bush and the Republicans. The first words out of Senator McCain's mouth were about Democrats and Republicans who are working together to craft some way out of the current financial "crisis".

I guess that to some people, "bipartisan" means "doing it my way".

6:45 I can't liveblog this. Obama is on the attack, and McCain is trying to be collegial. Collegial is great when both sides play the game, it's suicide when only one side does.

OK, I took a few notes. I'm done watching it now, in part because Obama is so clearly out of his league when discussing anything related to national security and the military. Neither candidate impressed me very much; both are spending a significant amount of time looking down, for example. And McCain blinks a lot--except when he talks about national security issues, where he appears calm, knowledgeable, and in charge.

Without further adieu, here are the few notes I took:

6:50 Obama brings up the Iraq-9/11 canard. And why does he say "Pok-ee-ston" but "Af-gan-ih-stan"?

7:05 Did Obama just imply that part of the reason we shouldn't have gone into Iraq in 2003 was because Iraq was Iran's mortal enemy??

7:11 McCain just, yet again, laughed at his own joke ("I don't even have a seal yet"). He does this often enough that I've noticed it, and it drives me nuts.

7:13 McCain has finally attacked, blasting Obama regarding meeting with Iran's president.

I quit at about 7:20. I'm sure my commentary is worth every dollar you've paid for it!

ABC News Calls Her A "Person of the Week"

I call her a saint.

Watch the entire video. Notice how she just exudes adjectives like "positive", like "joyous", like "caring". And note she was a cop.

I want some of our cops to be Dirty Harrys. I want some of our cops to be like regular reader and longtime friend MikeAT. And I want some of our cops to be like Julia Burney-Witherspoon.

Boy Wearing Makeup

I can't stand idiots like this mother. The school district has a written policy banning extreme or disruptive makeup--and in our society, it's extreme for boys to wear black lipstick and black eyeliner. "It's sexism!" says the mother.

Be a parent. If you want to teach your kid about "acceptance" (see the end of the video), teach him not to poke a finger in the eye of the community/society in which he lives. You can't focus only on yourself and how different you are and expect everyone to accept you. That acceptance gig is a two-way street.

If the district had no prior policy and just told the kid to take off the makeup, then he'd have some sort of discrimination claim. But that isn't the case here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pay Math And Science Teachers More

I can see schools using this money to recruit math and science teachers, but I don't see any local unions allowing a separate pay scale for math and science teachers. I certainly won't see a cent of it.

Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Teacher Compensation Legislation

Provides Compensation Flexibility to School Districts for Recruiting Math, Science and Special Ed Teachers

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today that he has signed SB 1660 by Sen. Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles), which authorizes school districts to use Professional Development Block Grant funds to pay new and existing mathematics, science, and special education teachers.

“California faces a shortage of qualified teachers in the areas of math, science and special education,” said Governor Schwarzenegger, “and it is important that we provide flexibility to local school districts so they can develop innovative recruitment strategies, specifically around compensation, to help attract more individuals to this profession.”

SB 1660 authorizes a local educational agency (LEA) to create an alternative salary schedule to compensate new and existing mathematics and science teachers if agreed to by both the LEA and the teachers’ representative(s).

The bill requires a LEA to provide annual notification of the amount of funds used for financing an alternative uniform allowance for mathematics and science to the state, as specified.
Office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
3737 Main Street Suite 201
Riverside, California 92501

Ice Core Data

I haven't posted a global warming post in quite some time. Allow me to correct that merely by linking to this post, which I visited via Kerplunk.

Please note the two graphs showing data from the Vostok ice core and tell me why I should be worried about global warming.

University Fined For Polluting

I often refer to the University of California, Davis, as "Berkeley-lite". Actually, both the university and the city of Davis can accurately be described thusly.

So you can imagine that this story caught my eye as far as irony goes:

State officials today fined UC Davis $78,000 for pumping too much pollution into Putah Creek from its campus sewage treatment plant...

In the UC Davis case, the campus sewage treatment plant violated numerous pollution limits from Jan. 1, 2001, to March 31, 2008. Treated wastewater from the campus is discharged into Putah Creek. But several times over that period, effluent included too much aluminum, chlorine, copper, cyanide and coliform. Limits also were violated for salinity and sediment.

UC Davis is well-known for its life sciences programs.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tumbleweeds In The Parking Lots

From Inside Higher Ed, via Ann Althouse:

The university system’s ethics office sent a notice to all employees, including faculty members, telling them that they could not wear political buttons on campus or feature bumper stickers on cars parked in campus lots unless the messages on those buttons and stickers were strictly nonpartisan. In addition, professors were told that they could not attend political rallies on campuses if those rallies express support for a candidate or political party.

That can't be legal. It certainly is stupid. Some folks at some universities--and government universities at that!--seem not to have heard of the 1st Amendment.

Government cannot tell free men and women not to express their political opinions.

Update, 10/7/08: Reversed.

When Should A School Censor A Student's T-shirt Message?

Very seldom, in my not so humble opinion.

Asked to wear red, white and blue to show patriotism, 11-year-old Daxx Dalton came to his Colorado K-8 school in an anti-Obama shirt calling the candidate “the terrorist’s best friend.” He was suspended for refusing to turn it inside out or change shirts.

At school, I can see forbidding sexual, drug, and certain weapons references, but not political messages. As I commented at Joanne's site:

I’m offended by certain t-shirts every day. That doesn’t mean they should be banned. Tinker v. Des Moines, and all that.

Government agencies should not be in the habit of censoring political views.


Do you think your keyboard is too--I don't know--"computerish"? Would you like a keyboard the appearance of which would add some gravitas, some intellectual appearance, some permanence to your office?

Then try this one.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Financial Mess

I currently have nothing to say about it beyond agreeing with this statement:

I have no way of judging whether the Wall Street bailout is a necessary evil or an impending disaster. But we're in this mess, ultimately, because our political elites thought it was good social policy to encourage banks to give mortgages to uncreditworthy people....

Update, 9/24/08: Ben Stein does a good job of simplifying things here.

A Tittilating Headline

Cheerleaders Ditch Skimpy Uniforms After Complaints From Fans

How many ways might we interpret that? I can think of at least two!

Tired of Going Back To School In Mid-August?

So are these people!

Making Lemonade

We've all heard the saying: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

What feel-good crap. When Satan was testing Job (Old Testament reference there), Job didn't rely on pablum and try to make the best of it. No, he relied on his faith to allow him to persevere. Job did not make lemonade.

I'm no Job, though. I'm going to try to make lemonade.

You see, I have one class of students that is--putting this delicately here--not the best behaved group of students I've ever taught. It only takes a few rotten students to destroy the learning environment of a class, and this particular class has several more than that critical mass. It's not a pleasant environment for me, and I'm sure it's not for the students, either.

I can complain about them and gripe about them and get myself all bent out of shape about them, but that doesn't do anybody any good. So I've decided to channel this negativity to more positive ventures.

Each day I have that class (4 days of 5), I'm going to come home and get on my elliptical trainer for half an hour. I'm going to release my frustration about that class with exercise. With any luck I'll lose some of this weight.

I'm making lemonade.

Monday, September 22, 2008

CTA Threatening California Democrats?

CTA unionistas may be liberal zealots and rabid partisans, but they're not politically stupid. What to make of this?

The high command of the California Teachers Association is holding an emergency meeting Monday to craft new political strategies that may include a ballot initiative and a freeze on spending for Democrats. The action follows the passage of the tardy 2008-09 state budget that provided public schools with some $3 billion less than had been sought...

But Capitol sources said the CTA, angered at the budget supported by Democrats, are now considering support for Proposition 11 (the November ballot initiative that would create an independent commission to draw the district boundaries of legislative and Board of Equalization Districts). The group also is considering a referendum on the March ballot that would block corporate tax cuts and shift the money to schools and a freeze on CTA's candidate spending for the November election, which could dry up a reliable source of Democrats' campaign funds and have a major impact on candidates' coffers. (boldface mine--Darren)

They want to flex a little muscle and show the legislators who's boss, but CTA isn't going to bite its own nose to spite its face. This is really just a game of chicken.

We'll see who blinks first.

Teacher Moonlights As A Prostitute, and It's Legal

Got this one from EIA as well:

An Auckland primary school teacher is moonlighting as a prostitute, throwing her school bosses into a quandary over her future.

The woman, a mother of two children in her 30s, is new to teaching and moonlights as a prostitute to boost her income...

It is understood the principal is now in a dilemma - prostitution is legal, but he is worried about the reaction of other parents and students if they find out about the teacher - and has referred the matter to the school's board of trustees.

The teacher has apparently defended her situation to her principal, saying that what she did in her own time was of no concern to him, that it was a private matter, and that prostitution was now lawful and legitimate work. She told him her moonlighting job was not affecting her performance as a teacher.

I agree with the teacher. If her activities are legal, they're no one's business but hers.

Prostitutes Collective national co-ordinator Catherine Healy said she knew of several teachers who worked in second jobs as prostitutes and they had every right to do so.

"There is no incompatibility between a woman who's a teacher and who works as a sex worker," she said. "I can't imagine what the problem would be."

Now that statement's just plain stupid. It's clear what the problem could be. What matters, though, is what the problem is. And apparently she's a good teacher and teaches elementary school, so any potential issues seem small (if she were a high school teacher, I could see inappropriate commentary if her second job were to become known).

The story points out that a police officer was allowed to keep her second job as a prostitute.

Oregon Education Association Members On Strike--Against the Union That Employs Them

EIA has the best commentary on the subject. Since that's the link to the "current" Communique weekly posting, it'll be outdated next week. At that time click here and search for the 9/22/08 posting. Here are the highlights:

The result is ironic and amusing. A union of labor negotiators deploys its usual repertoire against the teachers' union itself, while union management tries to hold the line against ballooning salaries and benefits, often complaining about union tactics. On those surprisingly frequent occasions when contract disputes turn into staff strikes, it leads to extraordinary events...

OEA management has posted only a short notification on its web site, stating the union "does not want a strike and stands ready to resume negotiations and work toward a settlement."

More importantly, the notice tells members, "If you are in need of OEA member services during the strike, please contact your local OEA UniServ Council office and your request will be forwarded to an appropriate person."

Now, who would that "appropriate person" be? Are they saying there is someone still working during the strike who is covering the responsibilities of a striking worker? How does the union feel when school districts try that?

Hoist by their own petard, as the saying goes.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Third Type of Teaching Credential?

California already has "preliminary" and "professional clear" credentials, and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing is considering a third.

This topic has come to the forefront recently in part due to the statewide increase in the use of experienced teachers as mentors, support providers, master teachers, teacher leaders, and providers of professional development services to other teachers. This increased use of the knowledge, skills and abilities of experienced teachers as peer developers and supporters has come in large measure as a result of programs such as Induction and Internships, as well as local efforts to improve teacher quality in order to improve student achievement. Each of these types of efforts and activities require and/or rely heavily on peer support and development services. Questions have been raised as to whether teachers are appropriately recognized and/or prepared for these types of roles with the existing teaching credential.

Having a master's degree isn't enough. Having either American Board or National Board certification isn't enough. Being recognized as excellent by your peers and administration isn't enough. No, we now need a new and improved teaching credential for master teachers.

Master teachers/mentors aren't recognized already? I guess those stipends aren't enough. We want them to pay for a new sheet of paper that says they can do what they're already being paid for.


National University Has An Outreach Center In a Local Mall

National University's novel recruitment efforts reflect the increased competition for students among public and private colleges and universities in California. That competitiveness is evidenced in the opening of satellite campuses by schools such as National, Chapman University and the University of Phoenix. Founded in 1971, National University is now the second-largest private, nonprofit university in the state. It offers 100 undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as 16 teacher credential and certificate programs.

Many of the shoppers who walk into National's Sunrise Mall center in Citrus Heights ask if they can take classes there, Emery-Sherman said. But that's not the case. The center's staff are there to explain and demonstrate online education, with the help of several large computer monitors, and advise prospective students about classes and degree programs they can take at home or even on a lunch break at work.

I think this is a great idea, and said as much in the first (and so far only) comment to the newspaper story:

Great idea

When I went to Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, local colleges and universities not only had outreach centers in the malls, they had classroom space in the malls! Made a lot of sense to me.

In-state Tuition For Illegals?

I've stated here before that while the legislature can possibly grant in-state tuition for college to illegal immigrants, that's a subject for the voters and legislators and not for the courts--unless doing so conflicts with some other law (see this post and the first comment). And if you have any doubt as to my position on the greater topic of illegal immigration and access to higher education, this post should clarify things. In fact, just the title of that post should help clarify things.

This past week a state court of appeal ruled against these tuition breaks:

In a unanimous opinion, Justice Rick Sims wrote that the tuition policy "stands as an obstacle" to Congress' objective to limit immigrants' access to public resources...

Kobach said the universities can appeal to the California Supreme Court. No representatives of the universities could be reached for comment.

Our UC campuses must be having a hard time filling classes with American students, so they fight to be allowed to give tuition breaks to foreigners who are here illegally. I'm sure my seniors will be happy to learn that there are so many slots at the UC's.

NEA and Saul Alinsky

When the NEA staff recommends that you read Saul Alinsky's works, you know they've lost it. They may as well throw in some Black Panthers work and a little bit of Michael Klonsky, too.

Teachers, this is how your dues money is spent.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Masters Degree

I'm in the midst of one of my periodic searches for the right masters degree program.

I have a bachelor's degree, a teaching credential, a CLAD certification (meaning I'm trained to teach students who are still learning English), and a few other courses. In the parlance of my employment contract, I'm in the column for Bachelor's + 45 units.

And I'm bottomed out in that column. Until I get more education, I'll never see another pay raise outside of cost of living adjustments. I need another 30 units and/or a masters degree to move to the next column, where I'd get about a $10,000 raise.

There are plenty of Masters in Education programs out there; they're not for me. I don't think I could tolerate another liberal, touchy-feely course of study like my credential and CLAD programs. If I'm going to get an advanced degree, I want it to mean something. Yes, I'd only be pursuing the degree for the pay raise, but I'd still want to get something academically useful out of the exercise.

I've been away from my college math classes for over 20 years now, so getting a masters in math is probably out of the question. Besides, you don't find many of those online, and I'm looking for a distance-learning opportunity; I spent 3 of my first 6 years teaching doing the "single parent, working, going to school" thing, and I don't want to do it again. So my options are to wait 6 more years until my son has graduated and moved on, or to get a degree (mostly) online.

I don't want a generic Masters in Education degree--everyone has those, and it's a hoop-jump like credentialing classes were. I'm looking at online Masters in Teaching Secondary Math programs at Iowa State, Idaho State, and Montana State, and perhaps a Masters in Statistics program from Colorado State. At least programs like those stand a chance of helping me become a better math teacher--and that's what I want, in addition to the pay increase.

If any readers know about these programs, or know about similar programs at other schools, please be sure to leave comments.

I've Been Saying This For Years About Jews and Democrats

Why is it, exactly, that so many Jews are Democrats? That’s right. Because Democrats are the champions of liberal, social causes. They’re against tyranny and all for liberty, freedom, and especially, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

But heaven help you if you go against what the Democrats want. Like, say, having Sarah Palin appear in the same venue as Hillary Clinton, even if it’s to protest Jew-hater Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Because then, forget about your freedoms of association, speech, and assembly.

Via Meryl Yourish.

I often wonder why Catholics vote in such droves for Democrats, too, what with abortion being so important to them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Forecasting the Election Mathematically

This story comes from Daily India.com, of all places:

Operations researcher Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, along with a group of students and collaborators at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, created http://election08.cs.uiuc.edu/, a math model that dynamically forecasts the outcome of the election.

Over 4,000 analysts and experts in analytics are expected to attend next month's meetings. Jacobson's model applies a mathematical model to state polling data, using a dynamic programming algorithm to forecast electoral results.

I took a math modeling class once. Very interesting, but also kinda like sausage being made.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Here's An Interesting Take On So-called "White Privilege"

John Stossel continues to impress me sometimes.
But black writer Shelby Steele argues that whites do blacks no favors wringing their hands about white privilege.

"I grew up in segregation," Steele told me. "So I really know what racism is. I went to segregated school. I bow to no one in my knowledge of racism, which is one of the reasons why I say white privilege is not a problem."

Steele claims, "the real problem is black irresponsibility. ... Racism is about 18th on a list of problems that black America faces."

Whites' preoccupation with guilt and compensation such as affirmative action is actually a subtle form of racism, writes Steele in his book "White Guilt". "One of the things that is clear about white privilege, and so many of the arguments for diversity that pretend to be compensatory, is that they advantage whites. They make the argument that whites can solve [black people's] problems. ... The problem with that is ... you reinforce white supremacy. ... And black dependency.

I agree. If you believe in "white privilege" then you must believe that whites control the destiny of blacks. I don't accept that.

Of course, there is still racism in America. At ABC News we've aired hidden-camera video showing sales clerks spying on black customers, cab drivers passing blacks to pick up whites and employers favoring white-sounding names.

Steele says those are minor problems.

"The fact is," he adds, "we got a raw deal in America. We got a much better deal now. But we can't access it unless we take ... responsibility for getting there ourselves."

Hard to disagree with that logic, but I'm sure some will. sigh

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Carnival of Education

It's open several hours early, but who doesn't like a sneak preview?!

After trying for two weeks to get this post published, I opted for something a little more akin to lollipops and cotton candy this week. Interestingly enough, my more subdued post got accepted! (Of course, I have no way of know if this week's host would have published the previous post.)

So this week's Carnival is here and includes my post about getting some note-taking guides so my English Learners have a better chance of keeping up in math class.

I Guess You Could Consider Catholics A Gang

So the 1st Amendment freedom of religion (and its penumbra of freedom of expression) bumps up against someone's view of school safety. Which one should win?

A Texas teen claims she is forbidden from wearing a rosary around her neck in school because the Catholic prayer beads are a gang symbol, MyFOXDFW.com reported.

I've posted on this topic before, and my views haven't changed:

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?

It is for the unimaginative.

Laxative Cupcakes--Old Joke, and Not Even Funny

Not even imaginative:

Two Louisiana high school girls are fighting their expulsion and criminal charges after officials discovered laxative-laced cupcakes left in the teachers' lounge.

Jeannie Nguyen, 17, of Kenner, and Kamrin Kennedy, 17, of Marrero, were expelled from Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy after their principal, Kristi Phillippi, found 22 cupcakes made with the over-the-counter laxative MiraLAX, The Times-Picayune reported.

Authorities said that Nguyen and Kennedy made the cupcakes as a senior prank....

First off, that prank is older than I am. Second, this is a real-live no-crap form of assault that deserves a stringent punishment.

I doubt they'll get the maximum 2-year prison term and $1,000 fine, but I'd like to see them get something significant. An apology letter and a few hours of community service is not satisfactory.

Oh, and if I were involved, I'd pursue civil damages as well.

Students Act Like Barbarians, And It's The Bus Driver's Fault

I'm disappointed that the video was removed from YouTube, thereby preventing each of us from ascertaining for ourselves what went on. As I read this story, though, the students on the bus were out of control and the bus driver pulled over to gain some control.

Parents, of course, blame the bus driver. And you've got to love this vignette:

One of those students, DeBrandon Harris, said he was suspended from school and cannot return until further notice.

“I didn't do anything wrong. I was fearing for my life," Harris said.

But the Marietta High School student and his mother believe that he’s being made a scapegoat for the other students.“

This doesn't look good on my college application,” Harris said.

Hint: neither does being a jerk, DeBrandon.

I'd tell the parents to get their own kids to school. That would be a logical consequence of allowing your child to behave like a Visigoth.

Not Even A Pretense of Impartiality

I received the September 2008 issue of the CTA birdcage liner, California Educator magazine, and knew it was going to be a doozy when I saw one of the cover stories: Teaching In An Election Year.

Here's how the article starts:

When Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were in a tight race for the Democratic nomination....

The fourth sentence of the article contains the word "Democratic". The sixth sentence contains the phrases "Democratic Party" and "Democratic National Convention".

And so it continued for five pages. Reading this article, you'd never know that Republicans exist in this election. In fact, the word "Republican" doesn't exist anywhere in the article.

There were, however, two references to individual Republicans:

"This is a historical event, where the race is between a woman, an African American and the oldest candidate ever to run for president."

Reading it again, I can't be sure that the woman referred to above isn't Clinton, thereby bringing the Republican reference down to one possibly derogatory remark. In what I'm sure was the CTA's nod to balance, though, in one picture there were some student-made posters on the wall, including some for McCain.

I should be inured to this, but the sheer gall of the CTA continues to amaze me. I do despise that organization with every fiber of my existence.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

California Secretary of Education Resigns

He's the fourth in five years. I wonder why.

Let's start. We have an elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, who runs the state Department of Education. We have an appointed State Board of Education, who sets standards and policies. We have an appointed Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the purpose of which should be abundantly clear.

So what's the appointed Secretary of Education do, besides "advise" the governor on education matters? Not much, to the best of my knowledge. He has no real power and no real constituency. Could be a "cush" job, the way I see it--but not really a job for someone who wants to accomplish something.

Saturday Night Live

When it's funny, it's very funny!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Life's Little Instruction Book

#221: Don't major in minor things.


I remember when head lice went around my son's classroom one year. Now we learn that lice are becoming resistant to the usual remedies--they're becoming superlice.

One more thing for teachers to worry about.

I Don't Think I Can Agree With This Charge

If a father suddenly hears noises from his daughter's room in the morning finds a naked male standing on his daughter's bed, should he solicit information first or start swinging? And would you expect him to go into the bedroom unarmed?

DELTONA, Fla. — An angry Deltona father whacked his teenage daughter's boyfriend with a metal pipe after finding the boy naked in his daughter's room.

Authorities say the father, 45, didn't even know his daughter had a boyfriend or that the youngster had been sneaking into the home for more than a year.

When he heard noises coming from his daughter's bedroom Thursday morning and saw a stranger standing naked on the girl's bed, he swung a metal pipe. He then chased the teen out the front door and called police.

The boy was taken to the hospital where doctors closed a head wound with staples.

The father was charged with aggravated battery on a child and bonded out on $10,000.

I can't blame him. Hope he's found "not guilty" when he's tried.

Why I'm Not A Socialist

Socialism costs too much. Its depletion of personal freedoms is my primary reason for being against it, but cost is certainly up there on the list. Many of the people who talk about environmental sustainability are the same ones who scream for economic unsustainability:

Investor’s Business Daily ran a story recent, Tax To The Max on a Congressional Budget Office study of the U.S. finances.What it says is that spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs is unsustainably high. The study projects tax increases of 150%, with the lowest income-tax bracket going from 10% to 25% and top rates going from 35% to 88%.

The IBD correctly notes: “Allowed to grind on without real reform, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will do what no invading army or cabal of terrorists has done or will ever do: bring this mighty republic to its knees. Increasing federal taxes by 150% will strangle economic growth"...

The fundamental problem is that income-transfer programs (and the interest service on the debt purchased to keep them running) are spending wealth in higher volumes than the economy can actually generate, and demand for that spending is rising faster than the economy is growing. Thus, raising tax rates is no longer a way out, if it ever was. (boldface mine--Darren)

That concerns me, and it should concern every American taxpayer.

Making "Math" Mistakes With A Calculator

This would almost be funny if people weren't really getting tickets because of this officer's mistake:

The Herald reported last week that a Traffic Warden was incorrectly ticketing cars in a Devon, England parking lot because of how he was using a calculator. In this parking lot, drivers would pay for a certain amount of time and then post a slip in the windshield with the time they’d entered and how long they’d paid for. One driver, for example, entered at 2:49pm and paid for 75 minutes.

Now 75 minutes is 1 hour, 15 minutes so the driver was covered until 4:04pm. But the Traffic Warden figured out the expiration time by entering in 14.49 into his calculator (for 1449 military time, which corresponds to 2:49pm) and adding on 0.75 (for the 75 minutes). He got 15.24, which he interpreted as meaning that the driver was only covered until 3:24pm. Since it was already 3:41pm, he issued the car a ticket. The car owner saw all this and tried to explain the error — that hours have 60 minutes, not 100, so standard decimal addition doesn’t apply — but the Traffic Warden didn’t see any problem and continued to ticket cars.

Wow. I remember figuring that out--the calculator/clock issue--by myself in 5th grade. Seriously.

Algebra--It's Everywhere

While I don't believe everything in this article--for example, I believe so-called discovery learning is a horrendous way to learn math--it certainly gives a lot of food for thought.

This part is true:

Algebra, says Devlin, is a language, a very precise language written in symbols, and it's everywhere: in nearly all electronic devices, every statistic and each Internet search engine - and, indeed, in every train leaving Boston.

"You can store information using it. You can communicate information using it," Devlin said. "Google has made billions capitalizing on algebra."

What we need is curriculum that is both interesting and comprehensible so that we can show students the applicability. Otherwise, they're closing doors on themselves before they ever leave high school.

How has Google made billions using algebra that lower-level math students can understand?

How is algebra used in electronic devices?

How does Boolean algebra work?

Help me out with these types of tools--this may come as a surprise, but I don't know everything--and let's see if we can get even more kids learning.

Two Views of President Bush

I received the following from an email list of which I am a member, and have received permission to post it here:

Last week I had the good fortune to hear GEN (R) Colin Powell speak at a conference I was attending. I've searched the web for his speech and unfortunately it is not available. But, never fear, I took good notes throughout. He is a fantastic speaker, mixing self-deprication and humor in with crystal clear, easily understood, analysis based conclusions...

Since he worked directly for four presidents (Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43) he was asked if "anybody is ever ready to be President and which of the four was his favorite?"

He said that, "Nobody is every ready to take the Presidency. Some are more prepared than others, for example Bush 41's long service across the government helped. Those who had been Governors were better prepared. . .Carter, Bush 43." "Any leader who just talks but doesn't give people the tools they need to get things done will always fail." But he didn't give any specific endorsement.

On his favorite President to work for, he declined to answer but talked about each:

He described Bush 41 as "a details guy, very much into getting and doing a full analysis before making a decision." He described Clinton as "a details guy also; but much more into talking. Often I thought,'are we ever going to stop talking and do something?'" He described Bush 43 as "a more intuitive decision maker, someone who likes to take the measure of someone himself by looking them in the eye" and as (are you paying attention BDS victims?) "extremely smart".

Even though he refused to pick a favorite, his choice was pretty clear when he described Reagan glowingly as "in a class by himself" and told a story to show how President Reagan chose people for jobs, gave them the tools they needed, empowered them to deal with the job, stayed out of their way while they worked while staying abreast of the issue and was prepared when the problem needed to be elevated to his level. "Deal with your big problems; stay in touch with your little problems; empower your subordinates to deal with their problems; be prepared when a problem becomes your own. Great leaders recognize when reality hits."

In case you missed it above, let me emphasize here what our correspondent says about General Colin Powell and his thoughts about the current President Bush:

He described Bush 43 as "a more intuitive decision maker, someone who likes to take the measure of someone himself by looking them in the eye" and as..."extremely smart".
In a follow-up email, the author above had this to say:

I'll take Colin Powell's assessment formed from multiple years of interactions with President Bush on his great intelligence (specially when I heard it with my own ears) over {someone else's} assessment formed from watching the main stream media and lack of personal interaction.

I may not agree with his policy recommendations all the time; but I do not think that a retired General has such poor assessment skills to be unable to identify how smart someone is when interacting with them on a daily basis over the period of several years.

So who has said in the media that President Bush is an idiot who has worked as closely with him as GEN (R) Powell? All I've ever seen is partisan attacks. Is GEN(R) Powell a partisan shill running around telling everybody how smart President Bush is? If he is the press isn't covering it. Isn't the point of him disagreeing with the administration on several things proof that he isn't? So why shouldn't we take his assessment over those who continue to insert their feet in their mouths over the issue here?

General Powell is no shill for the Republicans.

I myself once asked former Secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige about President Bush (the full post is here). I wrote the following about that meeting:

Before his talk I introduced myself to Dr. Paige and asked him two questions: first, does he regret calling the NEA a "terrorist organization", and second, what kind of man is the President. This was my first time talking to someone who had spent any significant time with a President, and I wanted a firsthand view...

To answer the second question, Dr. Paige told me the President is a "great man", and if he has any fault, it's that he's too loyal to people.

So we have two firsthand accounts, coincidentally from two African-Americans, both of whom have worked for the President, who are rather complimentary in their descriptions of the President.

I'm not surprised.

Update, 9/21/08: While I don't know this author personally, his account of meeting the President is just as positive as the commentary above.

Obama Supports ROTC In The Ivy League?

If this information were to become well known, I wonder what the ratio would be of votes gained vs. votes lost from just this one position.

I would hope it would be zero/zero, as this issue isn't important enough to be the single issue over which to choose a president. I am wondering, though, whom he's trying to appeal to by putting this belief out there. I guess it's possible that he's sincere, but....

Spot The Liberal Irony

Can you see it, boys and girls? I knew you could!

This Is A Good Reason For A Teacher To Resign

I'll have to agree that it's somewhat inappropriate to show torture porn in class.

A Phoenix high school teacher resigned after being accused of playing pornographic videos during class earlier this week.

The Scottsdale Unified School District said the photography teacher, who has been and employee at Arcadia High School for about the last five years, submitted his resignation letter Wednesday...

Teenagers in the classroom said they saw six video clips of what one student described as, "torture porn, of like girls being tied up"...

She said the teacher had connected his personal computer to a projector screen for a photography lesson...

"He forgot the projector screen was turned on and he started watching porn and we were all just like sitting there shocked that he was watching this in front of the class," the student said. "He was just all into it, I don’t even think he was paying attention to us, he was just all in his computer."

Police have begun an investigation.

Hat tip to NewsAlert.

I Weep For Britain

That Blessed Isle is becoming Hell. Are people there going insane? In a little over 60 years they've gone from the premier power on the planet to thinking like this?

The threat of global warming is so great that campaigners were justified in causing more than £35,000 worth of damage to a coal-fired power station, a jury decided yesterday. In a verdict that will have shocked ministers and energy companies the jury at Maidstone Crown Court cleared six Greenpeace activists of criminal damage.

English common law, developed over centuries, is one of the greatest gifts ever bequeathed to mankind by our fellow man. And the British know good government--they ruled over a good percentage of the planet back when the fastest method of communication was a good wind in a sail. The rights and values enshrined in our own founding documents are British in origin, only brought closer to perfection by former British subjects who became American.

Yes, I'm an Anglophile. But when I read stupidity such as that quoted above, I weep for the land of my ancestors.

Update, 9/21/08: Here's another crazy story from Britain:

The Google-owned video-sharing site YouTube has decided to introduce the ban [on weapons-related videos] for the UK only amid widespread unease about the increase in knife crime in the country.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Are We Getting A Little Crazy With The Quarter?

It started with a great idea, the 50 States Quarter Program. That program ends this year, as we'll have gone through all 50 states in 10 years. Next year, we'll add 6 new quarters representing DC and our overseas protectorates and territories.

And we're also going to have a National Parks quarter series. A few parks a year for several years.

And then I read this in the September 9th issue of Numismatic News:

A new civil rights leaders quarter series that would run for eight years and honor five subjects a year (has been introduced as HR 6701)... The subjects will be chosen by the secretary of the Treasury after consultation with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Really? We're going to have 40 civil rights "leaders" on our quarters? Can you even think of 20? Oh, and the Little Rock Nine count as one =)

Now don't go and assume I'm not a fan of our civil rights movement. I've written several posts on the topic, with these five posts being my favorites. But I'm definitely against turning the civil rights pioneers into 25 cent collectibles, their names to be printed on cardboard so a quarter with their face can be punched in nearby. It would sound sort of denigrating to hear, "I'll trade you a Medgar Evers for a Thurgood Marshall."

I have no problem with producing actual commemorative coins for certain people. I have no problem with replacing Roosevelt's mug on the dime with Dr. King's (see link above). But I do have a problem with cheapening the civil rights heroes by creating this run of quarters.

It looks like we're taking a good idea (the 50 States Quarter Program) and running it into the ground.

What's next, the Star Wars Characters Quarter Program?


Do we really want a president who cannot use email????

Think carefully before you answer.

McCain's severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes.
Would you criticize the black Democratic governor of New York because he cannot drive? Oh, did I mention he's blind?

What brought on my indignation? The new Obama commercial that can be seen here.

Why Is Congress Involved In This At All?

This is exactly why I believe in part-time legislatures--at all levels of government.

That’s the question that Senator Herb Kohl, chairman of the Senate's antitrust panel, is asking the four big U.S. cell carriers—and SMS rates have, indeed, doubled since 2005. What gives?

In a letter to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless execs, Kohl wrote that text messages still have the same length restriction—160 characters—as they did in 2005. If that's the case, Kohl asks, why do the big four carriers now charge 20 cents per message, compared to 10 cents just a few years ago (this according to InternetNews)?

Somehow, I doubt the Founders ever intended for Congress to get involved in the price of methods of communication. I'll grant an exception for postage here, as the Constitution specifically gives Congress authority over a postal system.

But I'm serious here; does Congress really need to concern itself with 20 cent text messages?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another Zero Tolerance Idiocy

Reader MikeAT sent me this link--well, I don't want to summarize it. I don't even need to comment on it. I trust your reaction will be as visceral as mine.

A 10-year-old Hilton Head Island boy has been suspended from school for having something most students carry in their supply boxes: a pencil sharpener.

The problem was his sharpener had broken, but he decided to use it anyway.

A teacher at Hilton Head Island International Baccalaureate Elementary School noticed the boy had what appeared to be a small razor blade during class on Tuesday, according to a Beaufort County sheriff's report.

It was obvious that the blade was the metal insert commonly found in a child's small, plastic pencil sharpener, the deputy noted...

District spokesman Randy Wall said school administrators are stuck in the precarious position between the district's zero tolerance policy against having weapons at school and common sense.

Politicians and Private Schools

I don't think you can "support" public education while sending your child to private school. The hypocrisy is clear. Sure, as a politician you can vote other people's money for public schools, but by sending your own kids somewhere else you're sending a message about "good enough for thee, but not for me".

Of course the NEA supports no one but Democrats for national office, and all of them send their kids to private schools. "Do as I say, not as I do." Obama is yet another in a long line.

Here's a defense of Obama's sending his kids to private school. In my opinion it's a weak defense, but I post it here anyway as others may disagree with me. (You may have to scroll down a few posts to get to the one under discussion.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

College Must Be Getting Very Expensive

From FoxNews:

A 22-year-old college grad looking to pay off her student loans will auction off her virginity at Nevada's infamous Moonlight Bunny Ranch, Us magazine reported.

The Sacramento State grad, who uses the pseudonym "Natalie Dylan," told "The Insider" she is "ready for the controversy."

"I don't think auctioning my virginity will solve all my problems, but it will create some financial stability," she said, according to the magazine.

Sacramento State isn't very expensive, thereby adding to the ignominy she's bringing upon herself.

I Support Voter ID Requirements

Via McClatchy:

State elections officials will resume enforcement of a controversial state law that requires Floridians to have their identification match up with a state or federal database in order to register to vote...

Voting rights activists, who had unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of the law, blasted the decision, saying it allows the state to rely on what they consider error-prone databases in the month before voter registration ends on Oct. 6...

The law, passed by the Republican-led legislature in 2005, requires Floridians registering to vote to supply a drivers license number or the last four digits of their social security number. Proponents of the law say it was needed to prevent voter fraud.

That doesn't sound so draconian to me. And if, like me, you believe in "the sanctity of the voting booth", then this seems like a reasonable requirement. In no way can this be considered disenfranchising.

I can honestly see no reason to oppose this law unless you want unauthorized people to vote. In other words, you would want to ensure people have the opportunity to commit a felony.


Joanne has a link to a story about a school district whose policies teach kids to be slackers. As a teacher, I find that story scary.

I'm Thinking That Some Won't Post What They Don't Agree With

For two weeks now I've submitted this post to the Carnival of Education. For two weeks now it has not been included in the Carnival.

Why would fellow teachers not want you to know that the California Teachers Association opposed a law that would close a loophole that allows certain sex offenders to keep teaching? It can't be that bad of a law, as it passed the Assembly unanimously and in the Senate received only one nay vote.

Why would people want to keep this fact from you? Why, I wonder?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I Did Something Good Today

In one of my classes I have two English Learners. And they're not just learning English, they're also learning the Roman alphabet. You might imagine that those two tasks, combined with having been in the US only a very short time, and combined with the "exotic" vocabulary used in secondary math, would create extremely high hurdles to success for these students. It's clear that they're struggling to understand.

We adopted new math texts this year for the course these students are taking. With the adoption came two "consumables" per student per year; we had a choice of a practice problem workbook, a "standards" workbook, a notetaking guide, and several other choices. Our school chose the practice workbook and the standards workbook (the better to prepare our students for standardized testing in April).

As part of the adoption we teachers got all of the overhead transparencies, including those for the notetaking guide. I've been using those transparencies to guide my daily instruction, since so much of what I say is included on the transparencies so I don't have to write it all down. Also, if there are practice problems to do, I can demonstrate and graph the answers on the small graph provided on the transparency.

My native English speakers have no difficulty taking notes; my English learners are having difficulty, and often resort to dictionaries to translate words I write, or words on the transparency, into something they can understand. Taking notes is exceedingly laborious for them; what can I do to help?

Yesterday it hit me--why not get them hardcopy booklets of the same notetaking guide that I'm using on the overhead? That way, they'd only have to "fill in the blanks", which is what I do on the overhead, and they can look up unfamiliar words later. Also, the notes are structured neatly for them, which should help them better understand when they study.

I contacted our district math guru yesterday and asked her if she could get me a couple from the publisher. She replied that other schools had chosen that booklet as one of their "consumables" and that she'd have some sent to me. Talk about service, they arrived during class today. The students were thrilled.

When we piloted the materials last year, we tried the notetaking guides. I myself was not impressed with them; I got the impression that most students just filled in the blanks in order to fill them out, and didn't use them to study at all. In other words, they were better off taking their own notes. My English Learners, though, can and will use these booklets as a tool.

Today was not the best day I've ever had as a teacher, but in this instance at least I feel like I've scored a small victory--I was able to get two students an additional tool that might help them be successful in class.

I'll take such victories whenever I can find them.

A Can-Do Attitude From Michelle Rhee

Here's more on why I have a professional crush on this lady. I might have to create a new post label just for her.

Rhee closed 23 schools in her first year as the head of the District of Columbia's public schools, fired 36 principals and cut 15 percent -- about 121 jobs -- from the central office staff. And she's making no apologies.

"I think it's that sense of urgency that has been lacking for far too long in our public schools," Rhee told CNN as she began her second year on the job in late August.

"We are always going to put the best interests of kids above the rights, privileges and priorities of adults"....

Her plan is ambitious: To completely transform the District's system within eight years for its 50,000 children. The plan focuses on top-down accountability, quantitative results like standardized test scores and, ultimately, working to close what she describes as "the achievement gap between wealthy white kids and poor minority kids."

"I think it's absolutely possible within an eight-year period," she said.

If anyone can do it, Rhee can.

Monday, September 08, 2008

When Teaching Is Hard

I had a student lose a father this weekend. If there are any words in the English language that could take away that hurt, I lack them.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bilingual Education

Joanne has an interesting post on the topic here.

I discussed bilingual education before, here:
Introductory post
First story
Second: The Teacher/Students
Third: Progressive Education
Fourth: Horrible Is Great
Fifth: Not Politically Correct
Sixth: The Final Class Begins
Those posts come from my experiences at Sac State getting my Cross-cultural, Language, and Academic Development certification. (No, I don't fully understand the the title, either.)

An interesting development is that I currently have as a student a relative of the professor in story #5 above.

And here's a little information on research into bilingual education.

Friday, September 05, 2008

School? or Guitar Hero?

This 16-year-old chose Guitar Hero, and his parents are OK with that.

In fact, young Mr. Peebles is dropping out of high school... in order to focus on Guitar Hero full time. Peebles hopes to join the small but growing crew of players looking to make gaming a job. Citing his victories in Guitar Hero tournaments, which include "gift certificates, gaming equipment, and chicken sandwiches," Peebles thinks he has the chops to play competitively and earn actual money in the process. As the story notes, top gamers on the competitive circuit can earn up to $80,000 a year (though $25,000 is more common). Peebles, of course, can count his 52 Chick-fil-A combo meals toward that total.

He's won more combo meals than I have, so I guess that's something.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Standardized Stupidity

Today in our department meetings we looked that the "blueprints" for the state standardized tests--in particular, what percentage of what topics make it onto the standardized tests.

Long-time readers of this blog know that I am an ardent supporter of standardized testing. However, when the tests or the testing regime are freakin' stupid, I'm not going to give the system a pass. And that's what we have, at least on our California math tests.

We have very specific, measurable, challenging standards for each course. In theory, our standarized tests are supposed to test knowledge of those standards.

The composition of two tests amazes me. 92% of the Algebra 2 test comes from Algebra 2 standards. What comprises the other 8%? Probability and Statistics. Why would we test students on material they haven't even been taught?

But wait, there's more. I teach a course called pre-calculus, which, according to the state standards, combines the trig standards and the math analysis standards. So what test do my pre-calculus students take? If you guessed trigonometry, you'd be wrong, as there is no trig test. Students in courses above Algebra 2 take the Summative High School Math test, which combines topics from Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and Probability and Statistics. Why? And if, as some want to do, I'm to be evaluated on my teaching ability as measured by standardized tests, shouldn't the tests cover material that I'm supposed to be teaching?

Only bureaucrats could come up with something so stupid.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Joe Lieberman Is A Traitor To His Party

I didn't say it--a liberal did.

Joe Lieberman is a traitor to his party, and to the causes that he has championed. ..

If Lieberman’s appearance (at the Republican convention) proved anything, it proved how little distance there is between a DLC Democrat and a Republican. It sure is a short walk...

And with astonishing lack of principle, Lieberman spoke directly into the camera to address what he called “my fellow Democrats and Independents,” urging them all to vote for McCain.

Behold, liberals--is this how you think? Do you think everyone in the party should march in lockstep? Do you think there's no room for (DLC) moderates in the Democratic Party? I hope not, because if there's no middle ground, there's no way to reach out to each other. Politics becomes nothing more than total war, and my side had better obliterate your side so that we get our idea of government. When you think the way Mr. Rothschild does above, there is no room for compromise. There is only total war and unconditional surrender. And that's no way to run a country.

I'd never vote for Joe Lieberman, but I view him as an honest man with strong principles. I don't share many of his principles, but I can respect him even as he holds them.

The Coolest Thing

My son just got home from school, and he brought a friend with him. They're going to do homework together at the kitchen table.

I not sure why, but that makes me feel quite good.

Back To School Night

I'm going to admit what so many teachers won't--I don't like Back To School Night.

Oh, the idea is all right. And I enjoy meeting the parents, and they seem to enjoy putting faces to the names on their child's schedule. In that regard it's not drudgery.

And I like having school get out at 12:30 today. Tea Club met at a local tea house after school today and we had the nicest time.

So what's not to like? Going back to school at night, that's what! Night is my time. I don't get to spend the evening with my son, and by the time I get home it'll be at least 9:30 and I'll be ready for bed. When I get to school tomorrow morning it'll feel like I just left. I'm not recharged the morning after Back To School Night, I don't feel 100%.

And that is the worst part of Back To School Night.

Frenchman Admits The Obvious

For generations, the French have fiercely guarded their language against the horreurs anglais.

But France's education minister yesterday admitted for the first time that the secret to success is speaking better English.

Xavier Darcos claimed poor English is now a 'handicap' because all international business is conducted in the language, and said French schools would offer extra lessons during the holidays.

He also admitted that, because of globalisation, very few people outside France will being able to speak French in the future.
Daily Mail link

There's nothing wrong with learning to speak French, but as far as "international" languages go, it's a language of the past.

When I was in high school I took German. Nothing wrong with that, and practically, it's probably of less utility than French. Nothing wrong with that, either--I think we should offer more languages in schools, not fewer. But it's nice to see a Frenchman acknowledge what so many others refuse to--that English is, for the time being, the international language.

And in the United States, it's the language of opportunity and success.

The Streak Is Over

We're just over 2 weeks into the school year, and today a vice principal has informed me that I've offended a student or students and given me the ole talking-to.

I think this is my longest streak for the beginning of a school year, so I guess that's good.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Republicans Anti-Gay?

That bugaboo might be going the way of the dodo.

Keeping in mind that national convention goers are most likely to be party standard-bearers, this data is fairly interesting:

This morning's New York Times has the fascinating results of a poll of the views of Republican National Convention delegates on a variety of issues. The poll reveals that 49% of the GOP delegates support either gay marriage (6%) or civil unions (43%). Only 46% of the delegates believe there should be no legal recognition whatsoever of same-sex couples.

GayPatriot reports that the Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed John McCain, something they did not do for President Bush 4 years ago.

Taking a quick break now that I’ve found wireless at St. Paul’s downtown University Club to report that that Log Cabin’s Big Tent Luncheon here, organization president Patrick Sammon announced that the group has endorsed John McCain for president of the United States.
Looks like a Big Tent of Inclusion to me.

Both links above come from Instapundit.

Update, 9/9/08: Then there's this from the Wall Street Journal:

Political conventions are memorable not only for what the party grandees say, but for what they leave out. What was noticeably absent from last week's Republican gabfest? Gay-bashing.

This is not an insignificant development for Republicans.

It could only be good for Republicans if this trend continues.

Making It Easier To Become A Teacher

I don't think we should lower the bar on our standards for incoming teachers; I believe in subject matter competency testing. However, much of what goes on in "traditional" teacher education programs is complete and total crap and does nothing to prepare a teacher for the realities of the classroom. In fact, much of what is taught is counterproductive.

I support the idea of making it easier for degreed professionals to change careers and become teachers; such people can bring a world of outside-the-classroom knowledge with them that gives them a step on someone who goes straight from high school to college to teaching. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on one such program.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Dropping Baby Off At College

When I read stories like this I just have to laugh, as they're so different from my own experience.

I left for West Point in the days of regulated airline fares; if I recall correctly, it cost more to fly from Sacramento to New York back then than it does today! Anyway, there was never any thought about any of my family going with me--no, a handful of family members took me to the airport, we said good-bye at the gate (anyone could go to the gate in those days), and off I went. On my own. With one suitcase. And that was that.

I got to New York and stayed in a hotel near Central Park. That hotel had a package deal for incoming cadets, and I was roomed with a classmate from the US Virgin Islands. We took a bus tour of NYC (I only remember St. Patrick's Cathedral and Wall Street), and later than night my roomie and I went out for a "final" dinner and dessert. There was a huge tub in the bathroom, and I took a long, hot soak before going to bed.

The hotel filled a couple of buses with incoming cadets the next morning, and maybe 90 minutes later we arrived at the West Point football stadium--where I was surprised to see others with their parents. Honestly, it had never even occurred to me to have family accompany me there.

Keeping Sex Offenders Out of the Classroom

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, the no-brainers at CTA oppose SB1105, which closes a loophole that currently lets certain sex offending teachers keep their credentials and continue teaching children.

Why does CTA oppose this bill? Because, they claim, it's discriminatory against gays and lesbians. I found nothing in the bill that even hints at that (see first link above), but have since learned that there are more stringent penalties for pulling a Larry Craig than for pulling an Eliot Spitzer (hence the gay discrimination angle). The CTA is significantly overstating this case, though, in the 2nd link above.

Let's look at who supports and opposes this bill--again, directly from the state web site above:

Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Sponsor)
Association of California School Administrators
California District Attorneys Association
California School Boards Association
Los Angeles County Office of Education
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office
Saddleback Valley Unified School District
San Francisco Unified School District

American Civil Liberties Union
California Teachers Association
Equality California

I might agree that the penalties for sex crimes should be more consistent, but that's not enough for me to oppose this legislation. Perfection is the enemy of the "good enough".

Apparently the CTA thinks keeping gay and lesbian sex offenders employed is more important than keeping children away from sex offenders--and that's all you really need to know about the CTA.