Tuesday, March 31, 2009


It's a screw-up, all right, but in the grand scheme of things not a life-altering one. I'll bet someone will try to sue over it, though, claiming some kind of damages.

An administrative error was to blame for an e-mail sent out by the University of California San Diego telling about 28,000 previously denied applicants that they were accepted to the Southern California school, The Los Angeles Times reported.


Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who led the first successful expedition to the South Pole?

(Tomorrow's question will require a little more thought than the last few!)

Monday, March 30, 2009

This Can't Be Real, Can It?

If so, it makes me wonder how these people ever civilized the world.

KIDS will be taught to Twitter instead of learning history in a shake-up of primary school lessons.

Teachers will be able to ditch lessons about Queen Victoria and the Second World War.

But pupils MUST learn how to Twitter — posting instant online updates about their lives.

Twitter is used by Britney Spears, Stephen Fry and US President Barack Obama.

How to blog and podcast will also be taught.

Under proposed changes — drawn up by ex-chief schools inspector Sir Jim Rose — the 13 traditional subjects will be replaced with six.

Assuming this is real, I hope more rational heads will prevail.

Youth For Western Civilization

Newsalert linked to this story about a group I find most interesting:

Meet the Youth for Western Civilization.

Its members, 13 strong and counting on the campus of Vanderbilt University, are out to "promote the survival of Western civilization and pride in Western heritage."

The club has sprung up at seven colleges around the country in the past few months, sounding a warning cry against "radical multiculturalism," "mass immigration" and the "leftist occupation" of America's college campuses.

To its critics, it's the new face of intolerance on America's college campuses.

Of course it is. *yawn* You figure the left'd be tired of that one by now. Haven't they gotten enough mileage out of it yet?

CTA: Predictable As Ever

Wonderful news from the front lines of the California Teachers Association:

1) Teachers' Union, Heal Thyself. A couple of weeks ago, EIA reported about the Maine Education Association's recommendations for bargaining in tough times (see item #4 here). I now have a hard copy of a similar list prepared by the California Teachers Association. It includes such tips as:

* "Roll over current contract without re-opening any articles. Maintaining salary and benefits at current levels is a priority; keeping the status quo is a constructive victory."

* "Do not agree to freeze step and column costs temporarily."

* "Do not trade salary for jobs; in an effort to save positions, you could lose both."

* "Do not agree to furlough days."

* "Do not agree to or advocate for divisive budget cutting proposals, such as cutting certain positions (e.g. counselors, librarians or Education Support Professionals/classified)."

* "Do not sit on a budget cutting committee unless union members comprise a majority, and you have a written commitment from the district that you will have the same representation on the budget increasing committee when there is new money available."

These principles and tactics are very interesting considering CTA is currently negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with its own staff unions. In its very first proposal, CTA management proposed eliminating the "no layoffs, no staff reductions" clauses in the contract. CTA employees held informational picketing at last week's State Council meeting in Los Angeles.

2) CTA Pays Its Hotel Bill. Once upon a time, the California Teachers Association had a close relationship with the Hilton Los Angeles Airport, the hotel where the union would hold its periodic State Council meetings and other conferences. The hotel even partnered with CTA in Read Across America events. In 2006, the local hotel workers' union targeted the Hilton for sanctions and a boycott. In response, CTA canceled events scheduled for the Hilton and moved them to the Westin Bonaventure.

Well, I don't have all the details, but apparently the Hilton sued CTA for $1.2 million, which must have something to do with contractual obligations. After the usual drawn-out procedures, in January CTA and the Hilton reached a settlement of $500,000. I'm unsure if this is covered in the union's budget under administration, governance, politics or community outreach.

EIA leaves no stone unturned.

The Art of Schmoozing and BSing

Joanne links to a story about an actor who presented himself as an expert in "the application of mathematics to human behavior." He gave a talk to a group of people including professional educators; problem was, his talk was a bunch of neat-sounding hot air augmented by a warm and engaging style. Joanne concludes:

Students learn more from high-content lectures, researchers concluded, but give the same high ratings to “expressive” Fox-style lectures with no content as they do to “expressive” lectures with content.

As I read that a singular thought occurred to me: this is how President Obama got elected.


And these people want to be in charge of some form of national health care?

"Cosmonauts are above the ongoing squabble, no matter what officials decide," said Padalka, a veteran of two space missions, according to the newspaper. "We are grown-up, well-educated and good-mannered people and can use our own brains to create normal relationship. It's politicians and bureaucrats who can't reach agreement, not us, cosmonauts and astronauts."

He said he had inquired before the current mission whether he could use an American gym machine (on board the International Space Station) to stay fit.

"They told me: 'Yes, you can.' Then they said no," he was quoted as saying. "Then they hold consultations and they approve it again. And now, right before the flight, it turns out again that the answer is negative."

While sharing food in the past helped the crew feel like a team, the new rules oblige Russian cosmonauts and U.S. and other astronauts to eat their own food, Padalka said, according to the report.

"They also recommend us to only use national toilets," he was quoted as saying.

With government in charge of health care, there will be even more of these kinds of people making decisions for and about you.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Poseidon Adventure.

Today's question is:
Which automobile company rebranded its Datsun line in 1986?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

White House Tells GM President To Resign?

I'm not sure I like where this is going. Actually, I'm quite sure I don't like where this is going:

General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner will step down immediately at the request of the White House, administration officials said Sunday. The news comes as President Obama prepares to unveil additional restructuring efforts designed to save the domestic auto industry.

I understand the argument that, for national security reasons, we need a domestic car industry. I'm still mulling over whether or not I agree with that argument, but let's accept it for a moment.

Why should we believe that Washington can run a car company better than a car company?

Who is the US President to tell a private company who its President should be? That should be the job of the Board of Directors.

From whence does this authority come; was it one of the strings attached to the bailout money? If so, my first question remains unanswered.

The President seems to want to nationalize a lot of companies, and have even stricter regulations on even more. That strict regulation and heavy taxation hasn't shielded Europe or the Far East from the effects of this recession; that tells me that alleviating the effects of the recession is not what these changes are all about. The recession is only an excuse for the government to usurp private property and increase its own authority.

George, Tom, Ben, and the rest of the Founders would not be pleased.

Why The President Should Act Presidential

He should because he's the President. But there's a more self-serving reason, too--when he doesn't, he fails:

President Obama and the Democrats should wave the white flag in their strawman war on Rush Limbaugh. The Media Research Center delivered the grim casualty figures for the Democrats. Since January, the top talk show gabber's ratings have soared off the charts.

And that's from someone who seems to be an Obama supporter.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's (obviously easy, given the responses) question was:

Today's question is:
The plot of what 1972 movie involved a capsized ocean liner?

Extreme Administrative Reaction

At my son's school, the principal has instituted a ban on student groupings of more than 5 students; there has been a rash of fights recently, and this is the so-called solution. I don't quite see the cause and effect here, except that if there is a fight, and students gather around to watch, the watchers can be punished. Way to go, pinhead.

About a year and a half ago I wrote a post that included a story about a principal who instituted a "no hugging" policy at school, as the students were engaging in "hugging lines" and were being late to class. The principal went further, though, and explained when hugging is appropriate (airports, family reunions) and when it is not (frequent meetings in the hall at school). Her policy seemed narrowly tailored to fit the issue her school experienced, and I supported it.

Today, though, I received an email linking to this story, in which a Connecticut principal has banned any kind of contact between students.

"Observed behaviors of concern recently exhibited include kicking others in the groin area, grabbing and touching of others in personal areas, hugging and horseplay. Physical contact is prohibited to keep all students safe in the learning environment," Williams wrote.

Students and parents are outraged. They said the new policy means no high-fives and hugs, as well as horseplay of any kind. The consequences could be dire, Williams warned in the letter.

That doesn't seem reasonable at all. What's next, banning looking at other students? Perhaps, instead of attempting to remove humanity from students, the principal should explain what kind of reasonable behaviors are acceptable in a public setting like school, and punish only unreasonable behaviors. But no, we can't have that, because that would require the administrators to exercise some judgement. It's much easier to issue a blanket, stupid, rule, and enforce it to the nines.

I should create a category label called "administrative lobotomy", and put stories like this one in it.

I Pledge Allegiance (pause) To Diversity....

Discriminations is where you want to go to read about happenings like this:

Last month I discussed the Student Bar Association at the University of Virginia encouraging students to sign a pledge of allegiance to “diversity.”

Now comes news, from the Chronicle of Higher Education today, of a new set of guidelines at Virginia Tech that, critics say, “appear to require faculty members to show a commitment to diversity as part of their bids for tenure and promotion.”

I'd rather show a commitment to integrity and academic excellence, but that's just me.

How A Conservative Views The World

There's much to be commended in this article.

One popular song when I was young was from one of those one-hit-wonder bands who are all but forgotten except for one great tune. The band’s name was Ten Years After and the song was “I’d Love to Change the World.” One memorable line went like this:

Tax the rich, feed the poor
Till there are no rich no more

I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times I sang along to that song before it dawned on me: “Hey, that ain’t right! Shouldn’t it be: tax the rich, feed the poor, till there are no poor no more?”

I have no way of knowing whether or not Ten Years After advocated the abolition of wealth, or if the line was a tongue-in-cheek way of sniping at the simplicity of the argument that removing the wealthy made the poor better off. But what I did know then was that I finally understood the definition of covet. It was to want something so much that if I couldn’t have it, then I wanted to deny it to anyone else.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was the name of Roy Rogers' golden palomino?

Cesar Chavez' Birthday To Be Honored In LA Unified

According to the LA Times:

In August 2000, legislators and former Gov. Gray Davis had approved a state bill establishing March 31, Chavez's birthday, as a state holiday, becoming the first in the country to honor a Latino or organized labor figure.

The bill, however, omitted public schools, leaving the decision to close for the day to local school boards.

This week, the Los Angeles Unified School District's Board of Education passed a resolution allowing the state holiday to become an official school holiday...

The resolution by the Los Angeles school board calls for Supt. Ramon Cortines to report to the board in 90 days with a plan to replace another holiday with Cesar Chavez Day.

The board is looking at substituting it for Admission Day, which commemorates California's statehood on Sept. 9, 1850. The district provides a paid day off in late August for Admission Day, one of about 12 paid holidays for staff.

Admission Day is September 9th; why does LA Unified take a day off in late August for it?

When I was a kid, we started school the day after Labor Day, and usually the next week we got a day off for Admission Day. Our first two weeks were 4-day weeks, which we, of course, liked. I don't know when that ended, but upon becoming a teacher in the late 90's we always started school in August (now it's mid-August) and there's no Admission Day holiday.

From a view towards history, I like Admission Day. I'll bet, though, that if you surveyed 1000 in downtown Sacramento today, not 2 could identify the date. That's sad--it should be a holiday throughout the state, including at schools.

That doesn't mean that Chavez shouldn't have a holiday, though. Nothing wrong at all with what LA Unified is doing, especially since they don't even celebrate Admission Day on Admission Day.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Oh My God! Religious Song Learned In Public School!

(bumped up and updated)

Are people who make these asinine complaints really and truly mortified, or do they just make these complaints because they can get people to give in to them and hence make them feel as if they have some small amount of power?

The parents of two third-graders have sued the St. Johns County School Board over a religious-themed song their teacher planned to have their class sing at an end-of-year program.

Teaching the song, “In God We Still Trust,” amounts to religious indoctrination and interferes with the parents’ right to raise their children according to their own beliefs, the lawsuit says.

The district’s superintendent pulled the song after receiving a complaint from a parent hours before the lawsuit was filed last week in federal court, a school district spokeswoman said.

But the parents’ lawyer said they are still entitled to damages because their children were required to learn the song. They are seeking to bar the school district from the “religious instruction” the song represents...

School Board attorney David Marsey said in his response to the lawsuit that the issue differs from the battle over school-sponsored prayer because public school choirs historically have been permitted to sing religious songs. Courts have held that a choral curriculum can be expected to include religious songs because a significant percentage of choral music is based on religious themes or texts, Marsey said.

“Simply, a public school ... does not endorse religion because its choir sings a Christian song,” Marsey said.

When did we get so weak, that causing (faux) offense is the worst offense? When did we become such pansies?

Update, 3/27/09: This seems eminently reasonable to me:

A federal judge has dismissed the claims of a parent who wanted to remove the words "under God" from the Texas pledge of allegiance recited each morning by public schoolchildren.

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade ruled Thursday the state pledge may continue to reference God because the national pledge and four other states reference God or divine grace in their pledge, The Dallas Morning News reported Friday.

"A voluntary recitation of the Texas Pledge of Allegiance simply does not coerce students in the same way a school-sponsored prayer might," Kinkeade wrote in his opinion. (boldface mine--Darren)
I add that the constitutions of all 50 states reference some form of deity.

And should the decisions someday go the other way, and courts rule that deities cannot even be recognized or identified in school based on some faulty interpretation of the 1st Amendment, then we'll need to start renaming some cities, too. San Francisco (Saint Francis) and Los Angeles (the angels) should be first on the list.

Vocabulary of Lies

When someone resorts to euphemism and ambiguous terminology, or leaves out important information, you know they're trying to manipulate you--or outright lie. So it is in the March 2009 issue of California Educator in their explanation of Proposition 1c, the so-called Lottery Modernization Act, which will be voted on in a special election this May. Here's what they say about it:

Prop. 1C will increase the performance and accountability of the state lottery and bring immediate funding to the state without raising taxes. By modernizing the lottery, Prop. 1C will immediately raise $5 billion in new revenues to immediately help with this year’s budget deficit. The measure also guarantees that public schools will receive the same amount of funds they currently receive from the lottery. In fact, Prop. 1C takes education funding out of future lottery proceeds and places that money under the Prop. 98 minimum school funding guarantee. So schools will actually receive more money in future years due to cost-of-living increases. If Prop. 1C fails, there will be a $5 billion hole in the state budget, meaning schools and other programs could face additional cuts.

How will it increase performance and accountability? How will it "immediately raise $5 billion in new revenues" without raising taxes? Since lottery money was supposed to line our school hallways will gold, why should we believe this law will solve our problems when the last one didn't?

I thought perhaps I should look elsewhere and see what 1c actually does. The union rag doesn't give us the whole story:

Proposition 1C
• Authorizes the state to borrow $5 billion against future California Lottery profits.
• Gives the California Lottery more flexibility to increase the amount of money returned to players as prizes.

Ah, so it "immediately" raises money by borrowing.

In a page 30 story, ole Si Se Puede himself commends the governor and legislative "leaders" for "having the courage to support revenue increases". It doesn't take"courage" to support revenue increases; heck, I support revenue increases. What I don't support is tax increases, which is what Si Se Puede really meant. The new budget includes a 1 percentage point sales tax increase (almost a 14% increase), almost doubles the vehicle license fee, and tacks on a .25% "surcharge" to the state income tax and a .15% tax to pay for more law enforcement. That is the "revenue increase" of which he spoke. It takes no courage, even and especially in California, to raise taxes.

But it should. It should be pitchfork time.

Above The Law

I don't know what it is about some administrators. How do they they think they can get away with blatantly violating the law?

At my own school, for instance, teachers now charge illegal fees a little more surreptitiously than in the past, and our principal seems to make no effort to make it stop--he's certainly not put his foot down, by any stretch, and his boss has fought me every step of the way in my fight against these fees.

That, however, doesn't floor me as much as what I read in the March 2009 issue of the CTA mouthpiece rag. If only part of it is true, this story of administrator chutzpah is still horrifying:

The Education Code plainly states that teachers have the right to determine a student's final grade. And that right was upheld recently when a Superior Court Judge ruled that administrators violated the law by changing the final grades of 89 students attending Central Valley High School in Ceres last year.

The grade changes were made months after teachers had submitted the grades and without the teachers' consent...

Changing grades based on test scores was adopted by the district as an "incentive" for students to try harder on (standardized) tests. Grades were made higher--often increasing by as much as one letter--and never lowered...

Teachers learned that the new grading policy would be initiated when they were informed by their principal that he was sending a proposal to be approved by the superintendent. Teachers were then asked whether they wanted the policy to apply to one semester's grade or to both. They were sent a consent form asking whether they would prefer to have clerical staff make changes to grades or change grades themselves. There was no option on the form to decline.

English teacher Susan Engstrom and social studies teacher Mirilyn Wood refused to vote on whether the policy should be for one or two semesters--and also refused to sign the form--on the basis that the policy was illegal, based on Education Code section 49066...

The two CUTA members were ordered to meet with administrators and accused of insubordination and unprofessional conduct. Letters of reprimand were placed in their personnel files.

So they took the case to court and won. What California Educator doesn't tell us, though, is whether the ruling included an order by the judge to have the letters of reprimand removed, apologies given, etc. You'd think for a union magazine, those would be big parts of the story. Their absence is a beacon to me.

And what does Section 49066, one of my favorite sections of ed code, say?

49066. (a) When grades are given for any course of instruction taught in a school district, the grade given to each pupil shall be the grade determined by the teacher of the course and the determination of the pupil's grade by the teacher, in the absence of clerical or mechanical mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetency, shall be final.
(b) The governing board of the school district and the superintendent of such district shall not order a pupil's grade to be changed unless the teacher who determined such grade is, to the extent practicable, given an opportunity to state orally, in writing, or both, the reasons for which such grade was given and is, to the extent practicable, included in all discussions relating to the changing of such grade.
(c) No grade of a pupil participating in a physical education class, however, may be adversely affected due to the fact that the pupil does not wear standardized physical education apparel where the failure to wear such apparel arises from circumstances beyond the control of the pupil.

How any administrator could think, in light of the law quoted above, that he'd get away with what the Ceres principal tried to do, is far beyond me.


Meet Britain's most spoiled teenager; listen to his own narcissism and marvel at the psychosis of the mother that feeds it.

'I'm buying him a new, customised Vauxhall Corsa,' she says, 'and I've promised him a shopping trip to New York afterwards. I'm also going to build a log cabin next to our house. It will be good for him to have somewhere private to hang out.'

'It's a shame he's already bored of his Clio,' admits Suzanne, 'but he loves polishing it. And it wasn't a waste of money because it gave him the freedom to get out of the house - even if it was just to sit in it on the driveway with his friends.'

'During a usual trip, I will spend about £400. But some weeks I can easily go through £1,500 on designer clothes for him. Fashion is very important to him and he has excellent taste.

'He also adores beautiful jewellery such as his diamond earring. And like any proud mum, I love to see him look good.'

Jordan says: 'Because of the life my mum's given me, I can't see my destiny as a carpenter (he dropped out of school and is taking a carpentry class at a local college). I've had a taste of fame and I liked it. It was great fun being the centre of attention.'

'I am lucky,' he admits, 'because whatever I ask for, Mum buys for me. But although people often think that because of all the money, I'll be big headed, they find me very down-to-earth.'

'If she can't afford it one month, I say don't worry, you can buy it next month,' he says, with some magnificent generosity.

'Buying stuff for me makes Mum happy - if I'm happy, she's happy. And I do pay her back by helping her out sometimes in her furniture business.'

'Jordan has star potential and needs to be noticed by the right people,' she says bluntly.

'He's already used to living the lifestyle and has a fan base. People love him, especially local girls, who already ask him for his autograph.'

'I even tell him: "Don't bring home some posh girl who's been born with a silver spoon in her mouth - find a nice girl from a poor home who I can spoil as much as I spoil you, who I can make happy with my spending."

Those are just some of the quotes from the boy and his mother. Read the article to learn a few more details and see a couple of pictures. It's truly sick.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question:
RAdio Detection And Ranging.

Today's question is:
What is the name of the functionality that allows aircraft to fly faster than sound without using afterburners?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

World War II, In The 1st and 2nd Person

Today I did the "guest lecturing" I've posted about for the last couple of days. At the request of a commenter I did make a 745MB digital audio recording of the talk, but I doubt it will be worth very much without the visuals--pictures, coins, stamps, and uniform insignia--that I passed around at different times during the talk.

I spoke to 4 classes and recorded the third one. Wouldn't you know it, that's the one where I made mistakes! I don't know why, but I kept referring to the cathedrals in Cologne and Coventry as "temples" in that class, something I didn't do in any other class. Maybe I was just spooked by the recording device, who knows.

Still, the students at least paid attention and I didn't see any reading books, doing work from other classes, or any other behaviors that would indicate that they weren't interested and/or weren't listening. Each class asked different questions, which often triggered new memories of stories nana used to tell me.

All in all, the talk seemed to be well-received by the students. A couple even saw me after school--students I didn't even know--and they told me how much they liked this point or that that I had mentioned. That was very rewarding.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Chattanooga Choo-Choo

Today's question is:
“Radar” is an acronym for what?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In 1942, RCA Victor presented Glenn Miller with the first Gold Record for which song?

Carnival of Education

This week's Carnival is here and includes my post about reducing homework.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Preparing For Thursday

As I mentioned in this post, on Thursday I'll be guest lecturing in US History classes. Tomorrow I'll organize the talk itself, today I set out gathering my "realia".

I've copied pictures of my grandfather and other crew in front of a B-17, pictures of my grandmother in her dress uniform and with others in her unit, and a genuine V-mail my grandfather sent home to Pennsylvania shortly after arriving in England. I'll pass around a few of the insignia from nana's uniform. I'll be bringing some Nazi Germany coins and a 5-mark bill, as well as a coin from Occupied Netherlands. I also found French 1- and 2-franc coins from just before the invasion, and 1- and 2-franc coins from the occupation.

In addition to telling some of nana's stories, I'll read a little from Andy Rooney's book My War, about his time as a Stars and Stripes reporter.

There are fewer years between the end of WWII and the year of my birth, than there are between my birth and today. In fact, there are less than half as many. It's history to me, but not ancient history. And it's fascinating.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year was George Washington elected President?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Guest Lecturing

My dad's mother died last fall. She grew up in England during the Depression and served in uniform in World War II; I've discussed her service in a previous post.

I'm fortunate to have inherited decades of listening to nana's stories. This Thursday I get to share them.

My principal has agreed to fund a substitute for me while I share her stories with 4 different US History classes at my school. I'll talk about the night Coventry was hit big, about what it was like to walk home after an air raid. I'll share nana's story about holding the equivalent rank of sergeant in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, a "women's arm" of the military--and about her service in a mixed-gender anti-aircraft battery. I'll share pictures, coins, and paper money.

For me, World War II isn't some black-and-white-picture war from a book. It was real, and I hope to make it real, and make it interesting, for 4 classes' worth of students this week.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Netherlands.

Today's question is:
What “devilish” island, and state of the same name, lies off Australia's southeastern coast?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Battle of Puebla

Today's question is:
What country has been ruled for over 100 years by three consecutive queens?

Cutting Back On Homework

Many moons ago I read that a "reasonable" amount of homework would be 10 minutes per grade level. That would mean 3rd graders should have half an hour, 6th graders an hour, and seniors two hours of homework a night. I've also read that there are no studies showing homework has any valid academic purpose below 8th grade or thereabouts. Go figure.

From an academic standpoint, what is the optimal amount of homework students should have? What influences this determination? Does taking AP/IB classes affect this amount?

I ask because of this LA Times story about school districts' limiting the amount of homework students can receive:

Bennett is part of a vocal movement of parents and educators who contend that homework overload is robbing children of needed sleep and playtime, chipping into family dinners and vacations and overly stressing young minds. The objections have been raised for years but increasingly, school districts are listening. They are banning busywork, setting time limits on homework and barring it on weekends and over vacations.

I'm curious how they set time limits in high school. Must the math teachers coordinate with the English teachers? "Essay due tomorrow, cut down on the math problems tonight."

As for "banning busywork", I'd be really interested in how that's done. Who is to determine what is practice and reinforcement and what is homework for its own sake?

While I agree that the concept of homework should be discussed at schools, there's a lot of populism at work in the "cut back on homework" movement--and not the good kind of populism, either.

I wonder if the same districts that are mandating reductions in homework are also trying to "hold teachers accountable" for student learning. I also wonder how that conversation would go at a staff meeting.

Update: Link fixed now.

Another Fight Club School In Texas?

And this one involved mentally disabled kids!

Nine employees are under investigation over allegations of new fights among mentally disabled residents of the troubled Corpus Christi State School, a state lawmaker said Saturday night.

State Rep. Abel Herrero said the workers are on leave while officials look into complaints that the staff members did nothing to intervene in the fights involving residents Wednesday and Thursday.

The new allegations follow six staffers being charged earlier this month with injury to a disabled person over separate fights allegedly organized for the staff's entertainment. Videos of those fights were found on a cell phone.

If the allegations are true--and video leads me to believe they very likely are--are these people sick, stupid, or both?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Sonoma (Mission San Francisco Solano)

Today's question is:
Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day, but rather celebrates a military victory over a French army at what battle?

What A Day!

When I left to go skiing shortly after 10 this morning, it was nice out. Well, there were clouds and the weather reports said rain was expected in the Valley today and snow in the Sierras this afternoon, but I figured I'd be OK.

I was on my first run at noon--just as snowflakes started falling. It didn't let up much, either; in fact, as the afternoon wore on the wind and snow picked up a bit. Not so much that I couldn't enjoy skiing, but enough that the foot of snow that's expected tonight might become a reality.

I grew concerned that I-80 would require chains, so I finished my last run at 3:20 and came home. The snow had turned to light rain by 5000', and the snow level is supposed to drop to 3500' tonight.

It was a great day. I don't think I had to wait more than 2 chairs for a lift on any run.

Before taking off, I talked on the phone to a friend who is road-tripping this week. He asked if I was taking my son, and I said no--he's tried skiing, wasn't very good at, and therefore doesn't like it much. My friend said that he hated it when his dad had made him try new things, but appreciated it later on. He said you don't want to live a life where you don't try anything new.

That thought stuck with me. So on one of my rides up the mountain I looked down at the half-pipe and watched both skiers and snowboarders go through it. I determined that I should try something new, something out of my comfort zone.

As I said, I watched people negotiate the half-pipe. You know what I was thinking of? Physics! Momentum, center of mass, centripetal force, gravity. I watched and paid close attention.

Thinking logically about the physics helped suppress my emotional response (terror) as I tried it the first time. It was exhilarating, and at the end I determined it was actually fun! And yes, as I swung up the sides, I was actually thinking about where my center of mass was and when I needed to turn--didn't want to biff in the half-pipe! Just to make sure I didn't let myself off the hook for trying it only once, I did it two more times. And I spent the rest of the time skiing trying to improve my form.

It was a short day of skiing, but a very valuable one. And now the hot tub is waiting.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Go East, Young Man

Jobs are hard to find for recent graduates? I say, go on an adventure!

With few employment options in his hometown of Bellingham, Washington, Green applied to teach English in a South Korean middle school through Reach to Teach, an organization that assists college graduates with finding teaching positions in Asia. Green, who counts trips to Canada as his only experience abroad, will be leaving for Seoul on March 20 for one year.

"I am scared. I've only had one major breakdown so far, ... but I'm really excited about being on my own ... somewhere completely new where I know absolutely no one," he said.

Like Green, many recent college graduates are searching for alternatives to jumping into the job market in the face of the recession. An increasing number of young Americans are searching out paid positions teaching English in countries like South Korea, Japan, China and Spain as a means to expand their horizons and weather the economic doldrums.

Combination Lock

Combination locks are misnamed. They should be called permutation locks.

Math people will understand :-)

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
3. Presidents Grant and Eisenhower graduated from West Point, and Carter from the Naval Academy.
The answer to the bonus question--at least, as accurate as I can find:
Somoza of Nicaragua, Ramos of the Philippines, and Figueres of Costa Rica.

Today's question is:
In which California city is the northernmost Spanish mission located?

Thursday, March 19, 2009


People sure made a big deal of President Bush's gaffes. Is the press going to have as much fun showcasing Obama's gaffes? Perhaps I should make a new category so we can highlight them here.

If I did so I could include his mocking of Special Olympics, or his fine gift of a DVD set to British Prime Minister Brown--a DVD set that will only play in DVD players made for North America.

The President is not only dangerous, he's an embarrassing incompetent. Here are some more examples.

Cage Match In The Locker Room

Can this really have happened? Did people really think they'd get away with doing this, if it in fact happened?

The Dallas school system was rocked by allegations Thursday that staff members at an inner-city high school made students settle their differences by fighting bare-knuckle brawls inside a steel cage.

The principal and other employees at South Oak Cliff High knew about the cage fights and allowed the practice to continue, according to a 2008 report by school system investigators....

The report, first obtained by The Dallas Morning News, describes two instances of fighting in an equipment cage in a boys' locker room between 2003 and 2005. It was not clear from the report whether there were other fights....

"It was gladiator-style entertainment for the staff," Frank Hammond, a fired counselor who has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the district, told the newspaper. "They were taking these boys downstairs to fight. And it was sanctioned by the principal and security."
Absolutely amazing.

Now, give me a few minutes in there with an administrator or two, and fun can be had :-)

Are You A Progressive?

Take this quiz and find out. For the record, my score was exceedingly low. Oh so low. Darned low.

Lefties will get in a snit over this quiz. Conservatives will howl with laughter--and then lament that too many people will score high on it.


I was showing a couple students some pictures on my blog, and upon viewing this one (Mayan ruins in Cancun last summer) one of my seniors said, "You wear shorts? I don't think I've ever seen your legs."

I'm the only math teacher at my school about whom that comment can be made. I don't wear shorts to school, even when it's hot. I wear Dockers-type slacks and a collared shirt, except on Fridays when I relax a bit (jeans).

I'm not saying it's unprofessional for a man to wear shorts to work, but it's certainly not something I've yet done.

Thursday Trivia

Obviously, 1956 music isn't the strong suit of the readers of the blog! The answer to yesterday's question is:
Heartbreak Hotel

Today's question is:
How many US presidents have graduated from one of the US service academies? (Bonus question: which presidents/leaders of other countries have graduated from US service academies?)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Where Are The Adults?

Here are two education-related stories that made me wonder, "where are the adults here?"

Wearing said the charges were filed after an incident last Thursday when a 5-year-old boy apparently tossed out his lunch of chicken nuggets and a banana from the school cafeteria. The teacher then allegedly went over to the garbage can, pulled out the food and forced the boy to eat it in front of her. link

A Rhode Island woman is facing charges after allegedly punching and biting her 11-year-old son's school principal after being told the boy was being suspended. link

These snippets speak for themselves; I have nothing to add.

Obama = "Bush on Speed"?

In some regards, it seems so:

The only sharp break President Obama takes away from President Bush is the amount of money he takes from the American people. President Bush reduced taxes by approximately $2 trillion; President Obama has proposed raising taxes by $1.4 trillion.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
R2-D2, C-3PO, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are two different characters :-)

Today's question is:
Which song was Elvis Presley's first Number 1 pop song, and also the best-selling single of 1956?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Heavy Protest

Some legislator in Florida wants to impose a "temporary" 1-cent sales tax increase to fund education--because it's always a good idea to raise taxes during a recession. Anyway, the Florida Education Association organized a "penny drive", trying to get 2.6 million pennies--one for each Florida student--stacked on the steps of the Capitol as a way to increase awareness, or something.

The problem?

And under those Capitol steps? A parking garage used by state lawmakers, Cabinet members and their staff.

''We didn't want to chance it,'' said Cathy Schroeder, spokeswoman for the Department of Management Services, which handles requests for rallies and demonstrations at the Capitol, but said no to the penny plan.

Still, the pennies are coming.

Visitors On Campus

What is your school's policy regarding visitors on campus--specifically, former students?

Our school's policy is, on the surface, rather benign:
1. All visitors must go first to the office and get a guest pass.
2. Visitors must have prior approval from a teacher before visiting a teacher's class.
I can see a strong argument for both of those rules. I may not agree with the arguments, but I can acknowledge that the arguments are not silly on their face and that the policy is not exceedingly out of bounds.

In practice, though, the rule leaves a bit to be desired.

This is apparently Spring Break season for many colleges and universities across the nation, and many of our students are returning home for a few days. Today a couple of students popped in to say hello.

Neither of them had real prior approval from me, although I do tell all my graduating seniors that they can come see me at any time; that's prior approval, but if anyone used that argument I'm sure my administration would change the rule to specific prior approval as opposed to general. I think it's great that graduates come back and see us, and let current students know what's in store for them after graduation; it seems silly to lose out on that because they didn't email me last week.

Acting Presidential

This is what class looks like. This is what acting presidential looks like.

CALGARY, Alberta – Former President George W. Bush said he won't criticize President Barack Obama because Obama "deserves my silence," and said he plans to write a book about the 12 toughest decisions he made in office. Bush declined to critique the Obama administration Tuesday in his first speech since leaving office.

Some people have and display dignity, some don't. I've already pointed out how the current president could use some pointers in this arena--and that was on his first full day in office! He's taken plenty more pot shots since then.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Mercury Bobcat. I'm impressed that two people got that one!

Today's (somewhat easier) question is:
Which characters appeared in all six Star Wars movies?

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Definitely Not Blackface

Wearing an Obama mask is different from performing "Mammy".

I'm not saying the principal cannot make the decision he made, only that it's a dumb decision.

I Almost Forgot!

Happy Birthday.

Climate Change = More Cyclones?

Not yet, anyway.

Tropical cyclone (TC) activity worldwide has completely and utterly collapsed during the past 2 to 3 years with TC energy levels sinking to levels not seen since the late 1970s. This should not be a surprise to scientists since the natural variability in climate dominates any detectable or perceived global warming impact when it comes to measuring yearly integrated tropical cyclone activity. With the continuation (persistence) of colder Pacific tropical sea-surface temperatures associated with the effects of La Nina, the upcoming 2009 Atlantic hurricane season should be above average, as we saw in 2008. Nevertheless, since the Atlantic only makes up 10-15% of overall global TC activity each year (climatological average during the past 30 years), continued Northern Hemispheric and global TC inactivity as a whole likely will continue.

Rough Job Market For Graduating Seniors

Two things I can say about West Point: no student loans, and we had guaranteed jobs upon graduation! This year's class of college and university graduates is going to have a rougher go than usual in the job market:

Suzanne Block isn't basking in the insulating embrace of college as she waits the eight weeks until her May 9 graduation from Lake Forest College.

When she's not in class or studying, she's scanning online job sites, sending out résumés and cold-calling potential employers, anything that might get the frustrated 21-year-old a job.

"Damn me for being born in '87," said the English and communications major. "This is just a nightmare. There could not be a worse time to be looking for a job."

Update, 3/17/09: When the state is billions of dollars in the red, how can we not consider increasing tuition at our colleges and universities? These students seem to think they're owed an inexpensive education. I agree with the brilliant commenter on that article who said:

When government funds your education, the funding gets cut when the treasury dries up--like now, in not-so-good economic times. Think about that when you want the government to run your /health care/.

Evil Multinational Corporation Gives Voice To Autistic Students, Barack Obama Does Nothing

Stories like this one make my heart sing.

Then, shockingly, the Hope School was burglarized. All of the computers — along with printers, cameras, and scanners — were taken. For a school that relies on technology to help its students, this was a crushing blow. Add to that the economic collapse, and things looked bleak.

We're talking about technology that helps mute autistic kids communicate here.

But some HP executives got wind of how their technology was being used at the school, and they stepped in to help. Big time. HP replaced all of the Hope School’s computers, scanners, printers, and cameras. Then, on top of that, they donated another five TouchSmarts, a machine that starts at 1,200 dollars. Sure, that’s a drop in the bucket for a firm like HP, but it’s a cascade of riches for a school like Hope Tech.

Go read the whole thing--it's even shorter than it is uplifting.

Oh, and the jab at the President in the title? That's just to show the lefties how easy it is. Of course, given the last 8 years, during which they blamed everything and its brother on President Bush, they should know.

What's The Weather Like In Sacramento Today, You Ask?

I'm glad you did.

I met a friend for tea after work today. He took this picture for me with his iPhone.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
700 MB

Today's question is:
What was the Mercury version of the Ford Pinto?

The Economy--Good or Bad?

Is it better or worse now than in, say, September 2008? Remember this little exchange?

John McCain Monday insisted US economic "fundamentals" were strong despite a banking crisis and Wall Street meltdown, prompting a scathing rebuke from his White House foe Barack Obama.

"Senator McCain, what economy are you talking about?" Democratic candidate Obama said after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy sent fear across the globe and spooked investors, wiping 500 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

What a difference 6 months makes!

The economy is fundamentally sound despite the temporary "mess" it's in, the White House said Sunday in the kind of upbeat assessment that Barack Obama had mocked as a presidential candidate...

[T]hat optimistic message came from economic adviser Christina Romer. When asked during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" if the fundamentals of the economy were sound, she replied: "Of course they are sound."

No, it wasn't Obama himself who made the latter statement, but it was one of his advisors--and I didn't hear the President rush out to state that he disagreed with her. And I dare say that the economy is in worse shape today than it was in September. I'm not saying the President's advisor is wrong; no, I point out how the President has flip-flopped--either that, or he was just saying something he didn't believe last September in order to score a few political points.

I marvel at the hypocrisy from this White House--and in only 2 months! As the old saying goes, though: there's plenty more where that came from. Unfortunately.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Barbara Bach.

Today's question is:
How much data will a standard CD hold?

Idiot Principal

It's stories like this that convince me that lobotomies are required in order to become a principal:

I've just learned that the principal has faulted our Continental Math League for "widening the achievement gap."

It's been suggested that, instead of running a math club for gifted students, I instead run one for struggling students.

I like the following thought process, though:

Maybe I'm being unreasonable, but I tend to think that it's the school's job, not mine, to educate struggling students.

Grocery Store Guru

I admit it--sometimes when I go to the grocery store, I attempt to buy foods that are relatively healthier for me than what I really want to buy. That doesn't mean I go all Whole Earth Foods now, as my primary grocery store is Wal*Mart, but I do periodically read labels. Sadly, you may soon need a PhD to do that!

Do you know the difference between "whole grain" and "multigrain", between "cage free" and "free range"? How much trans-fat can be included in foods labeled "trans-fat free"? Read here to find out!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Wuthering Heights

Today's question is:
Which actress played the “Bond girl” in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me?

Merit Badge In Dumb

The Girl Scouts have made a colossal error in telling one enterprising young girl that she cannot sell her Thin Mints online.

"Help me help others. Buy cookies. They're yummy," little Wild says in her one-minute sales pitch for Thin Mints, Samoas and other traditional mainstays of Girl Scout cookie cuisine.

The modest message included an online order form, was videotaped by her father, Bryan Freeborn, in the family living room in Brevard, N.C., and posted at YouTube.com.

The Girl Scouts of America, though, frown upon such creativity and drive.

The Girl Scouts were not pleased with Wild's intention to sell 12,000 boxes of cookies and help send her troop to summer camp. The organization ordered the video removed from the social-networking site on the grounds that it violated a policy that bars online sales of Girl Scout cookies. Officials were also concerned that Wild's methods could put less techno-enabled young ladies at a disadvantage. (boldface mine--Darren)

Had they stuck to the first reason--later in the article a GSA spokesperson says that the policy exists for online safety of girls--that would have seemed an argument worth discussing and debating. It's the boldfaced reason that just strikes me as dumb.

I wonder if the young Ms. Freeborn will ever earn this badge.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pi Day

Tomorrow is one of those days we math geeks love--it's Pi Day, 3/14. Those darned chemistry geeks get two Avogadro's Days, 6/02 and 10/23, but Pi Day is more well known, more popular. Ours even gets write-ups at CNN, but neither Avogadro's Day does. So we're cooler.

Someone with much more talent and much more time on her hands than I have has rewritten the lyrics to that early 70's classic American Pie. It's very well done. The chorus:

So why, why can’t I calculate pi
I just want to see the numbers 3.1415
And if that’s all, then let’s keep it alive
‘Cause my calculator seems to have died.
My calculator seems to have died.

Top that, chemistry geeks!

Do You Agree With NEA Regarding Merit Pay?

Every year I get my panties in a bunch reading about the resolutions the NEA adopts or considers adopting. Their so-called Representative Assembly is held each year around the 4th of July, so I'm a little early getting all riled up, but this post at EIA was like a 2x4 up the side of the head.

It's not that I doubt Mike Antonucci, but I wanted to see these for myself at NEA's own web site. I went to look but could not find them at all. Mike was kind enough to send me the link (NEA doesn't make this information easy to find)--and sure enough, there the damning statements are, just like he said they were:

Resolution F-9 (Salaries and Other Compensation) has three paragraphs related to pay beyond the traditional salary schedule. One includes support for additional salary for national certification. The other two read:

“The Association opposes providing additional compensation to attract and/or retain education employees in hard-to-recruit positions.”


“The Association further believes that performance pay schedules, such as merit pay or any other system of compensation based on an evaluation of an education employee’s performance, are inappropriate.”

Resolution F-10 provides additional details.

“The National Education Association is opposed to the use of merit pay or performance pay compensation systems.”

I recommend reading the original, and then read EIA's commentary and explanation. Seriously. Because you have to wonder how an organization that fancies itself comprised of professionals can make this statement:

“Any additional compensation beyond a single salary schedule must not be based on education employee evaluation, student performance, or attendance.”

About Face

At 1:00 into this video, among other places, you can see one side of Whoopi Goldberg:

That video was made last summer. What a difference a half a year makes!

Just to let you know, Whoopi--that guy you're railing about in the 2nd video, the "tax man"? That's the guy you were praying for, or to, in the first video.

I'm just saying.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was Emily Bronte's only novel?

Heads up: tomorrow's question refers to a Bond movie :-)

Pink Friday

So today is Pink Friday, and in our boxes at school were pink stickers we could wear advertising the event. Many of the lemmings wore them. The major Sacramento paper had a short article today which mentioned something I did in my linked post--some objected to the "pink".

It's not that I'm unsympathetic. I've received a couple of layoff notices during my time as a teacher, and was once actually laid off. It's a miserable feeling to lose your job, no matter who you are. I completely get that, and would offer what support I could to individuals who do actually get layoff notices. Remember, though, that today marks the day that districts must tell employees that they might possibly be laid off in June; today is only a warning of a potential layoff.

Education takes up half our budget. How can California not cut education spending when we have multi-billion dollar deficits? I understand the CTA wants to protect its own, but to do so at the risk of harming the state even more makes CTA akin to the most virulent of parasites.

And now I point out the obvious. Education is provided by the government, paid for by the taxpayer. In California we spend more than we take in, even during flush years; in not-so-good economic times, we have to cut a little but we certainly don't cut enough from the state's expenditures. That means that everything the government pays for faces financial scrutiny and is subject to cuts. Even if those cuts hurt some people--and they always hurt someone--they have to be made for the greater good, for the solvency of the government.

Do you want your health care subject to such fortunes?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What is one-half of one-fourth of one-eighth?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tax Refund

Nine days ago I e-filed my state and federal income taxes; the whole online kit and kaboodle cost me a whopping $13.

My federal refund is already in my checking account. You gotta like that.

It's All Been A Jedi Mind Trick

If you're as fond of President Obama's economic policies as you were of Jar-Jar Binks, then this picture will appeal to you :-)

NEA Supports Card Check

Are you surprised at all that an organization as foul as NEA supports something as un-American as card check?

What Is It About Florida and Gay-Straight Alliances?

Two years ago I wrote what I considered to be a rather thoughtful post about gay-straight alliances in public schools. If you want to be fully up to speed when reading this post, please read that one first. If you prefer not to read it, here's the skinny: a US District judge in Florida ruled that schools had to allow GSA's to meet if they allowed other clubs to meet. I wholeheartedly concurred with his ruling:

Students should not have to hide who they are at our schools. That doesn't mean that everyone needs to accept everyone, far from it. I subscribe to the concept of tolerance, which is very different from acceptance. But I don't think it's a very big secret that gay students are picked on in schools, and that the very language and vocabulary used by so many of our students today is particularly onerous to gay students. Yes, other students are picked on, too, and we in the education field need to be prepared to stop all forms of harassment. But let's be blunt: gays are singled out at least as harshly and as vigorously as other groups, and often more harshly and vigorously. And they're singled out for who they are, not what they do.

GSA's are not "meat markets". They don't exist as clubs where students can hit on each other and trade porn, as the school district in the above-linked story presented. Come on, the internet is a much more efficient medium for such activities. These clubs, by their very name--Gay-STRAIGHT Alliances--exist to help all students build bridges to each other. Again, by their very name if not by their activities, they promote tolerance. Some may cross the line into homosexual advocacy, something I would not condone, but the primary purpose of such clubs seems to be to help students learn to tolerate each other and to treat each other as individuals, not as members of labeled groups.

Speaking as a conservative, I see that as a good thing.

Let's repeat: a federal judge said that GSA's had to be allowed if other clubs were. So why am I reading this today, about a different Florida district and the exact same issue?

A federal judge has ruled that a student club that promotes tolerance for gays at a north Florida high school must be allowed to meet.

U.S. District Judge Henry Adams issued the decision Wednesday in a case involving two students from Yullee High School near Jacksonville.

Adams ordered a local school board to grant official recognition to the Gay-Straight Alliance and afford it the same privileges as any other student organization.

The school district had argued in court that it would grant school access to the group if its name were changed, citing the name as its chief objection. But the judge ruled that the group did not need to make a change.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of two gay students.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Stop All High School Sports Except At Lake Wobegon High

A North Carolina state lawmaker has proposed a law that would end all sports at schools wherein the entire student body doesn't score above the 50th percentile in testing. Your friend sucks at school? You don't play.

This is a stupid idea. Watch the video here.

Why A Little Knowledge Of Statistics Is So Important

At the school at which I teach, students who complete pre-calculus/trig can go on to take either AP Calculus or statistics. Whenever students ask for my opinion on what they should do, I ask them what they think they'd like to major in. If a student is going into a math/science/engineering field, I recommend calculus. If a student is going into any other field, I recommend statistics.

Perhaps RightWingProf, who periodically reads this blog, would like to comment on why statistics is so important and why a lack of knowledge about statistics is harmful. I'm merely going to accept the statement as fact and move on.

Are you paying too much for your cell phone plan? Maybe not:

The new study of cell-phone bills by the Utility Consumers' Action Network, the San Diego-based group known of late for fighting the Sunrise Powerlink, has won national attention for its claim that the average cost of a cell phone call is $3.02 a minute.

Now I have no love lost for cell-phone companies. I have had nightmarish experiences with my provider. But after reading the 87-page document, I have no choice but to conclude that the UCAN study is breathtaking in the shoddiness of its methodology and is full of calculated deceptiveness. It would be rejected by a community college statistics teacher in under five minutes. It is a sad comment on journalists' inability to do or understand basic math that it has won uncritical coverage from the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor and dozens of other outlets. (boldface mine--Darren)

Grants Help For More Than Just Tuition

There's something missing from this story in the major Sacramento newspaper:

Michelle Upchurch was driving to math class at Sacramento City College when she slid into the car in front of her, damaging the 1995 Honda Civic she affectionately calls Bessie Lou.

With Bessie Lou out of commission, Upchurch couldn't get her kids to school. Without her kids in school, Upchurch couldn't make it to class. And if she missed class at City College, Upchurch wouldn't be able to transfer to Sacramento State for the degree in vocational education that she's been working toward.

"My car is mandatory," she said. "We need it."

The next day, Upchurch got a ride to school. During one of her classes, a professor announced that small grants were available for students in emergency situations.

"I looked up to the heavens and said, 'Wow. Were you reading my mind?' " said Upchurch, 36.

She applied to the Los Rios Foundation's new emergency student aid fund and was awarded $650. The Foundation paid the money directly to the auto body shop that is getting Bessie Lou back in running order.

There's no mention in this article about her car insurance, which is required to register and drive a car in California. Does she not have insurance?

It's not that I have any problem with schools' foundations helping students out--private organizations can distribute their money any way they see fit. But how can a responsible journalist write this article and not mention car insurance? Something just doesn't seem right.

Then I look at the reporter's name. I've posted about her, uh, inadequacy before. Mr. Chanman isn't too impressed with her, either. Now the missing important part of the story makes sense.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Grover Cleveland, 1885-1889 and 1893-1897.

Today's question is:
What is the name of Earth's 2nd highest mountain?

Carnival of Education

This week's is hosted by my old blogging pal RightWingProf and includes my post about teaching the math behind some games of chance.

Card Check

There are many good reasons to be against card check, several of which are mentioned in this article. The most obvious reason, though, is that it's un-American.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who is the only US president to have served two non-consecutive terms?

Teaching In The Slums

In line with the last post I wrote about offering a hand up instead of a handout, here's a story about a young man who wants to help children avoid gangs in the Philippine slums. He demonstrates his compassion by teaching children reading and writing.

Efren Peñaflorida, 28, also was bullied by gangs in high school. Today, he offers Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through education.

"Gang members are groomed in the slums as early as 9 years old," says Peñaflorida. "They are all victims of poverty."

For the past 12 years, Peñaflorida and his team of teen volunteers have taught basic reading and writing to children living on the streets. Their main tool: A pushcart classroom. Do you know someone who should be a CNN Hero? Nominations are open at CNN.com/Heroes

Stocked with books, pens, tables and chairs, his Dynamic Teen Company recreates a school setting in unconventional locations such as the cemetery and municipal trash dump...

He created the Dynamic Teen Company to offer his classmates an outlet to lift up themselves and their community. For Peñaflorida, that meant returning to the slums of his childhood to give kids the education he felt they deserved.

"They need education to be successful in life. It's just giving them what others gave to me," he says.

Today, children ranging from ages 2 to 14 flock to the pushcart every Saturday to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and English from Peñaflorida and his trained teen volunteers.
A genuine hero.

False Compassion

One thing you can say about liberals, is they prefer form over substance. Ask any liberal what they think about global warming, or feeding the hungry, or stopping the violence in Darfur, and they'll tell you not what they think but what they feel. Then ask them what they're doing about these causes about which they feel so strongly, and you will no doubt hear some feel-good pablum that doesn't stand up to any scrutiny at all.

Giving homeless people a "hobo condo" is one such ridiculous idea. Oh, how good you can feel about yourself by creating a tent-on-a-grocery-cart as you drive the Bentley back to the Malibu estate.

"At least it's something", the liberals will claim. And indeed it is, but what? Does a hobo condo help a homeless person get a real place to live, or a job, or an education by which they can improve themselves? No, it keeps the rain off (and I understand why the homeless appreciate that, as would I if I were on the streets), but is it genuine compassion?

As a conservative I prefer offering a "hand up" rather than a "handout".

Bully Pulpit But No Legislation For Education?

I'm a supporter of the No Child Left Behind Act only because I know federal education dollars aren't going away and so I prefer its accountability provisions to none at all, which is what we had prior to its passing. Having said that, though, I'd rather have less federal involvement in education overall. I'm therefore pleased to read the following:

President Barack Obama is promoting tighter standards for teachers and a reduced dropout rate for students as part of an education plan that, at least for now, lacks any new legislative component.

Obama plans to call on Americans to educate themselves as well as their children during his appearance Tuesday at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It is his first major speech devoted solely to education since taking office, but officials say he plans neither to detail any requirements to achieve his goals nor to change President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind program.

Instead, a senior administration official said, Obama would speak to the importance of increasing the rigor of the standards in place and challenge states to adopt world-class standards rather than a specific standard.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Teaching About Gambling

I don't know if it's illegal or not, but it's certainly taboo in some corners to teach about gambling in schools. I looked but cannot find the words or phrases "gamble", "gambling", or "games of chance" anywhere in California education code (search here), but I'm not sure.

This is remarkable to me. Our state has a lottery system, some of the proceeds of which fund public education. The odds of winning are printed on each ticket!

The entire field of probability was jump-started when some enterprising individuals tried to determine probabilities for winning at games of chance! I can't tell you how many students ask me about Texas Hold'em, tournaments of which they watch on television but about which I know nothing.

Just as it's against the law in California to teach about communism with the intent to instill in the minds of students a preference for communism over our representative form of government, I decided that if I teach about gambling I must do so without glorifying it or instilling a preference for it. I assume that this is how sex, drugs, and alcohol are also addressed in the appropriate classes.

As my Algebra II students have been learning about probability, permutations, and combinations recently, games of chance are very relevant to the subject matter. Many of the problems in our textbook have dealt with probabilities of drawing certain cards from a deck, so I've extended that to other probabilities--for instance, the probability of being dealt a royal flush in 5-card stud (or 5-card Darren, same thing).

And then there's Keno.

Keno is similar to the state lottery in that balls are drawn from a hopper, but more interesting. Players mark numbers from 1-80 on a Keno ticket, and then 20 numbers are drawn from the hopper. If a certain number of the players numbers are drawn, the player wins! Keeping with the "don't glorify it" theme, we calculated the probabilities of the player's choosing only 1 number and having that number chosen. Turns out there's a 1/4 chance, meaning that if the player chooses only one number (say, 25), that number will be drawn on average only once in four games. Since Keno is generally $1 a game, the player would have to play 4 games at a cost of $4 in order to win one. According to my Circus Circus Reno Keno payout sheet, a player would win $3 for getting one number drawn out of one.

Did you get that? Mathematically, you pay $4 in order to win $3. Those casinos weren't built because all the players were winning, you know!

But no one picks only one number--birthdays are a favorite. So we calculated the probability of choosing two numbers and having both of them drawn. Skipping all the math here, the probability is about 1/17. In other words, you'd have to play 17 games (costing $17) to win one--and the payout would be only $14 according to the Circus Circus booklet.

We did the same for 3 numbers--probability of 1/72, for a payout of only $42.

The students seemed to enjoy the "practical" lesson and I taught much about counting principles and probability. Additionally, no one could say I was glorifying gambling at all. Sounds like a win-win to me.

What's the probability of that?

Imagine If School Districts Had This Rule

The following comes via EIA, and includes part of the employment contract that the NEA has with its own employees:

Here, for example, is Article 8, Section 5:

"NEA may discipline a probationary employee for any cause, and may discharge a probationary employee for any cause or no cause; provided that NEA shall take no action in this regard that is contrary to Article 5 of this Agreement."

Article 5 prohibits job discrimination on the basis of race, sex, etc.

You'd almost think these people needed a union. Oh wait, they already have one, and they work for a union.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
the Krugerrand, named for Paul (not Freddie!) Kruger.

Today's question is:
Which US space shuttle is the newest, built to replace the Challenger?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Leaning So Far Left, The University Falls Over

This should surprise no one:

New Study May Underestimate Left-Wing Preponderance in Academia:

A new UCLA study finds that 56% of academics consider themselves to be "liberal" (47%) or "far left" (9%), compared to only 16% who say they are "conservative" (15.2%) or "far right" (0.7%). This result is consistent with numerous previous surveys showing that academics are overwhelmingly left of center.

The new survey may actually underestimate the degree of left-wing dominance. In the UCLA study, 28% of respondents say that they are "middle of the road." However, earlier research suggests that self-described academic "moderates" are likely to be well to the left of moderates in the general population. They may be in "moderate" relative to their fellow academics, but liberal relative to the general population. Second, the UCLA study probably understates the proportion of academics who are on the extreme left, as opposed to mainstream liberals...

Ideological imbalance in academia isn't objectionable in and of itself. However, it does tend to influence research agendas and the content of classroom instruction, and is therefore worrisome for those reasons.
We need affirmative action for conservatives!


I have a long way to go before I can claim to be anywhere near in the same league as what's being reported about this guy:

Just look at his AP calculus exam scores from last year: All 81 of his students aced the college-level test, earning an average score of 4.79 out of 5. Sixty-nine of the students earned a perfect 5.

On Feb. 19, he was one of 50 teachers from around the country to win the 2009 Siemens Award for Advanced Placement, which recognizes "exemplary teaching and enthusiastic dedication to students and the AP program." He received a $1,000 prize.

And in 2008, the College Board recognized Fairmont Prep as having one of the strongest AP calculus programs in California.

On a campus with about 560 students in seventh through 12th grades, 30% are enrolled in AP calculus classes. Since Calavitta began teaching AP courses in 1993, his students have had a 96% pass rate on the exam.


Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What South African gold bullion coin contains one ounce of gold?

Professor Listed As "Expert In Oral Sex"

Who wouldn't want to sign up for that professor's class?

The primary point of this post, though, is that in these days of belt-tightening, university classes pertaining to "oral sex" or "queer theory" might be considered superfluous.

OK, I can't resist. These classes give new meaning to education "stimulus", don't they?

Ha ha ha! Sometimes I slay myself.

Teachers In Space

I think sending cadets into space would make for a funnier headline, but here's the real story:

Two science teachers who have spent the past five years under NASA's tutelage are about to graduate with high-flying honors.

The space shuttle flight Wednesday night of Joseph Acaba and Richard Arnold II will mark the first time two one-time teachers have rocketed into space together. And during the two-week construction mission to the international space station, both will attempt multiple spacewalks - the most dangerous job in orbit...

This flight comes a year and a half after the last teacher-astronaut, Barbara Morgan, went into space after a two-decade wait. Morgan was the backup in the mid-1980s for schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, who was killed when space shuttle Challenger exploded after takeoff.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Henry VIII and his second wife, Ann Boleyn.

Today's question is:
In which US state was Star Trek's Captain Kirk born?


If you can read this short post about a WWII belly-gunner without getting a tear in your eye, you're more stoic than I am.

I'm Not Accusing the Administration Of Anything Nefarious Here...

...but the timing is darned coincidental, no?

Today I received a letter from the IRS that my 2007 tax returns are being audited. Less than one month after launching TaxCheatStamps.com.

Friday, March 06, 2009

I'd Sue

First, press criminal charges. Then, file a civil suit.

Thankfully, the mom comes off as reasonable here. You've gotta feel for her. I wonder where dad is.

Update: OK, no civil suit against mom. She doesn't look like she has much to give, and she certainly didn't condone her son's behavior. I have a hard time imagining being pummeled like that poor (substitute) bus driver was, though, and not seeking some civil damages.

But I'd still definitely press criminal charges.

National Debt

I never want to hear another leftie tell me about the debt President Bush wracked up for the US:

Mr. Obama's $3.6 trillion budget blueprint, by his own admission, redefines the role of government in our economy and society. The budget more than doubles the national debt held by the public, adding more to the debt than all previous presidents -- from George Washington to George W. Bush -- combined. WSJ

If you want to say that President Bush's mistakes forced President Obama to do this, please explain why Bush's spending was bad for the economy and Obama's is good.

More whiskey is not the smartest cure for a hangover.

Embarrassing State Department Screw Up

This is just bad.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opened her first extended talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by giving him a present meant to symbolize the Obama administration’s vow to “press the reset button” on U.S.-Russia relations.

She handed a palm-sized box wrapped with a bow. Lavrov opened it and pulled out the gift: a red button on a black base with a Russian word peregruzka printed on top.

“We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” Clinton asked.

“You got it wrong,” Lavrov said.

Instead of "reset," Lavrov said the word on the box meant “overcharge.”

No one at the State Department speaks Russian? I'll bet I have 2 or 3 students who could have provided the correct word.

Is there anyone in this administration who isn't coming off looking like an amateur?

Update: More here, regarding the Secretary of State's visit to Europe.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
154, 7 groups of 22 each.

Today's question is:
Who were Queen Elizabeth I's parents?

Birds Of A Feather Flock Together...

...even the turkeys.

William Ayers, the former Weather Underground radical whose past made him a lightning rod in the 2008 presidential campaign, said Thursday that fired Colorado professor Ward Churchill became the victim of a "witch hunt" after comparing Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi.

"There's no doubt in my mind he was persecuted because of his politics," Ayers said before appearing with Churchill at a student rally on academic freedom at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

There's no doubt Churchill brought attention and scrutiny to himself with his idiotic remarks, but he was fired because of the information that scrutiny brought to light:

University spokesman Bronson Hilliard called Ayers' allegation "absolute nonsense." He said Churchill was fired because of proven research misconduct, not his statements.

It's true that no one would ever have researched Churchill's past were it not for his big mouth, but once people started bringing Churchill's lies and plagiarism to the school's attention, they couldn't very well ignore it no matter what the motivation of the discoverers was.

Ayers was a co-founder of the Weather Underground, a radical anti-war group that claimed responsibility for a series of bombings, including explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol that didn't kill anyone.

He was a fugitive for years. After surrendering in 1980, charges against him were dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct.

Ayers is now an education professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago and an outspoken critic of intimidation of professors.

"Again and again, we have political leaders who weigh in on what's appropriate to teach and who's appropriate to teach," Ayers said Thursday.
I guess for al-AP, trying to kill people shouldn't really be a crime. No, no bias there. Move along, please.

So the bottom line in this story is that you have two slimeballs, both of whom have a very shady past in one way or another, and here they are palling around with one defending the other's attempt to get his job back--a job he got only by lying about his ethnic heritage (as if that should help get a job anyway) and by stealing the work of others and passing it off as his own.

These two deserve each other.

And remember, Ayers is a professor of education. He's training current and future teachers.

The Predatory Nature of Teachers Unions

Rhymes With Right has a post about how Houston teachers may have union representation forced upon them even though Texas is a right-to-work state.
Yeah, that’s right – you will still be able to join any group you want, but if this proposal passes you will have no voice unless you join HFT (Houston Federation of Teachers).
Today I received an email from the president of my local teachers union. It said the following:

Finally, nearly 3 weeks ago, I placed a demand to bargain the effects of all decisions related to budget cuts and layoffs. As a result, management, including your principals are prohibited from having discussions with you regarding these proposed cuts. They are not allowed under the law to bypass (the local union) and discuss these issues with you. I brought this issue forward to the superintendent and director of labor relations today. I have ask them to convey this message to their principals.

I have serious concerns with this. Our laws are tilted too far in favor of unions. I've said it before and I'll say it again: every non-military American has a right to join a union and every American has a right not to join a union (financially supporting a union is a different story). It's reasonable for the law to allow people to organize, but such organization is too one-sided. Unions can say anything they want in furtherance of getting organized, but the employer is strictly limited in what it can say to employees. Unions can say pretty much anything they want to incite members or potential members, but employers are not allowed to respond in kind. It's not a level playing field, and it will only get worse if card check is implemented by the current Congress and President.

It's partly for this reason that I choose not to be a union member, even though I'm still required by law to support a union financially (via agency fee).

The Role of Higher Education

If someone were to ask me what the role of university professors is, I'd say it's primarily to teach their subject matter. Ah, naive waif that I am! Turns out the actual answer is to teach
"civic engagement and appreciation of racial and ethnic diversity".

Carnival of Education

This week's Carnival is over at the Core Knowledge Blog and includes my post about student prostitutes.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

JROTC Academic Bowl

I didn't know there was any such thing, but the JROTC program at one of our district's high schools (I think we have the program at only 2 of our 9 high schools) is on its way to DC to participate:

Students from Casa Roble Fundamental High School’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps will travel to Washington, D.C., in April to take part in the College Options Foundation’s Air Force JROTC Academic Bowl. The team is one of only 12 in the nation to advance to finals and the only school from California.

The team survived two tough rounds to win its place in the championship and the trip, which will be funded by the College Options Foundation and AFJROTC headquarters. Students will go on a whirlwind sightseeing tour around Washington, D.C., prior to the start of the championship activities.

This information comes from an email sent to district employees today. Congratulations, cadets!