Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Thought Experiment

How strongly do you feel about our federal form of government and the requirements of the US Constitution? To gauge your response I have devised the following thought experiment.

Let's pretend that the citizens of a state (let's randomly pick Mississippi) decide, either through plebiscite or through their elected representatives, that the state would no longer have a public education system. Taxes we be adjusted accordingly, and public schools go away.

Should they be able to do this?

And whether or not they should be able to, do you think any modern president or Congress would allow them to eliminate public education?

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's obviously easy question (based on the number of correct results, it was far easier than I thought it would be) is:
Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.

Today's question is:
What was the name of Grace Jones' character in the 1985 Bond movie A View To A Kill?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Taking Responsibility

Yes, President Obama has only been President for 100 days or so, but he'd been a Senator for a few years before then--in the party that controlled the Congress for the last two years.

"That wasn't me," President Barack Obama said on his 100th day in office, disclaiming responsibility for the huge budget deficit waiting for him on Day One. It actually was partly him — and the other Democrats controlling Congress the previous two years — who shaped the latest in a string of precipitously out-of-balance budgets.

And as a presidential candidate and president-elect, he backed the twilight Bush-era stimulus plan that made the deficit deeper, all before he took over and promoted spending plans that have made it much deeper still.

Remind me where that desk was, the one that used to have the sign on it that said "The buck stops here." Oh yeah, it was in the exact same office that President Obama now occupies.

Rejection Letters

A couple months ago I wrote about college rejection letters and how some teenagers think they can be "too mean". I sneered at these teenagers, telling them:
News flash to you narcissistic teenagers--much as you may not want to hear this, it's not all about you or your feelings. The college is telling you that you didn't make their cut; I'm sure they didn't go out of their way to be harsh, and neither should they go out of their way to molly-coddle you...

Don't be such whiners. Get some dignity; you're responsible for your self-esteem, not some university.

Welcome to the real world, wherein you're not the center of the universe.
With acceptance/rejection letter season in full swing, the Wall Street Journal has a story on such letters:

Even with impressive test scores and grades, abundant extracurricular activities, good recommendations and an admission essay into which "I poured myself heart and soul," Daniel Beresford, 18, of Fair Oaks, Calif., netted 14 rejection letters from 17 applications, he says. Among the denials: Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins and the University of Chicago. (He's bound for one of his top choices, Pepperdine University.) When he "realized it was going to be so much harder this year," he started calling in reinforcements, asking teachers and friends to open the rejections for him.

Your heart and soul, you say? Is it just me, or does this kid sound like an immature little wussy?

Still, the article's worth reading just to get a kick out of the ways the different schools word their rejection letters. It ends thusly:

After getting rejections from Harvard and Yale, Isaac Chambers, 17, Champaign, Ill., a top student, track athlete, student-government leader and an editor of his school's online newspaper, posted these words of advice for other rejected candidates on "When you're in the dough," he wrote, "fax the colleges that denied you a copy of your rejection letter every day -- letting them know just how badly they screwed up."
I think Harvard and Yale can thank their lucky stars that they didn't admit such a self-centered little baby. He has an extraordinary ego for someone who's only 17 and who isn't a household name. Sorry, young Mr. Chambers, but I doubt those schools (or any others) will be kicking themselves in 30 years for not admitting you this year. I'm sure they'll do just fine without you.

I'd like to think the kid was just venting or even joking, but tell me you can't imagine a kid so full of himself that he thinks he's entitled to go wherever he wants and any school that didn't accept him made an admissions mistake.

Carnival of Education

This week's is over at Jason's Perspective and includes my post about the California High School Exit Exam.

Paulo Freire Raises His Ugly Head

Joanne has a great summary post about Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire, a post primarily about Sol Stern's exceptional rebuttal to Freire's ideas. I've previously written about Freire here and here.

Those three links will bring you completely up to speed on Freire's views and why they're adored by the American Left, even though they haven't been shown to work anywhere.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Bentonville, Arkansas

Today's question is:
SCUBA is an acronym for what?

State Testing

At my school we've been doing state testing for a week and a half now, Monday through Wednesday of last week, and Monday through Wednesday and also Friday of this week. Long-time readers of this blog will know I'm a fan of standardized testing--outside, objective eyes are a good thing--but implementation, from the state on down to my school, is just idiotic. I'll only mention a few things just to give you a flavor.

Let's start with the state. Why do we have stringent standards, standards that certainly require a full school year to teach, but test on these standards in mid-late April? Can anyone come up with a good, academic reason to do this?

Add to this, some of the instructions are silly. For example, for the math tests the students are to write on their answer documents the two-digit version number that's on their testing booklet. Then they are to bubble in the number that number that they wrote--but the bubbles contain only one digit. Yes, the version numbers all begin with zero (e.g., 01, 02, etc.) and there are only bubbles for numbers 1-7, but why the inconsistency? The rules are so rigid that I have to read all instructions to the students verbatim, yet it's impossible to follow that particular instruction about bubbling in the number. Are other instructions so requiring of interpretation?

Additionally, all tests are untimed--students can have as much time as they want or need. However, each of the math tests contain 2 parts. Why, I don't know--there are problems in the first part, and similar problems in the second part. We allot 2 hr 40 min to do the whole math test; if students need more time, they can go to a special room once "regular" classes start and finish the test. However, if a student finishes Part 1 and moves on to Part 2, the instructions forbid the student to go back and check work in Part 1. But remember, the student can take as much time as he/she wants in Part 1! I can come up with no explanation for this seeming inconsistency.

Go down a level to the school districts. Some will want to game the system, to gain an advantage over other districts when Academic Performance Index scores are calculated and released. Those districts will try to cover all the standards before the testing in April; they'll cram 181 days of instruction into 140 days, meaning those districts spend 22% less time on each standard just to "expose" students to the material so they stand a better chance of getting the right answers on the test. I assume they go back and reinforce some of this material after the tests, but I don't know.

And now, my school. We're given a window in which to conduct the tests, and at my school we spread the tests out over 2 weeks. We tested 1st period students on Monday of last week, 2nd period on Tuesday, and 3rd period on Wednesday. After the 2:40 testing period, we held ordinary classes (either odd- or even-numbered periods, so the classes can be 70 minutes long instead of only 30). On Thursday and Friday we held our regular schedule.

This week we did 4th period on Monday, 5th on Tuesday, and 6th today, and sophomores will take an "NCLB Science" test this Friday. Non-sophomores signed up for "study hall", presumably with their favorite teacher, for Friday.

After kids spend over 2-1/2 hrs testing, you might imagine that they're "all tested out". So for two weeks it's difficult to schedule ordinary tests or quizzes--remember, ordinary classes are supposed to go on as usual, and we're supposed to be teaching. Our schedule makes that a bit difficult, though.

It's possible to write valid, reliable tests, and to create a testing regime to administer those tests in a logical manner. Sadly, I don't think we have such a testing regime here in California. Remember, I'm a proponent of standardized testing. If I can complain this much about our testing, imagine what opponents must be saying.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Putting Kids In Bad Positions

Gotta love California Educator magazine, the birdcage liner published by the CTA each month. While April's issue focuses on the upcoming layoffs of thousands of California teachers, one small article on page 32 caught my eye (view it here online):

Elementary students speak of watching their parents dragged off by federal agents as their parents arrive to pick them up from school. The youngsters are left abandoned as their parents are led off in handcuffs. Such disturbing facts reveal the impact on the schoolchildren of federal immigration raids that have taken place on school grounds.

To help stop the trauma and protect students — the majority of whom are themselves American citizens — CTA is seeking legislative approval for AB 132, a CTA-sponsored measure by Assembly Member Tony Mendoza (D-Van Nuys). Mendoza, a former teacher and CTA member, has authored the bill to put into express state policy that immigration raids should not disrupt classroom instruction except as necessary to protect public safety.

I'll admit that I haven't read the law myself, but will assume that the law states something akin to what California Educator stated above. Since federal agents would not be bound by this state law, is this really anything more than racial grandstanding by CTA and Señor Mendoza? How much of my dues money is CTA spending "supporting" the passage of this law?

Who is really at fault when immigration agents "drag off" parents in handcuffs? Is it the agents who are enforcing the law, or is it the parents who broke the law?

I know what let's do. Let's write a similar law. Whenever DEA agents bust into a drug house, and they find children present, they must put down their firearms and politely ask the adults to stop manufacturing illicit materials. Since children must not see their parents being "dragged off" in handcuffs, the agents must request that the adults accompany them to unmarked cars, where they will be taken to "dinner".

In that situation, whose fault is it that the kids might see their parents "dragged off" in handcuffs--the DEA agents, or the drug-peddling parents?

If you don't want your kids to see you in handcuffs, don't break the law. Why that is such a difficult concept for some escapes me.

CTA Racists

I've written before, as recently as last week, about what a racist organization the California Teachers Association is. Here's another. And another. And another. And another.

Not surprisingly, they're at it again.

Today I received my April 2009 issue of California Educator, the CTA's "fair and balanced" magazine. The centerfold is a poster, no doubt suitable for hanging, celebrating California's Day of the Teacher. Since the CTA likes us to focus so much on race, let's look at the 6 people depicted in this poster (view it online here) and see if CTA is celebrating diversity.

One adult is shown. She appears to be a tanned white woman or perhaps a Hispanic. Of the five children shown, two appear to be white girls, one appears to be a white (or perhaps Asian) girl, one is a black boy, and one is an Asian boy. So what's the problem? There's not a white male to be seen in the entire poster. That can't be acceptable, can it? Can it?

I've brought this up before.

Tougher Education Standards?

From the "be careful what you wish for" department:

But clues are now emerging, and they suggest that the Obama administration will use a Congressional rewriting of the federal law later this year to toughen requirements on topics like teacher quality and academic standards and to intensify its focus on helping failing schools.

It will be interesting to see how the President and his team plan to "toughen" requirements on teacher quality, and how his most vocal, strident supporters (teachers unions) will respond to that.

I'm encouraged by the following:

The law’s testing requirements may evolve but will certainly not disappear.

As I've written before, I have a colleague who seems sincere in her belief that the original intent of NCLB was to destroy public education--all evidence notwithstanding. If this President and Congress only fiddle with the law instead of killing it altogether, I wonder if she'll be forced to reassess her views on the subject.

Test Scores Improving?

That's what NAEP results say.

Kids in the U.S. are improving in reading and math, and low-achieving students are making the biggest gains.

The 2008 scores come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal test considered the benchmark of how students perform across the country.

Watch the NEA jump all over this report, even as it disparages the "one size fits all" standardized test that gives us this news!

Bargain Hunting For A College Education

What's next, coupons?

Forget about campus housing. Or a meal plan, or a gym with a climbing wall. This program is about the basics – core courses at a bare-bones satellite campus. But the price is less than one-third of what it costs for tuition and room and board at the main campus in Manchester...

Shopping for value is "in" these days – especially when it comes to big-ticket items like a college education. Public universities and community colleges traditionally have represented low-cost options. But now, some private colleges – and at least one state's public program – are trying to come up with cheaper pathways to a degree.

Let's see how much their "student activity fees" are, although I admit the main point above is a great start. Sort of makes you wonder why places haven't been doing it all along, though, doesn't it?

Via NewsAlert.

Quantity, Quality, and Ceramics Class

Although attribution is up for grabs, Joseph Stalin reportedly said that "quantity has a quality all its own." This post from Right Wing Nation is an interesting application of that quote.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what city or town is Wal*Mart headquartered?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Are You Smarter Than A Supercomputer?

Right idea, wrong game show.

I.B.M. plans to announce Monday that it is in the final stages of completing a computer program to compete against human “Jeopardy!” contestants. If the program beats the humans, the field of artificial intelligence will have made a leap forward.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What is the two-letter symbol for the element silver?

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Want to get lots of news all in one place? Try this site.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Montreal (Summer 1976), Calgary (Winter 1988), and Vancouver (Winter 2010).

Today's question is:
By what title or name is Siddhartha known today?

Clearly It's Not Colonel Mustard In The Conservatory

The quote from this post is killing me:

They couldn’t find a clue in the middle of a clue field during the height of clue hunting season if they smeared their bodies with musk and did the clue-mating dance.

Your Icky Story For The Day

It doesn't happen often, but I'm at a loss for words regarding how to discuss this story, so I'll just put it out here and let you mull it over for yourself.

The bill, an amendment to the state's laws prohibiting child pornography, was meant to protect people with mental disabilities, who cannot give consent and are often exploited sexually by caretakers or family members, said Reinstein, a Democrat from Revere...

"Basically, there's an issue of caretakers taking explicit photographs of elders and people with disabilities against their will," she said in a phone interview.

After consulting with advocacy groups about the legitimacy of the problem, Reinstein said she agreed to sponsor the bill. But it was written, she said, by a legislative committee, and the language is what has spurred the controversy.

Part of the bill states that people over age 60 and people with disabilities who have been declared mentally incompetent cannot give consent to erotic photographs, any more than a minor can give consent. But other parts of the bill only use the term "elders and persons with a disability," without referencing mental competence or consent.

As a result, said University of California-Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh, the bill could be interpreted as banning competent, consenting couples with disabilities from taking nude photographs of each other, or lovers over age 60 from making saucy pictures of themselves...

To his knowledge, Volokh said, no other state has a law that criminalizes sexual pictures of senior citizens or adults with disabilities regardless of consent...

"This is legislation that's trying to protect a vulnerable population from abuse," she (another commenter) said. "But it has to be carefully worded so as not to infringe on free speech rights."

And that, as they say, is that.

Local District Insanity?

We've all heard the definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Exhibit A:

Sacramento City Unified School District announced plans Friday to expand a 6-year-old program to reform its high schools, despite signs that the effort is struggling.

They're implementing the "small schools" fad:

The small schools are designed for no more than 500 students and are centered around unique themes such as health and engineering.

The new initiative, called Multiple Pathways, calls for the district to incorporate those themes not just in elective classes, but also in the basics, such as English and math.

While that sounds great, I don't know of any evidence that shows that such an expensive program works. The Gates Foundation was backing this idea as a panacea but has since backed off. Here's one example:

Tyee, however, is one of the few Washington high schools to come close to what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation first envisioned when it started giving grants to help big schools carve themselves into smaller units — ideally, with no more than 400 students.

The experiment — an attempt to downsize the American high school — has proven less successful than hoped.

The changes were often so divisive — and the academic results so mixed — that the Gates Foundation has stopped always pushing small as a first step in improving big high schools. Instead, it's now also working directly on instruction, giving grants to improve math and science instruction, for example.

As it stands today, I can find no current reference to "small schools" or "small high schools" on the web site of the Gates Foundation, especially here.

Upset In Local JC Student Government Election

In the last half-year I've written three posts about nearby American River College. Let this be the fourth.

In elections held Wednesday and Thursday, American River College students ousted several conservative council members in favor of a slate that said it wanted the student government to stop focusing on divisive social issues.

So now the religious "conservatives" have been replaced by students who claim to be more moderate. It will be interesting to see how they operate. I'll be honest, while I didn't like the way the previous student government operated, I thought it was a valuable lesson to the lefties, who run just about every other school in the country, about what is "fair" and how the "out party" feels and wants to be treated. Let's see if they've learned a lesson. I'm not holding my breath.

But Popko did not concede defeat when results were released Friday. He said he suspects school leaders tampered with the vote tally.

"The administration and faculty have conspired to remove us from office since they don't approve of the image of ARC as having a conservative student body," Popko said.

Sore loser? I can't dismiss his charge outright, though, because, honestly, it's within the realm of believability. Young Mr. Popko should present some evidence, though. There are claims, from both sides, that some instructors gave extra credit for students to vote in this election.

Can anyone give a legitimate example of a useful student government?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Athens (at about 38 degrees north).
Las Vegas is at about 36 degrees north, and Seoul at about 37 degrees north.

Today's question is:
Name all Canadian cities that have hosted, or are scheduled to host, an Olympic Games.

Could You Imagine Watching This?

A high school baseball player's errant pitch struck and killed the batter.

The dead boy's father is showing dignity and decency:

The father of a south-central Missouri baseball player who died after being hit by a wild throw said Friday that he doesn't blame the pitcher.

Mike Clegg said he hugged the Lebanon High School player whose pitch hit 16-year-old Patrick Clegg and told him it was an "absolute aberration" and a freak accident and he shouldn't hold himself responsible.

"I hope that that leads to him believing that he is going the right direction and get back out there and play the game, because that is what my son would tell him to do if he had the opportunity," Mike Clegg said.
Talk about a good man.

Friday, April 24, 2009

MIT Has Sports Teams?

Not for long.

Name the college that sponsored 41 varsity sports this year, tying with Harvard for most in the country.

The answer is about the last school you'd think of: math and science powerhouse MIT, the university with perhaps the brainiest—and nerdiest—reputation in America.

The Engineers—yes, that's their nickname—shared the honor with their bigger, wealthier neighbor in Cambridge, Mass., and have long competed in everything from football to fencing, softball to squash.

That's going to change, though.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced Thursday it is eliminating eight teams because of the sputtering economy.

College Loans

I don't know if this is a good idea or not, but here's the information:

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday renewed his call for the government to stop backing private loans to college students and replace them with direct financial aid to young people.

Obama said the surest test for success in the challenging economy is a college degree or other training, yet access to higher education continues to shrink as costs rise. To reverse that, the president repeated his campaign proposal that would eliminate the Federal Family Education Loan program that costs taxpayers $15 million a day.

A Plague of Crickets

I drove across Nevada on Highway 50 one summer and encountered Mormon crickets arrayed across the road as far as the eye could see. They make interesting crunching noises as you drive over them, but it seems impossible to halt the onslaught.

Until now:

TUSCARORA, Nev. -- The residents of this tiny town, anticipating an imminent attack, will be ready with a perimeter defense. They'll position their best weapons at regular intervals, faced out toward the desert to repel the assault.

Then they'll turn up the volume.

Rock music blaring from boomboxes has proved one of the best defenses against an annual invasion of Mormon crickets. The huge flightless insects are a fearsome sight as they advance across the desert in armies of millions that march over, under or into anything in their way.

But the crickets don't much fancy Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones, the townspeople figured out three years ago. So next month, Tuscarorans are preparing once again to get out their extension cords, array their stereos in a quarter-circle and tune them to rock station KHIX, full blast, from dawn to dusk. "It is part of our arsenal," says Laura Moore, an unemployed college professor and one of the town's 13 residents.

Most interesting.

ACLU Attacked By One Of Its Own

It's about time.

When the American Civil Liberties Union comes under attack, the salvos are often launched from the right. The ACLU, after all, is as enthusiastic about protecting the interests of feminists, gays, abortionist-rights campaigners and immigrants, legal or illegal, as it is uninterested in preventing the abuse of anti-abortion protesters, the censorship of media conservatives and the bullying of college evangelical groups for their opposition to homosexuality. On the right, the phrase "card-carrying member of the ACLU" is an insult; on the left, it is a credential.

But now comes an anti-ACLU barrage from an unusual source: a prominent liberal. Wendy Kaminer, a lawyer, astute social critic and contributor to the Nation magazine and National Public Radio, is also a former member of the ACLU national board. She left the organization in disgust in 2006 and has recorded her grievances in "Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU."

Of course she'll by lambasted by the libs. There's no one worse than an apostate.

Raising Taxes in California

Some people lament that the 2/3 requirement to raise taxes in California is what gets us into such fiscal difficulties--it's exceedingly difficult to pass a budget when a 1/3 minority can tie up the whole works.

You know what? Good!

We here in California are already among the highest-taxed people in the country, and the majority party, the same party that's run both houses of the legislature for as long as I can remember, complains that it's too hard to raise our taxes further? Good Lord, they must be smoking some of that medical marijuana grown up in Mendocino. And in their haze, you know what idea they come up with? Hold a Constitutional Convention and rewrite the California Constitution from scratch.

I can hear their theme song now:

We will
We will
TAX YOU! (thump)
(boom boom thump)

Yes, let's let all the idiots downtown who can't run the state as it is, who are so beholden to special interests like the teachers union and prison guards union and state employees unions, who consistently spend far more than the state brings in each year, who want to add even more to the social programs already in existence, who make California such an inhospitable environment in which to run a business--yes, let's let them draft an entirely new constitution, one with a 55% majority needed to raise taxes instead of the current 2/3.

Because that's all the power elite in the state really want out of this, the ability to raise taxes more easily. From the first link above:

The prize in this fight is reducing the tax threshold from 66.7 percent to 55 percent. It is an article of faith among the state's political class that the two biggest impediments to governability are Proposition 13 (which caps property-tax hikes) and the supermajority rule. To even point out the state's hysterical government and spending growth, which has not come with any noticeable improvement in services, is to initiate a conversation that many people (journalists, especially) have never held.

Of course not. No one sees out of control spending as a problem. Their problem is the difficulty in raising taxes to support this out of control spending.

While California's constitution is a horrible mess along the lines of the European Union's, in this case I'd rather stick with the "devil I know". Constitutional conventions can take on a life of their own, and it's impossible to predict where they might go once started.

Remember, the US' constitutional convention was originally called just to modify and improve upon the Articles of Confederation.

Get Trek-ified

With the new Star Trek movie coming out in a couple weeks, you might be interested in what you'd look like as a Star Trek character:

Here's mine. The left eyebrow and the cheekbones are mine, but the rest doesn't look much like me at all (I don't think). Maybe gold just doesn't match my skin tone :-)

It's certainly no better or no worse than my Simpsons doppelgaenger. (And yes, I add the 'e' in there. I've read that "official" German has gotten rid of umlauts and replaced them with e's after the formerly-umlauted letters.)

Banana Republic

From Seattle:

King County has now settled my public records lawsuit for $225,000, one of the largest settlements for public records violations in state history.

The lawsuit stemmed from my December 2004 request for a list of all voters who voted in the November 2004 election. The county did not satisfy my request in full until January 2007.

The documents that they eventually provided to me revealed that county election officials unlawfully counted hundreds of ineligible ballots in the 2004 election: a multiple of Christine Gregoire's 133-vote "margin of victory" over Dino Rossi in the contested gubernatorial race. Documentation of these illegal votes was withheld from discovery in the election contest trial and not released to me until months after the trial. Consequently, the trial was conducted in ignorance of these potentially outcome-changing illegal votes.

Additional documents that were released last month in discovery for my case confirmed that county officials both knew more about the illegal vote counting than they had previously acknowledged, and also knowingly withheld responsive documents from me during 2005 and 2006.

I genuinely believe that one of our two political parties has a "by any means necessary" approach to winning elections. If this continues we will become a banana republic.

As an army officer and as a teacher, I had to take oaths to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. While I'm not entirely sure how to implement that oath, I'm becoming more and more convinced that the time for implementation draws near.

Remember SARS and Bird Flu?

They're closing schools in Mexico City due to swine flu.

Mexican officials, scrambling to control a swine flu outbreak that has killed as many as 61 people and infected possibly hundreds more in recent weeks, closed museums and shuttered schools for millions of students in and around the capital on Friday, and urged people with flu symptoms to stay home from work.

Every Math Teacher's Lament

Why do so many students, even college students, have difficulties with fractions? The author of this essay says it's because they don't have a strong foundation in basic arithmetic, and I agree.

Friday Trivia

The answer to Wednesday's question is:
The Philippines.

Today's question is:
Which is furthest north: Athens, Greece; Las Vegas, Nevada; or Seoul, South Korea?

Thursday Trivia

Didn't get home till late last night, and it seems silly to post a question now. I'll just post one for Friday when (if?) I get home today :-)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Can Britain Be Saved?

This article from The Australian paints an ominous picture: assigning prison terms to the telling of politically incorrect jokes; arrest and official harassment of people who make politically incorrect statements, including children in a playground fight; police forcing a bishop to do more to celebrate diversity; the firing of a nurse for offering to pray for a patient, even when the patient wasn't even offended.

For a culture to survive, there must be some commonality--language, food, and some core set of beliefs. These beliefs may be somewhat fungible but they must exist. Because let's face it, beliefs are a culture.

I fear that the very culture that civilized the planet and gave birth to America may be dying, and I have concerns that America is starting down the same road.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
108 MHz.

Today's question is:
In which country did the Bataan Death March take place?

Infiltrating Liberty University

I'll be honest--I'd never heard of Liberty University until relatively recently. While it might be a lightning rod to people on the left, I'm not convinced that that school is "important" in the grand scheme of things. People have heard about UCLA, about the University of Arizona, about Purdue, about Penn State, about the University of Washington, about the University of Miami, about the University of New Orleans, even about little ole West Point. But Liberty? I'd have to look up which state it's in. I have a hard time believing that if I know next to nothing about a school, that the average person on the streets of Sacramento would know much of anything about it.

In other words, outside of Virginia (ok, I looked it up) and the Falwell followers, Liberty University just isn't a big deal at all.

So when I read that a Brown (Rhode Island, right? Ivy League) student "infiltrated" Liberty, spent a semester there and is now writing a book on it, you can imagine where I thought the story was headed.

I was pleasantly surprised.

"As a responsible American citizen, I couldn't just ignore the fact that there are a lot of Christian college students out there," said Roose, 21, now a Brown senior. "If I wanted my education to be well-rounded, I had to branch out and include these people that I just really had no exposure to."

I call that experiencing diversity, and I applaud young Mr. Roose for entertaining such thoughts. But wait, there's more.

He lined up a publisher - Grand Central Publishing - and arrived at the Lynchburg campus prepared for "hostile ideologues who spent all their time plotting abortion clinic protests and sewing Hillary Clinton voodoo dolls."

Instead, he found that "not only are they not that, but they're rigorously normal."

So he admits to having a negative preconceived notion about what he'd encounter, and was mature enough to challenge that notion when the facts contradicted his expectations.

Students quoted in the story didn't mind his deception, but the school administration isn't entirely pleased.

He never blew his cover, even ending a blossoming romantic relationship rather than come clean. He revealed the truth on a return trip to campus. He grappled with guilt during the entire project, but said he ultimately found forgiveness from students for his deception.

"If he told me he was writing an expose or maybe if the book turned out to be what I considered unfair, then I might have been more troubled," said Brian Colas, a former Liberty student body president who befriended Roose.

The university administration has been less receptive. Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a statement that Roose had a "distorted view" of Liberty before he arrived and gave an incomplete portrait of the school.

"We appreciate Kevin's generally positive tone toward LU but he admittedly comes from a culture that has very little tolerance for conservative Christianity and even less understanding of it," Falwell said.

It was deception, after all.

I won't ruin the ending for you. Go read the article yourself to find out how this semester "transformed" Mr. Roose.

In Honor Of Earth Day

Read this article and tell me where the author makes a mistake. Don't tell me your half-baked theories on global warming/climate change/whatever it's called this week, just tell me where this particular article is wrong.

I agree with the author.

Like medieval priests, today’s carbon brokers will sell you an indulgence that forgives your carbon sins. It will run you about $500 for 5 tons of forgiveness—about how much the typical American needs every year. Or about $2,000 a year for a typical four-person household. Your broker will spend the money on such things as reducing methane emissions from hog farms in Brazil.

But if you really want to make a difference, you must send a check large enough to forgive the carbon emitted by four poor Brazilian households, too—because they’re not going to do it themselves. To cover all five households, then, send $4,000. And you probably forgot to send in a check last year, and you might forget again in the future, so you’d best make it an even $40,000, to take care of a decade right now. If you decline to write your own check while insisting that to save the world we must ditch the carbon, you are just burdening your already sooty soul with another ton of self-righteous hypocrisy. And you can’t possibly afford what it will cost to forgive that...

Cut to the chase. We rich people can’t stop the world’s 5 billion poor people from burning the couple of trillion tons of cheap carbon that they have within easy reach. We can’t even make any durable dent in global emissions—because emissions from the developing world are growing too fast, because the other 80 percent of humanity desperately needs cheap energy, and because we and they are now part of the same global economy. What we can do, if we’re foolish enough, is let carbon worries send our jobs and industries to their shores, making them grow even faster, and their carbon emissions faster still.

We don’t control the global supply of carbon.

It gets even better from there--he supports nuclear energy.

High School Exit Exam Back In The News

Oh no! There's a systemic problem with the exit exam!

California's high school exit exam is keeping disproportionate numbers of girls and non-whites from graduating, even when they are just as capable as white boys, according to a study released Tuesday. It also found that the exam, which became a graduation requirement in 2007, has "had no positive effect on student achievement."

The study by researchers at Stanford University and UC Davis concluded that girls and non-whites were probably failing the exit exam more often than expected because of what is known as "stereotype threat," a theory in social psychology that holds, essentially, that negative stereotypes can be self-fulfilling. In this case, researcher Sean Reardon said, girls and students of color may be tripped up by the expectation that they cannot do as well as white boys.

Or maybe, just maybe, some "girls and non-whites" aren't as prepared as they should be. That would actually be the simplest explanation, and doesn't require any psychological theories. And I guess it's a good thing Asians expect to do as well as white boys.

Jack O'Connell, idiot extraordinaire, chimes in:

The heart of this report speaks to why I've called out California's racial achievement gap and why I am so committed to implementing the14 recommendations made by my P-16 Council aimed at closing these gaps. The recommendations include the creation of a statewide strand of culturally relevant pedagogy and a culture survey of our students and education staff to discuss and address issues of unconscious racial bias in our schools.

Blame everyone but the students themselves, or the culture from which they come. I'm not really interested in covering that terrain again. Must be part of that unconscious racial bias, or something. I wonder how O'Connell explains that well over half of university students in California are female.

The stupid argument, though, and one that I cannot let pass without comment, is that the test has "had no positive effect on student achievement." Let me be clear: tests aren't supposed to have an effect on student achievement, they're supposed to measure achievement. And people who can't pass that test, no matter what the reason, shouldn't get a diploma. Maybe we could give them a ribbon instead.

Blast From The Past

A colleague showed me a news article today that I had to challenge, and in my search for previously-known facts I came upon this post:

It's great listening to the liberals today. "I don't know that we should celebrate anyone's death." "George Bush's poll numbers are still in the toilet." "This doesn't mean anything, the violence will still continue." I've even heard one say that this will be like the Hydra--cut off one head, others grow in its place.

It's a post from the day Zarqawi was killed in Iraq. How much better off is Iraq today?

Carnival of Education

This week's is posted at Bellringers, and includes my post about the email that made my day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Harvard Is Not A Golden Ticket

From the Boston Globe:

CAMBRIDGE - They have managed to get into one of the world's most selective colleges. Opportunity is knocking at their door.

But at some point in their life, though perhaps later than most, Harvard students will face the stinging slap the rest of the world feels regularly: rejection.

The dirty secret is out. Harvard students fail sometimes. They are denied jobs, fellowships, A's they think they deserve. They are passed over for publication, graduate school, and research grants. And when that finally happens, it hurts. Big time.

To help students cope, Harvard's Office of Career Services hosted a new seminar last week on handling rejection, a fear job-seekers are feeling acutely in the plummeting economy.

As my dad's wife used to say so often when I was a kid, "Things are tough all over."

Talk About Racist

When you make value judgements about people based on their race, or discriminate for or against people based on their race, I assert that that's the very definition of racism. So what do you make of this ad on page 20 of the March 20th UTLA (Los Angeles Teachers Union) newsletter?

2009 CTA State Council Election
Notice: At-Large Seat

Are you interested in representing UTLA/NEA members at the state level? CTA (California Teachers Association) State Council, a policy-making body that meets quarterly, has an opening for representatives for an at-large seat. Based on CTA guidelines, candidates must be an ethnic minority (African American, Native American/Alaska native, Asian/Pacific Islander, or Hispanic). If you wish to run for this position, complete and return the self-nomination form by U.S. mail to Ana Valencia at UTLA. The form must be received by 5:00 p.m. on March 27, 2009. The election will be held at the April 22, 2009, area meetings. For those members who cannot vote at their area meetings, voting will also be held at the UTLA building from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. on April 22, 2009.

Do you see the problem? Let me narrow it down a bit for you:

Based on CTA guidelines, candidates must be an ethnic minority (African American, Native American/Alaska native, Asian/Pacific Islander, or Hispanic).

I'm surprised they even let whites vote.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
100 times. A decimeter is 1/10 of a meter, and a dekameter is 10 meters.

Today's question is:
What is the highest frequency on the FM radio band?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Thank You, My Fellow California Taxpayers

I've written before about how my pension, California's State Teachers Retirement System, is safe (for me, anyway) because it's backed up by the wallets of my fellow taxpayers. Good to know it's in such good hands!

California's two biggest public employee pension funds handed out millions of dollars in bonuses last year to their top executives and investment managers, despite losing billions of dollars.

The biggest bonus check, $322,953, went to Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer of the California State Teachers' Retirement System. It nearly doubled his base pay of $330,000 for fiscal 2007-08.

What A Way To Start The Day

This email was waiting for me when I got to school today. It's from the parent of a former student of mine, a parent I spoke to at Open House a couple weeks ago. Of course I'm removing the name of the student involved.

[Former student] came home for 10 days during Passover (the advantage of going to Brandeis--they get Jewish holidays off) and I mentioned that you'd said hello. She asked that I be sure to tell you how much she appreciated your kindness and your sincere interest in TEACHING. [Former student is] not innately mathematical, but was able to understand the concept somewhere between your third and fourth different approaches to teaching it; she points out that you respected your students and cared that they learned. May the pain of beating your head against the wall of imbecilic oversight be alleviated by the truth that at least many of your students are ready and willing to learn from you. Thank you for all your efforts.

Upon reading that this morning I decided that I should probably go home, because the day couldn't possibly get any better after reading that!

Our Latest Little Warmonger

The following came in an email to district employees today:
It was announced last week that Casa Roble Fundamental High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) Cadet Alex Jelicich has been named the Air Force Association’s 2009 California AFJROTC Cadet of the Year. Jelicich has been in the Casa Roble AFJROTC for four years and will graduate this June. He plans to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and major in biology or chemistry.
Congratulations, Cadet Jelicich! You do yourself, your school, and your JROTC program proud.

(And for those of you who are new here or just want to raise a stink, the title is a swipe at lefties--who would call Cadet Jelicich exactly what's in that title.)

Firearms and Schools

I received an email this morning inviting me to visit this site. Assuming the site doesn't change much, the very first thing I see is a large US map with points showing locations of school shootings. Upon looking at that map the first thought that occurred to me was: is there any correlation between the number of school shootings in a state and the severity of gun control laws in a state? Looking at that map I'd have to say there is not.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Dutch East India Company.

Today's question is:
How many times larger is a dekameter than a decimeter?

Warnings About FNMA and FHLMC

President Bush and his administration were warning about problems several years ago. Hopefully this video, which shows a timeline, won't be removed from YouTube.

Let's not forget who caused this problem.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Approximately 4000 years ago.

Today's question is:
Which was the first company in the world to issue stock?

One More Leftie Is Starting To See The Light

Lefties aren't necessarily liberals. They're fascists. And while this author is a little late to the party, we'll still give him balloons, a piece of cake, and a goodie bag.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Brown Hypocrisy and Selective Indignation

So Brown University doesn't want to celebrate Columbus Day anymore?
The faculty at Brown University, in an act of intellectual laziness and sanctimony toward political correctness voted last week to stop celebrating Columbus Day and replace it with “Fall Weekend.”

Why replace it with another day off? There’s no secular or religious command that people must have a sanctioned holiday in the second week of October. If they wish to disrespect America’s Columbian beginnings they should at least have the decency to go to work that day...

Since Brown wishes to distance itself from really bad people of antiquity, I suggest the faculty vote to close the university. Brown University was founded with slave money. Not just from guys who owned slaves, but from guys who owned slave ships!

Even the university’s namesake family, the Browns, were slave traders. They infamously sent the slave ship Sally to Africa to trade rum for slaves, bring 4 teenage slaves home for “family use” and sell the rest in the West Indies. Of the 196 people they packed below deck — because conditions were so awful — 68 died on the voyage. Now THOSE were some despicable people, those Browns. Surely the P.C. Brown University faculty will vote to close the school immediately.

What argument will they use not to do that — that there are other redeeming things about the university to celebrate? Certainly what is not a good enough reason to honor America will not be a good enough reason to honor Brown.

And Berkeley should change its name, too. The city is named after a slave-owning Anglican priest.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Sitting Bull.

Today's question is:
Within 500 years, how long ago did woolly mammoths become extinct?

The Warped World of Campus Lefties

David Horowitz has the following in today's Wall Street Journal Online:
She presented herself as a devoted teacher and mother who was obviously harmless. Then she accused me of being a McCarthyite menace. Disregarding the facts I had laid out in my talk -- that I have publicly defended the right of University of Colorado's radical professor Ward Churchill to hold reprehensible views and not be fired for them, and that I supported the leftist dean of the law school at UC Irvine when his appointment was withdrawn for political reasons -- she accused me of whipping up a "witch-hunting hysteria" that made her and her faculty comrades feel threatened.

When Ms. Cloud finished, I pointed out that organizing mobs to scream epithets at invited speakers fit the category of "McCarthyite" a lot more snugly than my support for a pluralism of views in university classrooms. I gestured toward the armed officers in the room -- the university had assigned six or seven to keep the peace -- and introduced my own bodyguard, who regularly accompanies other conservative speakers when they visit universities. In the past, I felt uncomfortable about taking protection to a college campus until a series of physical attacks at universities persuaded me that such precautions were necessary. (When I spoke at the University of Texas two years ago, Ms. Cloud and her disciples had to be removed by the police in order for the talk to proceed.)

I don't know of a single leftist speaker among the thousands who visit campuses every term who has been obstructed or attacked by conservative students, who are too decent and too tolerant to do that. The entire evening in Texas reminded me of the late Orianna Fallaci's observation that what we are facing in the post-9/11 world is not a "clash of civilizations," but a clash of civilization versus barbarism.

I concur completely with his assessments, especially about how tolerant conservatives are of liberals.

Jack O'Connell Is An Idiot

Jack O'Connell is a Democrat and California's Superintendent of Public Instruction, a non-partisan statewide office that runs the bureaucracy of the state Department of Education. This position is different from the Secretary of Education, which is an appointed position which serves only as an adviser to the governor.

I voted for Jack O'Connell 2 1/2 years ago. I regret that vote.

He's since stated that California's teachers need to step up and "do their part" for migrant education. He's implied that California's teachers are racists, and his participation at a conference on that topic wasn't helpful. About the only area in which I've agreed with O'Connell, and the reason I voted for him, is his support of standardized testing--specifically, the High School Exit Exam.

But now O'Connell wants to weaken California's academic standards and its testing program:
The Superintendent acknowledged that this is "an area in which California has served as an established leader for some time now":
I am proud, as all of you should be, that California purposely set the bar high for what our children should know and be able to do, and we have never wavered from that commitment. But instead of maintaining these internationally-benchmarked high standards, he wants to "rededicate and reinvigorate" them. "Evolving them is healthy," the Superintendent says. (boldface mine--Darren)

Superintendent O'Connell wants to revamp the California academic standards because, he says, they are “a mile wide, but only an inch deep.” But, with all due respect -- as I have stated in the Los Angeles Times -- I have to disagree. Indeed, the California standards have been judged among the best in the country by the Fordham Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers. California already has official Key Standards in mathematics, for example, to identify teaching priorities and the topics that should be covered in depth.

The Superintendent also wants to revamp the California standards: order to fully engage both students and teachers in the learning process in a way that sees both parties benefit and helps to better prepare students for success in the economy of the 21st century.
Translation from education jargon: He wants to water down California's existing high standards in the name of the wolly concept of "21st-century skills," that is, communicating with each other, working in groups, media literacy, and so forth. He wants to subtract from classroom time spent on solid subject-matter content to teach these supposed stand-alone skills.

Who says so? Bill Evers, a research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institute.

Close West Point?

The author of this piece says 'yes'. And close the Air Force and Naval academies, too.

After covering the U.S. military for nearly two decades, I've concluded that graduates of the service academies don't stand out compared to other officers. Yet producing them is more than twice as expensive as taking in graduates of civilian schools ($300,000 per West Point product vs. $130,000 for ROTC student). On top of the economic advantage, I've been told by some commanders that they prefer officers who come out of ROTC programs, because they tend to be better educated and less cynical about the military.

This is no knock on the academies' graduates. They are crackerjack smart and dedicated to national service. They remind me of the best of the Ivy League, but too often they're getting community-college educations. Although West Point's history and social science departments provided much intellectual firepower in rethinking the U.S. approach to Iraq, most of West Point's faculty lacks doctorates. Why not send young people to more rigorous institutions on full scholarships, and then, upon graduation, give them a military education at a short-term military school? Not only do ROTC graduates make fine officers -- three of the last six chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reached the military that way -- they also would be educated alongside future doctors, judges, teachers, executives, mayors and members of Congress. That would be good for both the military and the society it protects.

We should also consider closing the services' war colleges, where colonels supposedly learn strategic thinking. These institutions strike me as second-rate. If we want to open the minds of rising officers and prepare them for top command, we should send them to civilian schools where their assumptions will be challenged, and where they will interact with diplomats and executives, not to a service institution where they can reinforce their biases while getting in afternoon golf games. Just ask David Petraeus, a Princeton PhD.

He may very well be right (although I disagree with him), but he's offered no evidence at all that his assertions are correct. By what metrics can he claim that academy graduates are no better officers than ROTC graduates?

And "community-college educations"? Given its small size, West Point has a disproportionate number of Rhodes Scholars, and has for decades. The academic awards from our service academy cadets and midshipmen stand on their own (Rhodes, Hertz, Marshall) and give lie to Ricks' statements.

He then leaves the academies, which produce lieutenants, and cuts to the War Colleges and the Joint Chiefs, colonels and generals. Entire careers take place between those ranks, and his Grand Canyon-like jump between them indicates to me at least that he ran out of reasons to shut the academies. Clearly his argument isn't strong.

Lastly, his statement that three of the last six Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs were ROTC graduates. How did the other three get their commissions? ROTC graduates well over half of our officer corps, followed by the academies, followed by Officer Candidate/Training Schools, so one might suggest that they should produce well over half of the Chairmen. But this line of argument is fallacious. The academies produce lieutenants, not generals. To even suggest that commissioning source should have a strong influence in whether someone reaches flag rank or not is silly, it's a red herring argument.

In short, there may be legitimate reasons for closing down the academies, but Ricks doesn't provide any.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Day of Silence

Today was the national Day of Silence. How did our good friends at American River College, about whom I've written before, handle the day?

Student leaders at American River College passed a resolution Thursday opposing today's nationally organized demonstration in support of gay rights.

The resolution asserts that "the Day of Silence has been used to silence and harass religious students at local public schools for expressing their viewpoints," and instead calls for a "peaceful discussion of controversial issues instead of intimidation and censorship of opposing viewpoints."
Lest anyone misunderstand me by reading my comments above literally and not checking the links, I do not support the Day of Silence but I'm also very critical of the American River College student government.

Socialized Medicine

I keep telling you that one of the main reasons to be against government-paid health care is that in times of tight budgets, health care would have to be cut. Your government would be telling you, "I'm sorry, but there's no money for your surgery this year. Better luck next year." It seems like idiot leftie Ezra Klein has finally figured this out:

Democratic blogger Ezra Klein appears to be positioning Dem health care reforms as a way to cut costs, on the grounds that a reformed system will be able to make "hard choices" and "rational" coverage decisions, by which Klein seems to mean "not providing" treatments that are unproven or too expensive--when "a person's life, or health, is not worth the price."

Taking Students To The Strip Club

Who is stupider here--the teacher who took the kids to the strip club, or the parents who gave permission?

HAMILTON, Ohio – A school spokesman said a southwest Ohio teacher has resigned after acknowledging she accompanied four female students to a male strip club. Butler Tech school district spokesman Bill Solazzo said the 47-year-old teacher resigned Thursday.

He said the teacher told Edgewood High School administrators that the students, all cheerleaders, asked her to take them to the bar in February.

The teacher told school officials in an e-mail that she got permission from the parents of the 17- and 18-year-olds to bring them to the club.

The teacher taught marketing at the school and previously served as a coach for the district's eighth-grade cheerleaders.

I'm wondering why cheerleaders would need to go to a strip club. Perhaps one of my regular readers from Texas might offer some elucidation :-)

Allergies and Schools

It's not that I'm unsympathetic to kids who have allergies, but at some point one kid's allergy cannot impact an entire class or school:

Kindergarten students at H. Clarke Powers Elementary School in Loomis are required to wash their hands with an anti-microbial soap throughout the day to help prevent a fellow classmate from having an allergic reaction. But some students have developed dry, cracked hands – a few have reportedly suffered sores – from what their parents describe as an obsessive practice that detracts from their already-limited class time...

Schools are required by law to make accommodations for children with disabilities or medical needs. Severe food allergies are considered a medical need, said Bonnie Branstrom, a nutrition education consultant for the state Department of Education.

A plan was devised and other parents were sent letters alerting them to the student's severe food allergies and the need to keep the kindergarten classroom a "peanut free, corn free, egg free zone," the document states. Parents also were asked to not pack certain foods in their children's lunches.
It is absolutely not the school's place to tell me what I can and cannot pack in my child's lunch. Who's going to monitor to make sure I don't pack a tortilla chip? Who's responsible if a tortilla chip gets near the allergic student?

Schools can make reasonable accommodations for students with medical needs. If your child's medical needs are extreme--and life-threatening allergies constitute extreme, in my book--then perhaps an alternative to the neighborhood school would be the appropriate placement.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who led the Native American army that destroyed Custer's command at Little Big Horn?

Big Jump In Readership!

For well over a year now I've plateaued at 400-500 hits a day on this blog, but this week I've had 500-600 hits a day. Not bad! What would account for the jump in readership? Is it some discovery of my brilliant writing style? My witty commentary?

No. A large percentage of hits this week are all going to this post.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Press Bias?

Nah, couldn't be.

CNN: "Let's see... drop taxes... drop socialism. Okay, let's see. You're here with your two-year old daughter and you're already in debt. Why are you here today, sir?"

Man with child: "Because I hear a President say that he believed in what Lincoln stood for. Lincoln's primary thing was, he believed that people had the right to liberty and the r --"

CNN: "What does this have to do with taxes?"

Man: "Are you going to let me speak?"

CNN: "What does this have to do with taxes? Do you realize that you're elibible for a $400..."

Man: "Let me finish my point! Lincoln believed that people had the right to share in the fruits of their own labor and that government should not take it. And we have clearly gotten to that p--"

CNN: "Right, right, right -- did you know that the state of Lincoln gets fifty billion dollars out of these stimulus -- that's fifty billion dollars for this state, sir!"

Man: "Ma'am, ma'am, ma'am, I'm... can you stop this, sir?"

CNN: "Alright, we'll move on... (to audience) I think you get the general tenor of this, uh, it's anti-government, anti-CNN, since this is highly promoted by the rightwing conservative network Fox and... since I can't really hear much more, I think this... is not really family viewing, toss it back to you, Kera."
Lefties are really ticked off about yesterday's tea parties.

Update, 4/17/09: Turns out that so-called reporter, whom I heard today is "on vacation", had previously applied for a job at the hated Fox network. Twice.

Update #2, 4/17/09: I like this picture :-)

Update #3, 4/18/09: For the "tea party protesters are racist" crowd.

Update #4, 4/18/09: Not that I agree with everything this author says about the Tea Parties, but at least he has a reasoned thesis.

Update #5, 4/19/09: More for the "you're racists" crowd:
Lefty reader Nicholas Klemen writes: ‘You found photos of 6 black people at tea parties! Thats proof that there isn’t any racism going on at the protests. Take that Dems! Keep up the good work.” Well, there wasn’t any sign of racism at the Tea Party I attended, nor have I seen any reports from anywhere else. All I’ve seen are bogus claims of racism from apparatchik lefties who are — as Bob McManus predicted a month ago — hitting this note for lack of anything else to say, and because it’s their tired response to anything threatening.

That’s not the moral high ground you’re standing on, Nicholas. It’s just a big ol’ pile of crap.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question:

Today's question is:
Who was the first apostle to be called by Jesus?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cheerleading Coach Poses Nude, Gets Fired

I have an issue with public employees' being fired for doing things that are not illegal. That's too easily abused.

I don't think it's exceptionally smart to pose for Playboy when your day job is high school cheerleading coach, but I'm not sure it merits being fired, either.

She posed nude and now she is out of a job. CBS13 went to Casa Robles High School to find out about the cheerleading coach turned Playboy centerfold.

"The girls are supposed to look up their coaches," says one concerned parent.

She bared all, all over the internet. Casa Robles High School officials in Orangevale confirm with CBS13 that their girl's cheerleading coach, Carlie Christine, was the one who posed nude in a playboy centerfold.

Christine is also Playboy's 'cyber girl of the week'...

What apparently uncovered the coach was when some girls didn't make the cheerleading squad because they had a few unexcused absences from school. Their parents then made copies of Christine and dropped the pictures on the principal's desk.

Girls and their vendettas.

CTA Gets An Early Start on the May Special Election

So says the major Sacramento newspaper:

The California Teachers Association launched a television ad Wednesday backing Propositions 1A and 1B, the first television spot of the special election campaign.

The ads will run starting Wednesday for a week in the Los Angeles-area media market before launching statewide, according to CTA consultant Gale Kaufman. Its committee previously launched two radio ads statewide. CTA has contributed $5 million toward the Yes on 1A &1B committee so far.

Here's how that same paper describes 1A and 1B.

More Of That Higher Education Diversity of Thought and Free Speech

This disappoints me more than it surprises me:

CHAPEL HILL -- UNC-CH police released pepper spray and threatened to use a Taser on student protesters Tuesday evening when a crowd disrupted a speech by former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo opposing in-state tuition benefits to unauthorized immigrants.

Hundreds of protesters converged on Bingham Hall, shouting profanities and accusations of racism while Tancredo and the student who introduced him tried to speak. Minutes into the speech, a protester pounded a window of the classroom until the glass shattered, prompting Tancredo to flee and campus police to shut down the event.

Tancredo was brought to campus by a UNC chapter of Youth for Western Civilization, a national organization of students who oppose mass immigration, multiculturalism and affirmative action.

I wish this was uncommon enough for me to be surprised.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Trammps

Today's question is:
What is the capital of Brazil?

Carnival of Education

This week's Carnival is posted over at Joanne's site and includes my post about the "racist" comic in our school paper.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easing Travel Restrictions To Cuba

President Obama is starting down one road I can support:
President Obama lifted all restrictions Monday on the ability of individuals to visit relatives in Cuba, as well as to send them remittances.

I have long said that the Cuban embargo is silly. I can understand that, in the context of the times, it made sense when it was implemented. It made sense all the way up to the moment the Iron Curtain collapsed. With external communism no longer a threat, though, the embargo has lost all logical purpose.

Every country on the planet trades with Cuba except us; the Castros are still in power, almost 50 years after implementing that embargo. The embargo has clearly failed in having its intended effect--nay, it may have had the reverse effect of that which was intended--and it makes the US look ridiculous. In the immortal paraphrase of Al Gore, "It's time (pause) for it (pause) to go." My own government should not forbid me to travel to any country on the planet. Free men should not wear such shackles. Maybe eventually I, and not just Cuban immigrants, will be able to go to Cuba, free from the threat of imprisonment by my own government.

Having said all that, though, I have to ask--why do we refer to "remittances" instead of to "sending money"? Why the need for the euphemism?

I'm not really sure how to categorize this post. Let's see if any of these come close....

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Redmond, Washington.

Today's question is:
Who performed the 1976 hit Disco Inferno?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Facebook and Grades

It's important to remember that correlation does not equal causation:

Facebook users have lower overall grades than non-users, according to a survey of college students who also ironically said the social networking site does not interfere with studying.

That disconnect between perception and reality does not necessarily mean that Facebook leads to less studying and worse grades -- the grades association could be caused by something else. However, it does raise more questions about how students spend their time outside class on activities such as Facebook, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities.

This Is Embarassing

(Yes, I know I did. It's part of the joke. If you don't get it, don't stress about it.)

Get Your School's Share of "Stimulus" Money

I received this email at my school account while on break last week. Doesn't it just make you sigh?

The Grant Foundation Center will offer the Professional Grant Proposal Writing Workshop and Program Planning Certificate: AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT – Emergency Economic Stimulus Workshop in San Francisco, CA, May 11 – 12, 2009. Interested development professionals, researchers, program administrators, and business owners should register as soon as possible, as demand means that seats will fill up quickly.
I can hear the pigs jostling for their positions at the trough even as I type this.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Seven. Quirinal Hill, Viminal Hill, Esquiline Hill, Oppian Hill, Palatine Hill, Caelian Hill, and Aventine Hill (yes, I had to look up the names).

Today's question is:
What city is “home” to the Microsoft Corporation?

"That's Racist"

Too many of my students are too used to hearing a certain term. Upon alighting on any mention of race, several will call out, "that's racist."


Racism is having a prejudice against a certain racial group. Racism is harboring negative views towards a certain racial group because of their race. Pointing out something related to race, e.g. the ever popular "achievement gap", is not racist. While not smart to do in school, I'm not even convinced that telling a racially-themed joke is "racist". I think it's OK to laugh about such things; it becomes negative only when negativity is injected into it. Is anyone truly offended by blond jokes?

So imagine my surprise when I saw the following editorial cartoon in the most recent edition of our school newspaper:

Is it "racist" to mock the English-speaking style of a Korean? If you think it is, check out the name of the artist who drew the cartoon. Yes, she's of Korean descent.

Is this cartoon similar to black kids' calling each other "nigger", to women calling each other "bitch", or to gays calling each other "fag"? Is this cartoon inappropriate?

Is it "racist" to joke about how Japanese will sometimes, when speaking English, swap l's for r's ("Engrish" or "herro"), while Chinese will swap r's for l's ("flied lice")? Or is it just an observation? Is there any value judgement in such observations that makes them racist?

To me, "racist" is a very powerful word and a strong charge to make against someone. It's not a term that should be thrown around lightly.

I have no problems with the cartoon above. I'm pleasantly surprised that it didn't make a bigger splash than it did. Perhaps that's so because Asians aren't generally looked upon as an "aggrieved" class, especially in schools.

(I received permission from the newspaper adviser to reproduce the cartoon on this site.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Lake Placid, NY (Winter 1932 and Winter 1980), and Los Angeles (Summer 1932 and Summer 1984).

Today's question is:
On how many hills was Rome built? (extra point for naming any two of them)

Eagles and Dolphins

I think many people probably have a favorite animal. One of my grandmothers loved butterflies; I had an aunt who loved owls, and another who's into koalas. My son's mother likes hummingbirds and dragonflies.

I like eagles and dolphins. Eagles are majestic and noble, dolphins beautiful. So when I heard that one of the shore excursions on our cruise provided the opportunity to see both, in the wild, I signed us up for it pronto.

I was not disappointed.

From the small town of Avalon, on Catalina Island, we took a zodiac tour. In addition to seeing cormorants and herons and harbor seals, we got to see both of my favorite animals.

I knew something was up when our "captain" cut the engine in front of a sheer cliff. I looked up and saw the signature white dots, the heads of bald eagles. Not one, but two nesting eagles. The still camera couldn't zoom enough, and while the video camera could, the rocking of the boat made footage difficult. You could see them with the naked eye, but they were even more amazing when viewed through the binoculars the captain and guide passed out. Here's what I was able to capture:

Then we headed a mile or more offshore in search of dolphins. Before long we were surrounded by about a hundred of them--seriously, no exaggeration, probably a hundred. Many came near the zodiac and seemed to enjoy swimming in its wake. This is probably as close as I'll ever get to dolphins in their own habitat, and it was worth everything I paid.

Among The Best Of Reasons To Be Against National/Socialized Health Care

TANSTAAFL. Shorthand for "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

These people who want government to pay for health care, from whence does this desire flow? Do they think it'll somehow be cheaper, or at a minimum they won't notice the cost because it'll be taken from their (higher) taxes and not directly out of their pockets? (Income tax money, you see, never even makes it to your pocket.)

Government inefficiency. Individual rights and responsibility. Enumerated powers. Lack of competition. These are all good reasons to be against socialized medicine. They are, however, based on principle. Here's one that's based on practicality:

ONE OF Scotland's leading cancer specialists will tomorrow call on the public to confront the ultimate NHS taboo: that life cannot be "priceless" in a health system where cash is finite.

Speaking ahead of his lecture at the Edinburgh Science Festival, entitled The Future Of Cancer Treatment: Can We Afford It?, Professor John Smyth called for a more "rational" debate on how we apportion healthcare, and warned that society will face more "moral dilemmas" as pressure on NHS resources grows.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blast From The Past

Somebody accessed this post recently, and I think it important enough to remind my readers about it:

A United Nations scientist has refused the Nobel prize that he (as part of the IPCC) is supposed to share with Al Gore, and for the most damning possible reason.

Illegal Fees In Schools

Just to make sure that we don't forget one of my favorite windmills at which to tilt, the following came from a mailing from the California Department of Education:

School fees, tuition and charges largely prohibited by state law
by Staff
Parents have become accustomed to teachers sending home pleas for help in paying for routine classroom supplies that education budgets no longer seem to cover. But in today’s severe economic times, some districts may be taking the notion of outside support to an extreme – and perhaps in some cases coming dangerously close to breaking state law. Given the tendency for districts to look for support wherever they can, it is important for fiscal managers to remember the rules. An existing opinion from the state attorney general specifically prohibits schools from charging for such things as: A tuition fee or charge as a condition of enrollment into any class or course of instruction. This includes summer school, for which there is no specific authorization for tuition and thus is prohibited. Membership fees as a condition of qualification for student athletics or any other curricular or extracurricular activity sponsored by the school. Even a minimal admission fee to attend a fair, exhibit or similar activity that is otherwise part of a school’s educational program is not permitted. Districts are reminded that Article IX, Section 5 of the California Constitution provides for a free school system: “The Legislature shall provide for a system of common schools by which a free school shall be kept up and supported in each district at least six months in every year.” Subsequent opinions from the state’s Attorney General have also consistently said that school districts do not have authority to levy fees for any elective or compulsory class. Further, districts may not require security deposits for locks, lockers, books, class apparatus, musical instruments, uniforms or other equipment. A 1984 state Supreme Court ruling found that schools may charge fees for “recreational” but not “educational” activities. The court also said that extracurricular programs – such as after school sports and band – are considered an integral component of public education. The court also held that a fee-waiver policy for needy students does not supersede the laws prohibiting these types of fees and charges. Education Code does authorize some fees under some conditions including: transportation to and from school; food services; lost books or defaced school property. Charges for transportation costs of field trips may be imposed, although codes also say that no pupil can be prevented from taking a field trip because of a lack of funds. Education Code also states that paper, pens, ink and “other necessary supplies for the use of the schools shall be furnished under the direction of the governing board of the school district.” The Attorney General has interpreted that section to also mean that districts must provide art material for art classes and mechanical drawing sets; cloth for dressmaking classes and wood for carpentry shop; gym suits and shoes for P.E.; bluebooks for exams; and paper for essay assignments. (This article is complete.)

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
He was Chancellor from 1933-1945 (12 years), and Germany was at war from 1939-1945 (6 years).

Today's question is:
Which US cities have hosted 2 Olympics?

Where To Shop "Green"

Big box warehouse stores, like Costco or Sam's Club.

But consider my case for big box stores as a greener choice:

  • Shop less frequently: Because of the jumbo-sized products, shopping at big box stores lets you shop less often, which means less gas wasted and pollution generated. Obviously you need to be smart about storing quantities of perishable items to avoid waste.

  • Shop at fewer stores: Big box stores offer one-stop-shopping for a wide range of products, everything from groceries to clothing to books to furniture, thereby further reducing shopping road trips.

  • Use less packaging: One reason why big box stores can sell products for less is the cost savings on packaging (i.e., one large container vs. multiple smaller containers). Packaging can easily add 10 percent or more to the cost of a product, and the manufacturing and disposal of all that packaging material creates a Costco-sized carbon footprint.

  • Use neither paper nor plastic: Last but certainly not least, big box stores are just about the only stores of any kind that don't ask that cliché question at the checkout counter: "Paper or plastic?" At big box stores, you typically load up your own purchases in cardboard shipping boxes that in other stores get thrown in the dumpster.
This seems reasonable to me. Is he leaving out anything obvious, on either side?


One promising answer comes from the computer scientist Jon Postel, now known as “god of the Internet” for the influence he exercised over the emerging network. In 1981, he formulated what’s known as Postel’s Law: “Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.” Originally intended to foster “interoperability,” the ability of multiple computer systems to understand one another, Postel’s Law is now recognized as having wider applications. To build a robust global network with no central authority, engineers were encouraged to write code that could “speak” as clearly as possible yet “listen” to the widest possible range of other speakers, including those who do not conform perfectly to the rules of the road. The human equivalent of this robustness is a combination of eloquence and tolerance — the spirit of good conversation. Trolls embody the opposite principle. They are liberal in what they do and conservative in what they construe as acceptable behavior from others. You, the troll says, are not worthy of my understanding; I, therefore, will do everything I can to confound you.

The most precise description I've yet come upon....

Government Take-over of Universities

Why not? If government can take over banks and car companies, why not take over universities as well?

I hear it again and again, even from some pro-business conservatives:

Hey, I have no sympathy for AIG and the automakers and the banks. When you take government money, you can expect the government to tell you what to do. Besides, some of these companies are wasteful, charge too much, and their salaries are too high.

Well, if that's so, then why doesn't the government intervene to run our universities, which consume huge amounts of government money? Why don't President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress dictate marching orders to university presidents? Why not fire the bad ones? Why aren't Barney Frank and Chris Dodd calling in provosts to explain themselves?
Truman couldn't nationalize the steel industry during the Korean War, why can Obama nationalize the car industry? If you can justify the take-over of the car industry but the above suggestion seems just silly, I'm curious to know why.


In the past I wasn't an ardent supporter of the 2nd Amendment--perhaps that comes from growing up and living in California. However, as my political beliefs have matured, and my understanding of the beliefs of the Founders has improved, I've come around to understanding the vital importance of the 2nd Amendment. I'm not an NRA member yet, but that day may yet come.

I have a relative who is what I used to refer to as a "gun nut". Now I think he's just a bit more zealous than I am on the topic. He sent me the following today, which is no doubt making its rounds about the internet. I like the sentiments expressed:


1. An armed man is a citizen. An unarmed man is a subject.

2. A gun in the hand is better than a cop on the phone.

3. Colt: The original point and click interface.

4. Gun control is not about guns; it's about control.

5. If guns are outlawed, can we use swords?

6. If guns cause crime, then pencils cause misspelled words.

7. Free men do not ask permission to bear arms.

8. If you don't know your rights, you don't have any.

9. Those who trade liberty for security have neither.

10. The United States Constitution (c) 1791. All Rights Reserved.

11. What part of 'shall not be infringed' do you not understand?

12. The Second Amendment is in place in case the politicians ignore the others.

13. 64,999,987 firearms owners killed no one yesterday.

14. Guns only have two enemies; rust and politicians.

15. Know guns, know peace, know safety. No guns, no peace, no safety.

16. You don't shoot to kill; you shoot to stay alive.

17. 911: Government sponsored Dial-a-Prayer.

18. Assault is a behavior, not a device.

19. Criminals love gun control; it makes their jobs safer.

20. If guns cause crime, then matches cause arson.

21. Only a government that is afraid of its citizens tries to control them.

22. You have only the rights you are willing to fight for.

23. Enforce the gun control laws we ALREADY have; don't make more.

24. When you remove the people's right to bear arms, you create slaves.

25. The American Revolution would never have happened with gun control.
I really like numbers 1, 4, 6, and 21.

I file this under conservatism for obvious reasons.