Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
All the news that's fit to print.

Today's question, the last of the year, is:
What was Humphrey Bogart's character's name in Casablanca?

A Waste of Money: AP Courses for the Unprepared

That some educators believe this saddens me and should be a concern to taxpayers everywhere:

Last year, nearly a third of the students at G.W. Carver High School in New Orleans took an Advanced Placement class.

Though none passed the year-end AP exam, educators say that just taking the college-level courses raised the self-esteem of teenagers used to the stigma of attending a low-performing school.

"For most of them, just in my opinion, it boosted their morale," Assistant Principal Toyia Washington said. "They realized they were capable of doing something outside the box, whereas everything is usually inside the box."

I'm curious, what was outside the box here? A bunch of students took a class for which they were ill-prepared, and failed miserably to achieve even minimal standards in the course. That sounds like the very definition of in the box activities for this assistant principal and her school. If these kids get self-esteem from failing a test that they've prepared all year for, then I assert they have all the self-esteem they need.

And a picture accompanying the article shows three students arriving to take the AP exam--in an SUV limousine. You can tell so much from that picture.

But let's focus on the "educators" mentioned in this article. Can you believe there are people out there--college-educated people--who think like this?

Educators say the hardest-working students at schools like Carver and John McDonogh benefit immensely from exposure to higher-level courses, both in self-esteem and in tangible skills such as test preparation, even if few end up passing the AP exam.

Again, what does self-esteem have to do with this? They have failed. And to be honest, they've failed at something that they should have been prepared for. It's not like they failed rowing alone across the Atlantic, they failed at a course in high school. How does one get self-esteem from that? How does one look in the mirror and feel good about himself because of that? And how do so-called educators convince themselves that allowing students to take courses for which they are not prepared is actually a good thing?

Oh, don't think for a moment that I don't see some good in it. Don't think for a moment that I don't think that these kids should know how ill-prepared for college their education has left them. But let's not pretend that that's what these so-called educators have in mind when they talk about AP test failure leading to higher self-esteem.

Disagree with me? Let's continue:

But passing is not the only or even the primary goal of the program, proponents say. AdvanceNOLA students receive extra tutoring and tours of the Tulane University campus. They are treated to Saturday restaurant dinners and are chauffeured to the AP exam in limousines.

Students receive $300 from the program for getting a score of at least 3 out of 5 on an exam -- the minimum needed to receive college credit -- and teachers also receive $300 for each student who passes.

So we allow them to take AP classes for which they are obviously not prepared, we give them extra tutoring which doesn't help, we offer money that the kids can't and don't earn--but that's ok because passing the test isn't even the primary goal of the program--and there's someone out there who claims this is a good expenditure of money? We waste money on limousines and Saturday night dinners, and this is a good expenditure of money? Oh, this program is good for the teachers who get their $300, but what good is it doing the students? What they really learn is that they're not at all prepared to attend Tulane, the school they tour as part of this program. What else do you think they learn from this? I'll tell you what I think they learn. I think they learn that people will justify anything for these kids because of the color of their skin. This program could be the poster child for President Bush's concept of "the soft bigotry of low expectations".

The final section of the article talks about how the students are "proud of themselves", but that pride is misplaced. They shouldn't be proud that they've taken AP classes; heck, they've shown that anyone can take an AP class. They could be justifiably proud if they'd exceeded expectations and passed an AP test--but they didn't do that. Their standards are set too low, and they couldn't even achieve those standards. What's to be proud of? I consider the lyrics of this song:

I step out of the ordinary,
I can feel my soul ascending,
I'm on my way,
Can't stop me now
And you can do the same.
What have you done today to make you feel proud?

They've not done much. And that's sad.

Update, 1/2/11: A similar opinion piece from the same New Orleans paper:

G.W. Carver High would be high on any list of lousy schools, but that does not mean the kids there lack the will to succeed. Last year one third of them signed up for the advanced placement classes that provide college credits for those who pass the year-end exam.

Your heart must ache for the Carver kids, all of whom failed the exam, but educators quoted in the paper are made of sterner stuff. They pronounce advanced placement classes a success because they have apparently raised the kids' self-esteem. In case you don't understand how failure can do that, Carver Assistant Principal Toyia Washington explains, "They realized they were capable of doing something outside the box, whereas everything is usually inside the box."

Educators have an obvious motive for putting their students' performance in the best possible light, but what are they going to say if some kid eventually passes the exam? They'll have no words left to express their joy.

In truth, no Carver kid is likely to pass the exam...

Still, it is axiomatic that low expectations hold underprivileged students back, and it must be dispiriting for students at Carver, and the other five schools where the Cowen Institute provides AP support, to read in the paper that passing the exam "is not the only or even the primary goal."

Extreme Climate Forecasts

If you choose to believe that we're headed towards a man-made apocalypse because of greenhouse gases, there's probably not much I can say that would change your mind. But for those of you who might still need some more evidence, check out these predictions--about events that by now have supposed to have taken place. My favorite of the list:

"In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish." Ehrlich, speech during Earth Day, 1970

I'm not letting you off the hook if you want to disavow Paul Ehrlich (of Population Bomb fame). He's a biggie, and has been for over 40 years.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Richard Nixon.

Today's question is:
What is the famous motto of the New York Times?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Son and I Will Not Have To Deal With This

From Reuters:

After 35 years as a wealth manager, James D’Amico was used to dealing with rich families and their privileged lifestyles but he never lost his fascination for one aspect of their lives — their children.

While some wealthy families raise successful, well-adjusted children, others produce sons and daughters who seem incapable of functioning in the world outside their gilded gates and, with their parents watching, careen out of control.

“I was disappointed in the level of dysfunctionality in way too many of the families we dealt with,” D’Amico, retired president and CEO of Genesee Valley Trust Company in Rochester, says.

“They just could not meet the challenge of developing a value system in the next generation in the face of affluence and all the distractions that goes with it.”

To explore this, D’Amico spent a year interviewing several wealthy families who had raised successful children, as well as, studying findings by researchers, educators, psychologists and other wealth managers.

From his research he developed a list of traits to avert what he calls the devastating infection of “affluenza.”

I admit, I wouldn't mind the opportunity to see how I would handle that situation!

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Mr. Slate.

Today's question is:
Who was President Eisenhower's vice president?

Mr. Brown Goes To Sacramento

How will he handle this?

Three dozen of the University of California's highest-paid executives are threatening to sue unless UC agrees to spend tens of millions of dollars to dramatically increase retirement benefits for employees earning more than $245,000.

Changing the Battle Plan

A personal surge?

I've plateaued in my weight loss--in fact, over the holiday season my weight has crept up a few pounds. Yes, I know this is normal, but it's not acceptable. I need to change my battle plan.

I went to Costco for the first time in years yesterday, and there they sell gym memberships--including to the gym just a couple hundred meters from my house. Yes, it's a two-year membership paid in full up-front, but the amortized monthly cost comes out to slightly more than the amortized cost of one yoga class. In fact, the two-year membership is only slightly more than I paid for a block of 26 individual yoga classes.

Last night online I checked out the classes they offer, since I despise just going and lifting weights and need the structure that a class provides, and found several in which I can participate. This might be just what I need to jumpstart things, and the price is right.

I can always go back to the yoga if I need or want to....

Update: It is done. I'm now a 24 Hour Fitness member for the next 2 years.

Per-Pupil Spending

Anyone want to tackle this graph, which shows the US spending more on public schools than all those high-cost, socialist European countries?

Principal Genius

How long must we endure these stories, how long must we severely impact the lives of good, decent kids, before we finally put an end to this kind of crap?

An athletic and academic standout in Lee County said a lunchbox mix-up has cut short her senior year of high school and might hurt her college opportunities.

Ashley Smithwick, 17, of Sanford, was suspended from Southern Lee High School in October after school personnel found a small paring knife in her lunchbox.

Smithwick said personnel found the knife while searching the belongings of several students, possibly looking for drugs.

“She got pulled into it. She doesn’t have to be a bad person to be searched,” Smithwick’s father, Joe Smithwick, said.

The lunchbox really belonged to Joe Smithwick, who packs a paring knife to slice his apple. He and his daughter have matching lunchboxes.

“It’s just an honest mistake. That was supposed to be my lunch because it was a whole apple,” he said.

Ashley Smithwick said she had never gotten in trouble before and was surprised when the principal opened her lunchbox and found the knife.

The teen was initially given a 10-day suspension, then received notice that she was suspended the rest of the school year.

"I don’t understand why they would even begin to point the finger at me and use me as an example," she said.

This month, Ashley Smithwick, a soccer player who takes college-level courses, was charged with misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school grounds. She is no longer allowed to set foot on campus.

As someone who's entrusted with over 150 kids a day, I'm embarrassed that others in my profession behave this way. It's shameful--yet I, and not the perpetrators, am the one feeling the shame.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Harvard Fooled

Why do you think they wanted this kid so much?

Adam Butler Wheeler, portrayed upon his arrest for fraud as a con artist whose brilliant forgeries landed him a coveted spot at Harvard, won over the admissions committee with an application rife with inconsistencies and an inscrutable personal essay, despite fake faculty recommendations that repeatedly praised his lucid writing.

A close examination of Wheeler’s application materials, obtained by the Globe, reveals neither a meticulous feat of deceit nor a particularly elaborate charade. At times, he was just plain careless...

Wheeler’s transfer application form, in which he states his intention to major in literature and become an academic, is riddled with discrepancies and implausible credentials.

A grade report from the College Board, which Wheeler has admitted faking, shows he earned the highest marks on 16 advanced-placement exams, an improbable feat. The majority of students taking AP exams take only one or two during their four years of high school, according to the College Board. Virtually none take 14 or more.

“It is extremely rare to take 16 AP exams over one’s high school tenure," said Jennifer Topiel, a College Board spokeswoman. “And to score a five on all of them is just exceptional"...

The application includes a fake recommendation letter from the Phillips Academy counselor that described Wheeler as “by far the most intellectually gifted and at the same time so incredibly unaffected, insightful, truly genuine student’’ he had ever worked with. (The letter included an incorrect middle initial for the counselor.)

In slanted, narrow handwriting, Wheeler’s signature on the application form authorized Harvard to request all secondary school records. It never did...

Wheeler, who actually spent his first two years of college at Bowdoin, sent Harvard a straight-A transcript from MIT, where he claimed to have enrolled as a freshman. The transcript included grades from the first semester at MIT, even though MIT does not give letter grades to first-year students during the fall term. He transferred to Harvard in 2007.

Wheeler also offered four recommendation letters from MIT professors, describing Wheeler as a brilliant philosopher and literary critic. But the professors named were actually on the faculty at Bowdoin, where Wheeler had been suspended for plagiarism...

He also submitted eight pages of poetry along with a short piece of prose about his parents’ divorce (his parents are still married): “A couple of weeks ago my mother called me into her room and handed me my father’s brief but no doubt handsomely phrased letter saying that he was leaving her. Having read it, I was inspired (at eleven) to let it flutter from my fingers to the carpet.’’

Wheeler’s application file also shows that he managed to dazzle a Harvard alumnus who interviewed him when he applied as a transfer student. The interview was conducted at Bowdoin — even though Wheeler claimed to be an MIT student — an incongruity that Wheeler explained by saying that he had finished his MIT courses early, had no final exams, and moved to Bowdoin midsemester to help an English professor there write a chapter of a Shakespeare book.

Wheeler so impressed the interviewer with his ability to fit seamlessly into college life at Bowdoin in such a short time, and with his seemingly genuine academic interest in Elizabethan literature, that the alumnus endorsed him for admission.

“Adam is an engaging conversationalist, mild and reflective in his delivery, seemingly enthusiastic but not anxious about Harvard’s decision, confident that he’ll make it work somehow (as he indeed has remarkably this spring)," wrote Peter Quesada, the interviewer. “If you have room for him, he would do well, and be indistinguishable from freshman entrants by the end of his sophomore year."

What was it President Reagan used to say? "Trust, but verify." It seems Harvard did a lot of the former but not too much of the latter.

The Economy, In Charts

Fleeced: The upper 1% earned 19.6% of total income before tax, and paid 41% of the individual federal income tax. "No other major country is so dependent on so few taxpayers"
Top Ten Charts of 2010

Update: How much per-person debt did this Congress add?

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who was Fred Flintstone's boss?

Using Statistics To Uncover Cheating On Tests

From the New York Times:

Mississippi had a problem born of the age of soaring student testing and digital technology. High school students taking the state’s end-of-year exams were using cellphones to text one another the answers.

With more than 100,000 students tested, proctors could not watch everyone — not when some teenagers can text with their phones in their pockets.

So the state called in a company that turns technology against the cheats: it analyzes answer sheets by computer and flags those with so many of the same questions wrong or right that the chances of random agreement are astronomical. Copying is the almost certain explanation.

Since the company, Caveon Test Security, began working for Mississippi in 2006, cheating has declined about 70 percent, said James Mason, director of the State Department of Education’s Office of Student Assessment. “People know that if you cheat there is an extremely high chance you’re going to get caught,” Mr. Mason said.

As tests are increasingly important in education — used to determine graduation, graduate school admission and, the latest, merit pay and tenure for teachers — business has been good for Caveon, a company that uses “data forensics” to catch cheats, billing itself as the only independent test security outfit in the country.

Probability is a field of math that was created to describe issues in gambling. From probability came statistics. And now statistics is being used to stop people from "changing the odds" in testing, there's a sort of justice in that.

Although its data forensics are esoteric and the company operates in the often-secretive world of testing, Caveon’s methods are not without critics. Walter M. Haney, a professor of education research and measurement at Boston College, said that because the company’s methods for analyzing data had not been published in scholarly literature, they were suspect.

“You just don’t know the accuracy of the methods and the extent they may yield false positives or false negatives,” said Dr. Haney, who in the 1990s pushed the Educational Testing Service, the developer of the SAT, to submit its own formulas for identifying cheats to an external review board.

David Foster, the chief executive of Caveon, said the company had not published its methods because it was too busy serving clients. But the company’s chief statistician is available to explain Caveon’s algorithms to any client who is curious.

I wonder how many people understand his explanations.

Continuing on, I like Caveon president Fremer's unapologetic view of standardized testing:

Dr. Fremer has little patience with critics who say standardized tests do not accurately measure academic prowess.

“Fundamentally,” he said, “testing is a way of ascertaining what you know and don’t know and developing ranks, and the critics go right to the ranks. Well, it does rank, but on the basis of knowledge of the subject, and if you think that’s not important, there’s something improper about the way you think.”

At the very least, doing well on a standardized test usually indicates some level of mastery of the material.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Kunta Kinte. He was played by LeVar Burton.

Today's question is:
What was the only evil not released when Pandora opened her box (jar, actually)?

More On The TSA

This is making the rounds of the internet. If anyone knows to whom I should give credit for this drawing, please put that information in the comments.

Global Warming?

I'm not buying it, and neither is this guy :-)

(Prepare for global cooling?)

Does Having Good State Standards Help Students?

From this small study, no, but that's hardly a reason to have crappy standards:

I decided to take a look at that in a new way, comparing improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics assessments to a new analysis of the relative difficulty of various state standards.

What I found was very interesting. This graph shows what I found:

(graph at link)

All of the correlations figures shown are low, meaning that across the country, at least between 2003 and 2009, there hasn’t been much of a correspondence between having higher state academic standards and improvement in mathematics.

Interestingly, the correspondence is even weaker for blacks than for whites. In fact, the data indicate that, across the country, eighth grade blacks receive essentially no benefit from living in states with higher math standards on their own state tests.

If your culture doesn't value education, you're not going to do well no matter what the standards are.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Calvin Coolidge, president from August 2, 1923, until March 4, 1929. Lindbergh's flight was in 1927.

Today's question is:
What was the name of Alex Haley's ancestor who was the protagonist in the 1977 miniseries Roots?

Conservatives Understand This, Liberals Do Not

Mona Charen:

It was always for our own good. It was always for a very good reason. It was always within the American tradition of this, that, or the other.

That's what they've told us, that's how they've patronized us, for generations, as the long tendrils of the federal government have spread and multiplied into every realm of American life. It had become so utterly unremarkable, this robotic and seemingly inexorable aggrandizement of federal power, that when Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked, in 2009, where in the Constitution Congress was granted the authority to force people to buy health insurance, she didn't even seem to understand the question. "Are you serious?" she asked. "Are you serious?"

She echoes Daniel Webster:
Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.

If we are to remain free, we must have limited government.

Rethinking Tenure

Teacher tenure is the big bugaboo out there--and while I don't agree 100% that it's the major cause of our education troubles, I can understand why those who think it is, do. After all, unions are a major part of the problem, and tenure is a result of unions. Sometimes I think people who want to go after tenure really just want to punish unions. Sadly, that wouldn't be the case; it would punish teachers, not unions, and push teachers more strongly into the open, waiting arms of their union protectors. There are other ways to weaken unions--right-to-work laws come to mind :-)

But that's not the purpose of this post, which is about tenure. What's the issue?

In the current system, most public school teachers gain tenure, generally speaking a lifetime job, after just three years of teaching. In eight states, including California and Maryland, tenure is granted after two years. Hawaii and Mississippi offer tenure after just one year, and our nation's capital requires no set amount of teaching performance before granting tenure. In other words, many school administrators are forced to make this critical and lasting decision halfway through a teacher's first or second year in the classroom.

Clearly a problem, whether or not you think that teachers are the problem in education today (and I think culture is a bigger problem than teachers). So, how might we rectify this without throwing the baby out with the bathwater? The linked article concludes:

What's the right course of action? Get rid of tenure while maintaining due process protections? Make it more difficult to achieve? Or perhaps have term contracts for five or 10 years at a clip?

Considering how political education is, I'm all for keeping due process protections; I've said before that what we currently have isn't due process, it's undue process, as it takes forever and a day to get rid of bad teachers once they're tenured (here's an extreme example). Maintain due process, though, and I'm happy to engage in this discussion.

Sleepless In Seattle, Screwed In Sacramento

Despite all evidence to the contrary--including Governor-elect Brown's comments that the state's finances are in even worse shape than he thought--our Democratic state treasurer tells us that everything's all right, yes, everything is fine:

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and economist Stephen Levy published a piece in the Los Angeles Times that argues that California doesn't really have any fundamental problems. In their piece, Lockyer and Levy don their rose-colored glasses and give us the same tired old excuses, twisted logic, and factual inaccuracies...

Lockyer and Levy claim that California's budget crisis stems strictly due to revenue shortfalls...

Lockyer and Levy ludicrously claim that California's business environment is good. But disinterested groups that issue reports that consistently rank California as among the least attractive states are wrong, groups like the Tax Foundation and Chief Executive Magazine. Lockyer and Levy cite Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) research that business relocations cause smaller percentage job losses in California, but the PPIC can't measure jobs that aren't created when businesses that could reasonably be expected to expand in or move to California don't.

Lockyer and Levy also repeat Brett Arends's claim that California's share of the World's venture capital has increased to 50 percent, but they neglect to note that the amount is declining, a lot, as Tim Cavanaugh showed here.

Nothing to see here, please move along. We have everything under control.

On This Day In History

Major Anderson and his men slipped out of the nearly indefensible Fort Moultrie, past a South Carolinian blockade, and made it to Fort Sumter.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Government Strong Enough To Give You Anything You Want... strong enough to take away everything you have. For those of you who believe we need more and more regulation of our daily lives, is this what you had in mind?

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH: TSA: Crushing The Critics. “I don’t know what the point of this is, other than for the TSA to inform all of us that it does not like being shown up by mere airline pilots. . . . In a sane world, of course, higher-ups at the TSA, and at the Department of Homeland Security would be forced to answer for the huge security lapses documented in the pilot’s video. But we do not live in a sane world.”

Things aren’t any better at Kathleen Sebelius’ HHS.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who was president when Charles Lindbergh made his first solo transatlantic flight?

An Alternate History of the Internet

The FCC wants to control the internet--the UN does, too. Here's a preview of what might have been, had they done so in the early days:

In January 1993, idle regulators at the FCC belatedly discover the burgeoning world of online services. Led by CompuServe, MCI Mail, AOL, GEnie, Delphi, and Prodigy, these services have been embraced by the computer-owning public. Users "log on" to communicate via "e-mail" and "chat rooms," make online purchases and reservations, and tap information databases. Their services are "walled gardens" that don't allow the users of one service to visit or use another. The FCC declares that because these private networks use the publically regulated telephone system, they fall under the purview of the Communications Act of 1934. The commission announces forthcoming plans to regulate the services in the "public interest, convenience, and necessity."

Check out the names of the big players in 1993. Consider the names of the big players today--all without major federal control or intervention.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mutually Exclusive?

What's wrong with this labeling?

Odor-neutralizing room spray--vanilla scent

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Buffalo Bob Smith.

Today's question is:
What US state produces the most Christmas trees for sale?

Kid Busted For Having A Sharpie At School

Yesterday before skiing I saved the web page for the kid who was busted for having a sharpie at school, but by the time I hit the internet last night the story had gone huge. Nothing for me to add. If by some strange event you haven't heard about it, read here. One blogger referred to the teacher as the "Sharpie Harpie".

Ski Report

OK, it's a crappy cell phone video, but you get the idea. The temperature was in the mid- to high-30s all day, only wispy clouds in a crystal-clear sky, and not the slightest breeze. In other words, it was ideal skiing weather.

Long-time readers might recall that the last time I went skiing, two years ago, I did something new on skis for the first time in 20 years--I skied a half-pipe. Yesterday I unwittingly did something I hadn't done in over 20 years--I skied down an advanced trail. Just like 20+ years ago, it scared the crap out of me, and I only did it once.

I don't feel too badly at all this morning. I'm thinking that all the yoga recently has gotten my body used to being twisted and gotten rarely-used muscles into action; combine that with the hot tub last night and I feel probably as good as I possibly could this morning.

If the video is too sucky to see anything, try the pictures in this 2-year-old post about Boreal, only imagine more snow on Castle Peak (centrally visible at 3 and 26 seconds in the video).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
He popularized the phrase “rock and roll” to characterize the genre of music now called thusly.

Today's question is:
Who hosted the Howdy Doody Time television show?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why Posting Might Be Light on Thursday

The ski report for Boreal:
Current Base: 82" - 125"
New Snow: 1" - 3"
Storm Snowfall: 1" - 3"
Snow Making: no
Current Weather: LIGHT SNOW

The weather report for Truckee, CA:
Tonight: Mostly cloudy skies. Low 17F. Winds light and variable.
Tomorrow: Mostly cloudy. High 39F. Winds light and variable.

Road conditions on Interstate 80, according to CalTrans:

Need I say more?

Education Buzz

This week's is here and includes two of my posts--one about a foreign exchange student, and the other about the last day of school before Christmas break.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Axis Sally. (William Joyce was the male Lord Haw-Haw, broadcasting from Hamburg.)

Today's question is:
With what is Alan Freed credited?

Candy Canes A Weapon At School

When candy canes are outlawed, only outlaws will have candy canes.

It's hard to get people to take educators seriously when we in the field do stupid things like this:

They call themselves the "Christmas Sweater Club" because they wear the craziest ones they can find. They also sing Christmas songs at school and try their best to spread Christmas cheer.

Now all 10 of them are in trouble because of what they did at their school.

"They said, 'maliciously maim students with the intent to injure.' And I don't think any of us here intentionally meant to injure anyone, or did," said Zakk Rhine, a junior at Battlefield High School.

The boys say they were just tossing small two-inch candy canes to fellow students as they entered school. The ones in plastic wrap that are so small they often break apart.

Skylar Torbett, also a junior, said administrators told him, "They said the candy canes are weapons because you can sharpen them with your mouth and stab people with them." He said neither he nor any of their friend did that.

Next thing they knew, they were all being punished with detention and at least two hours of cleaning. Their disciplinary notices say nothing about malicious wounding but about littering and creating a disturbance.

"It was at 7 in the morning, before school even starts, so I don't what we'd be really disrupting," said Cameron Gleason, also a junior.

Principal Amy Etheridge-Conti says she can't comment on the students' discipline but did say there was a lot more to it than handing out candy and that the discipline was warranted...

Patti Gleason, the mother of Cameron Gleason says, "I am 100 percent sure they did nothing wrong. We've gotten so many different stories. It went from maiming kids with candy canes, to littering. And then when received the referral (disciplinary notice) it said 'disruption.' So nobody really knew what they were getting in trouble for, they were just making up a whole bunch of different things.

Yes, this is how we adults think and act in public schools.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Is No Longer The Law of the Land

From the Boston Globe:

No move is imminent, as there are remaining logistical issues that the university has to work out with the military. But (Harvard President) Faust’s show of receptiveness, which looks to be replicated at other universities with historically tense relations with the military, is a positive step. Bringing ROTC back would prove that the universities’ steadfast stances had been the product of honest and open concerns about discrimination, rather than an expression of reflexive anti-military sentiments. Students would have a better chance to serve their country, and the Pentagon would find itself with a new source of highly educated recruits at a time when its need for men and women with special training is at an all-time high. Whether in foreign languages or science, the skills learned at top universities are increasingly applicable to the military.
I can see no harm to either the military or to the Ivies from having ROTC on campuses. I'm adopting a wait-and-see approach, though, before I laud the Ivies.

I was with the editorial authors until I got to this part:

The universities’ anti-ROTC policies were justified during the long period when the military discriminated against gay and lesbian service members.

The military discriminates against all sorts of people--as it must, by federal law. It's not the military's policy that was against gays, it's the law. It's not the military's policy that keeps women out of direct combat roles, it's the law. It's not the military's policy that keeps all sorts of people out, it's the law. These schools should protest against the Congress, not the military.

My favorite funny example: when I was in the army, and I kid you not on this, all males had to have a penis. No winkage, no service. What possible legitimate reason did that rule have? I can't think of one, except for an inability to participate in the "this is my rifle, this is my gun" chants. If we kept out people with no balls, our current president and the vast majority of the Congress couldn't have served. Of course, most of them didn't.

My point in all this is, do we "justify" keeping ROTC off of campus until every social goal is accommodated in the military? Of course not. So why do we focus on DADT? To ask the question is pretty much to answer it.

I Know They're Hurting, But...

Is this really the way to deal with the pain? Was Rutgers really at fault, at all, in this case, or are the parents just lashing out because they want someone, anyone, everyone, to pay for the loss of their son?

The parents of a Rutgers University student who killed himself after his roommate allegedly used a webcam to spy on him during a tryst with another man have filed notice that they intend to sue the school.

Joseph and Jane Clementi, parents of Tyler Clementi, filed the notice on Friday. They have to wait six months to file the lawsuit over their son's death, which became a symbol in a national outcry over the bullying of young gays.

In the notice, the couple said "it appears Rutgers University failed to act, failed to put in place and/or failed to implement, and enforce policies and practices that would have prevented or deterred such acts, and that Rutgers failed to act timely and appropriately".

Basic Economics

That people respond to incentives (and to disincentives) is one of the basic principles of economics. The following comes as a surprise only to people who are such ideologues that they refuse to believe in economics.

From International Liberty:

Politicians approved a big tax hike on those bad, evil rich people in 2009, and Oregon’s spite-filled voters approved that measure earlier this year.

So how’s is Oregon’s class-warfare approach working? Not surprisingly, the politics of hate and envy is generating poor results. Revenues are much lower than forecast, as anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the Laffer Curve could have explained. The most noteworthy result is that about one-fourth of rich taxpayers have disappeared.

Again, the only people who are surprised by this are the ones who believe that the purpose of taxes is to be "fair", not ones who believe that the purpose of taxes is to fund the legitimate activities of government.

And in a related story from the Washington Examiner, regarding state income taxes:

Altogether, 35 percent of the nation's total population growth (since the last census) occurred in these nine non-taxing states, which accounted for just 19 percent of total population at the beginning of the decade.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Trivia

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

Today's question is:
Who was the World War II European Theater equivalent of Tokyo Rose?

Bailing Out of Race To The Top

In this post I quoted an author who suggested California should stop trying to get Race to the Top money from the feds, keep our own state standards (which are for the most part excellent standards), and save the money that would have to be spent on new standards, textbooks, teacher training, etc. Now we can read the same suggestion in a local Los Angeles paper:

Gov.-elect Jerry Brown announced to a stunned audience last week that he will have to cut California's education budget by 20 percent to 25 percent, and that this will involve unprecedented and painful cuts to our schools. His message was that services once considered essential will now be subject to elimination. It is in this context that we need to take a hard look at the costs we incurred under the Schwarzenegger administration when we accepted provisions of President Barack Obama's education initiative, Race to the Top, an unfunded mandate of the first order, costing millions and not at all essential.

The state's actions to date on Race to the Top have not involved Brown, but he can and should act to extricate us from the mess we've been handed...

If Brown is going to cut schools to the bone, he needs to cut the fat first. He should move quickly to pull out from our agreement to drop the standards, and he should present a tough negotiating stance, notably lacking in the last administration, regarding any further expensive ideas from Washington.

Sounds eminently reasonable to me.

Education a "National Security Issue"?

I worry that this line of reasoning could be abused, cheapening the idea of what is and is not a national security idea. It's like calling solitary confinement "torture" or disagreeing with the president "racism". Still, it might merit at least some concern:

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can't answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The report by The Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will grow too small.

"Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the AP. "I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America's underperforming education system"...

The report by The Education Trust found that 23 percent of recent high school graduates don't get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. Questions are often basic, such as: "If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?"

The military exam results are also worrisome because the test is given to a limited pool of people: Pentagon data shows that 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don't even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn't graduate high school.

Educators expressed dismay that so many high school graduates are unable to pass a test of basic skills.

I still maintain that a lot of the problem is culture--for too many people in our country, school is just a no-out-of-pocket-expense babysitter.

Where To Begin With This One?

It's Spain, not the US, but it's still ridiculous:

It’s hard to keep track these days of what ¨shows disregard to the feelings of Muslims.” Consider the case of the student at the Menéndez Tolosa school in Cadiz who this week asked his geography teacher to stop discussing ham in class because it was disrespectful to him as a Muslim. It should be noted that the teacher, José Reyes Fernández, was not mocking the Koran’s prohibition against eating ham. What was so offensive to the student was Fernández’s use of the Granada town of Trevélez as an example of a cold moutain climate conducive to the curings of hams.

Fortunately the local prosecutor does not seem interested in pursuing this.

Muslims aren't supposed to eat pigs. I haven't yet read that they're not supposed to hear about pigs. This is just an issue of seeing how far someone can push his views.

Nevertheless, the story, which verges on parody, made headlines across Spain. Javier Jordán, a political science professor at the University of Granada, told PJM: “This incident is an absurd example of how the Islamist ideology attempts to impose an ‘Islamic exception’ to Europe’s customs and laws. The Muslim student and his parents who denounced the teacher have hurt the image of Islam in Spain and contributed to social polarization. These types of episodes do damage to the idea of Muslim integration into Spain’s pluralistic society.”
To show how far Europe has slipped, I'm relieved at this result. How hard would it be to believe in some alternate ending, with the teacher being fined or "reeducated"?

FIRE Defends To-be-expelled Syracuse Student

Stories like this cause me to marvel--do they really think they can get away with this? They must think so, and I sincerely hope they lose and face not only public scorn, but public recriminations:

A Law student at Syracuse University is facing possible expulsion for "harassment," but he doesn't know who his accusers are or even why he's in trouble.

The source of all the trouble is a fake news blog called SUCOLitis. It's like The Onion, but it focuses on making fun of life in law school. In one post, the "Faculty Committee on Aesthetic Standards" names the Class of 2013 "Most Attractive in History." In another, a beer bong is elected class president...

Nobody has taken responsibility for the anonymous blog. But one student, Len Audaer, appears to be facing prosecution anyway.

Law professor Gregory Germain (the "prosecutor" of this case in the school's judicial system) began investigating Len two months ago, and has kept Len completely in the dark for the whole two months. Who are the accusers? Which blog post was harassing? Len doesn't know. How could he even start to defend himself?

Knowing that universities can't defend in public what they try to do in private, Len sought to draw attention to these abuses. But Germain is now seeking a gag order that would severely hurt Len's efforts to publicize his situation. Germain wants to require any journalist reporting on the case to sign away the right to publish any case document unless the document is published whole. No excerpts, no quotations.

Germain knows full well that this would essentially prevent Audaer from appealing to the court of public opinion, leaving him no choice but to silently accept the findings of a campus judiciary that seems determined to get him...

It's fundamentally unfair to threaten a student with expulsion for his protected speech for months while refusing to give him any of the evidence or name his accusers. We've asked Syracuse's chancellor, Nancy Cantor, to honor Syracuse's promises -- but thus far she has done nothing.

The mind-blowing part is that this is happening at the Syracuse law school.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Someone who used to love me also used to swear by echinacea during cold season. Oh-for-two, I guess:

In a new study of more than 700 people who came down with colds, echinacea pills were not measurably better than placebo at speeding recovery time or reducing the severity of runny nose, sore throat, cough, and other symptoms.

Echinacea has flunked similar tests before. Over the past eight years, several high-quality studies in which cold sufferers were randomly assigned to receive echinacea or placebo have arrived at the same conclusion: The herb has no discernible impact on colds. (This type of study is considered the gold standard for medical research.)


No, not the movie, the celestial event.

I remember the partial solar eclipse when I was in 8th grade; the sky didn't appear any darker, but through welding goggles I could see a sizable chuck being taken out of the sun. I've seen partial lunar eclipses before, too; don't know if I've ever seen a total lunar eclipse. Before tonight, that is.

It's pretty cool. The rainclouds broke, and the moon seemed directly over my house in a completely clear section of sky. Slowly it turned darker and darker, until there was only a sliver of white along the upper right edge. Then, that too disappeared, and the moon appeared a dark rust color, and even that got darker.

So now that I've definitely seen a total lunar eclipse, I can go to bed!

Tron Legacy

Screw the reviews, I thought it was excellent.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Trojan War, fought between the Greeks and the Trojans. The Greeks, after tricking the Trojans with a Trojan Horse gift, were able to enter and unlock the gates of the city and burn it to the ground. I guess that means the Greeks won.

Follow-up question for today:
Which Roman epic involved the survivors of Troy founding Rome?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

One Task Down

I usually don't bring work home with me, especially over a long break such as this, but the Statistics Survey reports and the short-answer section of the stats test need to be graded, and though I'll probably wait until the Sunday night before we go back to school to grade them, I do need to grade them before we get back. I also need to plan out the next chapter in stats.

You might wonder why I didn't bring home any grading or planning for my other classes. Well, that's easy--there's no planning because I've taught them before and have previous lesson plans to use, and no grading because I got it all done before break.

So lots of grading and a moderate amount of planning--and one other task. As mentioned here, I received a goodly number of gifts from students; as mentioned here, I write thank-you notes after receiving such gifts. All my thank-you notes are now written.

Of course I tackled the easiest and most pleasant task first!

A Bit Too Much Ego?

Honey, it's not all about you--especially when it's the weather:

The weather led authorities to ban big trucks from driving through the Ile de France region that includes Paris. Lady Gaga's trucks couldn't get to the venue on time, concert venue Bercy stadium said on its Web site...

The diva vented on Twitter, writing that "all 28" of the trucks carrying sets for her elaborate show had been detained. She said had wanted to do a show without the sets, but even sound and power equipment was blocked.

"I am furious and devastated," she wrote, adding that it was "unfair to my fans and to me."

Some people.

"Weather Isn't Climate"...

...but you have to wonder how the global warming alarmists can say that with a straight face year after year, event after event, Gore Effect after Gore Effect, mild hurricane season after mild hurricane season (with each predicted to be the "big one"), and not just go home sobbing at how silly they look:

Britain may experience its coldest December on record, weather service forecaster Mark Seltzer said.

"Temperatures will struggle to get over freezing and although the snow should ease off tonight, it will return to eastern areas on Sunday," he said.

A third of a world away, California is set to post record snowfall for the months of November and December :-)

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Helen of Troy was the impetus for which war, fought between which two forces? Who won?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Perspective on Climate Change

I always enjoy watching and reading Lord Monckton:

The climate bugaboo, the strangest intellectual aberration of our age, rampages because in the me and now we have cast aside three once-universal forms of learning that gave us perspective: a Classical education, to remind us that in reason and logic there is a difference between true and false; a scientific education, to show us which is which; and a religious education, to teach us why the distinction matters.

With perspective, no one would waste a single second of his own time or a red cent of other people’s money trying, Canute-like, to make “global warming” go away.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year did Thomas Edison's studios produce the first Frankenstein movie?

ROTC To Make A Comeback On Elite Campuses?

What excuse will these schools use now?

In a landmark vote, the Senate on Saturday ended the Clinton-era ban on gays serving openly in the military, marking a major triumph for President Obama, liberals and the gay community.

The final vote to end the Pentagon's 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy was 65-31. The bill now goes to the White House for Obama's signature. Obama is expected to sign the bill into law next week, a senior White House aide told Fox News.
(Minor beef--this isn't the Pentagon's policy. This policy is law, passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton. The Pentagon has no choice but to follow the law.)

These universities won't have the DADT policy to kick around anymore. Shall we start our guesses, in the comments section of this post, on their new excuses for not having ROTC programs?

Update: Is my cynicism perhaps not merited, at least in a couple of cases?

The ROTC programs have been absent from a number of Ivy League and other leading campuses since the Vietnam War, and many schools subsequently linked programs' return to open service for gays and lesbians.

Harvard University President Drew Faust today signaled that she would move to restore ROTC to the campus...

A spokesman for Yale University also suggested that change may be coming soon.

"We are aware of the vote and have plans in consideration," said Yale spokesman Thomas Mattia in an email.

A Stanford official declined to comment for the record but noted that the school's Faculty Senate is already reviewing the restoration of ROTC, a process that began last "in part in anticipation of the 'Don't ask Don't tell' issue," and is due to consider a report and recommendation in the next few months.

Emails were not immediately returned today by press officers at Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, Brown, Tufts, and the University of Chicago.

As If Violating Your (4th Amendment) Rights and Human Dignity Aren't Enough...

...the TSA procedures aren't really keeping anyone safe!

Iranian-American Farid Seif was screened by Trasport Security Administration officials at Houston airport in Texas. His hand luggage was also X-rayed before he took off on his international flight.

It wasn't until Mr Seif arrived at his hotel several hours later that he realised that he had forgotten to unpack a loaded snub nose Glock pistol from his luggage before he embarked on his journey...

According to ABC, security slip-ups in the U.S. are not rare.

The news network claims experts have confided that 'every year since the September 11 terror attacks, federal agencies have conducted random, covert "red team tests", where undercover agents try to see just how much they can get past security checks at major U.S. airports'.

ABC added that, while the U.S. Department of Homeland Security closely guards those test results, those that have leaked have been 'shocking'.

Undercover TSA agents testing security at a Newark airport terminal on one day in 2006 found that TSA screeners failed to detect concealed bombs and guns 20 out of 22 times, the news network claimed.
And a 2007 government audit revealed that undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles's LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts. At Chicago's O'Hare airport, agents made 75 attempts and succeeded in getting through undetected 45 times.

This isn't even a joke anymore. Have we Americans become such sheeple that we're going to continue to allow this to happen? Where are the effing torches and pitchforks?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Two Amazingly Cool Commercials, and One Funny Video

This would be me if I were a counselor at school.

The spirit behind this commercial betrays an amazing wit. And isn't the look on Washington's face as he's driving the car just classic?

Can anyone do it better than Shatner?

It's The Most Wonderful Day of the School Year

OK, the second-most wonderful, as graduation day is always a lot of fun, but still, it's a pretty fun day.

It's great that the kids bring in snacks and make them available to everyone. Someone comes in to deliver a note from the office? Have a cookie or brownie on your way out. And it doesn't matter how much food they bring--it all gets eaten.

And what about the mountains of snacks, homemade and otherwise, they bring for me? I don't recall giving gifts to teachers when I was in high school, and neither do I remember others' doing so (although I'm sure some must have), so I marvel at the kindness of heart and generosity of spirit that made me take two trips to the car after school today, bags loaded with snackies (including a homemade apple pie) and other things. I've already shared with my neighbors, especially since I am still trying to lose weight.

A graduated student who came back to visit today seemed surprised to see me jotting down a list of who brought me what. "Of course I am, so I can write everyone a thank-you note." He seemed relieved that it wasn't to reward people academically! (I don't recall if he ever gave me a gift!) Saw my air force cadet, too, as well as a few others. It sure can be fun watching people grow up.

It's pretty nice getting the next two weeks off, as well.

This, America, Is Who You Voted For

From the Washington Post:

At this point in the Obama presidency, even Democrats must be asking: Is he really this bad at politics? The list of miscalculations grows longer. To pass the stimulus package, the administration predicts 8 percent unemployment - a prediction that became an indictment. It pledges the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison - without a realistic plan to do so. It sends the president to secure the Chicago Olympics - and comes away empty-handed. It announces a "summer of recovery" - which becomes a source of ridicule. It unveils a Manhattan trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed - which nearly every New York official promptly turns against. Press secretary Robert Gibbs picks fights with both conservative talk radio hosts and the "professional left" - which uniformly backfire. The president seems to endorse the Ground Zero mosque - before retreating 24 hours later. He suggests that Republicans are "enemies" of Latinos - apparently unable to distinguish between hardball and trash talk.

In some areas - such as education reform or the tax deal - Obama's governing practice is better than his political skills. But these skills matter precisely because political capital is limited. The early pursuit of ambitious health-care reform was a political mistake, as former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel internally argued. But every president has the right to spend his popularity on what he regards as matters of principle. Political risks, taken out of conviction with open eyes, are an admirable element of leadership.

Yet political errors made out of pique or poor planning undermine the possibility of achievement. Rather than being spent, popularity is squandered - something the Obama administration has often done.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Boris and Natasha.

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Rochester, Minnesota.

Today's question is:
Who were the pair of spies in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

High School Students and Teacher Evaluations

I found this comment over at Joanne's to be particularly insightful:

The problem with high school level evaluations, that I see, is that most high school students aren’t trusted to walk themselves to lunch off campus. Are we really going to trust them with something that can make or break a teacher’s career? College-level evals are somewhat more justified, because college students are (should be) a self-selected group of marginally more responsible, thoughtful students who aren’t being forced to be there. There’s limited utility in asking a prisoner, even one in a gilded cage, how he likes his confinement. And if you are imprisoning him “for his own good” then you’re undercutting the very idea that he’s competent to make decisions for himself.

Governor-elect Brown and the State Budget

I hope he's serious about this, and isn't just blowing smoke to sound good:

"I'm going to try to get the budget agreements done within about 60 days. I don't think we have a lot of time to waste," he said.

Brown made the remark during a budget forum in Los Angeles, but he demurred when asked by reporters whether his proposal would contain only spending cuts or would include new taxes.

"We'll present a budget on Jan. 10. It will be a very tough budget, but it will be transparent," he said. "We'll lay it out as best I can. We've been living in fantasy land. It is much worse than I thought. I'm shocked."

He sounds realistic; I hope that lasts. I'm sorry for being cynical, but I've been burned plenty of times on this.

He continued, regarding education:

"This is really a huge challenge, unprecedented in my lifetime," Brown told hundreds of educators, union representatives and parents who had gathered at UCLA. "I can't promise you there won't be more cuts, because there will be."

As much as I don't want a pay cut or furlough days or larger classes--or any of the other things that happen when education funding gets cut, even though the further away from the classroom you go, the less the cuts are--I can't see how to balance California's budget while leaving half the state's budget off (education) off the table.

Count on the education lobby, though, to disagree. Fortunately, there was a realistic response to their crap:

Educators responded by calling for an end to cuts, asking for greater discretion at the local level as to how dwindling dollars are spent, urging the state to seek more federal funding and requesting legislation that would allow them to increase local property taxes with 55% of the vote rather than the current requirement of two-thirds.

"We can't take any more cuts. You really need to look elsewhere," said Bernie Rhinerson, the chief district relations officer at the San Diego Unified School District. "We are at the cliff."

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer grew visibly frustrated by some of the comments about increasing funding of programs, such as online education.

"Anyone who thinks we get by that without everyone getting hit probably should live in Mendocino County," he said, referring to the region known for marijuana growing. "There are going to be cuts."

But wait, there's more:

"So far, I've heard good ideas about how to spend more money. Great. It ain't there. It's time to make cuts, I believe deep cuts," Lockyer said. "I'd do the 25% across the board and just say those who wanted less government, you're going to get your wish. In other communities that are willing to put something on the ballot to make up that difference, they're going to have a higher service level."

Educators appeared shaken by Lockyer's remarks.

"There is no more meat on this bone to carve, the only thing left is amputation," said David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers' Assn. "If we do what Mr. Grinch wants us to do, the possibility of shutting down schools is a reality. Is that really what we want to do?"

Lockyer later clarified that he had not been making a policy recommendation, but rather analyzing what would happen unless voters sanction increased spending.

I won't vote for a cent of increased taxes until there are genuine budget cuts. There are entire departments of our state government that could be shut down or consolidated with others--let's start there before we try to get more money from me to waste elsewhere.

I wish Brown well. I hope he lives up to his own rhetoric. The EIA says the following, though, pointing out the sheer idiocy/hypocrisy/partisan nature of the CTA:
Remember those halcyon days of yesteryear – by which I mean October 2010 – when the California Teachers Association was spending $3.6 million to help elect Jerry Brown as governor of the state? The union said things about him like:

“Whitman’s plan calls for cutting the state budget by $15 billion, which could equate to another $7 billion in cuts to already beleaguered schools. Brown has made a commitment to protect schools.”

$15 billion! Shocking! Thanks heavens we elected Brown!

At least until this morning’s newspapers hit the stands.

San Francisco Chronicle – “Jerry Brown warns educators to brace for more cuts

Bloomberg – “California Teachers Fear `Amputations’ as Brown Seeks to Cut $28 Billion

Some think this is a ploy – describing cuts so drastic that the public will beg for a tax increase (on others, of course) in order to avoid them. Maybe. But I think CTA is going to learn that Jerry Brown is not Gray.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Nazi Germany. Erich Hartmann had 352 confirmed kills, all on the Russian front.

Today's question is:
The Mayo Clinic organization is headquartered in which city?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

California and Race To The Top

The following was posted on an emaillist of which I am a member, and I've received permission from the author to repost it here:

State Democrats need to take some of the blame for pushing through acceptance of RTTT in California. Pressure on unions is a good thing, but it's hard to see what we gained by agreeing to drop the standards. We got no money from RTTT, and now the administration is going to be lucky to get $500 million for the next round (down from $4 billion) from the incoming Congress. That's $500 million for the whole country. That means Ca. will never get a dime for dropping the standards and committing to writing new ones, along with paying for new textbooks and staff development. Brown should act quickly to extricate the state from RTTT. If he doesn't, it means textbook companies, test writers and research institutes looking for a killing are prominent among his advisers, although it's hard to see what sources could fund their windfall.

I supported the goals of No Child Left Behind--still do--but to be honest, I'm still fuzzy on the major components of RttT. Oh, and for those of you who were sure that the purpose of NCLB was to end public education--why, after 4 years of Democratic control of the Congress and 2 years of Democratic control of both the Congress and the White House, is NCLB still the law of the land? Could it be that your extremist viewpoints have been shown to be not so realistic? I'll accept your admission of wrongitude now.

Let's Put The TSA In Charge Of Health Care

The porno scanners might be easily duped:

Yet Leon Kaufman and Joseph W. Carlson, two physics professors at the University of California, San Francisco offer a stark conclusion: They can be easily duped, according to a recent paper published in the Journal of Transportation Security.

"It is very likely that a large (15–20 cm in diameter), irregularly-shaped, cm-thick pancake with beveled edges, taped to the abdomen, would be invisible to this technology -- ironically because of its large volume, since it is easily confused with normal anatomy," the researchers said in the paper. Kaufman and Carlson conclude that some types of foreign objects can be reliable detected only if they are packed outside the sides of the body, and some well hidden items would be impossible to see even with the scanner.

"It is also easy to see that an object such as a wire or a box-cutter blade, taped to the side of the body, or even a small gun in the same location, will be invisible," the paper notes.

Experts have already highlighted that such machines are unable to detect hidden plastic explosives. The authors of the new paper expand on these limitations -- and it couldn’t come at a worse time, as families prepare for holiday travel plans.

Of course, the TSA has an answer for this:

The TSA maintains that the machines remain an integral part of their security arsenal, telling that it trusts the controversial machines. “Advanced imaging technology is a proven, highly-effective tool that safely detects both metallic and non-metallic items concealed on the body that could be used to threaten the security of airplanes,” a TSA spokesman told

And how "safe" and/or "secure" do you feel about privacy?

These privacy considerations came to the forefront of the conversation last month when online tech site Gizmodo leaked 100 TSA scans to the public.

Huh. I thought the images weren't saved.

These people are idiots, and if you sheeple do not stand up and fight this violation at every opportunity, you deserve the tyranny your silence encourages.

Can You Believe That This Case Went To Court?

Some people must think they're above the rules. Fortunately, most are not:

A dental student was dismissed from dental school permanently for cheating. He brought an Article 78 proceeding against his school, NYU, challenging this. Surprise, surprise, he lost.

Crying Wolf

I've heard this so many times that, just like the villagers, I don't believe it when Peter calls out anymore:

The teaching profession in California is facing a gloomy future, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.

Massive cuts to education over the past three years have made it difficult for teachers to meet rising expectations and have hurt the state's ability to recruit and prepare new teachers, the report found...

The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning has also called attention to a projected teacher shortage, which the group says will happen when the economy recovers. Far fewer college graduates are entering teacher credentialing programs at the same time a wave baby boomer teacher retirements is anticipated to hit in the next few years.

I'll believe this so-called shortage exists when I see it. The same was being trumpeted when I first started teaching over 13 years ago--and the doomsday scenario was to happen within a decade!

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Amanda and Sarek.

Today's question is:
In what country's air service did the best ace of all time (credited with the most kills) serve?

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Does The NEA Really Believe?

Hear and see it for yourself here, straight from the mouth of the NEA's vice president.


Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
United Airlines.

Today's question is:
What were Mr. Spock's parents' names?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Do You Really Want A Government That Does This?

We already pay taxes for police, fire, and similar emergency services. In some places, though, if you need those services, you get hit with an additional, steep, charge:

Strapped for cash, a growing number of municipalities have begun charging for responding to accidents -- services that have long been covered by taxpayers. Sometimes, the victim's insurer will pick up the tab for these new fees -- but sometimes the insurers will refuse to pay.

This past week, New York City joined the growing debate over what some are calling a "crash tax."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the city wants to begin charging accident victims hundreds of dollars each as one way to help plug the city's multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

Crash taxes are just some of the extreme measures states and cities are taking around the country to counter billions of dollars in budget deficits.

Maybe, when the costs of Obamacare are too large for even liberals to ignore, you'll be taxed for health care--and then charged when you need to use it.


The answer to yesterday's question is:
Chubby Checker.

Today's question is:
What airline recently merged with/purchased Continental?

What Drugs Have Wrought

From Juarez, just across the river from El Paso, Texas:

At least once or twice a day, sirens blare here as firefighters in this violent border city speed to the latest store or restaurant that gangsters have firebombed for ignoring extortion demands.

Boarded up businesses and abandoned restaurants give parts of the city a ghostly look as organized crime strangles economic activity.

Now as Christmas approaches, mobsters have chosen a new target, turning their sights on humble schoolteachers.

Painted threats scrawled outside numerous public schools demand that teachers hand over their Christmas bonuses or face the possibility of an armed attack on the teachers — and even the children.

Wow. Threatening schoolkids and teachers.

Worst Music Video of All Time

While surfing and blogging this morning, I keep hitting YouTube for some background music. When I stumbled on this video, I thought to myself: Consider the music and then the video; could there possibly be a bigger discrepancy between the two?

That gap could conceivably make this video the worst music video of all time.

Want to nominate your choice for "worst music video of all time"? Do so in the comments.

Same Song, Two Styles

Here's what 31 years can do to a song.

2nd video seen here.
Running On Empty.
A little slower, a little mellower, a little retrospective--but just as good.

The President Is Bombing Lately

She we conservatives gloat about it? Roger L. Simon says no:

It’s easy enough for conservatives, libertarians, et al, to gloat about Barack Obama’s recent petulant, child-like performances — at first unable to be even slightly gracious in compromise with Republicans on the tax bill and then, only a few days later, fleeing in panic when Clinton acted the real president, fielding questions with a relaxed authority so surpassing Obama’s it was almost comical.

But there is a bigger reason not to gloat. We are stuck with this odd duck for another two years at minimum and now everyone, the entire world really, knows what he is like. They also know, if they have been paying the slightest attention, the etiology of his behavior: the man never had to face serious adversity until he was elected POTUS. And now he can’t deal with it. He’s the very model of Harry Truman’s famous advice about getting out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat. Obama was out of the White House briefing room the second he realized he was being outclassed by Clinton. And, boy, was he ever!

We need a leader and don’t have one. This is extremely bad news for our country, especially now.

As commenter Delia put it:
Being right about someone never hurt so bad.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Charlie Sheen.

Today's question, the last in Stage Names Week, is:
What was the stage name for singer Ernest Evans?

Interesting Reason To Arrest A Teacher

From CNN:

Police in Indian administered Kashmir Friday arrested a teacher of a local college on charges of writing an exam "with anti-India content."

"We have arrested Noor Mohammad Bhat under (the ) Unlawful Activities Act," Srinagar district police chief, Ashiq Bukhari said Friday evening.

He said the teacher who teaches English in a college here had written an exam for graduate level examinees with questions attempting "to glorify the Kashmiri stone pelters and to project separatist views."

What's The Biggest Problem With American Education?

The results of one poll suggest it's parents:
Blaming teachers for low test scores, poor graduation rates and the other ills of American schools has been popular lately, but a new survey wags a finger closer to home.

An Associated Press-Stanford University Poll on education found that 68 percent of adults believe parents deserve heavy blame for what's wrong with the U.S. education system — more than teachers, school administrators, the government or teachers unions.

While this is not a free pass allowing schools to give up trying to improve, it certainly is a result with which I concur. I'm certain that there are significantly more requirements on my than there were on my teachers--and checking with people who taught at that time, I'm told this is so. That's not necessarily a bad thing, that teachers today do more than teachers in the past did, but it's important to recognize. Yes, we choose some stupid curricula or fads sometimes (whole language, fuzzy math), but even those stupid curricula don't matter when your kid doesn't do his work or come to school or gets in trouble all the time.

Years ago I read a comment on a blog that went something like this: "I think every child should be homeschooled. At home they should learn to be polite, not to interrupt others when speaking, and to keep their hands to themselves. They should learn appropriate language and appropriate manners. They should learn to sit still for a short time and to follow simple directions. When they've learned these things at home, then send them to me at school."

Schools are a microcosm of the families and communities from which their students are drawn. Some schools are able to overcome genuine deficits created by dysfunctional families and communities, but most are not. We in the education field should keep trying to improve our craft and educate all children--that's what we get paid to do--but it would be wonderful if it weren't such an uphill climb sometimes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Destiny Hope Cyrus.

Today's question is:
What is the stage name of Carlos Irwin Estevez?

Los Angeles Teachers Union Is A Roadblock To Reform

Who says so? LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, himself a former teachers union member.

During the last five years, the mayor said, union leaders have stood as "one unwavering roadblock to reform." He called for change in contentious areas such as tenure, teacher evaluations and seniority — all volatile arenas in which teachers unions have balked at proposals for reform as eroding their rights.

"At every step of the way, when Los Angeles was coming together to effect real change in our public schools, UTLA was there to fight against the change and slow the pace of reform," Villaraigosa declared at a forum of the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank.

I've written about Villaraigosa before, most notably here and here.

Banning Water

These are the people that world governments send to a conference about global freakin' warming:

Some people will sign anything that includes phrases like, ”global effort,” “international community,” and “planetary.” Such was the case at COP 16, this year’s United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico.

This year, CFACT students created two mock-petitions to test U.N. Delegates. The first asked participants to help destabilize the United States economy, the second to ban water.

The first project, entitled “Petition to Set a Global Standard” sought to isolate and punish the United States of America for defying the international community, by refusing to bite, hook, line and sinker on the bait that is the Kyoto Protocol. The petition went so far as to encourage the United Nations to impose tariffs and trade restrictions on the U.S. in a scheme to destabilize the nation’s economy. Specifically, the scheme seeks to lower the U.S. GDP by 6% over a ten year period, unless the U.S. signs a U.N. treaty on global warming.

This would be an extremely radical move by the United Nations. Even so, radical left-wing environmentalists from around the world scrambled eagerly to sign.

The second project was as successful as the first. It was euphemistically entitled “Petition to Ban the Use of Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO)” (translation water). It was designed to show that if official U.N. delegates could be duped by college students into banning water, that they could essentially fall for anything, including pseudo-scientific studies which claim to show that global warming is man-caused.

Do you trust these idiots to look out for anyone's best interest other than their own? I don't.

P.S. This has got to "frost" their hides.
(Do you get it? Sometimes I slay myself.)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Expelled For Having A Rifle In The Car?

On the morning of Dec.1, Demari DeReu drove to Columbia Falls High School in Montana and parked her blue-green Honda Accord in the lot, just as she does every morning. The 16-year-old honor roll student, class treasurer and varsity cheerleader walked in to school, forgetting entirely about the unloaded hunting rifle locked in the trunk of her car.

Later that day, there was an announcement telling students contraband sniffing dogs were scouting the parking lot, sparking her memory. She immediately told administrators that she’d forgotten to remove her scoped hunting rifle from the trunk following a Thanksgiving family hunting excursion.

She was suspended from school for violating federal and state gun laws.

On Monday, the school board will convene for a hearing to decide the fate and academic future of the high school junior, who recently was voted most dedicated cheerleader by her teammates and coach.


This was an accident. She had no mens rea to commit a crime, and no one thinks she's dangerous. This is just another example of zero tolerance run amok.

To be expelled, someone should have to do (or plan) something--not forget to do something. Just my opinion.

The Appropriate Way To Act?

I get it. You're angry. You feel entitled to have your higher education paid for by others, and you resent it when you have to pay a little more for your own education. I get it.

But is this really going to achieve your goals?

Furious student protesters attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, vandalized buildings and battled riot police Thursday as a controversial hike in university fees triggered Britain's worst political violence in years.

In a major security breach, demonstrators set upon the heir to the throne's Rolls Royce as it drove through London's busy West End on its way to a theater. A group of up to 20 struck it with fists, sticks and bottles, breaking a window and splattering the gleaming black vehicle with paint.

Clearly the taxpayer isn't getting his/her money's worth out of you anyway, so they may as well cut you off.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Jon Stewart.

Today's question is:
Miley Ray Cyrus was born with what name?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The "Parent Trigger"

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
Chanting "yes we can!" and "si se puede!", a busload of parents on Tuesday became the first in California to try to force reforms at their children's failing school using a new law empowering parents to demand change.

The group of Latino and African-American parents delivered a petition signed by 62 percent of parents at McKinley Elementary School to Compton Unified Acting Superintendent Karen Frison.

The campus ranks in the bottom 10 percent of California's elementary schools. With the petition, the so-called "parent trigger" law mandates the campus be converted to a charter school next September...

The action was a landmark in the school reform movement. California was the first state in the nation to adopt a parent-trigger law, which stipulates that a district must make radical changes at a school that has failed to meet progress benchmarks for four years when at least 51 percent of parents sign a petition for reform.

Parents choose the reform they want - conversion to a charter school, replacing the principal and staff, rebudgeting, or even closure.

California's law was adopted in January and inspired a similar law in Connecticut. Six other states, including New Jersey and Michigan, are now considering parent-triggers.

While I'm all about parental influence and options, I wonder what the unintended consequences of this law will be.

College Students Doing Something Right

Tea Party Students!

El Gordo No Mas

This morning I fit nicely into a pair of pants that I haven't been able to wear for a couple of years now. I've kept a half dozen or so pairs in the closet, taunting me, and now they taunt no more. My weight now fluctuates between 22 and 25 pounds lost since the end of July. Progress has slowed significantly since those heady days of August and September, but I will. not. yield. My weight loss motto is now "el gordo no mas".

Wednesday Trivia

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

Today's question is:
What is the stage name of comedian Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Holding Graduation In A Church

I've not put a lot of thought into this issue because, to be honest, the thought of holding graduation in a church never really occurred to me. I find my self agreeing with the author of this piece, though, but for somewhat different reasons:

I read this weekend of an attempt by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to induce the Cherokee County Board of Education to forgo holding high school graduation ceremonies in a local church. This apparently is not the first time the organization has contacted the Cherokee board. Should the Board not give in to this pressure, a lawsuit could be in the offing...

For the past few election cycles, I have cast my vote in a church, in which no effort has been made to conceal the nature of the building that houses the voting booths. To be sure, I’ve never had to go into the sanctuary to vote; it’s usually the fellowship hall or gym, but I do recall a time or two when election officials have set up shop in the narthex. Had I chosen to, I would have a full view of all the imagery of the sanctuary.

Should Americans United (or the ACLU) have filed suit on my behalf? Should they have sought to force the county to absorb higher costs or greater inconvenience by conducting all voting in public buildings like schools?

Without having spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about it, here's the conclusion I've jumped to: a building is a building. If the owners of the building don't put religious or "outside of reasonable community standards" requirements on the users, what's the problem? For example, if the church insisted that everyone remove their headgear upon entering the building, that would seem not "outside of reasonable community standards" to me; on the other hand, if they asked that men and women remain separated, or asked that people remove their shoes upon entering, or asked that people wear specific types of clothing before entering, such requests would be so far outside the mainstream that the use of the building would be contingent on acknowledging and practicing the religious requirements of the owners, and would be out of bounds.

If the big crucifix behind the altar is too much for some people to stand, put a big curtain up. Same with the iconography in any other religious building. I'm not saying that every little thing must be covered, but major pieces--especially ones that are in the field of view while watching the ceremony at hand--could be a "distraction" and should just be blocked.

The problem, of course, is that all the words I've used above are subject to interpretation. I guess the devil is in the details.

Get the joke? Sometimes I slay myself.