Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is, the first in Computers Week, is:
In only a few years, desktop computer hard drives have gone from megabyte size, to gigabyte, to terabyte. What is the next larger term, meaning 10^15 bytes?

Still Not Shopping at Wal*Mart

Here's the email I sent to Wal*Mart today:

It's been a month now since I've been to a Walmart store; my local store in Citrus Heights is not providing shopping bags for purchases, and that's why I have been going to Target and Safeway. I would be happy to shop at Walmart again, but I do *not* want to be inconvenienced by having to bring in my own bags each time I come to shop.

I'm told from past emails I've received from Wal*Mart that this "experiment" in no bags is supposed to end today, and the company will "evaluate" the results to see if they're going to extend this practice to all stores and make it permanent. My guess is that the results were pre-ordained, and Wal*Mart is going to try to save a few cents per purchase by inconveniencing me and requiring me to carry around shopping bags in my car just in case I want to stop at their store. That's not how a company should treat customers.

I'll post their reply to the above email if I get one.

Update: I sent my email to both the local store and to corporate headquarters and got the same form-letter response as I did last time:

Dear Darren,

Thank you for your inquiry. Beginning January 2, 2010, Walmart will remove all plastic bags from the front end in three California stores; Folsom, Ukiah and Citrus Heights. The stores will offer a new type of reusable bag; one for $0.15 cents and another for $0.50 cents.

However, purchasing the reusable bags is just one option. Customers can bring in any bag from home to hold their purchases. The test phase will last only 30 days after which time we will evaluate the test results to determine the next steps.

This move has nothing to do with State or Federal legislation but with Walmart_s zero waste commitment. It is about finding new ways to reduce our plastic bag waste and understand our customer's needs and interest in reusable bags.

Walmart has also committed to reduce its global plastic bag waste by one-third by the end of 2013 - this test could help us make progress towards this goal.

Walmart Customer Care

This has nothing to do with waste--since I won't have bags to reuse, I'll have to buy other bags, so there's no net loss in so-called waste. This is either a PR ploy to jump on the "green" bandwagon, or an attempt by Wal*Mart to squeeze a couple extra cents out of each purchase by not putting the purchases in bags, or both. I outlined several problems with this approach in my previous post on this topic.

If You Won't Believe Me About Socialism...

...believe Lech Walesa.

Items that stand out (in the video): 1) Lech Walesa tells his American audience that the United States no longer leads the world politically or morally 2) At least one of your Founding Bloggers asks President Walesa if he thinks America is slipping toward Socialism. His Answer? Yes!

Fame Is So Fleeting

click to enlarge

The spike was the result of Instapundit's link to this post. Again, thanks, Glenn!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Martin Luther is widely believed to have nailed his 95 Theses, a denunciation of the Catholic practice of selling “indulgences”, on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany (although there is some scholarly debate as to whether or not he actually nailed them to the door). In what year did Luther “publish” or “post” the 95 Theses, essentially igniting the Protestant Reformation?

Come back tomorrow when we start another Theme Week here at Right On The Left Coast. The theme? Computers!

You're Too Stupid To Know What's Good For You...

...and I, the Nanny State, am going to tell you what's good for you.

Gillespie is correct--requiring each of us to pay for everyone's health care makes your lifestyle decisions and my lifestyle decisions everyone else's business. That's not a society in which I want to live. "I don't think it should be a public matter whether or not I had a Big Mac today or...I went to some kind of health food store."

The blond antagonist in the video believes that too many parents don't know what's best for their kids and hence "the government" should step in. If that good intention isn't another paving stone on the road to Hell, I don't know what is. Gillespie hits the nail on the head--there are certain people who "know" what's best for all of us and they want to boss us around. I don't want to let them.

That's why I'm not a socialist.

The BCS "Problem"

Last month I wrote about congressional attempts to interfere with college football's Bowl Championship Series. Here's another story on that same topic:

The Obama administration is considering several steps that would review the legality of the controversial Bowl Championship Series, the Justice Department said in a letter Friday to a senator who had asked for an antitrust review.

In the letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch, obtained by The Associated Press, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the Justice Department is reviewing Hatch's request and other materials to determine whether to open an investigation into whether the BCS violates antitrust laws.

"Importantly, and in addition, the administration also is exploring other options that might be available to address concerns with the college football postseason," Weich wrote, including asking the Federal Trade Commission to review the legality of the BCS under consumer protection laws.

Several lawmakers and many critics want the BCS to switch to a playoff system, rather than the ratings system it uses to determine the teams that play in the championship game.

Again I ask, is there any reason government should involve itself in how bowl game teams are chosen? What's next, government rules about whether a movie can be called a "thriller" or a "drama"?

People Will Try To Make Hay Out Of This

While I don't believe we should even have a US Department of Education (thank you, Jimmah), if we are to have one, the Secretary can't always be Satan. President Bush's two education secretaries, who, for those who keep track of such things, were a black man and a white woman, were detested by anyone who was anyone in education (so I must not be anyone, because I liked them both). The current secretary, Arne Duncan, can't be Satan, as he was chosen by the Chosen One.

Yet, since he, like everyone who's not involved in education, sees that we can and should do better in education, well, he's Satan, too, in the eyes of most in the field. I'm wondering what, if anything, the NEA will have to say about this comment:

I’ve spent a lot of time in New Orleans and this is a tough thing to say but I’m going to be really honest. The best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.

Ohmigod! He didn't really say that, did he? Let's call for his resignation! Before we get our panties in a bunch, though, let's read his next couple sentences:

That education system was a disaster. And it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that we have to do better. And the progress that it made in four years since the hurricane, is unbelievable. They have a chance to create a phenomenal school district. Long way to go, but that city was not serious about its education. Those children were being desperately underserved prior. And the amount of progress and the amount of reform we’re seeing in a short amount of time has been absolutely amazing. I have so much respect for the adults, the teachers, the principals that are working hard. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to students at John Mack high school there.

I didn't think "Searchlight Harry" Reid was out of line for using the word "negro", and I don't think Duncan is out of line for saying what he did. Anyone with an ounce of integrity has to admit that he, like Reid in the instance I mentioned, is correct.

Now, if one of President Bush's secretaries had said something similar, well, the press would have exploded; instead, with Duncan, we get a blurb on an ABC blog. This story might get a little traction, but certainly not as much as it would have under a Republican administration.

To be honest, I hope the NEA and other usual suspects do criticize Duncan for saying this. It would show, yet again, that they don't really care about education or about teachers, they just care about getting more money for their own self-aggrandizement. And if they think they can score some cool points by attacking the Secretary of Education for saying something as obvious as the nose on his face, you can bet they will.

Friday, January 29, 2010


A student graduating high school this year will about be old enough to be President of the United States before I'll be able to retire, but my retirement, or at least considering the financial part of it, is already looking rocky:

CalSTRS' investment losses have left the system underfunded by $42.6 billion, with almost double the unfunded liabilities it had estimated 19 months ago.

In a report on the $131.9 billion system's website, Jack Ehnes, CEO of the California State Teachers' Retirement System, estimated its defined benefit program would run out of money by 2045 without an increase in contributions by school systems, the state of California or teachers.

Mr. Ehnes says CalSTRS has no authority to impose such an increase, unlike pension plans in other states. Instead, he says the California Legislature must approve such an increase, but he concedes that action this year is unlikely given the political climate and California's $20 billion budget deficit.

California teachers already contribute a higher percentage of their income to CalSTRS than workers contribute to social security. There have been proposals in the past to increase all three components: the state's contribution, the school district's, and the teacher's. Expect to see such proposals revived.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Peter Marshall.

Today's question is:
Which state is known as the Silver State?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Horndog High

Hey, I didn't give the school that moniker, but it seems to fit:

New shenanigans have come to light at James Madison High School, where two teachers were recently caught naked in a classroom and another was punished for getting too close to a student.

The latest scandal involves Madison High gym teacher Lisa Guttilla, 37, who was arrested Friday for feeling up a 14-year-old girl, police sources said.

The student attended private Poly Prep Country Day School, where Guttilla was a part-time volleyball coach.

"Felt up". Now that's some quality journalism there.

And giving hickeys, among other things, to 14-year-old girls? What was this woman thinking? Ew.

Two Versions of Anne Frank's Diary?

Apparently, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the sole survivor of the “Secret Annex,” felt the need to censor his daughter’s most intimate thoughts as well, eliminating about 30 percent of the original diary published in 1947.

He omitted parts where Anne criticized her mother and other Jews living in the confined quarters as well as some sexually suggestive references.

However, during the 50th anniversary of her death in a concentration camp, the Anne Frank Foundation published the unedited definitive version in 1995.

I didn't know about that. So what's the issue?

A version of an iconic autobiography detailing a young Jewish girl’s two-year experience hiding from Nazis in a cramped “Secret Annex” has been pulled from the shelves of Culpeper County Public Schools.

“The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition,” a vivid memoir of Anne Frank’s private thoughts during the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, will no longer be assigned to CCPS students, according to Jim Allen, director of instruction for the school system...

Citing a parent’s concern over the sexual nature of the vagina passage in the definitive edition, Allen said school officials immediately chose to pull this version and use an alternative copy.

I'm sure most of us who've read this book read the bowdlerized version, unaware that any other version existed.

State of the Union Address

You can probably look at the title of this blog and ascertain what I thought of last night's speech. So many others have commented, though, that I have nothing new to add. I'll offer these three links, though, with which I readily agree.

What struck me most, though--and these thoughts are all addressed in the links above--are the following:

  • Attacking the Supreme Court as he did had to be unprecedented; it was certainly rude and ill-advised and does not show respect for separation of powers, a cornerstone of our government.
  • How funny was it for him to tell us about all the taxes he cut (Yes, Barack, you're known as a taxcutter. Right.) and then, just a few moments later, blame the current recession in part on President Bush's tax cuts.
  • The guy still sounds like he's campaigning. You'd think that after Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, he'd sound a little chastened or at least conciliatory. Instead he was cajoling and needling, doubling down on his past mistakes. This is not how you make friends and influence people.
  • Keep blaming all your problems on President Bush, Barack, because no one's buying it anymore. As others have said, man up. Put on your big boy pants and act like a President.
Those were my thoughts during the speech. What are yours?

Fun Bridge Design Contest

West Point, our nation's first engineering school, is sponsoring its 9th Annual Bridge Design Contest. Students aged 13 though 12th grade can participate, with a chance to win a $5000 scholarship or a laptop computer.

Contestants (individuals or teams of 2) will download free, easy-to-use software to design a bridge--further details are available at The contest ends in March, so have your students start now!

"West Point provides this contest as a service to education--and as a tribute to the Academy's two centuries of service to the United States of America."

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
High card (no pair), one pair, two pairs, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush, royal flush.

Today's question is:
Who hosted the game show The Hollywood Squares?


Every non-liberal blogger hopes and prays for a link from Instapundit. Why? Here's why:

click to enlarge

Thanks, Glenn!

If She Can Do It, I Can

Even though I've been teaching for 13 years, I still make less than the average pay for teachers in my district and for teachers in the state, all because I don't yet have a master's degree. Well, if this lady can get a degree, I should be able to:

It was Harriet Richardson Ames' dream to earn her bachelor's degree in education. She finally reached that milestone, nearly three weeks after achieving another: her 100th birthday.

On Saturday, the day after receiving her diploma at her bedside, the retired schoolteacher died, pleased that she had accomplished her goal, her daughter said. Ames had been in hospice care.

"She had what I call a 'bucket list,' and that was the last thing on it," Marjorie Carpenter said Tuesday.

Ames, who turned 100 on Jan. 2, had earned a two-year teaching certificate in 1931 at Keene Normal School, now Keene State College. She taught in a one-room schoolhouse in South Newbury, and later spent 20 years as a teaching principal at Memorial School in Pittsfield, where she taught first-graders.

Good for her for going strong! On the other hand, I hope to live longer after getting my next degree than she did.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bribing The Top Students Not To Go To Charter Schools

Erin pretty much nails it when pointing out that at least in one district, as in so many others, the top students are not always a priority, and neither is an efficient use of "technology":

From the Arizona Daily Star

Nearly 900 eighth-graders have left the Sunnyside Unified School District since 2006 to attend private or charter schools - costing the district about $3 million in state funding.
And the Tucson Unified School District - the largest in the city - has lost about 8,300 students to charters over five years - some 3 percent of its enrollment. Such losses would have cost the district an estimated $36 million in state funding, although officials say some of the students have returned.

TUSD has tried for years to find ways to stop the hemorrhaging - bulking up its niche programs, studying who's leaving for where, and advertising its extracurriculars to parents and students. Last year, the district budgeted almost $420,000 for school-choice exploration. The initiative encourages schools to transform, offering a special focus or learning model that would draw in and retain students.
Now Sunnyside is thinking about how to stop the losses.

Administrators have come up with a $213,300 plan to keep eighth-graders from leaving by loaning laptops this summer to qualifying students and enrolling them in a college-prep program. Teachers will receive laptops and the district will begin an online learning program and look into providing area families free Internet service.

It's telling that the school district is looking at college prep as an afterthought and a stopgap. And it's sad that the loan of a laptop (over the summer! when it will mostly used for surfing and social networking!) is supposed to counteract the schools' failure to do their jobs during the school year. But the kids leaving the district schools aren't thinking about laptops or afterthoughts--they and their parents are looking for "smaller class sizes, innovative teaching and assurances that their children will become college graduates."
Some people have no clue.

Here We Go Again

My "favorite" news source, the Associated Press, posts a story, written in the past tense, about tonight's State of the Union Address--an address which won't occur for over an hour. I caught them doing this over a year ago, when they wrote about the outcome of the vice presidential debate before it even happened.

Click the picture to enlarge. Note the time in the bottom right corner; the address is scheduled for 6 pm PST.

Here is some text from the article:

Hoping to rescue his prized health care overhaul and revive his presidency as well, Barack Obama appealed in his State of the Union address for support for the plan that is in severe danger in Congress, urging dispirited Democrats not to abandon the effort.

"By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance," Obama said, according to excerpts of the Wednesday night address released in advance by the White House. "Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber." (boldface mine)

Granted, the author acknowledges that the comments were released in advance. That doesn't justify writing as if the president has already given the address.

Does the AP have any credibility?

Update: Welcome fellow Instapundit readers (thanks, Glenn, for the link)! Please feel free to poke around my site--I hope you'll like it enough to come back and visit again some time.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's trivia, which I'm surprised no one answered, is:
44 BC.

Today's question is:
What is the progression of winning poker hands, from high card to royal flush?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Very Definition of Nanny State

When was the last time you heard about a kid in California skiing or snowboarding down a hill and plowing into a tree? Yeah, I haven't heard of such an incident either. But it's apparently enough of a worry that the "there oughta be a law" crowd is energized:

California children must wear a helmet to ride a bicycle, skates, skateboard or non-motorized scooter – but not to zoom down a snowy mountain at high speeds without brakes.

That could change soon.

It seems to me that parents have this situation well in hand. Why does the government even need to get involved?

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R- Irvine, said life and sport inevitably pose risk of injury and overzealous government, left unchecked, someday could require thrill-seekers to wear a full crash helmet and cover themselves in bubble wrap.

DeVore is, I believe, running to replace Barbara Boxer in the Senate.

This bill is more evidence that the legislature has too much time on its hands and needs to become part-time.

Update: Want another silly one? How about a Massachusetts law requiring day-care children to brush their teeth? Not a bad idea, of course, but do we really need a law for that?

Ditching The Union's Money Grab

I will quote (steal) shamelessly from EIA:

Iowa State Education Association Local Disaffiliates.
The Professional Educators of Twin Cedars voted to disaffiliate from the Iowa State Education Association, becoming the second independent bargaining unit in the state.

Local officers identified the state union's push for an agency fee law as being a major part of their decision. "There is one sure way to keep the union from collecting any 'fair share' fees and that is to make sure they don't run things," said PETC President Justin Nolte.

Lot of common sense from those teachers in Iowa. I wish California's teachers had as much.

Banning the Dictionary

Since Merriam-Webster's Dictionary contains a definition of "oral sex", it's been banned in one California K-8 school district.

The district is perfectly within its authority to do this, but that doesn't make it any less silly.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Ambrose Burnside, a Civil War general and former US Senator.

Today's question is:
In what year was Julius Caesar killed?

Monday, January 25, 2010

From The "When Are We Going To Need To Know This" File

Tonight at Trivia Night at an Irish pub downtown, one of the questions was "Which US president had a dog named Fala?"

Thank you, Mr. Bradford, 8th grade US History teacher. I don't know why I remembered that particular tidbit of information, but I always felt it would come in handy some day.

My Business Is My Business

I've posted about 8 zillion times about the private lives of teachers and students--what teachers or students do on their own time, as long as it doesn't interfere with school, is none of the school's business.

This teacher was suspended for one month for going to a wedding shower (a legal act) and being photographed in the same frame as a male stripper (also a legal act). It's not like she was doing anything with the stripper, which might also be a legal act--no, it's like she was in the background or off to the side.

Suspended without pay for one month.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Dan Rather.

Today's question is:
Who was the first president of the National Rifle Association?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in Movie Poster Tagline Week, was:
The Breakfast Club (1985).
I'm surprised no one got that one.

Today's question is:
A 1986 attack on which well-known newsman, in which the assailant or assailants repeatedly asked, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”, inspired the title of REM's 1994 hit “What's The Frequency Kenneth”?

High School Athletes Need To Use More Judgement Than Other Potential College Students

You have to wonder if maybe these kids weren't suffering from some kind of concussion from a football game:

This past weekend, three players visiting Mississippi State posted messages on their Facebook pages referencing the Pony, which, for those not familiar with the Golden Triangle (comprising the Mississippi metropolises of Starkville, West Point and Columbus), is a, ahem, gentlemen's club.

One recruit told the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger on Tuesday that the posts were a joke and that they didn't go to the club, but now Mississippi State is investigating whether the recruits' hosts -- current Bulldogs players -- took them. (Hint: Check with the football recruiting office to find out if any of the hosts asked for his recruit's $60 weekend entertainment stipend in $1 bills.) If that's the case, those players could be in big trouble. If anyone associated with the football staff ordered the trip, Mississippi State would have a problem with the NCAA...

Jameon Lewis, Robert Johnson and Jay Hughes probably don't know the history of the NCAA's abhorrence to the confluence of G-strings and official visits, but they should have some idea that even the insinuation that they were taken to one on an official visit would raise eyebrows. So why post it for the world to see? The players removed the posts from their pages, but by then it was too late. By Monday, screen grabs of their Facebook pages were all over the Web...

What the recruits don't seem to realize is that the explosion of social networking sites has spawned an entirely new creature: the Recruitnik Cyberstalker. Unlike urchins such as myself who get paid to look for that stuff, these guys receive no compensation other than the joy of knowing they've made life miserable for a rival school.

In other words, players committed to Ohio State should understand that some Michigan fan is trolling the Web looking for their dirty laundry -- and vice versa. Players committed to Miami should know that Florida and Florida State fans with too much time on their hands will scour Facebook profiles and MySpace pages looking for incriminating evidence.

The cyberstalkers may not have lives, but that doesn't preclude them from discovering legitimate information.

Some of this stupidity will hopefully depart when maturity arrives. Still, did no one tell these guys to be on their best behavior? If someone did, do these guys not know what that means? Did anyone not explain how seriously the NCAA takes recruiting violations, and offer examples of what recruiting violations might be?

Makes you just shake your head and sigh.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Jaws 2 (1978).

Today's trivia is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "They only met once, but it changed their lives forever."

The Very Definition of Media Bias

Here's a quote from an Associated Press story on recent 5-4 Supreme Court decisions:

The rulings demonstrate the extent to which ideology — not fidelity to precedent or a particular interpretation of the Constitution — is the driving force on the court.

It's writing like that that reeks of media bias. I'm quite sure that if this author agreed with the decisions, he'd say these decisions were the result of "fidelity to...a particular interpretation of the Constitution". By the way, what's the difference between "ideology" and "a particular interpretation of the Constitution"?

Here's another example:

A one-two punch of bad news suddenly has Democrats facing an election year with campaign finance rules that favor Republicans and a Senate that can block Democratic initiatives.

How, exactly, does a ruling allowing corporations and unions to spend more on elections favor Republicans? As I recall, corporations spent much more money on Democrats (through PACs and 527's and the like) than on Republicans in the 2008 election--was Goldman Sachs not Obama's single largest contributor? And tell me that unions (which are now populated over 50% by government workers) aren't salivating at this new ruling?

But it gets better; later in that same article the well-known sexual reference used to describe TEA Partiers is used--stay classy, AP.

The Associated Press shouldn't be pointing fingers at anyone regarding politics, as they're nothing more than a bunch of partisan hacks. Any editor worth his salt should have picked up on the overt bias in the quotes I picked above, but clearly didn't--they don't even see the bias because they are too partisan. And those are the first two AP stories I read this morning!

Happy Anniversary To Me

Today marks the 5th anniversary for Right On The Left Coast; this is my 5,094th post.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Leader?

Guantanamo Bay--not closed one year later. Fail.
No Lobbyists In The Administration--fail
Cap and Trade--still breathing, but hopefully doomed
Stimulus--we could have had 10% unemployment without blowing about $1 trillion, and there's talk of another. Fail.
Cash For Clunkers--fail
Smart Diplomacy, appeasing Iran and Venezuela--fail
Chicago Olympics--fail
Global Warming Conference--fail
Card Check--not raised yet, but keep an eye out
Fairness Doctrine--tip-toeing around the edges, keep an eye out
Transparency In Government--fail
Health Care Reform--still breathing, but seemingly doomed

Virginia Governor's Race--fail
New Jersey Governor's Race--fail
Massachusetts Senate Race--fail

And this guy gives himself a B+?

A Practical Physics Problem

Willie Mays' classic catch in the 1954 World Series -- in which he turned his back on a fly ball, raced full-speed toward the centerfield wall and, seemingly without looking, caught the ball over his shoulder -- almost seemed to defy physics. How did he know where the ball would be? Science may have the answer.

Science, and math.

Student NOT Expelled For NOT Having a Firearm On Campus

No, the student isn't a choir boy.

Yes, he could have quit hunting earlier so he would have had time to take his shotgun home before going to school.

Given that, should he have been expelled?

A Willows High School student who was expelled for having firearms in his pickup that was parked near the school will be reinstated and have the disciplinary action expunged from his record.

That ruling was made this morning by the Glenn County Board of Education acting on an appeal filed by Gary Tudesko. The hearing was open to the public at the request of Tudesko's parents.

Board President Judy Holzapfel, reading from a written version of the board's decision, said that in expelling Tudesko, the Willows Unified School District exceeded its jurisdiction based on acts "that did not occur on school grounds or at a school activity off of school grounds."
I've long railed against schools that try to extend their authority to the off-campus lives of students. I think the board ruled appropriately in this case.

Reading the comments at the link, I'm struck by an obvious omission. Didn't the student make the correct choice in trying to get to school on time, and knowing he had firearms, choosing not to park on campus where he knew he would be breaking the law?

So you might think that the issue is over, but it's not:

Willows Unified superintendent Steve Olmos said it is up to the school board whether to pursue further legal action. He said the school will seek support from outside groups such as teachers unions.

The County Board of Education rules against him, and the superintendent wants the local school board to consider further action. In education parlance, we call this gentleman an "idiot". Also, what does he expect a teachers union to do in this situation?

He's the second superintendent I've written about in the last half-hour who needs to be shown the door.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
American Pie (1999).

Today's trivia is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water."

Bullying Is Bullying... matter who is doing it. If even a modicum of this story is true, doesn't it make you sick?

Inside is a cauldron of cultural discontent that erupted in violence last month - off-campus and lunchroom attacks on about 50 Asian students, injuring 30, primarily at the hands of blacks. The Asian students, who boycotted classes for more than a week afterward, say they've endured relentless bullying by black students while school officials turned a blind eye to their complaints...

The Philadelphia school district acted with "deliberate indifference" toward the harassment and failed to prevent the Dec. 3 attacks, according to the complaint. It says Asian students' pleas for help and protection were ignored by school employees.

Asian students say black students routinely pelt them with food, beat, punch and kick them in school hallways and bathrooms, and hurl racial epithets like "Hey, Chinese!" and "Yo, Dragon Ball!"...

Principal LaGreta Brown, the school's fourth principal in five years, was cited for a discriminatory attitude, particularly for referring to the advocacy groups' efforts as "the Asian agenda." On the morning of the attacks, the complaint says, she escorted about 10 frightened Vietnamese students past a large group of youths on a sidewalk.

"If you are afraid, then I will walk with you," the advocacy group says she told the students. But she soon walked away and returned to school, the complaint says, and the Vietnamese students were assaulted by 40 students, most of them black...

At one district meeting, students held signs that said "Grown-Ups Let Us Down" and "It's not a question of who beat whom, but who let it happen."

(Superintendent) Ackerman apologized to the students but was criticized for bringing a busload of black "student ambassadors" to one hearing - students who were not involved in the strife. She also stirred tensions when she complained that the cultural crisis was "taking up a lot of my time."

That superintendent needs to be shown the door, if for no other reason than being an idiot.

On This Day In History

Via Politico:

On this day in 1802, the House, by a 71-12 vote, approved legislation to create a military academy to train officers in West Point, N.Y. The legislation had been introduced by Rep. Joseph Varnum of Massachusetts, a Revolutionary War veteran who had helped suppress Shays’ Rebellion in 1786.

The Senate passed an amended bill March 5. Ten days later, the House concurred with the Senate’s amendments and sent it to President Thomas Jefferson, who signed the bill into law March 16, 1802.

March 16th is celebrated each year as Founders Day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Graduate (1967).

Today's trivia is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "There's something about your first piece."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Strong Policy Against Cell Phone Use In Schools

Some people really enforce rules in school:

A teenage girl in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to 90 lashes and two months in prison for taking a cell phone to school, the U.K.'s Daily Mail reported Wednesday.

The 13-year-old's punishment, harsher than that given to some robbers and looters, requires her to be flogged in front of her classmates, the Daily Mail quoted Saudi newspaper Al-Watan.

She was reportedly hiding a cell phone in class, breaking strict Saudi regulations banning their use in girls' schools.


I'm paid less than the average California teacher:

The average teacher salary last year was $66,995, an increase of 1.8 percent from 2008, according to new state figures. Districts laying off less-experienced, lower-paid teachers accounted for almost all of that increase -- cumulative school payroll in California was flat from 2008 to 2009. Teacher pay varies widely by district.

Clearly the taxpayers are getting a bargain with me!


I got a new student yesterday, new to our school, and I asked him what he thought of the place after one day. He said that he'd always attended private schools up until now, and then added about our school, "There's a lot more homework." And this on the first day of the semester!

I wasn't expecting to hear that.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
American Graffiti (1973).

Today's trivia is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "This is Benjamin. He's a little worried about his future."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thoughts On Today's Massachusetts Election

Blogger Ann Althouse puts it about right, with equal parts optimism, reality, and snark:

“Poor Obama! It’s the eve of the anniversary of his inauguration. The State of the Union was supposed to be very grand. And now what? He has been repudiated! He made this election a referendum on the Democrats' agenda, and the people of Massachusetts, the most liberal state, gave him a resounding no. Now, I think that could be good for Obama. He’s a man of change. Let him change. I hope he becomes the President I thought he could be when I voted for him.”

My tagline for foul-mouthed liberals who thought they were being funny a few months ago: you've been teabagged.

Teacher Supports Non-Union Teacher Organization

A teachers association is glad the state of Texas is turning down Race To The Top money, and a member-teacher supports that policy.

We don’t have teacher unions down here, and don’t have mandatory involuntary membership in those organizations. When I moved down here, I chose to affiliate with a group that is for teachers only (no administrators) and which is a Texas-only organization. I’ve generally been happy with that decision, and this announcement by the Texas Classroom Teachers Association only serves to confirm that I made the right choice.
Imagine--voluntarily joining an organization that supports your own values! We Californians can only dream.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Fly (1986).

Today's trivia is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "Where were you in '62?"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Alien (1979).

Today's trivia is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "Be afraid.  Be very afraid."

I Feel Sorry For University Presidents


Many of the nation’s public universities eliminated courses and raised tuition last year, but the salaries and benefits of their presidents continued to rise, though at a slower rate than in years past, a new study has found.

Students "Decline To State" Race

About half of the 37 students in teacher Jeanne Kirchofer's Laguna Creek High School classroom, who span nearly every combination of race and ethnicity, have joined the growing number of California studentsn who decline to state a race on official forms and tests.

"We shouldn't be judged by our race," said senior Jessica Mae Belcher, 17, whose roots are African and Cherokee. She prefers "none of the above" because "we're all different, but we're all the same, too."

She likes sharing her classmates' unique American journeys from Mexico, China, Japan, Laos, India, Vietnam, Italy and the Philippines.

"I'm not saying we're going to forget where we came from, but we can all see similarities from different hardships," Belcher said. By eliminating racial categories – and racial consciousness – "we can make racial hatred go away," she said. link

I'm reminded of what Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the court in the Louisville and Seattle "desegregation" cases, Parents Involved v. Seattle School District (05-908) & Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education (05-915), "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." These students seem to get it.

This option is not available to students in my school district. Our standardized test answer sheets come pre-coded for each student, so the student's race is already bar-coded according to whatever is listed on records the district has.

Conservative Teachers of America

Here's yet another organization I've learned about today. Check out the web site and sign up if it's for you.

Discrete Math--Not So Discreet

picture here

On The Holiday Honoring Dr. King

In a recent post I wrote about the conflict I feel, as did Barry Goldwater, between doing what's "right" and moral for our citizens vs. following the Constitution. Specifically, I addressed the "public accommodations clause"; why should the federal government be allowed to dictate from whom a hotel or restaurant owner must take money? It seems to me that if a business owner doesn't want someone's money, he shouldn't be compelled to take it! Goldwater knew that time was on the side of righteousness, that public opinion and changing values would eventually correct the injustices in a way that didn't, in his view, cross the Constitution. Yet, I know in my heart that treating blacks that way was wrong. How do I reconcile this?

Dr. King's Letter From A Birmingham Jail addresses this:

I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait."

He then proceeds, as does the Declaration of Independence in listing grievances against George III, to list the effects of the indignities (and worse) caused by segregation. The list is too long to ignore, too powerful to wish away.

So on this journey of understanding I think I've reached a pebble of understanding. Perhaps my original view, and that of Goldwater, is too libertarian; that there are rights beyond those contained in the Constitution, and those rights are just as worthy as those specifically written. Perhaps your "right" to conduct your business as you see fit conflicts with another's "right" to societal justice--and that's how we square the public accommodations clause with the Constitution.

I don't come upon this determination lightly, but as I said, Dr. King's list of indignities and practical effects cries out for justice. I'm aware that this opens up yet another can of worms--who determines these extra-Constitutional rights? Does this view not grant unlimited power to the federal government? Does this not now allow us to read into the Constitution whatever it is we want to find?

I don't have answers to these questions (yet). However, I'm reminded of what Goldwater said at the 1964 Republican Convention: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

From their Mission statement: is designed to provide conservative activists with the resources, networking capabilities, and skills they need to revolutionize the struggle against leftist bias and abuse on college campuses.

I like 'em already.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Trivia

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

Today's trivia is:
Identify the movie that had the tagline, "In space, no one can hear you scream."

Great Buy At Sam's Club

I ventured out in the rain for awhile and stopped at Sam's Club, where I found some most peculiar pricing on something I've long considered purchasing.

See, a couple Christmases ago I got (from the Discovery Channel Store online) a "free" disk containing 3 episodes of the (4 disk) BBC series Planet Earth. I was impressed and have wanted the whole set, but even today the price for the entire set (4 disks plus a bonus disk of extra footage) was $55 at Sam's Club. However, on a different shelf, the disks were being sold individually for under $5 each.

Not being concerned with the bonus disk and already having the first disk, I purchased the rest of the series for about $16.

If I don't blog for awhile, it's probably because I'm watching the show.

Interesting Article About Racism

With the election of an African-American president, some people thought this country had suddenly become "post-racial." Well, hardly. A new book quotes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as saying that America was ready for a president like Barack Obama who is black but "light-skinned" and speaks "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." Disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said in an interview that he was "blacker than Obama" -- a comment that Blago later called "stupid, stupid, stupid." Here are 10 facts about racism and its close cousin, ethnic intolerance...

From the Chicago Tribune.

How To Tell If A Teacher Is Any Good

Teach For America has a lot of data, and they're going to share it:

For years, the secrets to great teaching have seemed more like alchemy than science, a mix of motivational mumbo jumbo and misty-eyed tales of inspiration and dedication. But for more than a decade, one organization has been tracking hundreds of thousands of kids, and looking at why some teachers can move them three grade levels ahead in a year and others can’t. Now, as the Obama administration offers states more than $4 billion to identify and cultivate effective teachers, Teach for America is ready to release its data.

There are those who will criticize Teach For America and will question the data and try to invalidate it. Focus on how they do this, and see if it's logical and/or rational. See if it's ideological.

And keep in mind that the friendly story linked above is from the Atlantic, hardly a conservative mouthpiece.

There are some real gems in this story:

Parents have always worried about where to send their children to school; but the school, statistically speaking, does not matter as much as which adult stands in front of their children. Teacher quality tends to vary more within schools—even supposedly good schools—than among schools.

Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: they avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.

Asking “Does anyone have any questions?” does not work, and it’s a classic rookie mistake. Students are not always the best judges of their own learning.

Poverty matters enormously. But teachers all over the country are moving poor kids forward anyway, even as the class next door stagnates. “At the end of the day,” says Timothy Daly at the New Teacher Project, “it’s the mind-set that teachers need—a kind of relentless approach to the problem.”

Those who initially scored high for “grit”—defined as perseverance and a passion for long-term goals, and measured using a short multiple-choice test—were 31 percent more likely than their less gritty peers to spur academic growth in their students. Gritty people, the theory goes, work harder and stay committed to their goals longer. (Grit also predicts retention of cadets at West Point, Duckworth has found.)

But another trait seemed to matter even more. Teachers who scored high in “life satisfaction”—reporting that they were very content with their lives—were 43 percent more likely to perform well in the classroom than their less satisfied colleagues.

But if school systems hired, trained, and rewarded teachers according to the principles Teach for America has identified, then teachers would not need to work so hard. They would be operating in a system designed in a radically different way—designed, that is, for success.

Plenty to think about there.

More Lies On Global Warming

At some point the believers in this fraud are going to have to admit they were taken in--for whatever reason--and accept reality:

A WARNING that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it.

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world's glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC's 2007 report.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was "speculation" and was not supported by any formal research. If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

Professor Murari Lal, who oversaw the chapter on glaciers in the IPCC report, said he would recommend that the claim about glaciers be dropped: "If Hasnain says officially that he never asserted this, or that it is a wrong presumption, than I will recommend that the assertion about Himalayan glaciers be removed from future IPCC assessments"...

The report read: "Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate."

However, glaciologists find such figures inherently ludicrous, pointing out that most Himalayan glaciers are hundreds of feet thick and could not melt fast enough to vanish by 2035 unless there was a huge global temperature rise. The maximum rate of decline in thickness seen in glaciers at the moment is 2-3 feet a year and most are far lower.

Since this report comes from a British news source, allow me to quote from a song by Queen:

(beat beat beat)
Another one bites the dust.
(beat beat beat)
Another one bites the dust.

Hypocrisy and its Supporters

It's hard not to quote the entire Instapundit post here:

COLBERT KING: Peter Orszag strays from President Obama’s prescription for responsible fatherhood.

If it became known that a Cabinet-level official in George W. Bush’s administration — a divorced father of two — was the father of a baby born out of wedlock to an ex-girlfriend, and that the official had announced his engagement to a woman he met while the ex-girlfriend was pregnant, do you believe for one second that reporters, and not just gossip columnists, wouldn’t be having a field day?

Of course they would. Especially if Bush had moralized about family and the need for men to be present in the lives of their children. Opinion writers would be all over Bush if they thought he was deliberately ignoring the aide’s behavior.

Let, however, the absentee daddy of a love child turn out to be an Obama administration official with close ties to Washington’s political and intellectual elite and the media, and the affair is treated as a source of brief amusement and no big deal.

Read the whole thing. And note this:

On that Father’s Day, Obama was in a black church talking to men in the African American community.

Do those views also apply to Peter Orszag, I asked?

Reader reaction varied, but I was struck by the apologists for Orszag.

See, “moral” issues are only for beating up on Republicans. That’s all there is to it. “This week, I contacted the White House for Obama’s views. I’m still waiting for a response.”

Moral issues are only for beating up on Republicans.

Update: Here's another story regarding media coverage and hypocrisy:

Media Matters is taking the Tea Party Convention to task regarding its limited credentialing for press access...

So….when a quasi political convention held by a private group selectively excludes dissenting media, that’s contempt. But when the White House selectively excludes dissenting media, singling them out for vilification, that’s just fine with Media Matters...

[T]he hypocrisy of Media Matters position on this issue is legendary, considering their fundamental working relationship with and Brave New Films, in their “Fox Attacks” campaign to persuade the entire Democratic party to boycott a dissenting news organization...

Media Matters reveals their hypocritical partisanship (again) by condemning a privately funded group for excluding hostile media, while at the same time contributing to a campaign designed to deny media access to publicly funded parties and government.

Whether it's smart or not for the TEA Party folks to ban most media is open for discussion, but that isn't Media Matters' point.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
US Highway 50 across Nevada. It even has signs that say so :-)

Today's question is:
What is the opening at the top of the Pantheon in Rome called?

Conservative Thoughts

I finished watching the documentary Mr. Conservative, about Barry Goldwater. Really enjoyed it.

I have a confession to make. I didn't read his 1960 book Conscience of a Conservative until just a few years ago. How humbling it was to find all these views that I'd had rattling around in my brain for so long already addressed, cogently and succinctly, in a book written while my parents were in high school. Watching the documentary tonight brought back some of the tension I felt when reading part of the book--Goldwater's objection to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Long time readers of this blog will note that I have often written favorably about that law, noting how, since it was passed before I was even born, its provisions are all I've ever lived under; I've never seen a "coloreds only" drinking fountain, for example, except in pictures. The law's principles are some I'd never questioned--until I read Conscience of a Conservative.

In Chapter 4, the subject of which is civil rights, Goldwater has this to say about Brown v. Board of Education:

If we condone the practice of substituting our own intentions for those of the Constitution's framers, we reject, in effect, the principle of Constitutional Government: we endorse a rule of men, not of laws.

I have great respect for the Supreme Court as an institution, but I cannot believe that I display that respect by submitting abjectly to abuses of power by the Court, and by condoning its unconstitutional trespass into the legislative sphere of government...

It so happens that I am in agreement with the objectives of the Supreme Court as stated in the Brown decision. I believe that it is both wise and just for negro children to attend the same schools as whites, and that to deny them this opportunity carries with it strong implications of inferiority. I am not prepared, however, to impose that judgment of mine on the people of Mississippi or South Carolina, or to tell them what methods should be adopted and what pace should be kept in striving toward that goal. That is their business, not mine. I believe that the problem of race relations, like all social and cultural problems, is best handled by the people directly concerned.

That passage, much of which I'd highlighted in my book, was brought back to mind while watching the documentary. The documentary at one point focused on his objections to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and his arguments against it are just like those I quoted above.

Specifically talking about the "public accommodations clause", Goldwater said, it's "morally wrong to practice discrimination, and it's also economically bad". Referring to persuading businesses not to discriminate, he said, "This type of approach, while I know it's time-consuming, it's having its effect, and I think it will achieve what we want". Roy Wilkins, Executive Director for the NAACP, said, "This is the basic disagreement between the Negro community and Senator Goldwater. They don't think he's prejudiced, they don't think he's a racist, I don't think he's a racist. But they can't go along with a man who says we outta let what's going on in Mississippi be settled by Mississippi and the federal government ought to knit or do something else. This we can't take." Julian Bond later said that he took Goldwater at his word that his opposition was merely a philosophical disagreement and not racist, but that Goldwater was wrong.

Having written that, let's take the "racist" canard off the table now and discuss the issues. Under the Constitution, the federal government should have no role in education. And since "public accommodations", such as restaurants or buses or hotels, don't necessarily involve interstate commerce (except under a stretched definition that makes any commerce automatically interstate commerce), a valid argument can be made that the federal government should not be involved in such issues--that Brown was an unlawful usurpation of powers and that the public accommodations clause was as well, despite the beneficial outcomes.

Being a strong constitutionalist myself, but also believing strongly in justice, I'm torn about how to reconcile the opposing values that inhabit this situation. I won't argue that the feds shouldn't enforce the 14th Amendment or otherwise "secure the blessings of liberty" to black Americans, but that isn't the case regarding public schools--clearly a state function--and public accommodations. I see a strong argument in Goldwater's belief that requiring business to treat the races equally, even though it's probably in their best economic interests to do so, violates rights related to assembly, speech, religion, and property.

So now comes the big question--when and how does one choose between two opposing values? If we go against Constitutional guarantees, or stretch the language of the Constitution to allow it to mean whatever we think it should mean, or just impose whatever it is we think it "right", what's the value of having a Constitution at all? Are we not then, as I quoted Goldwater above, a nation of men and not laws?

The role and influence of the federal government is an important topic that, it seems to me, is not much considered by the general public anymore, or even, sadly, by our lawmakers; people just assume "the government" needs to do something, or "there outta be a law". I'm told that perhaps the Constitution is outdated, that today's problems and issues are too complicated for us to rely on the philosophy of a few dozen men from an agrarian hodgepodge of towns and villages a couple hundred years ago.

Goldwater called such an argument "poppycock", and I agree. It's undeniable that a government's growing power and influence makes it more likely to interfere in the lives and affairs of its citizens; the Founders tried to limit that, is it now outdated? The Founders thought that jurisdictions closer to the people, that is, the states, are better suited to solving problems--is that now outdated? The Founders established a Republic, is that now outdated? The Founders respected the concept of property and created a government that respected the property of individuals, is that now outdated? The Founders created a government of limited, enumerated powers--is that now outdated?

These are the concerns that animate conservatives. They deserve a more thoughtful hearing than they often receive.

Stupidity At School

A middle school student's science project merits evacuation, police intervention, a search of a child's house, and a recommendation that the child and parents get psychological counseling? Really?

Maurice Luque, spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said the student had been making the device in his home garage. A vice principal saw the student showing it to other students at school about 11:40 a.m. Friday and was concerned that it might be harmful, and San Diego police were notified...

Luque said the project was made of an empty half-liter Gatorade bottle with some wires and other electrical components attached. There was no substance inside.

When police and the Metro Arson Strike Team responded, they also found electrical components in the student's backpack, Luque said. After talking to the student, it was decided about 1 p.m. to evacuate the school as a precaution while the item was examined. Students were escorted to a nearby playing field, and parents were called and told they could come pick up their children.

A MAST robot took pictures of the device and X-rays were evaluated. About 3 p.m., the device was determined to be harmless, Luque said.

Luque said the project was intended to be a type of motion-detector device.

Both the student and his parents were "very cooperative" with authorities, Luque said. He said fire officials also went to the student's home and checked the garage to make sure items there were neither harmful nor explosive.

"There was nothing hazardous at the house," Luque said.

The student will not be prosecuted, but authorities were recommending that he and his parents get counseling, the spokesman said. The student violated school policies, but there was no criminal intent, Luque said.

"There will be no (criminal) charges whatsoever," Luque said.

How magnanimous of them.

I'm curious: if the student and his parents were "very cooperative", for what reason should they undergo counseling--except perhaps to get over the trauma of being treated like domestic terrorists by local officials.

Officials talked to the student--again, described as "very cooperative"--and didn't believe him when he told them he was building a motion detector? No one thought to ask him to explain his idea, or even get a science teacher to see if the kid's explanation made sense?

And what, exactly, is the name of this school again? Oh yes, it's Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School. Tech.

Unless there are some very important facts missing in the linked article, every public employee mentioned in the article is an idiot. GAWD I wish people wouldn't act so foolishly.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Friday, January 15, 2010

One Semester Down

Today was a teacher work day--no students, who get a 4-day weekend. I graded my last class of final exams, input the scores, calculated semester grades, recorded citizenship grades--in other words, this semester is in the books.

I'm looking forward to a 3-day weekend, and darn it, I'm getting a sore throat.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Lucky Strike means fine tobacco.

Today's question is:
What section of highway is known as “The Loneliest Road In America”?

Science and Consensus

I like this excerpt from, of all people, author Michael Crichton:

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus...

Finally, I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mmm Mmm Mmm, Barack Hussein Obama

Remember the video of those schoolkids, singing my post title? The kids in this news video aren't quite as impressed.

(And yes, I think some of the kids were coached on what to say. That doesn't mean they're still not disappointed. Chalk this mistake to yet another one caused by having a bunch of rookies in the White House.)

Head Start

We sink billions of dollars a year into Head Start programs, but do these programs do any good?

Not so much.

Taxpayers have been on the hook for more than $100 billion for the Head Start program since 1965. This federal evaluation, which effectively shows no lasting impact on children after first grade and no difference between those children who attended Head Start and those who did not, should call into question the merits of increasing funding for the program, which the Obama administration recently did as part of the so-called “stimulus” bill.

Here's the government's actual report--at least, the 35-page executive summary. Here's one of the closing statements:

In sum, this report finds that providing access to Head Start has benefits for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in the cognitive, health, and parenting domains, and for 3-year-olds in the social-emotional domain. However, the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole.

Seven billion dollars a year is a lot of money to spend for benefits that don't last past 1st grade.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
New Providence.

Today's question is:
People of a certain age will remember the abbreviation LSMFT. What does it mean?


As I write this, I've graded the final exams for one of my three Algebra 2 classes. I'm going to schedule this post to show up on the blog as my last Algebra 2 class starts its final tomorrow, so that none of my students could possibly stumble upon this post and have an advantage when taking the test.

My final consists of a department-wide 15-question multiple choice section, as well as a Darren-made 15-question short answer section. Students did the multiple guess part first, then started the short answer part.

The second question on the short answer section (so there's no excuse for brains having already been turned to mush) was something like this: |something|=-6x . It doesn't matter what was in the absolute value sign, but it was something simple and linear like x-5. Since you, my reader, don't know what was in the absolute value sign, you can't solve the problem, but I ask you this: what can you tell me about the answer x?

Look at the problem and think for a moment.

I understand it's been awhile since many of you have worked with absolute values, so here's what I'm looking for: since the absolute value of a real number is never negative, then x must be negative because -6 times a negative number would be positive.

Solving the problem would give two answers, one positive and one negative--the positive one is extraneous, meaning that when you substitute it back into the original equation it doesn't work.

This was one of the easiest problems on the test, and yet only 3 of my 30 or so students wrote down the correct answer (which is just the negative answer). Most did all this work and then didn't even take the time (and they had plenty of time) to substitute their answers back in to check them. To say I'm disappointed would be an understatement.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Drummer Mick Fleetwood and Bassist John McVie. (Christing joined the band later.)

Today's question is:
On which island is Nassau, the capital city of The Bahamas, located?

Is High School Math Good Enough Preparation For College Math?

According to this piece, it's not.

We are in the midst of paradox in math education. As more states strive to improve math curricula and raise standardized test scores, more students show up to college unprepared for college-level math. The failure of pre-college math education has profound implications for the future of physics programs in the United States. A recent article in my local paper, the Baltimore Sun: “A Failing Grade for Maryland Math,” highlighted this problem that I believe is not unique to Maryland. It prompted me to reflect on the causes.

Not a bad essay, but I disagree with his tying the problem to "standards". There's nothing inherent in "standards" that makes them bad; in fact, I'll bet there were plenty of standards in math when you and I (and he) were in school! He's correct when he talks about confusing difficulty with rigor, and about inappropriate content (middle school kids' working with matrices? Please!). His discussion of mistaking process for understanding is also very elucidating, and also explains why I'm against using graphing calculators in K-12 education.

Again, he's mostly right, but we'll disagree on standards. The standards may not be good enough, or may be too stringent, or some people may try to teach them in superficial way just to get students to pass a standardized test, but those are not faults of having standards.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Algebra Project at a Local School

According to California's math standards, Algebra 1 is generally taken in 8th grade. So what is Robert Moses' Algebra Project doing being taught at nearby average-performing elementary school?

Beats me. But let's sample some choice quotes from California Educator:

Recognizing that their students needed more support in math, the Allison teachers sought out and developed the Algebra Project at their school site - initially as an after-school program, and then as part of their curriculum. The teachers not only implemented the program, they've worked to make sure it is aligned with state standards.

So they're teaching "algebra" to elementary students who need extra support in math? That pegs out my cynicism meter.

The Algebra Project was founded in 1982 by Harlem-born and Harvard-educated civil rights leader Dr. Robert P. Moses, who once said, "Becoming literate in mathematics is a life-and-death issue for the black community. If we don't get it, we're headed for a new form of serfdom."

No argument there.

Since the program (at the local school) was just implemented in the fall, it has yet to be determined if it will boost test scores, but teachers are hopeful, and researchers at UC Davis are closely monitoring the project and collecting data to determine if introducing algebra at an earlier age is efficacious.

If it is, in fact, "efficacious", that would put lie to the statement that algebra isn't "developmentally appropriate" for 8th graders when ordinary elementary students are doing it. Then again, we don't really know if it's "algebra" that's being taught or just something the school calls algebra.

Not to be lost in the pedagogy is the community organizing aspect of the project.

They had to go there, didn't they?

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Donner Party.

Today's question is:
After whom is the group Fleetwood Mac named?

Speech Codes and Other PC Nonsense At Universities

For many, the topic of political correctness feels oddly dated, like a debate over the best Nirvana album. There is a popular perception that P.C. was a battle fought and won in the 1990s. Campus P.C. was a hot new thing in the late 1980s and early ’90s, but by now the media have come to accept it as a more or less harmless, if unfortunate, byproduct of higher education.

But it is not harmless. With so many examples of censorship and administrative bullying, a generation of students is getting four years of dangerously wrongheaded lessons about both their own rights and the importance of respecting the rights of others...

Yet FIRE has determined that 71 percent of the 375 top colleges still have policies that severely restrict speech. And the problem isn’t limited to campuses that are constitutionally bound to respect free expression. The overwhelming majority of universities, public and private, promise incoming students and professors academic freedom and free speech. When such schools turn around and attempt to limit those students’ and instructors’ speech, they reveal themselves as hypocrites, susceptible not only to rightful public ridicule but also to lawsuits based on their violations of contractual promises.

Can you believe the above? Well, it was written by Greg Lukianoff. And who is he?

Greg Lukianoff ( is the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Where's the ACLU?

A teenager expelled from his Glenn County high school for having shotguns in his vehicle, which was parked off campus, will challenge his expulsion this week...

Tudesko told school officials he'd gone on an early morning duck-hunting trip before school that morning and believed the guns would not be a problem if he parked off campus...

School officials claimed they had the legal authority to expel Tudesko. The teen and his family, with legal support from the NRA, are challenging the decision. link

Maybe the ACLU doesn't think the 2nd Amendment has anything to do with civil liberties. At least the NRA is there to help.

And while state education code does grant schools authority over students on the way to/from school (so schools can punish students for fights on the way home, for example), I can't imagine for the life of me why schools would be searching cars parked off-campus, even during school hours.

What'cha Gonna Do Now, Mr. President?

The labour force contracted by 661,000. This did not show up in the headline jobless rate because so many Americans dropped out of the system. The broad U6 category of unemployment rose to 17.3pc. That is the one that matters...

David Rosenberg from Gluskin Sheff said it is remarkable how little traction has been achieved by zero rates and the greatest fiscal blitz of all time. The US economy grew at a 2.2pc rate in the third quarter (entirely due to Obama stimulus). This compares to an average of 7.3pc in the first quarter of every recovery since the Second World War. link

A federal spending surge of more than $20 billion for roads and bridges in President Barack Obama's first stimulus has had no effect on local unemployment rates, raising questions about his argument for billions more to address an "urgent need to accelerate job growth."

An Associated Press analysis of stimulus spending found that it didn't matter if a lot of money was spent on highways or none at all: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless. And the stimulus spending only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, the analysis showed...

But AP's analysis, which was reviewed by independent economists at five universities, showed the strategy of pumping transportation money into counties hasn't affected local unemployment rates so far. link

When even al-AP can't find something to trumpet in the so-called stimulus spending, the Democrats must know they're in trouble.

Eventually the economy will work itself out, but it won't be because of anything the president or Congress have done so far.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was the name given to the famous group of California settlers who resorted to cannibalism after getting snowed in up in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the winter of 1846-47?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

So-called Stimulus Spending

Why Government Spending Does Not Stimulate Economic Growth: Answering the Critics

Which Is Worse, Global Warming or Global Cooling?

In there past when there had been warming, humanity thrived. When there had been cooling, life was harder.

Prepare for harder.

The bitter winter afflicting much of the Northern Hemisphere is only the start of a global trend towards cooler weather that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years, say some of the world’s most eminent climate scientists.

Their predictions – based on an analysis of natural cycles in water temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans – challenge some of the global warming orthodoxy’s most deeply cherished beliefs, such as the claim that the North Pole will be free of ice in
summer by 2013.

According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, Arctic summer sea ice has increased by 409,000 square miles, or 26 per cent, since 2007 – and even the most committed global warming activists do not dispute this...

But the effects are not confined to the Northern Hemisphere. Prof Anastasios Tsonis, head of the University of Wisconsin Atmospheric Sciences Group, has recently shown that these MDOs move together in a synchronised way across the globe, abruptly flipping the world’s climate from a ‘warm mode’ to a ‘cold mode’ and back again in 20 to 30-year cycles.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in Space Flight Week, is:
French Guiana.

Today's question is:
In what year did Switzerland join the United Nations?

New Record In Pi Eating Contest

Stories like this interest me not because of how many digits we can get to, but because of the creativity and work required to get those digits:

PARIS (AFP) – A French software engineer said on Friday he was claiming a world record for calculating Pi, the constant that has fascinated mathematicians for millennia.

Fabrice Bellard told AFP he used an inexpensive desktop computer -- and not a supercomputer used in past records -- to calculate Pi to nearly 2.7 trillion decimal places.

That is around 123 billion digits more than the previous record set last August by Japanese professor Daisuke Takahashi, he said.

Takahashi, using a T2K Open Supercomputer, took 29 hours to crunch Pi to 2.577 billion digits.

Bellard took 131 days, comprising 103 for the computation in binary digits, 13 days for verification, 12 days to convert the binary digits to a base of 10 and three final days to check the conversion...

"It is a completely standard PC. The only unusual thing is that it has five 1.5-teraoctet hard disks. Mainstream PCs generally have only one 1-teraoctet disk."

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Mark Steyn on the President and the War On Islamofascism

Barack Obama has spent the past year doing big-time Islamoschmoozing, from his announcement of Gitmo's closure and his investigation of Bush officials, to his bow before the Saudi king and a speech in Cairo to "the Muslim world" with far too many rhetorical concessions and equivocations. And at the end of it the jihad sent America a thank-you note by way of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's underwear: Hey, thanks for all the outreach! But we're still gonna kill you.

According to one poll, 58 percent of Americans are in favor of waterboarding young Umar Farouk. Well, you should have thought about that before you made a community organizer president of the world's superpower. The election of Barack Obama was a fundamentally unserious act by the U.S. electorate, and you can't blame the world's mischief-makers, from Putin to Ahmadinejad to the many Gitmo recidivists now running around Yemen, from drawing the correct conclusion. link

Aside from bolding several words above, I have nothing to add that would improve the commentary.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Project Constellation, which includes the Orion space capsule (“Apollo on steroids”) and the Ares launch rocket.

Today's question, the last in Space Flight Week, is:
From which country does the European Space Agency launch its rockets?

Prisons vs. Universities, Budgeting Fiascos

Governor Schwarzenegger continues to disappoint. During the State of the State message earlier this week he said the following:

Thirty years ago 10 percent of the general fund went to higher education and 3 percent went to prisons.

Today almost 11 percent goes to prisons and only 7 1/2 percent goes to higher education.

Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future.

What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns?

It simply is not healthy.

I will submit to you a constitutional amendment so that never again do we spend a greater percentage of our money on prisons than on higher education.

Wow. So much idiocy in so few sentences. First, this, from an article in which some actually support this idea:

"The governor, some years ago, railed against autopilot budgeting," said Steve Boilard, director of higher education for the nonpartisan California Legislative Analyst's Office. "This is just another set of restrictions that may not make sense in future years."

I heard on a talk radio show I listen to on the way to work that California already has the 3rd longest constitution in the world. It's over 17 times as long as the US Constitution, in part because we have so many requirements to spend such-and-such a percentage of the state budget in a certain area, whether or not we need to--autopilot budgeting. The governor's proposal would add another such requirement.

Additionally, on that same radio show, the hosts brought up an interesting point. Why conflate or compare education and prisons? What do they have to do with each other? Bringing it to a personal example here (and I'm still paraphrasing the host), if I spend more money on golf than I do on shoes, should I require that I spend more on shoes to make for a "better" situation? What do golf and shoes have to do with each other?

And this proposal was from a Republican governor. Had he been a Democrat here in California he'd have proposed the same idiotic amendment, plus
1. he'd lower the threshold for raising taxes from 2/3 to 55% in the legislature (a dream of Democrats here in CA), and
2. he'd raise taxes to pay for higher education.

California doesn't have an income problem, it has a spending problem.

I'm sure many of you non-Californians have heard of Proposition 13 but might not know what it is. In the 1970s, local property taxes in some areas were rising so fast that people, especially the elderly on a fixed income who already owned their homes outright, were being forced out of their homes because they couldn't afford the higher property taxes. In 1978 Californians passed Prop 13, which capped property taxes at 1% of the property's assessed value and capped property tax increases at 2% per year. If property values climb sharply, property taxes still increase at only 2% per year; only if the property is sold will the taxes reset at 1% of the assessed value. The purpose was to halt what in 1978 was described as "obscene" budget surpluses in some locales.

Many people wrongly blame Prop 13 for California's budget problems. While it certainly has limited property tax receipts, California isn't hurting for money: here's a chart of state income tax rates, here's a chart of state sales tax rates (it's out of date, as California's has been raised to 8.25% plus local sales taxes), and here's a chart of state corporate tax rates. As you can see, California is at or near the top in all three categories. California doesn't have an income problem, it has a spending problem.

So, back to the governor's proposal. Are we to spend less on prisons (keeping in mind that the corrections officers' union is one of the most powerful special interests in California), or are we to spend more on higher education, even though we're deep in the budget doo-doo:

One thing is clear in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's final January budget proposal: California's finances are about as desperate as desperate gets.

Facing a $19.9 billion deficit, the Republican governor placed a big bet on a federal infusion of $6.9 billion. Should that fail to materialize, he proposes eliminating welfare-to-work, suspending business tax benefits and cutting state worker pay more deeply than the 10 percent reduction already in play.

California's experiment in socialism is crashing down all around us and some choose to ignore it, claiming that if we just made it easier for the legislature to raise taxes then everything would be OK.

I don't see how anyone can trust this legislature with more money, even if that money were to be spent on the angels who inhabit our higher education system.

Friday, January 08, 2010

John Dewey and Freedom

Schools of education love to quote John Dewey, amongst others. The current issue of National Review has lengthy articles on 4 early progressives, including Dewey, and I thought these passages about freedom speak loudly to us today:

The progressives’ view on this matter is particularly obvious in the scorn they heap upon the free market, an economic system animated by the selfish, and hence base, profit motive, but they viewed virtually every aspect of life in America — e.g. the prevailing interpretation of Christian Scripture and worship of God, the aim and methods of education, the physical layout and architecture of our cities and towns, the pattern of rural settlement and the character of life within it, the use of our natural resources, etc. — in the same light. The way of living inherited from the American founding was, in short, a cesspool of selfishness.

When freedom is redefined in terms of spiritual fulfillment, the “problem of achieving freedom” radically changes. Freedom is no longer secured by constraining government interference with “the liberty of individuals in matters of conscience and economic action,” as Dewey notes, but rather by “establishing an entire social order, possessed of a spiritual authority that would nurture and direct the inner as well as the outer life of individuals.” The problem with limited government — with a government dedicated to securing the natural rights of man — is that it does not perform the more positive role of “nurtur[ing] and direct[ing]” the spiritual lives of the governed. Rather, it secures mere “negative freedom.” “Negative freedom,” Dewey clarifies, is “freedom from subjection to the will and control of others . . . capacity to act without being exposed to direct obstructions or interferences from others.” In practice, freedom understood as natural rights is “negative” because government puts individuals in the enjoyment of their rights (e.g. the right to acquire and use one’s property, to speak, to worship God according to the dictates of one’s conscience, etc.), primarily by restraining others — and, importantly, itself — from interfering with the individual’s right to make such decisions. While interference with individual decision-making is certainly not altogether illegitimate in a limited government, freedom is the normal case and restraint the exception.

At best, Dewey argues, such a government secures to every individual the mere legal right to realize his spiritual potential, a right that for many is essentially worthless...

If mere negative freedom is to be transformed into what Dewey calls “effective” freedom, accordingly, negative government must give way to positive government. That is, the legislative power of government must expand in whatever ways are needed — and hence however far proves necessary — to effect a wider and deeper distribution of the resources essential to the actualization of every American’s spiritual potential. As Dewey presents it, and as subsequent political practice confirmed, this process is basically synonymous with the implementation of the positive conception of individual rights. In this new order, individuals are entitled to whatever resources they need to attain spiritual fulfillment.

The government big enough to give you whatever you think you want or need is big enough to take from you whatever it wants or needs. That may sound like a platitude, but its truth is undeniable.