Monday, February 28, 2011

Teacher Fired Over A Bumper Sticker

A teacher in Arizona had a bumper sticker, one of many, which read, "Have you drugged your kid today"--an obvious reference to Ritalin and similar drugs. This particular bumper sticker upset some parents, and the (public charter) school administration asked her either to remove that sticker or park elsewhere. She refused to do either, and got fired.

Now, this teacher is no genius. One of her other bumper stickers says, "I'm already against the next war". Good to know there's nothing she's willing to fight for--except the "right" to have bumper stickers on her car, I guess. But even idiots have free speech rights, and if there's nothing more to the story than what I've written above, she's right and the school is wrong.

Update, 3/13/11: This time it's a bus driver:
An Oregon school bus driver fired after he refused to remove a Confederate battle flag flying from his pickup truck has enlisted the help of a conservative civil liberties group in hopes of getting his job back.
Hat tip to Colossus of Rhodey for the link.

A White Guy Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

Is this where we're headed?

Colby Bohannan said that when he first applied to college, his family didn't have a huge stockpile of money set aside to pay for school. He found many scholarships for women and minorities, but none aimed at people like him: white men.

"I felt excluded," said Bohannan, a Texas State University student. "If everyone else can find scholarships, why are we left out?"

So Bohannan, a mass communication major and Iraq war veteran, and others formed the Former Majority Association for Equality — a San Marcos-based nonprofit group that is offering five $500 scholarships exclusively to white male students.

Bohannan, the group's president, said the name comes from the idea that "if you're not a male, and if you're not white, you're called a minority." However, he said, "I'm not sure white males are the majority anymore"...

Applicants need to be at least 25 percent Caucasian, have a GPA exceeding 3.0 and demonstrate financial need.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was Bank of America's original name?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Trivia

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

Today's question is:
Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve's first two children. Who was their third?

Sunday Morning Melange

Pro-abortion activist threatens pro-lifers

California is in deep 22:
Closing California's deficit this year would be immeasurably easier if the state weren't paying for a 10-year borrowing binge...

But the state has had an insatiable appetite for debt in recent years. In the last decade, the debt per resident has tripled, to $2,362, according to the credit-rating agency Moody's Investors Service...

Voters have approved borrowing in the last 10 years for such causes as stem-cell research ($3 billion), high-speed rail ($10 billion), and parks, water and the environment ($14 billion). They even took on $15 billion in debt to paper over a deficit that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said would never reemerge — something economists have scolded the state for doing.

Because of its rock-bottom credit rating, California pays a premium for its loans. Taxpayers must fork over roughly $2 for every $1 borrowed — about 20% more than top-rated states, said Matt Fabian, an analyst at Municipal Market Advisors, a bond research firm.
I don't think the MSNBC-types expected Harvard professor Niall Ferguson to speak this way: "I do think that the president regards making touchy-feely speeches as a substitute for having a strategy."

A story from Nazi history I'd never before heard:
On February 22, 1943, Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and Christoph Probst were executed by guillotine in Munich, Germany. Their crimes? Anonymously distributing leaflets criticizing the German government at the University of Munich. They were members of the White Rose, an underground student group that should inspire every American who loves the cause of liberty.

By the end of the interview, Letterman is reduced to admitting to the audience that he is completely outmatched... but that Rand Paul is somehow wrong in his arguments anyway. (video clip included)

My Biggest Fear About the "21st Century Skills/Critical Thinking" Movement

Joanne encapsulates the problem here.

And no, content is not unimportant just because it can be googled.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Today's Rally and Tea Party Counter-rally in Sacramento

I attended today's rally and counter-rally as a citizen-journalist. I went there with the intention of taking still pictures and video showing the wrongness of the side and the rightness of the Tea Party side. I'm sad to report that I got it half right. The leftie gathering was as wrongheaded and goofy as I thought they'd be, but the Tea Party side did not acquit itself well, either. I was both ashamed and disappointed, as I expected better from them.

Let's look at the signs, which I'll divide into three groups. The first group is "their side", the union/ side:
click on pictures to enlarge
Oh, the irony.

How does collective bargaining help your students?

What is it with the Guy Fawkes masks?

Hanging from that sign were some Keds.

Gotta love college students, especially cute ones.

I saw three different signs referencing "plutocrats". Must be the word of the day for lefties.

Way to stay classy.

This was the among the most reasonable signs I saw among the lefties. At least it leaves some room for discussion and debate.

These pictures are also from "their" side--but what I don't understand is what Code Pink has to do with this rally, and what wikileaker PFC Bradley Manning has to do with union privileges. After all, Manning wasn't in a union!

Next, signs from my side of the political divide. Again, click to enlarge any of them:

Subject-verb agreement, dude.

Note the guy in the white shirt, between the two flags. We'll see him again.

It wouldn't be a Tea Party rally without a Gadsden Flag!

Well, there's "their" side and "our" side--what can the third group be? It's the group containing two pictures I took of a teacher I work with, that's what! He and I don't agree on these types of things, but at least I understand the point he's trying to make with his signs:

By my amateur count, there were maybe a hundred righties and a thousand lefties at these two rallies--a small turnout, in any event. And look at the sky, see how people are dressed--it's not like the weather was keeping anyone away! There were California Highway Patrol and Sacramento City Police on duty, on horseback and on bicycle, to keep the rallies separate, but I had no problem going back and forth across the street to get pictures and video from any vantage point I desired. For the most part it was tame; there were no Kenneth Gladney extremes today.

Judging from the signs shown above, I think it's clear that the Tea Partiers won the day on the merits of their written messages. Unfortunately, whenever someone on either side of the street opened his or her mouth, the result was disappointing. Honestly, can you do no better than talking points that you don't even think about or understand? Lefties, is anyone really trying to get rid of unions? Righties, is the very concept of a union evil? Lefties, do you even know who the Koch brothers are, and had you even heard of them before last week? The only person I really engaged was on the right, shouting into her bullhorn that, among other things, you couldn't be a taxpayer if you were a tax taker (she was arguing with a teacher across the street). I asked her if that same sentiment applied to soldiers, and she said yes. Way to stay classy, gotta love that patriotism. Here's some of her intellectually-stimulating and reasoned debate:

As I said so often today, way to stay classy.

If you're just trying to get someone's goat, I guess this kind of foolishness works. But if you're trying to get people to come around to your way of thinking, well, exactly what demographic are you trying to appeal to with those words? And yes, that goes for both sides, but I was particularly saddened by this woman who, with her ignorant speech, cheapens the side I believe in--and she wasn't the only one. There needs to be some intelligent message discipline--some talking points, as it were, so we on the right can come across as being reasonable, decent, informed, everyday folks. Because if we don't, the media and others will paint all of us with this woman's brush.

Let's watch this angry Teamster for a moment:

Remember the guy I mentioned earlier, the one in the picture, wearing a white shirt and appearing between two flags? Well, Teamster-guy attacked him (I didn't see it) and he needed a bandage on his left hand. Here he is talking to the police behind the News10 van:

And here's Teamster-guy being talked to by the police nearby:

Here's some general-purpose video I shot throughout the rally. As I said, I don't think either side acquitted itself especially well today.

For bandwidth's sake I'm posting only the low-resolution version of this video here on the blog. The clearer, high-resolution version can be viewed here.

Update, 2/27/11: Here's more detail about the injured tea partier and the rabid Teamster. Here's a report about the various rallies held across the country, and how sparsely attended they were.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
In God We Trust.

Today's question is:
Actor Peter Arness is better known by what name?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Killing The Goose That Lays The Golden Eggs?

This district is just down the road from where I live. I don't know how these people think the district is going to close its budget gap:

The Natomas Unified School District's effort to avoid bankruptcy and a state takeover suffered a setback when the district's classified employees rejected a tentative agreement regarding furlough days.

The district announced that the membership of the California School Employees Association Chapter No. 745, which represents non-teaching employees, rejected the tentative agreement that the association's negotiating team reached with the district Jan. 11.
Ignoring the problem won't make it go away.

OK To Kill The Unborn, But Not To Cut Off A Foreskin

Reader and fellow blogger MikeAT passed this story on to me, and it's just too good to pass up:

Most bans in San Francisco are enacted by the Board of Supervisors, but come November, it sounds like voters will have the opportunity to jump on the ban wagon by deciding whether to ban male circumcision.
San Francisco is full of abortion supporters. How does one square these conflicting views? (Yes, I know how people will try to spin an answer, but they'll only end up looking like pretzels.)

Gentle? How About Nutty?

Remember the Scott McKenzie song San Francisco ?
If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there
Does this sound gentle, or just nutty?
A vintage Coca-Cola sign decorating the side of a San Francisco house is falling flat with some residents.

City officials say the painted sign in the Bernal Heights neighborhood violates anti-billboard laws and must come down.

And that's not the only offensive thing about Richard Modolo's sign. Some residents also want it removed, saying it promotes obesity by advertising a sugary drink.
Promoting obesity by advertising a sugary drink. Nanny-staters sure want to control how you live your life, don't they?

Ashamed That These Are Fellow Teachers

What's Been Proposed For California Teacher Retirements?

I've written my first post--linking to a news story about a California report on pension reform--over at CTEN's new blog.

Update: This link was just sent to me along with the comment, "Something's got to give somewhere":

As California school districts anticipate possibly the worst budget crisis in a generation, many will try to lighten their burden by enticing older teachers into retirement. But as more and more teachers retire -- with a pension averaging 55 percent to 60 percent of salary -- they will be straining a system that already can't meet its obligations.

The California State Teachers' Retirement System is sliding down a steep slope toward insolvency. The threat isn't to teachers who have retired or plan to, but to the people of California. Taxpayers, who already pick up 23 percent of CalSTRS expenses, will be increasingly burdened as the giant pension system fails to meet its obligations.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What is the United States' official motto?

Why Math Might Not Be Important

Even if you don't know math, you can still be the president of a national teachers' union:

Randi Weingarten heads the 1.4 million member American Federation of Teachers, wielding considerable power and influence from her office in Washington DC. This morning we learned that she probably failed Math. From MSNBC’s Morning Joe:

(see video clip at link)

26,000 divided by 12 months equals 2166.66 per month.

Randi came up with a very different number.

The Two Faces of Democrats

On the NewsAlert blog I saw two linked stories that were very close together in space but worlds apart in meaning.

The first story dealt with the Wisconsin legislature and the collective bargaining issue. I've added the boldface in both:

Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly took the first significant action on their plan to strip collective bargaining rights from most public workers, abruptly passing the measure early Friday morning before sleep-deprived Democrats realized what was happening.

The vote ended three straight days of punishing debate in the Assembly. But the political standoff over the bill — and the monumental protests at the state Capitol against it — appear far from over.

The Assembly's vote sent the bill on to the Senate, but minority Democrats in that house have fled to Illinois to prevent a vote and say they won't return unless Republican Gov. Scott Walker agrees to discuss a compromise. Republicans who control the Senate sent state troopers out looking for them at their homes on Thursday, but they turned up nothing.

"This kind of solidifies our resolve," Democratic Sen. Chris Larson said Friday after the Assembly vote. "If we come back, they're going to ram this through without us having a say."
Three stories below that is one about a meeting of governors at the White House:

President Obama and Vice President Biden will welcome governors to a private meeting at the White House on Friday, but only Democrats are invited. They’ll talk about “the ways Washington and the states can work together to grow the economy and create jobs” — maybe even in states run by Republicans?
In the first story, the boldface type is incorrect. Mr. Larson, you'll have a say, you'll just lose the vote. This is very unlike the second situation, wherein Republicans won't have a say, or a vote, at all.

Every Kid To College? No.

Long-time RotLC reader and commenter Michael Mazenko has a column published in the Denver Post--and can you believe it? We agree!

Politicians and education reformers never talk about producing more plumbers or IT technicians or dental hygienists or physical therapists, just more scientists and engineers. President Obama and Bill Gates preach incessantly about the need for the United States to produce degree holders to keep up with the technological demands of a global economy. And that is certainly a noble and necessary goal. Yet, for every engineer we produce, we need hundreds, if not thousands, of skilled technicians to manufacture and repair the innovations those engineers create. Clearly, current education reform based almost entirely on standardized test scores and college degrees is the wrong direction for Colorado and for the United States...

Colorado needs to design educational standards and goals that move beyond basic academic skills learned at desks and measured by standardized tests. For every new magnet or charter school like the Denver School of Science and Technology, Colorado districts need to offer technical education like that found at Hamilton Career Technical Center near Cincinnati, Ohio. Hamilton is winning praise for its record of producing skilled health care technicians, electricians, and mechanics, and offering viable careers to non-academic students.

I think we need both--education that ensures at least basic academic skills, as well as either college-bound academic education or vocational training that incorporates academic skills into education about trades.

Who's really against vocational education? Why this push for everyone to go to college when we can't even get too many of our students to master algebra?

Remind Me, Again, Which Is The Party of No?

From Charles Krauthammer:

Obama's Democrats have become the party of no. Real cuts to the federal budget? No. Entitlement reform? No. Tax reform? No. Breaking the corrupt and fiscally unsustainable symbiosis between public-sector unions and state governments? Hell, no.
(Hat tip to NewsAlert.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is College The Place For Remedial Training?

I can understand having remedial courses offered in junior college--where else would they be offered?--but there's no way I, were I in charge, would ever allow such courses at 4-year universities. You're either ready for a university or you're not. The statistics aren't promising:

The stakes of getting stuck in remedial classes and never earning a degree are especially high in California, which is home to the nation's largest community college system, with 112 campuses and 2.9 million students. Nationally, between 60 percent and 80 percent are placed in the basic-skills classes Carrillo and her classmates can't escape, leading many to quit in frustration.

Remedial education is where far too many community college students begin and end their careers, and it remains one of the most intractable obstacles to graduation, said Tom Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. Only 31 percent of students placed into remedial math ever get to college-level work, and half of students referred to remediation of any kind complete the entire sequence, Bailey has found.

Bailey's research has shown that remedial education is often ineffective, and students who need it drop out at alarming rates.
In California, juniors can answer some extra questions on the state standardized tests in April and, if they do well enough on those, can skip the "entry-level math" test required at CSU campuses; if they don't do well enough, if they don't answer the extra questions, or if they haven't met some of the other requirements, they must take the $18 ELM test. The test is scored on a 0-80 scale, with a score of 50 being required to skip the university's remedial math course.

I once had a student who struggled through Algebra 2. I grade only performance, not effort, and she gutted it out and earned either a C- or a C. I was proud of her, as I know she worked hard for it and passed the class honestly. Upon being accepted to a CSU she took the ELM test--and scored 49. I figure that, given her perseverance, she probably did OK in the remedial course.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The bell curve.

Today's question is:
In what year did the Gateway Arch in St. Louis open?

A Minority Student Who Didn't Fit In

For the most part, this was a well-written article about the different approaches taken by different schools to help minority students feel welcome at a university--and ultimately stay and graduate. I was utterly taken aback, though, by the story of one student who left Lehigh and eventually went to Temple:

Feeling snubbed at frat parties wasn't the worst part for Nezy Smith. She'd watch white students drive around campus in their cars and see the slender girls trek up and down the hill on which the campus sits. Her family couldn't afford for her to have a car. And she had curves.

"That's when color came into play. I couldn't accept the fact that I was black," Smith said, recalling how this grew into a full-blown identity crisis by the start of her sophomore year.

Darren the Amateur Psychologist says that this young woman has some serious issues to deal with, totally apart from her education.

Opposition to ROTC

I don't anticipate that ROTC will return to Ivy League campuses for quite some time. Who opposes ROTC, and on what grounds?

Opponents generally fall into two camps -- one opposing ROTC because of whom it excludes, the other because of what the military does (a third line of criticism arises from faculty concerns over the academic quality of ROTC programs). At Columbia, these opponents look with hope to the last vote, in 2005, of the University Senate, when that body opted overwhelmingly to continue barring ROTC from campus. But some on this side also acknowledge that the climate has, in fact, changed.

"I believe 'don't ask, don't tell' was the main polarizing issue," said Daniela Garcia, a senior who opposed ROTC then and now. "The anti-war argument was pushed to the side." But that argument -- which focuses on a disdain for militarism in general and faults the service branches for what opponents see as aggressive recruiting of the poor -- is one that she and others want to resurrect.

"It's about what the military does as a whole," said Garcia. "The structured violence of the military is not compatible with educational institutions." A coalition of student groups -- primarily Lucha, an immigrants' and workers' rights organization, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the International Socialist Organization -- has emerged.

The other faction argues that bringing ROTC back to campuses would still violate nondiscrimination policies because the military continues to prevent transgender people from serving. "At the end of the day, if one person is discriminated against, we have a problem," said Sean Udell, president of Columbia's senior class and of the university's Queer Alliance...

Still others see the latest critiques of ROTC as proof that elite universities are unalterably hostile to the presence of the military on their campuses, and that "don't ask, don't tell" served as a convenient excuse for keeping the military away.

I've said it many times--I never believed for a moment that opposition to Don't Ask, Don't Tell--which, incidentally, allowed gays to serve, and was an improvement over the prior policy--was the reason behind opposition to ROTC at the Ivies, or anywhere else. Anybody still want to claim it is, and that I'm wrong?

Soldiers and Dogs, Stay Off The Grass

I don't know if such signs ever existed, but I heard stories about such signs when I was young. In the late- and post-Vietnam era, when respect for soldiers was at an ebb, it was said that there were such signs in public places.

I first read this story last night and cheered for the restaurant owner:

Fed up with what he views as crappy treatment from the TSA, the owner of a restaurant near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has decided to put all TSA agents on his No-Eat List.

"We have posted signs on our doors basically saying that they aren't allowed to come into our business," one employee tells travel journalist Christopher Elliott. "We have the right to refuse service to anyone."

She says that whenever a TSA agent attempts to dine at the restaurant, "we turn our backs and completely ignore them, and tell them to leave... Their kind aren't welcomed in our establishment."

Before we go any further, yes, it is legal. TSA workers are not a protected class like racial minorities and the handicapped are, so it's entirely legal to discriminate against them. We've all seen those signs in restaurants--"we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone"--and those signs are there exactly for cases like this.

And readers of this blog know of the complete and total contempt I have for the TSA as an organization and for the people who work there. In my view, what they do is sick, it's ineffective, it's a waste of money, and it's un-American.

So when I first read the linked story, I cheered at one person's ability to strike a blow, however small, against the cretins--and make no mistake, I do believe they're cretins.

This morning, though, I'm having second thoughts about my cheering. I've written before that I don't think every single thing needs to be made into a political issue; while TSA-hatred isn't political in a partisan sense, the concept is the same--we don't really need to broadcast our beliefs every instant of the day, nor to act on every single one of them. At some point there's got to be a "go along to get along" philosophy or else society itself falls apart.

Yes, there are lines I wouldn't cross. Unlike the NEA, I wouldn't allow the local communists to meet in my cafeteria for their meetings. But there's a huge difference between communists and TSA agents. TSA agents are, at worst, losers doing a crappy job, but they're not trying to get rid of capitalism and democracy. Somewhere between TSA agents and communists is where *I* would draw the line.

I don't really want to live in a society wherein I'd have to wonder if "my kind" is allowed in a certain establishment, or where I'd have to do my homework to determine if the owners of the establishments I frequent support "my kinds" of causes. Everybody's money is green, and I'd think businesses wouldn't want to turn off entire segments of the customer population by openly espousing certain political philosophies and catering only to those who hold those philosophies. As Michael Jordan once supposedly said when asked why he didn't support a certain Democratic candidate, "Republicans buy shoes, too."

So if the issue is big and important enough, if you'd feel like a hypocrite if you served a certain type of person or did business with a certain company, then I guess you've gotta do what you've gotta do and stand by your principles. But if your principles dictate that you can only do business with people who think like you do, I'd suggest that you'd need a very strong business plan. After all, what's next--"no Democrats served here"? "Republicans not welcome"? I certainly don't agree with the Wisconsin teachers, but if I had a hotdog cart I'd sell them hotdogs at lunchtime.

The priority for any business is to make money for its owners. In fact, I'd assert that that's the only function of a business. And everybody's money is green.

I'll still write about the TSA. I'll still slam them every opportunity I get. I'll still hope that entire operation goes away. And I will not cut the workers any "they're just doing their job" slack when it comes to "just doing their job".

But I don't really want to see any "soldiers and dogs, stay off the grass" signs.

(And yes, I know the restaurant story may be a hoax. That doesn't change my sentiment.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The NEA Wants More Of Your Money

And remember, in 28 states they're entitled to your money it by law:

NEA to Double Member Dues Contribution to Political War Chest. Amid substantial membership losses and a $14 million shortfall in its general operating budget, the National Education Association plans to double each active member's annual contribution to the national union's political and media funds.

Currently, $10 of each active member's NEA dues is allocated to these special accounts. The more than $20 million collected each year is then disbursed to state affiliates and political issue campaigns - such as last year's SQ 744 in Oklahoma. A portion of the money also pays for state and national media buys to support the union's agenda.

But the most recent numbers show NEA lost more than 54,000 active K-12 members since this time last year. Coupled with less-than-expected increases in the average teacher salary - upon which NEA dues are based - the union will find itself with $14 million less revenue than it had planned. This includes about $500,000 less in the political and media funds.

Faced with unfriendly legislatures and governors seeking to roll back the union's influence, the NEA Executive Committee decided to double down - literally. It proposed raising each active member's assessment to $20, effective in September 2011. The union's board of directors ratified the decision, and it will go before the NEA Representative Assembly for a vote this July in Chicago. If passed, NEA's national dues for teachers will total $178.

The increase in the assessment has a five-year sunset clause, but this is just eyewash, since the last time the contribution was doubled - from $5 to $10 in 2004 - it also had a five-year sunset clause. The 2007 NEA Representative Assembly made the $10 contribution permanent.

NEA is already the top political campaign spender in the nation. This increase will give the national union an additional $40 million per election cycle. The increase alone is larger than all but two other groups spent during the entire 2007-08 cycle.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
10, in the 1942 movie There's One Born Every Minute.

Today's question is:
What is the more commonly known name for what in statistics is called the “normal curve”?

Tea Party

GAY BLACK TEA PARTYER Attacked By Racist SEIU Activists at Denver Tea Party (Videos)

What they say about the Tea Party--is really true about themselves.

I haven't seen the stories of Tea Partiers' beating people up--and if it happened, you know it would have been the top story on every newscast for a week.

Lefties should just admit that they are, at heart, violent thugs who want to enforce their views on everyone, democracy be damned.

Update: Here's a Tea Partier hitting someone. Oops, my bad! He's a union thug--hitting a woman.

Update #2, 2/24/11: Here's a nice roundup of videos. I agree with the closing sentiment, that lefties must be very proud of themselves.

Back From Skiing A Little Early

The friend I went with wasn't feeling so great; in fact, he came in a couple hours before I did yesterday. Didn't feel up to skiing at all today, and since I didn't go up there to ski alone, we had a leisurely morning and then headed back to Sacramento--stopping by the Boa Vista Orchards in Apple Hill on the way back for some much needed hot cider and snackies.

I'll post a few pictures in awhile.

Update, 2/24/11: Pics! Click on them to enlarge.

Heavenly Valley's gondola, within walking distance (even in ski boots) of the casinos at the stateline.

View from the top, looking west.

View from the top towards Carson City. Friend sneaks into the shot again!

Heading back down at the end of the day.

The four casinos at Stateline.

From left to right: Harvey's, Harrah's, Horizon, and Montbleu (formerly Caesar's Tahoe). We stayed at Harvey's. You can pretty much see the stateline (to the left/south) in this picture.

At 111 mb, the panoramic video I took would take about forever to load....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
It was first played in 1930 and won by Uruguay.

Today's question is:
How old was Elizabeth Taylor when she made her first movie appearance?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Simon Legree.

Today's question is:
In what year was the World Cup first played? Bonus question: who won?

Now That I've Jumped Into The Fire About The Wisconsin Teachers...

...I'm jumping right back out and going skiing for a few days :-) The dog and the house are in good hands, the hotel room is booked, and Tahoe awaits.

I won't have internet access so comments won't be posted until I get back. Trivia questions, though, are already scheduled and will pop up at 4pm each day--so keep on checking back!

"See" you in a few days.

Why The Teachers In Wisconsin Are Wrong

I've received several emails asking why I haven't commented on the Wisconsin debacle, and the reason is that I wanted to gather some information and try to add something more than just a "me too" post about it. I think I'm ready now.

Let me begin by pointing out that I understand why the teachers are angry--they're worried about more money coming out of their pockets. The governor wants them to start kicking in for their own retirements (no!) and to pay for 1/8 of their health care costs (horrors!). Neither of those is unreasonable, but since they haven't had to pay for them before, they will see less take-home pay if the measure passes. Additionally, the governor's plan will place limits on what types of workplace issues can be bargained collectively.

I've seen interviews with some of the protesters who claim that they understand about the money, but it's the collective bargaining they're concerned about. I don't believe them, but let's assume for a moment that that's true for one or two of them. What's being proposed is only a return to the status quo 2008:

Mr. Walker also wants to limit the power of public-employee unions to negotiate contracts and work rules—something that 24 states already limit or ban.

The governor's move is in reaction to a 2009 law implemented by the then-Democratic legislature that expanded public unions' collective-bargaining rights and lifted existing limits on teacher raises.

Since Wisconsin is widely recognized as the state where "progressivism" began or held the most sway, I'm having a hard time believing that Wisconsin's teachers toiled in sweatshop conditions until the 2009 law was passed. The democratically-elected governor, who hasn't felt the need to tell anyone "I won" in order to try to get his policies approved, is merely trying to rein in a public union that has been given too much leeway.

And because of this he's compared to Mubarak, Mussolini, Hitler, et al, and legislators have actually left the state to avoid a quorum in a state senate otherwise sure to pass the bill.

As a teacher, though, I'm appalled at the behavior of the teachers (and of the doctors that lie for them). We tell students to follow the rules, and these teachers lie about being sick in order to continue to be paid--from public funds!--while protesting a reasonable law. We teach students about civil disobedience, but these teachers act like a mob. Civil disobedience involves violating an unjust law, hoping to be arrested in order to draw attention to the need to change the unjust law; that is not what is happening in Wisconsin. We teach children that it's a sign of maturity to accept the consequences of one's actions, but these teachers get doctors to write notes which illegally claim the teachers truly are sick so that the teachers don't get in trouble for violating both their own contracts as well as state law (more on that here and here and here). We tell children how important their education is, how they're our top priority, but these teachers shut schools down for 4 days in a row in order to throw a temper tantrum.

In other words, those teachers are, for their own selfish purposes, violating every major tenet of socially acceptable behavior that we teach in our schools. Their lessons are now "just words", and their students, like all people, will absorb the lessons based on actions to a much greater degree than those of mere rhetoric. These teachers have dealt a crippling blow to their own credibility.

These teachers, and their union bosses have demonstrated far better than any Republican could why teachers unions need to be curtailed, and they certainly show why none other than President Franklin Roosevelt himself was against public sector unions. Governor Walker's plan to require that the union be recertified every year, and to limit what can be bargained, are simple ways to start curtailing that power and influence.

Let the curtailing begin.

Update: I'm not the only teacher who feels this way.

Update #2: Joanne's round-up is, as you would expect, exceptional.

Update #3, 2/23/11: A wise way of looking at things:
To Republicans, the budget fight has involved the widespread shirking of responsibilities: teachers walking out on students, legislators running away from their offices, even doctors abandoning medical standards to make excuses for perfectly healthy teacher/protesters. To Democrats, the fight has touched a core issue; anything is justified to preserve union benefits.

Update #4, 2/23/11: How could I forget this one?
Unions take to the streets to defend their collective bargaining agreements... which ban work stoppages and "any unauthorized concerted activity."

Update #5, 2/24/11: Another teacher (and frequent commenter here at RotLC) weighs in.

A Conservative View

"It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it."
--George Washington

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Those Were The Days was the opening theme, and Remembering You was the closing theme.

Today's question is:
Who was the overseer in the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin?

ROTC and the Ivies

Anyone who claimed to believe that opposition to ROTC at our so-called elite universities was honestly and truly grounded in the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is either a liar or a fool:

Columbia University students heckled a war hero during a town-hall meeting on whether ROTC should be allowed back on campus.

"Racist!" some students yelled at Anthony Maschek, a Columbia freshman and former Army staff sergeant awarded the Purple Heart after being shot 11 times in a firefight in northern Iraq in February 2008. Others hissed and booed the veteran.

Maschek, 28, had bravely stepped up to the mike Tuesday at the meeting to issue an impassioned challenge to fellow students on their perceptions of the military.

"It doesn't matter how you feel about the war. It doesn't matter how you feel about fighting," said Maschek. "There are bad men out there plotting to kill you."

Several students laughed and jeered the Idaho native, a 10th Mountain Division infantryman who spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington recovering from grievous wounds.

Maschek, who is studying economics, miraculously survived the insurgent attack in Kirkuk. In the hail of gunfire, he broke both legs and suffered wounds to his abdomen, arm and chest.

He enrolled last August at the Ivy League school, where an increasingly ugly battle is unfolding over the 42-year military ban there.

More than half of the students who spoke at the meeting -- the second of three hearings on the subject -- expressed opposition to ROTC's return.

They're not anti-war. They're anti-American.

Update, 2/23/11: Two links included here--supporting my view that both the students and the administration of the Ivies "hates (sic) the military and has for more than a generation.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Does This Surprise Anyone?

The only surprise would be that anyone's surprised by it.

The Center for Equal Opportunity released a study earlier this week that analyzed undergrad admissions data we had obtained from Ohio State and Miami University and concluded that heavy preferences are given to African American and, to a lesser extent, Latino applicants over white and, again to a lesser extent, Asian applicants. The study is posted on our website here, and Linda Chavez and I have written about it here and here, respectively.

The universities’ response is that, while we considered test scores, grades, residency, and other variables in addition to race, we did not consider all the variables they consider. In other words, they are apparently claiming that the severe disparities we found can be explained away by the fact that African Americans write much, much more persuasive admission essays than do whites, for example, and that Latinos get much, much better letters of recommendation than do Asians. To which our response is . . . be serious. Such “soft” factors are unlikely to break along racial lines — or, if they do, they are likely to break along the same racial lines that test scores and grades do (for example, wouldn’t teachers be more impressed with, and write more glowing letters of recommendation for, students who get good grades?), which would leave the universities with even more to explain.

Color of their skin. Content of their character. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, dude.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Reichenbach Falls, in Switzerland.

Today's question is:
What were the opening and closing themes for the tv show All In The Family?

Where Is The Line Drawn For This Algebra Teacher

(Line, algebra--get it? Sometimes I slay myself.)

Here's something I won't do to make up for that projected 10% pay cut I'm going to get next year:

A high school teacher in Little Rock has resigned after school officials learned she pleaded guilty in November to a prostitution charge...

Islam said she was desperate for money and originally thought she was just going to work for a dating service. She pleaded guilty on Nov. 5 and was given a suspended 90-day sentence and a $640 fine...

Islam, who was in the fifth year of her teacher career, told that she hopes this attention doesn't affect her ability to find another job.

I'm always very conflicted about such stories. On one hand, if her students had ever found out, I can see how that could impact classroom discipline--thus making it the district's business. On the other hand, what consenting adults do in their free time should be no concern of the school district (see this post from almost 3 years ago). But, you might say, she broke the law! And that's true, but lots of teachers break the law (often while driving) and they don't get suspended or fired.

Is there a difference between what this teacher has done vs. the butt-print artist (see link two sentences above)? Is one situation, if known, more likely to create a classroom disruption than the other?

I always come back to the unanswered question--where is the line drawn for teachers? What conduct can get you fired and what can't? If some "morals clause" is invoked, how would you address this scenario:

A male teacher in a very conservative area (say, Utah or something) is spotted at a gay pride parade--wearing Daisy Dukes, waving the rainbow flag, belting out It's Raining Men like there's no tomorrow. He may even appear in a picture in the local newspaper.

Should the teacher be fired? If yes, why? If no, should Ms. Islam have been fired? Should the butt-print artist have been fired? If you say no to all of them, under what circumstances could a teacher's off-duty behavior get them fired? If you say yes to all of them, at what point (if any) is a (mere) teacher entitled to any sort of adult life outside of school?

What about this scenario:

A female teacher has an affair with a married man. This affair is eventually discovered and word gets around the community.

Should this teacher be fired? How about this one:

A local teacher protests in front of the local grocery store, carrying a sign claiming that the president is a Kenyan-born impostor.

And this one?

A teacher works a side job at a (legal in California) medical marijuana dispensary in order to supplement her income due to a pay cut. The feds raid the place, it makes big news.

At some point, expecting teachers to be saints or the Cleaver Family or something similar is just not, to use a word currently in vogue, sustainable. Where is that point? Where is the line to be crossed? (sorry, math humor there)

Friday, February 18, 2011

New Segregation? Sorry, No.

This is the quality of thought you get from a newspaper education reporter today:

For more than 50 years, the notion that racially mixed schools are in the best interests of all students has been a basic underpinning of America's educational landscape.

Is that the lesson we're to draw from Brown v. Board of Education? No. The lesson from Brown is that children shouldn't be excluded from their neighborhood schools because of the color of their skin, that government shouldn't look at the color of a child's skin when assigning children to schools. Brown v. Board ended forced segregation. The 2007 US Supreme Court decision in the case of the Seattle and Louisville school districts was entirely consistent with Brown.

So what problem does our hopelessly lost education reporter see as a threat to diversity? Charter schools--for black students!

Is it a return to segregation? Is it legal?

Those are the questions being debated after Margaret Fortune, a former adviser to two California governors and a leader in education reform circles, successfully petitioned the Sacramento County Board of Education for five publicly funded charter schools aimed at closing the achievement gap for African American students.

Fortune said her objective is to serve the lowest-performing student subgroup in the region, and that group happens to be African American. Addressing their needs isn't segregation, she said, because parents can choose whether to send their children to her charter schools.

I support school choice, and I support Margaret Fortune. I've met her, worked with her, and written about her before, and she is a thoughtful, intelligent woman. (Full disclosure: I got my teaching credential through Project Pipeline, a program founded and run by her parents.) I have no reason not to trust Margaret's motives and abilities. In short, I think she's top notch.

For years, it's been common for public school systems to offer charters or academies tailored to specialized academic interests (think technology and health sciences) or educational approaches (Waldorf, for example.)

Fortune said her charters aren't really any different. The curriculum will be geared toward helping low-achieving students make the transition to a college-bound track.

Fortune said her program will employ strategies known to be effective with struggling students: school uniforms; longer school days, standards-based instruction, extensive professional development for teachers; and ongoing analysis of student data.

David DeLuz, president of the Greater Sacramento Urban League, said the charters are about providing options for black students, not segregating them.

And kudos to Mr. DeLuz for recognizing that this isn't segregation. But shame on a local school board president who is as ignorant of history as is our intrepid newspaper reporter:

While some critics opposed the proliferation of charters in general, others expressed discomfort at an educational mission defined by race. Board President Harold Fong, the lone trustee to vote against the proposal, said he couldn't get past the feeling that Fortune was essentially creating segregated schools.

"To ask us to approve a school that is heavily segregated flies in the face of education policy handed down from the Supreme Court," he said. "To ask us to do this is wrong."

You, sir, are an idiot, and a disgrace to the district you oversee. Shame on you for being so dumb.

Here's what the county is telling Ms. Fortune:
By law, public charter schools, like traditional schools, have to be open to all students, regardless of race. As part of the conditions applied to the charter's approval, the County Office of Education is requiring Fortune to recruit a population that mirrors the county. Thirty-six percent of students in Sacramento County are white, 27 percent are Latino and 14 percent African American.

Sacramento County schools chief Dave Gordon said reflecting those numbers should be the goal, but it can't be required. "The idea is you can advertise and recruit and who comes is who comes," Gordon said. "Their obligation is to fairly recruit from all over."

How is she supposed to "recruit" 36% white students, etc? It's a silly stipulation that Gordon admits can't be required, yet he reminds Fortune that she must recruit fairly. I have no doubt Fortune will recruit students honestly and fairly. Geez, it's not like she's an unknown quantity around here.

After reading the linked article and coming face-to-face with the reality of the entrenched system, how can any right-thinking person not support school choice?


An IBM computer beat Ken Jennings in Jeopardy--it's such an amazing feat, I'm hard-pressed to explain what it all really means. Watch a 10-minute film about Watson and his development team here.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Where did Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty fight and fall to their deaths?

Higher Education Finally Getting The Closer Look It Merits?

I knew that college costs were rising, but I didn't know they were rising this much:

Nationally the price of college tuition increased more than 274 percent from 1990 to 2009 -- roughly four times the rate of inflation. That's even more than the brutal rise in health costs that has touched off a near-crisis in that field.

How might higher education problems be addressed? Here are some ideas out of Utah:

Some of the rumblings are already shaking the Utah Legislature this session:

• Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, inveighed against state funding for impractical "degrees to nowhere," and wants more emphasis on math, science and technology tracks.

• Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, introduced HB 485 to ban the granting of tenure to professors at state colleges and universities. Critics have long said that tenure deprives some professors of motivation and responsibility.

• Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Odgen, is backing SJR 9, which would amend the state constitution to give the governor control over both public schools and higher education. That could be seen as expressing general frustration with Utah's academic establishment.

Degrees to nowhere. What could they possibly mean by that? Certainly not Aggrieved Victim Studies degrees. No, definitely not.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Calm View of What's Going On In Wisconsin

Wisconsin's teachers are a little angry at their governor and are protesting at the capitol. I'm sure you can find plenty of news and opinion on what's going on there, complete with pictures and/or video, but probably none of what you read elsewhere will offer the same insights as EIA will. Seriously, go take a read.

Civility and Non-violent Speech, Leftie Edition

What is "acting appropriately" in a democracy?

Exhibit A
While politicians are still talking about restoring civility, liberal thugs are waging an all out attack on the website of David Rivkin, lead counsel in the multi-state lawsuit against Obamacare, rather than engage in a civilized debate that they can’t win. And what do the ACLU and other left-leaning civil rights groups have to say about these attempts to silence a leading voice for freedom and liberty? Not a thing.

Exhibit B
Here are some photographs taken yesterday by Meade (my husband) at the demonstration against Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan....

Exhibit C
Chris Matthews, in the wake of the Tucson shootings, went on a tear against the likes of Sarah Palin who used what he called "gun play" language, yet on Wednesday's Hardball, Matthews uttered phrases against public figures that he, himself, would've considered incendiary had a conservative said them.

In his "Let Me Finish" segment Matthews issued a "call to arms" against George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and others who were responsible for the "unpatriotic way this country was marched to war."

Exhibit D
Union Hate Rally in Wisconsin: Protests Rife With Hitler, Gun Targets, Death Threats

Exhibit E
Progressive Libtalker Mike Malloy Threatens Breitbart

Dear readers, those are from just the last few hours.

Update: this video is only 1:34 long.

Update #2: When did protesting at someone's house become acceptable behavior?
Nearly two dozen activists from DC Vote swarmed House Speaker John Boehner’s Capitol Hill residence at 7:30 Thursday morning, chanting “Don’t tread of D.C.” and “No taxation without representation” to protest congressional “meddling” in the District’s local affairs, in particular a House continuing budget resolution that would cut $80 million in federal payments and prohibit the city from using local funds to pay for needle exchange programs and abortions.
Update #3, 2/24/11: Here's a classy fellow.

Need Any Free Textbooks?

The school district in Stockton may be able to hook you up:

A school district is giving away thousands of brand-new textbooks because they don’t meet state academic standards, officials said.

The Stockton Unified School District has stored millions of dollars worth of the elementary school supplies in a warehouse for months while trying to determine how to reclaim as much money as possible.

Officials say former superintendent Anthony Amato bought the materials from a company called “Success For All” in 2008, spending $3 million on the reading material and another $1.7 million on training.

“This really became a drama resulting in a poor choice by an out-of-state superintendent who didn’t understand the rules and regulations,” said assistant superintendent Dr. Kirk Nicholas.

Amato was fired after 14 months on the job.

The poor choice left the school district with few options and additional penalties.

That's a Grade A screw-up.

Not Enough "Tolerance" in Davis

I've previously referred to the nearby city of Davis, home of the University of California at Davis, as "Berkeley-lite". If I haven't offered enough prior evidence for the title, try this:

The University of California at Davis has backed away from a policy that defined religious discrimination as Christians oppressing non-Christians after more than two dozen Christian students filed a formal complaint.

The definition is listed in a document called, “The Principles of Community.” It defines “Religious/Spiritual Discrimination” as “The loss of power and privilege to those who do not practice the dominant culture’s religion. In the United States, this is institutionalized oppressions toward those who are not Christian.”

I guess it's progress that they're "backing away" from such a policy, but imagine for a moment what the environment must be like for such a policy ever to see the light of day in the first place. That is why I call Davis "Berkeley-lite".

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Captain Greer.

Today's question is:
What was “Pop” Warner's real first name?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Doesn't Make Teachers Or Teachers Unions Look Good

How would you like this guy to be the public face of your profession?

A hulking teacher's union honcho whose big mouth got him bounced by cops from an Albany restaurant after he complained his quail was too small was previously reprimanded as a teacher after being accused of brazenly helping test-taking students cheat, officials said today.

Food-lovin' lobbyist Paul Egan was named in a scathing 2000 report by the Department of Education investigator as helping a group of Bronx middle-school students taking a city-wide math exam get the right answers to the test by using "several different methods to cheat."

The then-investigator, Edward Stancik, said Egan while proctoring the 1999 exam "purposely displayed the answers to the first 11 questions by leaving them unguarded on his desk for the students to find," and that he urged students to check individual answers after seeing they had gotten them wrong...

Egan was listed in the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records for longest recorded after-dinner speech — a Nov. 19-21, 1988 stem-winder that lasted 34 hours and 16 minutes at University College in Dublin, Ireland.

Interestingly enough, EIA is on the story, and addresses some of Egan's complaints about the restaurant:

Late and rude service? Drinks spilled? Cold and uncooked meals?

Surely not. After all, Marché is a union restaurant, organized by UNITE HERE Local 471 in 2007 through card check, and its members work as “cooks, bakers, kitchen utility workers, servers, bussers, bartenders and bellmen.” Maybe Egan should have demanded to speak to the shop steward.


"Greedy Bastards" Paradox

From the American Thinker blog:

If we accept President Obama's economic arguments, his State of the Union address was most remarkable in the aftermath, when nothing happened.

For the sake of argument, let's agree with the President that the winning ticket of the global economic lottery will be investment in renewable energy, high-speed rail and other green industries. Bet on green and you win the future. Let's also stipulate, as the left believes, that private capital in America is in the hands of greedy bastards -- capitalists who will do anything for a buck.

The question then becomes why all those greedy bastards are not pouring money into the epochal investment opportunity that President Obama unveiled. Why is Wall Street not running up the stocks of companies positioned to flourish in the coming green economy? Where are the private equity firms that should be knocking down the doors of the solar shingle company that the President touted? Why aren't hedge fund sharpies jumping into high-speed rail? After all, if Warren Buffet or John Paulson delivered a speech that laid out the way to win the future, every other greedy bastard would be shoveling money into their ideas before the applause was over.

This is the greedy bastard paradox inherent in all government "investments." The state is left to fund the industrial policies of old or today's green schemes precisely because they are uneconomic. Economically viable investments need no government support because the greedy bastards of the private economy are already funding them...

Some on the left would counter that Big Oil is somehow preventing or undermining investment into promising clean energy technologies. Here again they run into the greedy bastard paradox. If an epic financial bonanza is right around the corner, how can the oil majors possibly keep all the other money-grubbers out of the game? And if green energy is really poised to supplant petroleum, why wouldn't Big Oil go for the gold, if only to survive? Even the most orthodox leftist should recognize that a conspiracy theory based on capitalists leaving money on the table is bankrupt.

But if the left can't call them "greedy bastards", at whom will they direct their daily 2-minute hate?

UNLV Going Bankrupt?

From the Las Vegas Sun:

UNLV President Neal Smatresk told a somber Faculty Senate on Tuesday that the administration was planning a kind of bankruptcy to deal with its budget crunch.

Under the "financial exigency" plan, tenured professors could be fired and whole departments and programs more easily closed down.

When I saw the picture at the linked article, the first thought that came to my mind was the Touchdown Jesus mural at Notre Dame. After living on borrowed money for so long, many of our public institutions may require some "divine intervention" in order to survive.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Jack Lalanne, who passed away last month at age 96.

Today's question is:
On the tv show, who was the Mod Squad's immediate superior (played by Tige Andrew)?

Education Buzz

This week's Education Buzz is here and includes my post about smuggled documents related to national security--a RotLC exclusive!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


They say it takes all kinds. I wonder why it takes people like this:

A tenured economics professor at Colby College was forced to resign late last month after allegations surfaced that he set up a hidden surveillance camera to take photos of female students in a bathroom while chaperoning an international student trip, according to court documents.

Whole Foods and Trader Joe's

These two articles were linked on Yahoo today and I found them interesting enough to mention. Here's the skinny (get it? skinny? I slay myself):

Some of my friends jokingly call Whole Foods Market “Whole Paycheck.” The first time I shopped there, I understood why Whole Foods gained its nickname—I was stunned at how much I spent. Of course, I bought everything on my list—I hadn’t paid attention to what was a good deal and what wasn’t.

What to skip at Whole Foods:
conventional fruits and vegetables
the meat counter
health and beauty products

What to buy at Whole Foods:
local fruits and vegetables
sustainable fish and seafood
bulk foods
store-brand products

If you ever want to start a conversation at a party, try asking this question: What are the best and worst deals at Trader Joe’s? It’s only slightly less controversial than health care reform.

Americans (and I include myself) are crazy about Trader Joe’s. There are Facebook pages, books about shopping there, even fan-run websites. What inspires this passion? Jovanna Brooks, founder of and, says, “The reason that there are so many really die-hard Trader Joe’s fans is because you can get incredibly unique items. It’s adventure shopping all the time because there are things that are constantly new. At the same time, people get upset when products get discontinued, but that’s part of the fun.”

What to skip at Trader Joe's:

bakery and prepared foods

What to buy at Trader Joe's:
frozen foods
beyond food--flowers, body oils and soaps, etc

Years ago at Trader Joe's I bought a chocolate torte with a chocolate ganache on it. The once or so a year I've been since then I always check the freezer section to see if they still sell it, and they do. I remember the trip I took in my camper van, with one of those tortes in the frig. Memories, especially the good ones, last a lifetime.