Thursday, March 31, 2011

California's Budget Cuts Aren't Pretty

We need more cutting done, but we need to cut in better areas than what's being chosen currently. This isn't welcome in any circle:

Many high school seniors are still waiting to find out if they have been accepted into their favorite college campuses thanks to severe budget cuts that have forced public universities to increase the size of their waitlists.

Even top students with excellent grades and a strong extracurricular record are finding themselves shut out when trying to apply to University of California campuses.

This is the worst part, at least to me:

With more cuts expected this coming fiscal year, public universities are limiting enrollment and accepting more out of state and international students to help increase their budgets.

I pay taxes that support our state universities on the assumption that those universities improve California and Californians. If the reply to that is, "we need to run these schools more like a business and maximize income in order to maximize programs offered," I can agree with that--if I don't have to support that "business" with my tax dollars.

How To Make A Teacher's Week

Out of the blue this evening I received the following email from a former student. It made not just my day, but my entire week. If you're not a teacher you might not understand this, but we live and die for emails like this one:

I wanted to send you an email to not only thank you but let you know how over-prepared I was for "College Algebra" a.k.a. Math 111 a.k.a. the most failed class at the University of Oregon. Going into the class I didn't think i would have a very hard time because I tend to enjoy math. I was surprised to find out that an entire ten weeks was based on functions and logarithms.

I just finished my first week of Math 112, the succeeding class, and am happy to tell you the extra credit assignment for the weekend is to complete the unit circle! As I was sitting among my classmates who struggled to understand the concept of arc length, I realized how lucky I was to have such great instruction in pre cal. Though I still haven't declared my major, I am seriously considering majoring in Physics, which will obviously require knowledge of these concepts for the rest of my life. Thank you so much providing this knowledge to me, I wouldn't ever want you to think it goes unappreciated.

Hope you're enjoying the springtime weather!

Life is good.

I'm Not Blaming The President For This

I'm pointing out, yet again, the hypocrisy of the mainstream media in making this front page news when it happened under President Bush, but pretty much ignoring it under the current president (who doesn't happen to have an "R" after his name):

Gas prices have doubled since Mr. Obama took office.

Remember this picture from only 3 years ago? It seems quaint now, doesn't it?

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year was the NAACP founded?

Education Buzz

This week's is here, and includes my post about community service as a graduation requirement.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Was Einstein Wrong?

OK, so Time magazine isn't where I usually go for stories about involved math and science topics, but the title of this one was just too good for me not to read the entire article:

12-Year-Old Genius Expands Einstein's Theory of Relativity, Thinks He Can Prove It Wrong

Could Einstein's Theory of Relativity be a few mathematical equations away from being disproved? Jacob Barnett of Hamilton County, Ind., who is just weeks shy of his 13th birthday, thinks so. And, he's got the solutions to prove it.

Barnett, who has an IQ of 170, explained his expanded theory of relativity — in a YouTube video. His mother Kristine Barnett, who admittedly flunked math, did what every other mother would do if her genius son started talking mathematical gibberish. She told him to explain the whole thing slowly while she taped her son explaining his take on the theory.

Americans Are "Cooling"

They're "cooling" on the Tea Party:
The tea party might be running out of steam.

The approval rating for the 2-year-old movement fell to 32 percent in a CNN/Opinion Research corporation poll released Wednesday, the lowest it’s been since CNN first polled on the tea party in January 2010.

They're "cooling" on the president:
President Barack Obama’s approval rating and prospects for reelection have plunged to all-time lows in a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Half of the registered voters surveyed for the poll think that the president does not deserve a second term in office, while 41 percent say he does. In another Quinnipiac poll released just four weeks ago, 45 percent said the president did not deserve reelection, while 47 percent said he did.

What can we learn from this? That Americans aren't happy campers right now.

One Reason I Support Having A Well-Rounded Education

Being "worldly" never hurt anyone.

A graduate of Dickinson College serving as an infantry platoon recently leader praised -- of all things -- his liberal arts education for helping his unit make military gains in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan.

One day, as he recounted in an e-mail that he sent to Dickinson President William G. Durden, the graduate, who was commissioned through Dickinson’s Reserve Officers Training Corps and majored in Middle Eastern history, found himself sharing small talk with five village elders. After he recited the first chapter of the Koran (which he learned as part of a class assignment), the first lieutenant earned the men’s trust, he wrote to Durden.

Soon after, one of the men handed over five small papers which appeared to be “night letters,” or notes left by the Taliban on local mosques or the doors of homes. Typically, such letters urge resistance or threaten violence to those who cooperate with American forces. These, however, were asking for help. “The three letters this man gave to me thus signaled a major shift in Taliban morale in our area of operations, and at the end of the day became very valuable intelligence information,” the unnamed lieutenant wrote.

This episode -- which demonstrates how core liberal arts subjects, such as foreign language, cultural studies and history can yield better-trained, more culturally sophisticated soldiers and officers -- illustrates the kind of thing that Dickinson’s administration and military analysts want to see happening more often. And, by ensuring that future military leaders learn on campus alongside more typical students, higher education and military officials hope to start bridging the divide that separates servicemen and -women from the rest of society. link

Totally Unrelated Papers Given To Me This Week Because People Thought I Would Be Entertained By Them

And I am :-)
click to enlarge


There's nothing wrong with so-called rote memorization. I don't think I should have to familiarize myself with all the gauges and procedures in my car every time I sit in it. Some things are best learned to automaticity:

Memorization has long been out of vogue in the education establishment, and therefore many students aren't regularly tested for simple recall of new material. Teachers often emphasize learning methodologies like class discussion or concept mapping over factual recall, with the expectation that the former activities promote deeper learning that is superior to rote memorization.

But a new study finds that teachers who don't provide students frequent opportunities to practice retrieving information from their memories are denying them a valuable learning tool. It turns out that tests or other forced recall exercises aren't just passive evaluation tools. They actually help people learn, and are more effective than a number of other common study techniques.
I still remember some of the mistakes I made when Mrs. Barton drilled us in multiplication tables in 3rd grade, over 30 years ago. Drill and kill? No, drill and skill.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1905, can you believe it?!

Today's question is:
In what year were the first Nobel Prizes awarded?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Consumable Manipulatives"

Today in statistics class we did a short lab--given a distribution (supposedly from M&M Mars, but I couldn't find it anywhere on their web site) of the colors of M&M's in an ordinary (brown) bag of milk chocolate M&M's, we performed a chi-squared test to determine if that distribution was correct. (Turns out it wasn't, so emailed M&M Mars and asked what the distribution is supposed to be.) For a week I'd reminded students to bring in a small bag of M&M's today, and almost all of them did. In each class we recorded and totaled the number of each color that each student had, and did our calculations based on the class total.

I got to thinking--I know that I couldn't get the school to reimburse me if I had bought them, as there's no way they'd pay for snackies even if I "needed" them for math class. Oh, I could probably get reimbursed for marbles and for the paint to paint them in six different colors, and use those for the lab next year, but that would be about as exciting as watching grass grow. What I need is a way to "sell" our comptroller on the idea of reimbursing me. I need better PR than just "M&M's".

And then it hit me. Consumable manipulatives.

I'm a genius.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1909—100 years after Lincoln's birth.

Today's question is:
In what year did Einstein propose his Theory of Relativity?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Anecdotal Evidence

I keep saying, ad nauseum, that the biggest problems with our "schools" is not the schools themselves, it's culture--the society from which our students are drawn. Used to be that if you got in trouble at school, you got in twice as much trouble at home; today, you get in trouble at school and oftentimes the parents lawyer up--that kind of thing.

A teacher at school today told the following story that he heard from a friend of his, another teacher. He had no reason to doubt his friend's veracity, and I have no reason to doubt his.

Seems at his friend's high school there was a dance. The DJ showed up stoned, claiming that his/her "medical marijuana card" (legal here in California) allowed him/her to light up on campus--in a district that has designated all its schools as "smoke-free zones". At the same dance, one of the parent chaperones showed up so drunk that the chaperone could barely stand.

And we wonder why the kids act the way they do....

"Value-Added" Teacher Evaluations

This is how it's done in Houston:
"It is too unreliable when you're talking about messing with someone's career," said Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers.

She said many teachers don't understand the calculations. The general formula for the "linear mixed model" used in her district is a string of symbols and letters more than 80 characters long:

y = Xβ + Zv + ε where β is a p-by-1 vector of fixed effects; X is an n-by-p matrix; v is a q-by-1 vector of random effects; Z is an n-by-q matrix; E(v) = 0, Var(v) = G; E(ε) = 0, Var(ε) = R; Cov(v,ε) = 0. V = Var(y) = Var(y - Xβ) = Var(Zv + ε) = ZGZT + R.

"It's doctorate-level math," Fallon said.

Does Ms. Fallon have a doctorate in math? If not, how does she know the method is unreliable?

That isn't really the point. The point is that the teachers themselves can't really tell if the method is reliable or not, and hence cannot have any trust in the system. Trust is the real issue.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year was the first Lincoln cent minted?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is, the first in Decades Week (1900-1909), is:
In what year was the Great San Francisco earthquake?

Vygotsky and Gramsci

Do you recognize those names? If you earned your teaching credential in at least the last 20 years you probably do. I certainly recall encountering them in my credentialing classes as well as my CLAD (cross-cultural, language, and academic development--think "bilingual") courses. Here's an interesting article that links them:

Months ago, an email from a teacher spurred me to investigate the theories of Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934). My research revealed starry-eyed academics enamored of collectivism.

Vygotsky contended that "creative play" could provide relief to children dealing with "tension" caused by unsatisfied desires.[2] The psychologist expounded on Soviet activity theory, an offshoot of "cultural-historical theory."[3] Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist whom I've discussed in previous articles, also drew on cultural-historical theory. Gramsci's "cultural Marxism" called for the intentional erosion of Western society. Since the 1980s, early childhood education has increasingly incorporated Vygotskyian techniques that answer Gramsci's call...

Two prominent psychologists find that Lev Vygotsky's "Marxist orientation" determined "his scientific preoccupations," in other words, his education theories.[9] Revealingly, nine years after Vladimir Lenin violently seized power and fathered the USSR, Vygotsky lauded "the cleansing threat of social revolution." Furthermore, Vygotsky cheered the crumbling of "the very foundations of bourgeois morality," insisted that the achievement mentality "be swept clear out of our schools," and anointed educators with the job of instilling a new morality. To Soviet Vygotsky, the best morality was Soviet collectivism.

Vygotsky intended to "create the new Soviet Man, the kind of being that would be needed in the Soviet society of the future." The psychologist conceived the "Zone of Proximal Development" (ZPD), a tool for reconditioning young minds and forming a new society from the old. Vygotsky aimed to deliver young collectivists to ruling class elites intent on "societal reconstruction."[10]

Ignoring Vygotsky's motives, the authors of America's early childhood education curricula train teachers in techniques based on the ZPD. A bit of investigation shows that education students are fed "grand" arguments and kept in the dark concerning "numerous underdeveloped ideas and contradictions."[11] The Tools of the Mind organization even admits that Vygotsky's theories are but "a specific set of beliefs." [Emphasis added.] The TOTM curriculum's effectiveness was tested only by a "quasi-experimental study" plagued with sloppy methods.[12] The truth is that there is simply no trustworthy proof that Vygotskyian techniques develop superior cognitive skills in children. Indoctrinated and misled, America's teachers are unwittingly using tactics conceived by a Marxist to spawn USSR-minded kids in the USA.

Teachers are also not informed that Vygotsky detested "capitalist culture," rejected Western society, and cherished the "tribal village." The psychologist prescribed a "moral education" blended "imperceptibly into all those general modes of behavior that may be established and regulated by the social environment." To accomplish the blending, Vygotskyian-trained teachers rigidly control the classroom environment and allow only authoritatively prescribed behaviors. Individualism is verboten. Gene by gene, the collectivist virus erases children's predisposition for achievement. Neuron by neuron, the bug weakens traditional morality. And teachers aren't even aware of having injected the pathogen.

Indeed, teachers faithfully condition children in Vygotsky's "new ways of interacting with people," unaware that those "ways" conform to totalitarian visions.

In one of my classes once, we were given a talk by someone who'd worked directly with Paulo Freire in Brazil. When I asked her a question relating Freire and Gramsci, her response was something along the lines of how much she "enjoyed" getting questions about Italian communists from American Republicans, and that she'd get back to me. Of course she never did.

Recent Issues of California Educator Magazine

My February issue was delivered to the wrong address, and I only received it perhaps a week and a half ago. I received the March issue yesterday.

I've said repeatedly that when a union is legally entitled to my money, as they are in California, they should be legally limited in what they can do with it; they should be required to focus only on member pay, benefits, and working conditions. I would not have near as much disgust with the CTA and NEA if they had to adhere to such strictures.

If you've read other recent posts here at RotLC you're aware that California is in a little bit of a budget pickle--we blow too much money on social engineering, we run businesses out of the state, and we tax the remaining businesses and people at rates higher than just about any other state in the union. Education is going to take a big hit in the upcoming budget, and if certain tax extensions don't pass, it's going to take an even bigger hit. I would say that's a pretty big deal and will definitely have an impact on my pay, benefits, and working conditions.

So what are the cover stories for the last two issues of the union mouthpiece rag? February's is about successful support for new teachers (won't be any of those next year anyway, after all these budget cuts and pink slips) and March's is about school programs for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students.

Looking at the table of contents in each magazine, the first reference I see to budget cuts or education funding is on page 34 of the February issue and page 32 of the March issue.

Remember, these people are entitled, by law, to my money, ostensibly so they can "represent" me before my employer.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Got A "Bargaining Update" From My Local Union In The Mail Today

It only covered two topics--the decrease in health care costs since our district changed providers last year, and negotiations in the shadow of devastating budget decreases. You know what word wasn't mentioned once in the entire update? Republicans.

Democrats run both houses of the legislature, a budget requires only a simple majority in each house, and a Democrat sits in the governor's office. Democrats, this one's all on you.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was the name of the ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey?

I'm Sure Our Cadets Are Excited About This

From the Poughkeepsie Journal:

Michelle Obama will address West Point cadets at a banquet just prior to their graduation.

The May 20 visit will be Obama's first visit to the U.S. Military Academy. Commencement exercises are the next day. It also will be the first address by a first lady to the cadet corps in at least 20 years, according to school spokesman Francis DeMaro.

Speakers Fees at Commencement

This is certainly one way to look at the issue.

California Relies Too Much On Taxing The Rich

Those who squeal "tax the rich!"are demonstrating nothing more than an infantile class envy. When actual facts are considered, instead of being angry at people who have more, we should realize that California shafts itself when it tries to shaft the rich:
As Brad Williams walked the halls of the California state capitol in Sacramento on a recent afternoon, he spotted a small crowd of protesters battling state spending cuts. They wore shiny white buttons that said "We Love Jobs!" and argued that looming budget reductions will hurt the Golden State's working class.

Mr. Williams shook his head. "They're missing the real problem," he said.

The working class may be taking a beating from spending cuts used to close a cavernous deficit, Mr. Williams said, but the root of California's woes is its reliance on taxing the wealthy.

Nearly half of California's income taxes before the recession came from the top 1% of earners: households that took in more than $490,000 a year. High earners, it turns out, have especially volatile incomes—their earnings fell by more than twice as much as the rest of the population's during the recession. When they crashed, they took California's finances down with them.

Mr. Williams, a former economic forecaster for the state, spent more than a decade warning state leaders about California's over-dependence on the rich. "We created a revenue cliff," he said. "We built a large part of our government on the state's most unstable income group."
I have no problem with reasonably progressive tax rates, but we shouldn't be stupid about it. The purpose of taxes shouldn't be to "equalize" or "redistribute" income or to penalize the successful or to do any of the other silly things lefties want tax policy to do. The only purpose of taxes should be to raise money for the legitimate functions of government. And we need to raise that money in a way that is reasonable and efficient.

We can't just raise taxes in bad economic times so that the government has more money to throw around. Fiscal conservatives don't want to raise taxes because we see too much money spent of activities we don't agree are legitimate functions of government. Cut the crap--and then if we need more money for the government to operate, we can raise taxes. But not before then.

Learning Algebra on an iPad

I haven't yet seen the results of this experiment:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a major textbook company, has launched a year long pilot project with the HMH Fuse: Holt McDougal Algebra 1 full year algebra course on an iPad. The course mirrors all the content of the Holt McDougal Larson Algebra 1 2011 textbook currently being used in many schools.

The pilot project includes 400 eighth grade students in the San Francisco, Long Beach, Riverside, and Fresno, California school districts. One group is using the HMH Fuse app, and a control group is using the standard text. As far as we know, this is the first time a full year subject matter course has been rolled out as an app. The study will be conducted by Empirical Educations Inc. an independent testing group, and it will measure differences and similarities in areas of achievement and attitudes about learning. They also want to learn about how and if the students use the app the way it was intended.

Each teacher in the pilot project will teach one random class section using the app and another using the book, which may help account for differences in teaching style and his or her influence over the class. According to the testing agency, the study will eventually roll-out to 1200 students, with test reports due in the Fall of 2011. The hope is that it will be available to all California school districts in January, 2011.

There's more, including a video, at the link.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Do Vouchers Work?

This study says they do, but the source isn't exactly unbiased. That doesn't mean the report is incorrect or can be dismissed, just that it must be reviewed critically:
This report collects the results of all available empirical studies using the best available scientific methods to measure how school vouchers affect academic outcomes for participants, and all available studies on how vouchers affect outcomes in public schools. Contrary to the widespread claim that vouchers do not benefit participants and hurt public schools, the empirical evidence consistently shows that vouchers improve outcomes for both participants and public schools. In addition to helping the participants by giving them more options, there are a variety of explanations for why vouchers might improve public schools as well. The most important is that competition from vouchers introduces healthy incentives for public schools to improve.

Friday Trivia

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

Today's question is:
What was Willie Mays' California license plate?

Remember, Decade Theme Week starts on Sunday. The first decade? 1900-1909.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Holistic" Admissions Approach

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
Thousands of students will log on to their computers at 4 p.m. today to find out if they got into UC Berkeley. Most will be disappointed – even many with straight A's and enviable test scores.

Berkeley and the University of California system as a whole received a record number of freshmen applications this year. Last year, Berkeley rejected three-quarters of the students who applied. Those who were admitted had an average grade-point average of 4.19.

With so many high performers to choose from, how does Cal decide who gets accepted?

Very carefully. And with a lot of work.

Berkeley calls its admissions process "holistic review." That means a person – not a computer – read each one of the 53,000 undergraduate applications that came in this year. And it means the university considers more than just grades and test scores when scoring applications.

All of this is a fancy way of saying they need other ways to let in underprepared students (usually minorities) in violation of Proposition 209.

It's The Schools' Fault!

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
A majority of California students are unfit, according to results released today from the 2010 School Physical Fitness Test.

Given to students in fifth, seventh and ninth grades, the test showed particularly low fitness levels among the youngest students, with 71 percent of the state's fifth graders unable to perform at a level designated as the Healthy Fitness Zone.

The test assesses six fitness areas: aerobic capacity (running, walking), body composition (percentage fat), abdominal strength (curl ups), trunk extensor strength (trunk lifts), upper body strength (push-up, pull-up), and flexibility (shoulder stretch).

In Sacramento County, 70 percent of fifth grade students were not able to meet criteria in all six fitness areas. Sixty-five percent of seventh graders and 60 percent of ninth graders also did not meet all six fitness area criteria.

The California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance released a statement from its president Daniel Latham attributing the poor fitness levels to schools cutting physical education programs in the last five years.

You read that right, it's the schools' fault. Couldn't possibly have anything to do with anything outside of school, could it? Couldn't possibly have anything to do with parents, could it? Nope, it's all the fault of the schools. It should be intuitively obvious to the casual observer that a few years ago, kids were fine, but maybe some schools cut an hour of PE a week, and bam! Kids get fat and out of shape.

Clearly, those kids were on the borderline before, if that hour of dodgeball or whatever is the difference between being Olympic triathletes and Jabba the Hut.

Gawd, what a stupid article.


From Education Week:
That time-honored anti-cheating mantra, “You’re only hurting yourself,” may be literal fact, according to new research.

Emerging evidence suggests students who cheat on a test are more likely to deceive themselves into thinking they earned a high grade on their own merits, setting themselves up for future academic failure.

In four experiments detailed in the March Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the Harvard Business School and Duke University found that cheaters pay for the short-term benefits of higher scores with inflated expectations for future performance.

The findings come as surveys and studies show a majority of students cheat—whether through cribbing homework, plagiarizing essays from the Internet, or texting test answers to a friend’s cellphone—even though overwhelming majorities consider it wrong. The Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, which has been tracking student character and academic honesty, has found that while the number of students engaging in specific behaviors has risen and fallen over the years, the number of students who have cheated on a test in the previous year has not dipped below a majority since the first biennial study in 1992. In its most recent survey, conducted in 2010, the study found that a majority of students cheat at some point during high school, and the likelihood of cheating increases the older students get.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1851, and has been published continuously since then.

Today's question is:
Which group performed the 1958 song Tequila?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Bad Is The Financial Crisis In California Affecting School Districts?

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
Every major Sacramento County school district is in financial peril, as are some in neighboring counties, state officials say...

In the 2006-07 school year, only 22 school districts throughout the state made the roster of the financially troubled. By June of last year the number grew to 174 districts. So far this year the state register tallies 110 schools.

State schools chief Tom Torlakson says things could get much worse if proposed tax extensions aren't put on the ballot and approved by voters...

(Sacramento County schools superintendent David) Gordon said he's not sure if Sacramento County schools will be able to absorb the estimated $600 in cuts per student that districts may face if the tax plan doesn't pass and Proposition 98, which mandates minimum state aid to schools, is suspended.

"Now they are down to the point where many of those reductions will take negotiations with their unions," Gordon said. "You can only increase class size so much"...

Nearly 2 million students – roughly 30 percent of the students in California – attend schools that are in financial jeopardy, the state Department of Education says.

As I say, we're in deep 22. And still, too many people pretend there's nothing wrong and want to continue down the road we're on.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year was the New York Times first published?

Starting this Sunday is another theme week. I know you're excited! We'll have Decade Theme Weeks for a while, so brush up on the years 1900-1909!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You Must Live Here

I admit, it never occurred to me some teachers might have residency restrictions, "work here, live here" rules. I've never experienced or even heard of such a thing, but apparently they exist in this country:
Milwaukee is one of the nation’s last big cities with a residency rule, but Republicans in control of state government appear poised to change that. Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would free Milwaukee teachers of residency, and a GOP-backed bill would let Milwaukee police and firefighters live anywhere in the five-county area...

All Milwaukee city employees are currently required to live within the city limits, a rule that has been in place since 1930, according to the mayor's office. Chicago, another holdout for residency, apparently will stick with it based on comments by incoming Mayor Rahm Emanuel...

St. Louis dropped its requirement in 2005 and 36 percent of those eligible to live elsewhere have so far chosen that route...

Philadelphia, for example, requires five years on the force before officers can live outside the city; St. Louis makes it seven.
I guess you learn something new every day.

Martial Language--That "New Civility" Gig Didn't Last Long

Yet another example, this time from the National Education Association:
There has been a virtually non-stop expansion of the scope of public sector collective bargaining over the past 35 years. If the tide turns, it may take a lot longer than 35 years to get those privileges back.

"We are at war," incoming NEA executive director John Stocks told the union's board of directors last month, outlining a plan to keep NEA from joining the private sector industrial unions in a slow, steady decline into irrelevancy to anyone outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.

Khan Academy Misperceptions, and a Response

The author of this blog is the lead designer at the Khan Academy, and has this to say to critics:
With all of the positive press the Khan Academy has received lately, we’ve also started attracting a bunch of new critics. This is a good thing. I can’t tell you how existing in an echo chamber where everyone loves everything you are doing can make a sane person become really paranoid after a while. While there are a bunch of really valid concerns about what we’re doing, I wanted to try to tackle some of the more pervasive misconceptions about the Khan Academy from my perspective.

He then identifies 5 misconceptions and addresses each of them.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter.

Today's question is:
What was Michelangelo's last name?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Addressing the School Board

Our district is going to have to cut 10% off its budget next year--and that's if a tax extension proposition is placed on the ballot and passed by voters in a special election this June. If that doesn't happen, we'll have to cut over 15% out of our budget, and you can guess that schools will take a bigger hit than the district office will. Tomorrow night I'm scheduled to address the board, and here's the "speech" I just finished. I'll have 2 minutes, no more:

Members of the Board, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you tonight. Thank you.

As a classroom teacher myself, I don't need too much from the school or the district to be able to do my job. I need real estate, I need curriculum, and I need supplies. And since I don't teach in a vacuum, I also need a school environment that supports what I do in the classroom.

That support comes in many different forms, but most of the time, that support comes from vice principals and from counselors. And while the proposed vice principal cuts will negatively impact my job of teaching, I'm here tonight to ask you to reconsider the proposal to cut counselors at our schools.

Counselors do so much more than just scheduling students into classes. They do so much more than ensuring students are on track to graduate, so much more than writing letters of recommendation for colleges or work, so much more than helping students navigate the labyrinth of college and financial aid applications . Sometimes, counselors are the last line of defense before disaster.
They have open lines of communication with students.
They hear about the potential suicides, and they help.
They notice the cutting, and get kids help.
They are sometimes the first to know about a pregnancy, and they help.
They know about bullying, both physical and online, and they mediate.
They often know about the drinking and the smoking and the drug use, and they get involved.
They learn about abuse at home, and they take action.
They know about kids who are about to be out on the streets--seriously--and they intervene.

If all our schools are staffed with counselors as good as the ones with which I'm privileged to work, you don't want to let them go. You want to find a way to keep them. It's not just a slogan when we say, “Counselors matter.”

Again, thank you for your time.

Why Are So Many Professors Liberals?

This story sure is making the rounds of the education blogs:

Few aspects of faculty demographics generate more attention than their politics. Why is it, many want to know, that professors are far more likely than the general public to be liberal? Many theories have been put forward, including the view (much discussed in conservative circles) that academe is hostile to conservatives and tries to either weed them out or convert them.

Two studies being released today provide more evidence that bias is not the cause -- and the studies provide some additional evidence to back the theory (put forward last year by one of the authors of the new work) that "self-selection" is the primary reason so many academics are liberal. In brief, the self-selection idea holds that some professions have become "typed" in American society in various ways that may relate to gender or class but could also relate to politics. Academe is seen as more liberal, so liberals are more likely to identify being an academic as something to which they aspire. The argument is significant because it does not contest the lopsided political nature of many faculties, but also suggests that higher education is open to those conservative scholars who want careers there.

If this is true--and I'm not saying I necessarily disagree--then where are the diversityphiles? Or is diversity nothing more shallow than skin color?

As Someone Who's Facing A Pay Cut Next Year...

...this column in Slate certainly caught my attention:
Raises Don't Make Employees Work Harder
But pay cuts make them slack off

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was the name of the sitcom in which comic actor John Ritter was starring when he died?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
It was cast in 1752 in Whitechapel, a section of London.

Today's question is:
In what year did the Salem Witch Trials take place?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Libya and Iraq

I'm hard-pressed to argue the spirit of these points:
Obviously, the biggest problem with Bush was sending the military into an Arab Muslim country that hadn’t even attacked us. Among the several things that made that offensive were
* the rush to war – it was only several months after the possibility of military involvement was raised that combat operations began
* lack of United Nations sanction – only 17 relevant resolutions were ever passed before they were enforced
* lack of Congressional oversight – the President authorized the use of military force based on the flimsy pretext of a bill passed by Congress titled “Authorization of the Use of Military Force”, rather than seeking a document that had the words “declaration of war” in it; that’s every bit as bad as getting no Congressional approval at all
* obvious financial motives – clearly no one approved of the murderous dictator or sought a normal working relationship with him besides the French; at the same time, one couldn’t help but be suspicious of the fact that the population we were ostensibly protecting was located conveniently near the oil fields
* stretching our military – we were overburdened as it was, and our brave military despite its courage lacked the resources for yet another operation
* inflating our military – the only way to keep the bloodthirsty Pentagon beast fed was to give it the hordes of jobless young men who had no prospects in an economy that saw unemployment skyrocket above 4% in most states
* ignoring our generals – the decision to go to war was made by political hacks who had never worn a uniform
* inflaming the Arab Street – despite some touchy-feely talk about Islam, it was impossible for the Muslim world not to notice how the President made repeated, insistent proclamations of his Christianity, how he only ever used the military against Muslim targets, and how at the time the war started he’d kept the concentration camp at Guantanamo open for over a year
* wasting money – it was completely irresponsible to commit the military to an expensive mission when the President’s fiscal mismanagement had resulted in a budget deficit of over $150 billion in 2002

Update, 3/20/11: Just came across this entertaining tidbit, just to needle the lefties: Barack Obama has now been responsible for firing more cruise missiles than all other Nobel Peace prize winners combined.

Update, 3/21/11: Candidate Obama v. President Obama on the subject of military attacks.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Ben Franklin, whose profile was on the half-dollar from 1948-1963. He was prematurely removed and replaced in 1964, after the assassination of President Kennedy.

Today's question is:
On the back of the Franklin half-dollar is a representation of the Liberty Bell. In what year was the Liberty Bell cast? Bonus: in what city was it cast?

Mainstream Press Still Ignoring Lefties' Death Threats

And it doesn’t stop there. John Nolte at Big Government has put together a compilation of the last three weeks of left-wing threats and bullying in Wisconsin. It’s getting so bad that honest liberals (no, it’s not an oxymoron) like Lee Stranahan are fed up with the media ignoring these threats. “Don’t retreat, reload” is considered violent rhetoric if a conservative says it, but “I’m going to kill you” isn’t considered violent rhetoric if a liberal says it. I keep trying not to attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence, but are all these big-brained reporters really that inept?

Read more:

That civility thing sure lasted a long time, huh?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

Today's question is:
Which “Founding Father” appeared on US half-dollars for 16 years in the 20th Century?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Education Buzz

This week's is posted here, and includes my post about a teacher who had to resign because she had been convicted of prostitution.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1, the Arizona Cardinals. If you want to include humans as animals, add in the 49ers and the Raiders. There is no such animal as a “seahawk”, although the name is cool.

Today's question is:
Identify at least 2/3 of the countries that border Iraq.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Isn't This Behavior "Diverse" Enough For Them?

A few days ago I wrote about the teacher who voluntarily quit (probably as a prelude to getting fired) because a student discovered her porn past. I was, and remain, unsure of what's "right" in that circumstance.

Then along comes this story:
A former assistant professor of psychology at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, Calif., has sued the institution for sex discrimination, alleging that she was fired for performing in an off-campus burlesque act...

Addison was hired in Sept. 2007 to teach graduate students under a one-year contract as an assistant professor of psychology. The following July she was awarded a two-year contract which stated that she could be fired only for just cause, according to the complaint. The contract also held that she would be deemed to have her contract extended unless it was formally canceled. It was not canceled as she never received negative performance evaluations, the complaint says.

At about the same time that she started working at JFK, she started performing under a pseudonym, Professor Shimmy, at the Hubba Hubba Revue, a burlesque show in San Francisco. Addison performed intermittently with the revue, which typically plays to about 400 to 600 people every month, said producer and co-founder Jim Sweeney. Hubba Hubba, like traditional burlesque, intertwines partial striptease (down to pasties and g-strings), dance and comedy with parody and references to popular culture...

But officials at JFK deemed her participation in the burlesque act to be inappropriate, the complaint says, though she never publicized it on campus, discussed it with students or identified her affiliation with JFK when she performed. A letter, dated June 21, informed her that she was fired, effective nine days later.

Her participation in the burlesque performances was the only reason cited in her termination letter, the complaint says. Steven Stargardter, president of the university, explained in the letter to her that her actions brought “public disrespect, contempt and ridicule to the university,” the complaint says. Her contract as a Core Faculty Member specified that she could not participate in any activity that “may be adverse to the interests of the university.”

It's not illegal, and her students--if they find out about her side job--are adults. What's the problem?

Religion in the Classroom

God is not, apparently, banned from California classrooms, according to ed code:
51511. Nothing in this code shall be construed to prevent, or exclude from the public schools, references to religion or references to or the use of religious literature, dance, music, theatre, and visual arts or other things having a religious significance when such references or uses do not constitute instruction in religious principles or aid to any religious sect, church, creed, or sectarian purpose and when such references or uses are incidental to or illustrative of matters properly included in the course of study.

Update, 3/17/11: I guess I've written on this topic before....

Ching Chong Ling Long

OK, what's the most entertaining part of the two videos in this post? Is it the "bubble-headed bleached blonde" Valley-girl-type with the attention-getting cleavage who uses incredibly non-politically correct language to describe what we all know she's describing? Is it the humor and wit the Asian guy uses in order to make her look like a fool? Is it his singing, song-writing, playing, and mixing abilities?

You decide.

(OK, I'll admit that I'm also fairly impressed that a college student thinks it's inappropriate to use phones in the library, but I didn't want to include that in one of the choices.)

Update, 3/19/11: I guess this was inevitable:
A student who posted an Internet video of her tirade against the Asian population at the University of California, Los Angeles, said Friday night that she is leaving the school, despite the university's decision not to discipline her.

In a statement to the Daily Bruin campus newspaper, Alexandra Wallace said she has chosen to no longer attend classes at UCLA because of what she called "the harassment of my family, the publishing of my personal information, death threats and being ostracized from an entire community" in the wake of the three-minute video.

Now This Is Impressive


At 17, Danville's Evan O'Dorney already has won the National Spelling Bee and a gold medal at an international math Olympiad, meeting two presidents along the way. On Tuesday, he claimed the triple-crown: the coveted Intel Science Talent Search's $100,000 top prize.

Evan became California's first budding scientist to take home what's known as the Nobel Prize for high school students.

Wait for it, wait for it...
He's home-schooled.

Geniuses probably should be home-schooled.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
His given name was Albert Frederick Arthur George, hence “Bertie” from his first name. Recognizing that Queen Victoria had, upon the death in 1861 of her husband Prince Albert, said that she hoped that no one would ever claim the throne as a King Albert, “Bertie” chose the name George as king—which also, given the upheaval over the abdication of his brother Edward VIII, established a level of continuity with the reign of his and Edward's father, George V.

Today's question is:
How many NFL teams located west of the Rockies are named after real animals?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Peanut Allergies

What do you think of this?

Despite protests by angry parents, a school in Florida is standing behind its decision to implement new regulations to protect a first grade student suffering from a severe peanut allergy.

Students at Edgewater Elementary are required to wash their hands and rinse their mouths out before entering the classroom each morning and after lunch. Teachers, who monitor the daily rinsing, must also ensure that desks are being continually wiped down with Clorox wipes. The school has banned all peanut products, eliminated snacks in the classroom and prevented outside food at holiday parties. And last week a peanut-sniffing dog was brought into the school.

District spokeswoman Nancy Wait of Volusia County Schools said the school is legally obligated to take these safety precautions because of the Federal Disabilities Act.
Is it all necessary?
“On average, it’s probably taking a good 30 minutes out of the day. That’s my child’s education. Thirty minutes could be a [whole] subject,” Carrie Starkey told

On Thursday she and other parents protested outside the school, picketing with signs that said, “Our Kids Have Rights Too.”

Experts say the school may have gone too far and that there are easier ways to protect the child.

No administrator ever got fired for playing it too safe.

They Came Today

But not for me.

Today is March 15th, the date by which California Education Code requires districts to notify teachers who might be laid off. In other words, it's Pink Slip Day.

The sad part is, there's never a state budget in place for next year by March 15th. That means that school districts don't really know how much money they're going to have, so the smart thing for them to do (from a certain point of view) is to be conservative and issue more pink slips than they might need to just in case their budget is cut drastically. It makes perfect sense from an accounting point of view, but it's exceedingly disruptive both to staff planning and to personal lives (people who ultimately might not be laid off start looking for other work) and morale plummets as people empathize with the Pink Slippers (most of us have gotten layoff notices at some time in our careers) and imagine not working with them next year.

What makes this year even worse is that California is in such a budget nightmare that Governor Brown wants to hold a special election in June to allow citizens to vote on whether to extend some higher taxes for a few more years. First, he has to get the initiatives past the state legislature, and then he has to sell them to the public. My own district's situation is illustrative: we're already trying to cut 10%, or $36 million, from next year's budget, and if the tax extensions don't pass, we'll have to cut anywhere from $13-35 million more. That's pretty gruesome, and you can imagine that there's been a run on pink paper at the stores because of the big unknown.

Wisconsin Teachers Using Children To Fight Their Political Battles

You can imagine my horror at watching this.

So professional.

Is "Poverty" The Problem in Education?

Agree or not, this post certainly doesn't mince any words:

A favorite scapegoat, used shamelessly and with impunity, is poverty. I heard it from self-identified teachers at a March 12 legislative town hall meeting. I saw it in the March 9 weekly The Inlander. I hear it frequently from district administrators.

“We have so many poor people,” they say sadly, bellies up and paws waving. “Can’t you see we’re doing our best? It’s the poverty. We can’t overcome poverty. Poverty is the problem. We also have ineffective teachers, uninvolved parents, unmotivated students, social issues, lack of money, changing standards, testing, No Child Left Behind, huge classes, and … uh … a bunch of other things for which we’re definitely NOT responsible … But, the main problem is poverty.”

“Poverty is the key,” a district employee said at our Feb. 7 forum. “If you could fix poverty, you would fix the math problem.” He thinks he’s absolved from responsibility. Pass rates on standardized math tests do tend to be lower for disadvantaged students, but that isn’t because poverty is the problem with math. Jaime Escalante, Ben Chavis and Geoffrey Canada all have capably taught math to disadvantaged children.

I could give every poor family in Spokane millions of dollars, fancy suits, and a Lamborghini. If their children went through the district math program, and without outside intervention, they would eventually park the family Lamborghini in the community college parking lot and walk inside to take multiple remedial math classes – which about half would fail.

Four things are required for any classroom to be effective. I call those things the “Square of Effective Learning.” These are its four corners:

1. Effective teacher
2. Prepared student
3. Efficient and effective curriculum (learning materials)
4. Focused and effective learning environment

Poverty is not in this Square. (Careful now, lest you accidentally stereotype low-income families.)

Provocative, to say the least!

Personally, I don't think the problem is "poverty" as much as it is "culture". There is a "culture of poverty" and those that participate in that culture have a harder time than those who do not; poverty, then, isn't the direct link to trouble in school, culture is.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Old Milwaukee.

Today's question is:
Prior to becoming king, the man who became Britain's King George VI was known in the royal family as “Bertie”. Why?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Of Course I Still Support Nuclear Power

Gotta love these snippets from an Instapundit post:

They should also explain where the energy is going to come from if we can’t drill for oil, can’t burn coal, can’t dam streams, can’t put windmills where they might spoil a Kennedy’s view, and can’t build nukes. Vague allusions to “green power” don’t count...

Reader Andrew Medina says we’re lucky to face nuclear-plant problems, because if the tsunami had hit a solar farm instead, “10,000’s of Lbs of lead and cadmium telluride would have been swept into the Sea of Japan poisoning just about everything.”
So far, the 40-year-old technology in Japan seems to be holding, despite an 8.9 earthquake and a tsunami. Newer designs are even inherently safer, especially if we build them in areas away from major fault lines.

Two Unrelated School-Related Stories

Don't sleep in, even on the first day back to school after springing the clocks forward:
Chronically tardy and truant students at a Massachusetts high school are getting a rude awakening -- a pre-recorded morning wake-up call from their school principal.

The so-called "robo-calls" that began on Wednesday are aimed at rousting about 500 students, the worst-offending sleepyheads, from bed and getting them to school on time.

Guess it's too much to ask that students and parents take the responsibility. *sigh*

It's definitely safest, and more often than not probably a good idea, to keep the sexual innuendo out of class:
A quiz meant to teach high school students how innocent notions can become sexually charged as a person matures has landed a longtime William T. Dwyer High School teacher in hot water.

"We do feel that it was over the top," said Dwyer Principal Joseph Lee of the quiz given Monday by Frank Rozanski to his advanced placement psychology class.

Rozanski was disciplined but was still in the classroom teaching this week, Lee said.

It may have been academically valid, but still, in high school, people will complain.

Wisconsin Is Showing The American Left For What It Really Is

Thuggish, and hypocritical.

Even if you're a leftie, do you really condone this kind of intimidating behavior?
Far Left Protesters Now Videotaping License Plates at Scott Walker Fundraisers
(first link above)

After Congresswoman Giffords was shot (by a lunatic, who just happened to be a leftie), all the talk was about "civility" and not using martial terminology and images. Perhaps Time Magazine has forgotten that:
Wisconsin's Governor Wins But Is He Still Dead Man Walker?
(second link above)

Need another one?
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is releasing an online ad targeting the first-term Wisconsin congressman....

I thought "target" was one of those words that's out of bounds. Maybe it's just out of bounds if conservatives want to "target" liberals.

Lefties, you lost an election. You crowed about Obamacare, and were no doubt pleased when Nancy and the gang bribed and twisted arms to get barely enough votes to pass it--without a single House Republican and only a couple Senate Republicans. There was a vote, and the Republicans didn't leave town in a snit. You lefties got carried away, and the electorate handed you your fannies on a silver platter in November 2010.

But you can't deal with the legitimate results of an election. No, you harass and disrupt and threaten and call for revolt and threaten and vandalize and threaten and intimidate and threaten some more and then call for a revolution. You don't go to the ballot box, like conservatives did--no, you go straight for the truncheon.

You must be very proud of yourselves.

I'm going to borrow and paraphrase some terminology from a former US Secretary of Education: it's time to put on your big girl panties and start acting like adults.

Update: Can you tell I was a little hot under the collar when I wrote that? :-)

Update #2, 3/16/11: Do you need more? How about threats of arson and a union thug destroying recall petitions while the (unionized) police do nothing? How about shooting out windows of the DC GOP headquarters? Does anyone really want to try the worn "both sides do it" argument now? Because I'm not hearing about any conservatives, especially Tea Party members, doing anything like I've posted here, and you can bet that it would be wall-to-wall news if one were.

Update #3, 3/17/11: Well, someone at the Huffington Post has noticed the death threats, and is honest enough to call out fellow liberals on ignoring them as news. I applaud this person's integrity.

Update #4, 3/17/11: But wait, there's more.

Update #5, 3/17/11: I'm not done yet. Seriously, breaking someone's car window and scattering nails in their driveway? Who on the left will defend and justify this behavior? No one? Who on the left, then, will denounce it? *crickets*

Monday Trivia

The answer to today's question is:
1936, in Oakland, CA.

Today's question is:
The Swedish Bikini Team was an ad campaign for which brand of beer?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Kramer vs. Kramer. Other movies are listed here.

Today's question is:
In what year did Jack LaLanne (who died less than two months ago at age 96) open his first health club?

I Haven't Done A TSA Post In Awhile

Let's change that:

Homeland Security officials and a congressional committee will get an earful from an Alaska politician this week. Rep. Sharon Cissna (D-Anchorage) is heading to Washington to argue that enhanced pat-downs at airports go too far and amount to air passengers being "felt up" rather than a smart security measure.

Her goal is for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to revert to its previous, less-invasive procedure where pat-downs used a light touch, with screeners using the back of their hands, she tells AOL Travel News.

Cissna has some weight behind her cause. On Friday, the Alaska House of Representatives passed a resolution asking the TSA to end its invasive pat-down procedure implemented last year and immediately revert to the prior, less invasive, protocol. The state senate is expected to vote on a similar measure on Monday, Cissna says.

The politician, who is also a breast cancer survivor, became a face for those who oppose the intrusive, hands-forward pat-downs last month when she was singled out for the procedure by screeners at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after a full-body scanner showed scars from her mastectomy.

Cissna said at the time she had experienced the "invasive, probing hands of a stranger" during a prior airport pat-down and wasn't going to go through that again. Her decision to instead leave the airport, and make a four-day journey back to Juneau – where the legislature was in session – gained national attention.

The politician says invasive pat-downs can be particularly demeaning for those with medical conditions – including scars and prostheses – and survivors of sexual assault. (link)

I'd be happy with going back to metal detectors, myself--especially given the failure rate of TSA inspections.

Your Car Gets You Fired From School Job

I've posted an update to this post.

Community Service as a Graduation Requirement

A couple of staff meetings ago, the idea was floated that we should consider adding to student graduation requirements by requiring some form of community service. Some schools have a senior "project" or "thesis" requirement, we'd have proof of "helping others".

I have several problems with such a requirement, these being separated into the theoretical and the practical realms.

My first issue is that community service, unless imposed by a court, is voluntary. That's why it's called "service". If you compel people to do it, how is it different from involuntary servitude? People's best work comes when they want to do something, not when they're forced to do something. What lesson would we be teaching students by requiring them to perform unpaid, involuntary labor as a requirement for graduation?

Our PTSA was really big on the movie Race To Nowhere, in which parents and teachers are encouraged not to require so much of students. They paid for the required teacher screening at a staff meeting a few months ago. The movie encourages teachers not to give homework because the stress causes some students to kill themselves. It was an emotionally-driven movie, as you might imagine, and of course many teachers watched it and were convinced that every moment on the screen was gospel truth. If that's the case, then, why add yet another requirement for students?

My last big picture point is simply, under what authority do we lay claim to students' off-school time and behavior? I've been exceedingly consistent on this point here at RotLC--what students do on their own time is no business of the school's, unless and until it effects events at school. Unlike homework, community service has no direct impact on what happens at school and serves no immediate purpose other than requiring students to give up their off-campus time.

Those are my "ideological" problems with the requirement. Now let's move on to the practical problems regarding implementation of such a requirement.

The most obvious problem would be, what constitutes community service? We have school programs that already have community service as a requirement, would those students be able to "double-dip"? How would we determine which organizations or efforts are "worthy" enough to merit credit for community service? Eagle Scout projects--another "double dipping", or would they meet the requirement? What about students who have jobs in order to help support their families? What about scholar athletes--football, basketball, baseball--aren't they doing enough at/for school yet?

Even if we could legitimately answer the questions above, the next problem is, how would we track this requirement? This is a large paperwork burden for something that doesn't even relate to school.

And what would we do with students who transfer into our school as seniors? How do we impose this requirement on them?

The conclusion that I'm drawn to after posing all these questions is that we'd end up so diluting this requirement as to make it essentially worthless--in which case I'd have to ask why we'd want to impose it in the first place.

What draws people to want to enforce community service on others? Are we somehow trying to promote civic engagement, however we define that? Do we somehow think it will make our students "better people"? On what evidence do we believe this? I ask not only to see if there's a logical, rather than an "I just feeeeeel", answer, but also in response to this article:

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute just released Enlightened Citizenship: How Civic Knowledge Trumps a College Degree in Promoting Active Civic Engagement, which shows that college has zero positive influence in encouraging graduates to become politically engaged — although many universities promote that in mission statements.

If we accept that thesis as true, that just getting an education doesn't promote civic engagement but that "civic knowledge" does, how do we impart "civic knowledge"? The stone has to skip over the pond many times to get from helping at a soup kitchen, for example, to civic knowledge to civic engagement, and many of those skips are genuine leaps of faith.

Notice I haven't even addressed whether it's the school's or the family's place in society to teach civic values, but you know where I come down on this point.

If your school has a community service requirement, please leave a comment explaining what its purpose is and how it's implemented.

Update, 8/27/2013:   Another good reason not to do this:
Maryland’s community service requirement — high school students must complete 75 hours to earn a diploma — may reduce their later volunteering, according to a new study. The mandate increased volunteering by 8th graders, but decreased it for 12th graders, concludes Involuntary Volunteering. Instead of creating lifelong service, the graduation requirement may discourage voluntary volunteering.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
According to the Heisman web site, Archie Griffin of Ohio State won in both 1974 and 1975.

Today's question is:
Apocalypse Now lost out to what movie for the 1980 Academy Award?

Why I'm *Not* Going On A Cruise Over Spring Break

Cruise: $459 per person, 7 nights out of New Orleans
Airfare: $558 per person, roundtrip on Southwest from Sacramento to New Orleans

Guess my son and I will have to find something else to do over the break.

It's Not Just Diamonds That Are Forever

When I was in high school, the joke was, "What's the difference between love and herpes? Herpes is forever." Those were innocent days--AIDS was just getting started, and herpes was the big bad. It seems almost quaint today, no?

So now we have diamonds and two STD's that are forever. Know what else is forever? Your past:
Tera Myers, ex-porn star, loses teaching gig in St. Louis, after student discovers her X-rated past

I understand that you can't really have an effective teaching environment if kids can find porn videos of their teachers online. Still, part of me thinks this teacher is, somehow, being dealt a bad hand:
Time was, anyone who needed to make a fresh start in life could simply find a new town to live in and, if needed, a new name to go by. Your past was truly the past, and a lot less inclined to follow you around than it is today. But now the eraser is gone. Information persists not because we deliberately make it persist, or even because we want it to, but simply because the information infrastructure we have created is so incredibly good at doing what we designed it to do.
Yes, she made choices that, in hindsight, weren't good. That doesn't change the suckiness of her situation. I do have a certain amount of sympathy for her.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coming Up On Monday

It really starts on Sunday afternoon. WASC, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, will be sending a team for our periodic accreditation, and next week we're really supposed to have our shoes shined and our ducks in a row for the visit. Their first team meeting is on Sunday, and they'll also meet our administrators as well as PTSA folks. This way they hit the ground running on Monday morning, and are among us for three days.

I stayed later than I expected to today--a colleague couldn't find her car keys--and now I could hardly be more prepared for the evaluation team. I have examples of student work in a folder all ready for perusal; examples come from each course I teach, and are identified as low-, middle-, or high-performing work. I finished grading all of this week's quizzes and have the grades entered into our online grading program, and also have next week's homework posted on my web site. I wrote next Tuesday's statistics test and am ready to copy it during my prep period on Monday. Monday's agenda is already posted on the whiteboard at the front of class.

I'm about as ready for this WASC visit as I could possibly be. Any bets on whether I'll see a single evaluator? It would be just my luck not to!

Friday Trivia

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

Today's question is:
Who is the only person to have won 2 Heisman Trophies? Bonus: for which school did he play?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The New Class Envy?

Too many times to count, I've chided the Left for stoking class envy--the jealousy that screams "tax the rich" is the same kind that used to scream "death to the kulaks" 80 years ago. I don't fault people for legitimately earning their money, and I also don't think that the public has some noble claim to someone's money. I've heard about "excess" money and making "too much" money--even addressing that topic over two years ago--and what I find is that the people who use such terms always describe the people who have "excess" money as someone who has more than they do!

I don't like class envy. I don't like its very existence, and I don't like those who try to exploit it.

As I said, it's usually the Left that plays the class envy card. Lately, though, I'm hearing from my own people on the Right. "Public workers get pensions that private citizens can only dream of." Whether that's true or not, and whether that should be changed or not, those are legitimate points of debate. When I read between the lines, though, what I hear is, "I don't have those, so you shouldn't, either, and I'm going to vilify you until you don't have them, either."

Bringing everyone down to the lowest (economic) common denominator is what socialists do. We on the Right should not adopt their tactics and their rhetoric just to score cheap and temporary points against public unions. Our ideas and values are strong enough to carry the day, let's not crawl into the gutter and manufacture our own 2-Minute Hate just because of the visceral rush it provides. We're supposed to be better than that.

If All Your Friends Jump Off A Bridge, Would You?

No, of course not, because then you wouldn't be unique. But if your friends urge you to do it, then by all means, jump.

A California high school student visiting the Golden Gate Bridge on a Thursday morning field trip climbed over a railing, jumped - possibly on a dare by fellow classmates - and somehow survived the 220-foot plunge into San Francisco Bay that kills dozens of people each year.

Most jumpers die a grisly death, with massive internal injuries, broken bones and skull fractures. Some die from internal bleeding, while others drown.

But the 17-year-old lived, suffering just a broken tailbone and torn lung. He was rescued by a surfer who paddled over and took him ashore, California Highway Patrol Officer Chris Rardin said.

I often wonder what goes through people's minds during events like this.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Byzantium, renamed Constantinople, later renamed Istanbul.

Today's question is:
Uncle Sam is a personification of the United States, or at least the United States government. Who is the personification of the British people?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Greater than 1. The American Civil War was, to a month, 4 years long, whereas American fighting in WWII took place from December 1941 to August 1945, a period of less than 4 years.

Today's question is:
When the Roman Empire was split into Eastern and Western halves, what city became the capital of the Eastern half?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Disappearing Posts?

Periodically I look for a post in my archive of over 6000 posts. I also have backup copies on my hard drive, in case the search boxes at the top or bottom of this page fail me. A couple of times, I've found posts in my "hard drive" archives that neither search box can find online anymore, and tonight it's happened again. I even search for key words in the post that wouldn't pop up in too many other posts--and it just doesn't appear to be online anymore.

It's happened again tonight. How do posts just disappear?

Teacher Criticized For How She Sent A Note Home To A Parent

When I was in elementary school, or at least just in kindergarten, when our teacher wanted to send notes home with us, she pinned them to our shirts--and I don't mean safety pins, either, but gen-yoo-ine straight pins. Can you imagine the lawsuits and threats of lawsuits if some teacher tried that today?

Yet somehow we survived.

That's what came to my mind as I watched this video of a news report from Miami. Here's a summary:

A student is somewhat out of control in class. This isn't the first time, because the teacher doubted the boy had taken previous disciplinary and academic notes home to mom.

The school district says that the teacher "attached" a note to the boy's shirt; mom says the teacher stapled the note to his shirt. Mom says the teacher said she did this because, as stated before, she didn't think he'd taken previous notes home to mom. Mom says she got the previous notes, which makes one wonder why she didn't respond to any of them.

The district says the teacher then told the boy to put on his sweatshirt over the shirt and note, so that the note wouldn't draw attention. Mom and the boy said he had a jacket but was told to take it off so everyone could see the note and make fun of him.

Mom says this treatment was intentionally embarrassing to her son. The boy says it made him angry and mad.

I can see a safety pin or something--but stapling? If that really happened, the teacher is out of line and deserves a good talking to, maybe a little administrative chewing out. This should not, however, become a federal case.

I wondered instantly about the race issue. Both the reporter and mom appeared black. Race was never mentioned in the story, which makes me wonder if the teacher was also black. It's sad that our current state of affairs causes me to think that way, but there's a reason "playing the race card" is a phrase in our modern lexicon. Heck, can we disagree with the president's policies yet without somehow being racists? And he's not even embarrassing individual children.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Merlin. A variant of this engine was used in the North American P-51 Mustang as well.

Today's question is:
If you divided the length of the American Civil War, in years, by the length, in years, of American combat in World War II, would the ratio be greater or less than 1? Justify :-)

Monday, March 07, 2011

ROTC Survey at Columbia

From Inside Higher Ed:
Sixty percent of the students polled at Columbia University support a return of the Reserve Officer Training Corps to their campus, according to a report submitted Friday to the University Senate by a special Task Force on Military Engagement...

The task force, which was composed of five students and four faculty members, also summed up weeks of e-mailed comments it received and provided transcripts to three public meetings on the subject (one of which was the source of controversy). The results of the latest vote, in the wake of the repeal in December of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that barred gay servicemen and women from serving, differed from the last such survey taken at Columbia in 2008. A referendum that year revealed that 49 percent of students favored a return of ROTC to campus.

The fate of the program now rests with a vote of the 108-member University Senate sometime during the next two months.

I'm exceedingly curious how the University Senate will vote.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Mother Teresa.

Today's question is:
What was the name of the Rolls Royce engine that powered both the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire during the Battle of Britain?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
By what better-known name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu known?

Solar, et al, Is Nice In Theory, But Impractical

I've long been an advocate of solar power, but at present we're just not capable of saving any money with it. A glaring example:

Larry Eisenberg had a vision. "Amazing," he called it. "Spectacular."

The Los Angeles Community College District would become a paragon of clean energy. By generating solar, wind and geothermal power, the district would supply all its electricity needs. Not only would the nine colleges sever ties to the grid, saving millions of dollars a year, they would make money by selling surplus power. Thanks to state and federal subsidies, construction of the green energy projects would cost nothing upfront.

As head of a $5.7-billion, taxpayer-funded program to rebuild the college campuses, Eisenberg commanded attention. But his plan for energy independence was seriously flawed.

He overestimated how much power the colleges could generate. He underestimated the cost. And he poured millions of dollars into designs for projects that proved so impractical or unpopular they were never built.

These and other blunders cost nearly $10 million that could have paid for new classrooms, laboratories and other college facilities, a Times investigation found.

The problems with Eisenberg's energy vision were fundamental. For starters, there simply wasn't room on the campuses for all the generating equipment required to become self-sufficient. Some of the colleges wouldn't come close to that goal even if solar panels, wind turbines and other devices were wedged into every available space.

Going off the grid did not make economic sense either. Given the cost of alternative energy technology, it would be more expensive for the district to generate all its own electricity than to continue paying utilities for power.

Weather and geology also refused to cooperate.

You know what does work, in any weather? What provides non-polluting, relatively inexpensive electricity using a mature technology? Nuclear power plants. We should have more of those.

21st Century Skills

This push towards so-called 21st Century Skills--as if educators, of all people, knew in 1910 what skills would be required of students for the next 90 years--would be relatively harmless, outside of the immense expenditure of time and money, if certain advocates didn't minimize actual content knowledge.

I've said for years that a person cannot think "critically" without having some knowledge about which to think--but the first several lines of this post are far more eloquent and pithy on the subject than I've ever been:

This post reminded me of something I wrote back in 2005, in response to other assertions by educationists to the effect that technology makes memorization unnecessary. I quoted some lines from a song by Jakob Dylan:

Cupid, don’t draw back your bow
Sam Cooke didn’t know what I know

…and observed that in order to understand these two simple lines, you’d have to know several things:

1)You need to know that, in mythology, Cupid symbolizes love
2)And that Cupid’s chosen instrument is the bow and arrow
3)Also that there was a singer/songwriter named Sam Cooke
4)And that he had a song called “Cupid, draw back your bow.”

“Progressive” educators, loudly and in large numbers, insist that students should be taught “thinking skills” as opposed to memorization. But consider: If it’s not possible to understand a couple of lines from a popular song without knowing by heart the references to which it alludes–without memorizing them–what chance is there for understanding medieval history, or modern physics, without having a ready grasp of the topics which these disciplines reference?

You can't "think" until you have something in your head to think about.


"Let's get this straight. We're going to be 'gifted' with a health care plan we are forced to purchase and fined if we don't, which purportedly covers at least ten million more people without adding a single new doctor, but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that didn't read it but exempted themselves from it, and signed by a president who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, for which we'll be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect, by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that's broke!!


-Denis Gartman

I don't know who Denis Gartman is, but if he's quoted accurately in this post, he's my kind of guy.

How Long Does It Take To Fire A Teacher?

Click here to see the chart showing the process.
TWO YEARS to get rid of a teacher? Insanity. Me? I can be canned today. This minute and I gotta find another job. Sanity is somewhere in the middle of those two.

Diversity and Multiculturalism

From American Thinker:
It's important to distinguish between diversity and multiculturalism, which are often lumped together in liberal orthodoxy. Diversity is inherently good; but multiculturalism too often leads to separation and resentment that foments extremism.

Hear hear. Let's continue.

True diversity goes beyond quotas or controversial agenda-driven calls to promote this group or that. It's a sincere effort to incorporate diverse skills, to encourage various problem-solving methods and to harness disparate talents towards solving complex problems. This kind of diversity is indeed axiomatic in a democratic society, standing alongside such precious tenets as freedom of speech, the rule of law and equal rights.

But like a parasite sucking the blood from its host, multiculturalism often latches onto the righteous aims of true diversity. Indeed, many organizational mission statements cannot separate the two, presenting them as corollaries amidst flowery platitudes about values. But whereas true diversity promotes cohesion, multiculturalism too often divides us.

I'm willing to listen to arguments from the other side, but I'll admit to not having heard a strong one yet.

Thoughts From A Modern Historian

From the Wall Street Journal:

"The big change in principle came under Kennedy," Mr. Johnson (British historian Paul Johnson) writes. "In the autumn of 1962 the Administration committed itself to a new and radical principle of creating budgetary deficits even when there was no economic emergency." Removing this constraint on government spending allowed Kennedy to introduce "a new concept of 'big government': the 'problem-eliminator.' Every area of human misery could be classified as a 'problem'; then the Federal government could be armed to 'eliminate' it."

How's that worked out for us?

Other snippets:

The former governor of Alaska, he says, "is in the good tradition of America, which this awful political correctness business goes against." Plus: "She's got courage. That's very important in politics. You can have all the right ideas and the ability to express them. But if you haven't got guts, if you haven't got courage the way Margaret Thatcher had courage—and [Ronald] Reagan, come to think of it. Your last president had courage too—if you haven't got courage, all the other virtues are no good at all. It's the central virtue."

"But I notice it's much more likely that a so-called dictatorship will be overthrown if it's not a real dictatorship. The one in Tunisia wasn't very much. Mubarak didn't run a real dictatorship [in Egypt]. Real dictatorships in that part of the world," such as Libya, are a different story.

And then there was Ronald Reagan. "Mr. Reagan had thousands of one-liners." Here a grin spreads across Mr. Johnson's face: "That's what made him a great president."

Jokes, he argues, were a vital communication tool for President Reagan "because he could illustrate points with them." Mr. Johnson adopts a remarkable vocal impression of America's 40th president and delivers an example: "You know, he said, 'I'm not too worried about the deficit. It's big enough to take care of itself.'" Recovering from his own laughter, he adds: "Of course, that's an excellent one-liner, but it's also a perfectly valid economic point." Then his expression grows serious again and he concludes: "You don't get that from Obama. He talks in paragraphs."

He likes "the cut of her (Sarah Palin's) jib." I like the cut of his.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
John and Alice Clayton, Lord and Lady Greystoke.

Today's question is:
When was the National Geographic Magazine (now National Geographic) first published?

I Guess You Have To Admire BYU For Enforcing Its Standards, Even On Star Athletes

I never really understood this rule, though:

Brigham Young University officials on Thursday stood by the decision to dismiss a standout player on the Cougars' highly ranked men's basketball team, saying they are treating Brandon Davies just like they would any other student.

The school's athletic department announced Tuesday that Davies -- a starting forward from Provo would no longer be part of the team this season. The university came into the week ranked third in the nation in the Associated Press Top 25 and Coaches polls.

Officials did not specify why, exactly, Davies was being suspended during a press conference Thursday.

But the Salt Lake Tribune, citing "multiple sources," said that the sophomore violated the honor code provision prohibiting premarital sex among students.
Encouraging such behavior in children is much different from requiring it from adults.

You May Not Agree With Wisconsin Governor Walker, But Do You Support This?

A Connecticut town must provide their union workers free coffee and milk, according to a ruling from the State Board of Labor Relations.

The board also ordered town leaders to reinstate “Dress Down Fridays” for the union clerical and custodial workers.

The dispute involved the town of Orange and the local chapter of the United Public Service Employees Union.

The board determined the town retaliated against the union members for comments they made at a finance meeting in 2009.

The day after that meeting, First Selectman James Zeloi eliminated the free coffee and milk and the following day ended “Dress Down Friday.” Zeoli told The New Haven Register that he pulled the plug on the coffee to save money and stopped casual Fridays because some employees were abusing the privilege.

“It shows you how crazy state government has become,” Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy told Fox News Radio. “You’d almost laugh at it, if it wasn’t so serious in tone.

This is just another black eye on state government.”

Via Fox News.