Friday, September 30, 2011

How UC Berkeley Republicans' Affirmative Action Bake Sale Could Have Turned Out

How it could have turned out if there were any adults at Berkeley:
Gibor Basri, Berkeley’s vice chancellor for equity and diversity, could have served a valuable role here by pointing out that the bake sale was obviously a parody of racial and gender preferences, not a criticism of students themselves. Whatever one thinks about the issue of preferences, he might have said, such political theater belongs to Berkeley’s once-revered tradition of free speech. Instead, Basri chose to stoke the melodramatic self-pity of today’s college students. “A lot of students, especially students of color, read [the bake sale] as placing a higher value on white students,” Basri told the New York Times. Basri, in other words, obeyed the ironclad script for all such minor perturbations in the otherwise unbroken reign of campus political correctness. That script requires that the massive campus-diversity bureaucracy treat the delusional claims of hyperventilating students with utter seriousness. Students in the ever-expanding roster of official campus victim groups flatter themselves that by attending what is in fact the most caring, protective, and opportunity-rich institution in the history of the world, they are braving unspeakable threats to their ego and even to their physical safety. (Indeed, so desirable is this alleged threatened status that a gender and women’s studies major held a sign during Tuesday’s protest of the bake sale decrying the exclusion of “queer people” from the Republicans’ pricing structure.)
Via City Journal and NewsAlert.

Master's Degree

I make less than the average teacher in my district and less than the average teacher in California--because, after 14 years of teaching, I still don't have a master's degree. So I've decided to get an MAT degree (Master of Arts in Teaching Mathematics) from the University of Idaho's Engineering Outreach Program via distance learning. I've first got to convince my school district to approve/accept that program (which will probably take months), and I tentatively plan to start coursework next fall.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

If Cheating Is Rampant In California's High-stakes Testing, No One Would Know

Why not? Because there's no funding to spot the signs of cheating:
High-stakes education testing in California is operating on the honor system because two years ago state officials eliminated the system used to catch cheaters.

The routine checking of tests for erasures or other anomalies was eliminated in California in September 2009, when the the budget for testing was slashed by $17 million. The cost of security audits and running hand-bubbled tests through a machine to check for excessive erasures and suspicious marks: $105,000.

That means California isn't likely to catch major episodes of cheating like those that rocked city schools in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and school districts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in recent years.
I should invest in whatever company makes erasers.

I Will Lower Your Grade Because You Practice Medieval Superstitions

Everyone likes a good stupid teacher or stupid administrator story, and this teacher fills the bill:
When someone sneezes, a common response is, “God bless you.” But one California teacher finds this statement so offensive and disruptive that he’s working to cut back on its usage in the classroom.

Steve Cuckovich, a health teacher at William C. Wood High School in Vacaville, California, has attempted to banish the friendly gesture, as he believes it is both disrespectful and disruptive. To punish students who do, indeed, say “God bless you” after one of their classmates sneezes, he purportedly knocks 25 points off of their grade.
I agree that sometimes, students say "Bless you" or "God bless you" in a manner designed to be disruptive, but the vast majority of the time it's just a trained response. Sometimes I'll tell students about the origins of the phrase--a medieval superstition wherein a sneeze was an expulsion of the soul--but that's mostly just for information.

I understand if this teacher wants students to stop blurting out phrases, but he seriously crosses a line when he lowers an academic grade for non-academic purposes. Behavior, tardies, absences, etc. should not affect an academic grade, IMNSHO.

Kid Wins One Against His Principal

Everyone likes a good stupid teacher or stupid administrator story, and you've got to cheer that the underdog won in this case:
The high school principal who pushed to suspend a 14-year-old autistic boy for running onto the field during halftime of a football game while wearing a banana man costume has resigned.

Karen Spillman lasted less than two months at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford, Va. The superintendent wouldn't say why Spillman is officially out.

Bryan Thompson became an Internet folk hero after he ended up in handcuffs in the back of a police car following his Sept. 16 stunt.
The full story, and the comments afterward, do not paint a flattering picture of the principal. At all. No matter how you try to spin it.

The Title of the Linked Article Explains Why I'm A Conservative


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Who Is On The Front Line Of Freedom's Frontier?

Just last week, two well-educated and well-known writer acquaintances of mine remarked in passing on the "fact" that those who serve in the U.S. military typically have no other career options. America's soldiers, they said, were poor and black.

They don't mean this to denigrate their service—no, they mean it as a critique of American society, which turns its unemployed into cannon fodder. Especially today with high unemployment, the charge goes, hapless youths we fail to educate are embarking on a one-way trip to Afghanistan.

These allegations—most frequently leveled at the Army, the military's biggest service and the one with the highest casualty rate—are false. link
Just putting some facts out there, and the author does a good job of doing so.

How Did The Affirmative Action Bake Sale At Berkeley Turn Out?

About like you'd expect :-) In other words, the liberals weren't happy.

Zombie, a star if there ever was one in the realm of internet photoessayists, has the details.

Seen At The Bike Rack Today

Did I mention that the school at which I teach is next to a river?

Education Buzz

This week's is here, with no post from me. I must have failed to send one in :(

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Whooping Cough Vaccinations

I thought Rick Perry was wrong when he signed the law requiring girls to get HPV vaccinations--there's no risk of public transmission of HPV in school. Whooping cough, like tuberculosis and other communicable diseases, is entirely different, and I support the public health laws requiring vaccinations before entering school. With whooping cough making a comeback, a new California law this year required students to have whooping cough vaccinations before the start of the school year. It hasn't gone smoothly:
Cash-strapped school districts are grappling with the potential loss of funding for students sent home for not having a state- mandated whooping cough vaccination or exemption on file...

Some districts are sending unvaccinated students home as the law states, and some are allowing them to attend classes even without the shots...

"The law is clear: Unvaccinated students are not supposed to be in school," said Tina Jung, spokeswoman for the California Department of Education.

But Jung said that doesn't mean that the state will penalize districts that allow students to attend classes without the vaccinations. "Our job is to educate children, not punish schools," Jung said.

The department is trying to decide whether to distribute money in those situations, Jung said.
If someone started a rumor that those not vaccinated are Tea Party supporters, the money would not be forthcoming. Actually, though, I've previously read (but cannot currently find a citation) that the anti-vaccine crowd is mostly made up of well-to-do, reasonably educated, white families who use issues like this (and global warming?) to somehow show their elitist bona fides. Marin County, for example, is Northern California's ground zero for the anti-vaccination crowd, and we know they don't exactly have a lot of "ethnics" in Marin. So much for "settled science" :-)

Did You Ever Have One Of Those Days?

It might not have started today. It might have started last night, when we came in 5th or so at trivia at the pub downtown. We never place that low.

And then when I woke up this morning I was too tired to get out of bed and get on the elliptical. So I spent my elliptical time snuggling up in the blanket, staying warm.

When it came time to get dressed, I decided that instead of trying to squeeze into my pants, I'd break out the fat-boy pants that I retired around this time last year. My skiing injury keeps me from doing a lot of physical activity, and I've started packing the pounds on again.

Things didn't go any better at school today. I just wasn't firing on all 8 cylinders, and neither were my classes. We had 3 2-hr classes today, so except for lunch I was constantly in demand.

My calendar reminder popped onto my screen today--I have "dance duty" at school this Saturday night. Saturday night is usually movie night with a friend of mine, and he absolutely cannot do Friday night this week--and not at all next weekend.

By the time I got home today I was so frustrated at life in general that I couldn't even bring myself to go to the gym, even though that's probably what I needed most. Instead, I walked 2 miles to Safeway just so I could use the ATM, and 2 miles back. It was warm out, probably still in the 90s, but it helped tire me out just enough that I couldn't maintain anger anymore.

Here's to hoping for a better tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Single-sex = Pseudoscience

Joanne's on a roll today:
Single-sex education is based on “pseudoscience,” charge a team of neuroscience and child development experts in a Science article. There is “no empirical evidence” that segregating students by sex improves education, they argue. There’s plenty of evidence it can increase gender stereotyping among students and adults.
Short-term gains are attributed to the Hawthorne Effect, or to "motivate" evaluators. Commenters on Joanne's post question the bias of the study's authors.

Traditionally-taught Math

It's hard to disagree with Barry, and I don't:
“The traditional method of teaching math has failed thousands of students,” claim new math proponents. That’s a myth, writes Barry Garelick in Education News...

Traditional math education was working reasonably well, Garelick argues. In Iowa, test scores rose steadily until about 1965, and then declined dramatically for a decade. This pattern was repeated in Minnesota and Indiana.

Some researchers blame increased drug use and the rise in divorce and single-parent families for the decline. Garelick blames progressive education which called for student-centered, needs-based courses.
I wonder what the results were for the remaining states.

Is Any Criticism Of The President A Priori Racist?

This criticism certainly has racial elements to it: Obama would never tell the Jews or the gays to stop complaining.

Why is that, Maxine? Why can he tell blacks to stop complaining, but not Jews or gays? Oh, I could have so much fun with this one, but you already get the point.

Liberals are always looking at skin color.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

TNR Admits Democrats Are Losing The Political Center

In August of this year, Pew posed a very similar question (note to survey wonks: Pew used a five-point scale, versus six in 2005), but the results were very different. Although average voters continue to see themselves as just right of center, they now place themselves twice as far away from the Democratic Party as from the Republicans. In addition, Independents now see themselves as significantly closer to the Republican Party, reversing their perceptions of six years ago.

There’s another difference as well. In 2005, Republicans’ and Democrats’ views of their own parties dovetailed with the perceptions of the electorate as a whole. Today, while voters as a whole agree with Republicans’ evaluation of their party as conservative, they disagree with Democrats, who on average see their party as moderate rather than liberal. So when Independents, who see themselves as modestly right of center, say that Democrats are too liberal, average Democrats can’t imagine what they’re talking about. link

Hmmm, what might be causing this? Could it be that centrist president and centrist Congress he had for the first 2 years of his administration? "I don't think so, Tim."

They're Still Doing This Kinda Stuff?

Oh, the libs don't like it when you mock their view of diversity and show it for the sham that it is:
The UC Berkeley College Republicans are planning a bake sale — where the price of a cupcake depend on your race.

The “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” is meant to satirize an affirmative action-like bill in California that would let the university system consider ethnicity in student admissions.

“Just like the CA Senate Bills 185 and 387 the phone bank supports, we will be considering race, gender, ethnicity, national/geographic origin and other relevant factors to ensure the equitable distribution of baked goods to our diverse student body,” the College Republicans wrote in a Facebook announcement publicizing the event, set for Tuesday. “Hope to see you all there! If you don’t come, you’re a racist!”

But with a price structure that includes $2 for “White/Caucasian,” $1.50 for “Asian/Asian American” and $.0.75 for “Black/African American,” some aren’t finding it very funny.
I'm sure it hurts some feelings :-) Can anyone explain to me what's wrong with this bake sale, and/or the point it makes?

Update, 9/26/11: You had to know this was coming:
UC Berkeley student senators voted Sunday to condemn discriminatory behavior on campus - even if done in satire - in response to a Republican student group's plans for an "Increase Diversity Bake Sale," with pastries labeled according to race and gender...

The bake sale has students quarrelling not only about race-based college admissions but about the nature of political commentary - what is fair and what is offensive, and who gets to decide.
Who gets to decide. That's really important when your goal is to limit free speech.

"The world runs on individuals' pursuing their self interests."

It's been awhile since I linked to this video in which Milton Friedman discusses capitalism, greed, and socialism with Phil Donahue. Again, I wish we had more talk show hosts today like Donahue, who let you know his personal beliefs but had dignified, respectful discussions with guests who disagreed with him.

In addition to Friedman's quote in the title of this post, I also like this one, "In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you're talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worse off, worst off, it's exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that."

Friedman's Argument Strikes Me As Akin To Churchill's

Apocryphal or not, it's a great story:

At a dinner party Churchill says to his dinner companion, "Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?"
The woman responds, "My goodness, Mr. Churchill. I suppose I would."
Churchill replies, "Would you sleep with me for five pounds?"
She answers, "Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?"
Churchill answers, "Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price."
Similarly, Milton Friedman debates with a young man, saying that we put prices on people every day, and that the young man is arguing not from a position of principle but rather from a position of price and value.

Raising Taxes

Many on the American Right are reflexively against increased taxes. I don't think they should be reflexive about it, but I understand their core assumption--we pay too much already to a government that wastes our money, and don't want to pay more. I agree with that, believing wholeheartedly that government must be cut, that entire departments must be closed or blended with others, that entire programs need to wither away. Once we've identified the core functions of government, then we can determine how much it costs to pay for that government (including the interest on what we've already borrowed), and set tax rates accordingly. Unlike the president, I don't believe that the purpose of taxes is to create "fairness" or to redistribute wealth or to change behavior, but to pay for the legitimate functions of government. If, after we've cut out all the crap, our current tax rates won't pay for what we want, then, and only then, should tax rates be raised.

So it was with great interest that I read this article in The Economist, about raising taxes on the rich:
Tapping the rich to close the deficit is “not class warfare”, argues Mr Obama. “It’s math.”

Actually, it’s not simply math (or indeed maths). The question of whether to tax the wealthy more depends on political judgments about the right size of the state and the appropriate role for redistribution. The maths says deficits could technically be tamed by spending cuts alone—as Mr Obama’s Republican opponents advocate. Class warfare may be a loaded term, but it captures a fundamental debate in Western societies: who should suffer for righting public finances?

In general, this newspaper’s instincts lie with small government and against ever higher taxation to pay for an unsustainable welfare state. We reject the notion, implicit in much of today’s debate, that higher tax rates on the wealthy are justified because of the finance industry’s role in the crunch: retribution is a poor rationale for taxation. Nor is the current pattern of contribution to the public purse obviously “unfair”: the richest 1% of Americans pay more than a quarter of all federal taxes (and fully 40% of income taxes), while taking less than 20% of pre-tax income. And knee-jerk rich-bashing, like Labour’s tax hike, seldom makes for good policy. High marginal tax rates discourage entrepreneurship, and no matter how much Mr Obama mentions “millionaires and billionaires”, higher taxes on them alone cannot close America’s deficit.

So the debate is poisonously skewed. But there are three good reasons why the wealthy should pay more tax—though not, by and large, in the ways that the rich world’s governments currently propose.
It's not a long article, taking up only a single page in the print edition, but it's powerful. Two points jumped out to me as seeming reasonable:
Public spending should certainly take the brunt: there is plenty of scope to slim inefficient Leviathan, and studies of past deficit-cutting programmes suggest they work best when cuts predominate. Britain’s four-to-one ratio is about right. But, as that ratio implies, experience also argues that higher taxes should be part of the mix.
Why raise taxes? Because we've got to pay down that debt. And the other valuable point?
Indeed, the third argument for raising more money from the rich is that it can be done not by increasing marginal tax rates, but by making the tax code more efficient.

The scope for doing so is most obvious in America, which relies far more than other countries on income taxes and has a mass of deductions on everything from interest payments on mortgages to employer-provided health care, so taxes are levied on a very narrow base. Getting rid of the deductions would simplify the code and raise as much as $1 trillion a year. Since the main beneficiaries of the deductions are the wealthy, richer folk would pay most of that. And since marginal rates would be untouched (or reduced), such a reform would do less to discourage them from creating wealth.
I won't support a single tax increase until we start cutting government--and I mean cutting, not snipping off a corner here or there. Once we're serious about cutting, the proposals put forth in the linked article would be a grand place to start when considering taxation.

The "Pension Truth Squad"

Do they address the "unsustainability" of the current model? I doubt it would fit the narrative, but it's an important part of the discussion, don't you think?
With attacks against public pensions escalating, a cadre of retired CTA members is joining forces with Pension Truth Squads that have been barnstorming the state.

Retired teachers in San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno, Chico, San Luis Obispo, Riverside and Palm Springs have shared their stories and brought the truth to the public about their retirement plans. They are not alone in fighting back. They join a coalition of retired school employees, firefighters, police and other public employees who are out to set the record straight on public employee retirement.

They are making it known that their pensions are modest — not the six-figure incomes that those who would undo the public employee pension system suggest.

“We would like to dispel some of the myths about public employee pensions,” said Alen Ritchie, a retired Redlands music teacher, who spoke at an event in Riverside in May. “Teachers do not go into the profession for money, but we do deserve a livable retirement.”
I love the "editor's note" at the end of the article:
EDITOR’S NOTE: At press time, Secretary of State Deborah Bowen gave the go-ahead for signature-gathering to begin on three antiunion initiatives. One would increase the retirement age for public employees to 65, one would increase the income tax on pensions in excess of $100,000 to 15 percent and higher, and another would eliminate bargaining rights for public employee unions altogether.
1. How is increasing the retirement age for public employees "anti-union"?
2. Don't liberals believe that "the rich", perhaps those making 100K or more, should pay more? And doesn't mentioning a 100K pension undercut the article, which discusses "modest" pensions and "liveable" retirement income?

Maybe this lack of logic in CTA articles comes from a dearth of math and science knowledge :-) (see this post from a few minutes ago to be in on the joke)

Let's Play "Spot The Bias"

There's a hilarious article in the September California Educator regarding redistricting and the possibility that it "could bring more funding to schools". Check out the final sentence of this paragraph:
Redistricting could have significant implications for the state budget process. If the results of the 2012 elections create a new supermajority in the Legislature, it might be possible to raise new state revenues on a simple majority vote. Current law allows the Legislature to approve a state budget on a simple majority vote, but raising new state revenues still requires a two-thirds supermajority of both houses of the Legislature. During the 2011 budget stalemate, the state was held in the grip of a small group of anti-tax lawmakers whose votes were needed to approve any new revenues or change in the tax structure. As a result, the governor and legislators were forced to balance the state budget with massive cuts and deferrals. Although they tried hard to spare education, school funding has been cut by more than $18 billion over the past three years. To restore funding for schools and to boost appropriations to the level they were during Gov. Reagan’s term, Californians will need to elect more centrist lawmakers willing to support revenue increases and tax fairness.
When has CTA ever been interested in "centrist" lawmakers? These people have no shame.

Where Does This Problem Lie?

It's that time of year again, boys and girls--time to get California Educator magazine, the mouthpiece rag of the California Teachers "Association", and to pick apart its silliness. Take this article for instance:
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know science education is becoming extinct in California’s schools, producing a negative impact on society. It’s a domino effect: Science gets short shrift in elementary schools that focus mostly on English and math due to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements. Students enter secondary school lacking a foundation in science, and their classes emphasize rote memorization instead of hands-on learning. With schools unable to afford materials for science labs, students think science is boring and pursue careers in other fields. Without a new generation of scientists, America loses its edge in creating new technology, finding cures for diseases and improving the overall quality of life.
I'm not sure when the "Golden Age" of elementary science education was, but there is definitely some interesting silliness in the above paragraph. First, of course, is tossing the blame at NCLB, to which I'll return in a moment. The next, though, is the emphasis on "rote memorization"; I ask, why aren't these teachers, professionals that they are, doing more than rote memorization? Do they really need Bill Nye The Science Guy setups before they can teach? And when did elementary school teachers, notorious for not wanting even to teach math, become the chemists and biologists of our age?

Sorry, I'm not buying it.

Now let's return to the Big Bugaboo, NCLB. Because of its emphasis on English and math (as if you could do science without either), science instruction is supposedly getting short shrift. But California Educator is a California publication about California schools--don't our state standards include elementary science? Why, yes they do! From what I can determine, science is tested by the state in grades 5 and 8-11, but there are standards that are supposed to be met in all grades. Is California Educator, and by extension the CTA, saying that California's professional teaching corps is focusing only on what's tested, and is not meeting all its responsibilities when it comes to teaching the required curriculum?

That's a big admission. What's the real problem here? Are school administrators forbidding the teaching of science?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

With The President's Supporters, It's Always About Racism

It's never about his policies, his beliefs, his actions, or his failures. No, for them it's always and only about his skin color. They are the true racists.
Electoral racism in its most naked, egregious and aggressive form is the unwillingness of white Americans to vote for a black candidate regardless of the candidate’s qualifications, ideology or party. This form of racism was a standard feature of American politics for much of the twentieth century. So far, Barack Obama has been involved in two elections that suggest that such racism is no longer operative. His re-election bid, however, may indicate that a more insidious form of racism has come to replace it...

Still, electoral racism cannot be reduced solely to its most egregious, explicit form. It has proved more enduring and baffling than these results can capture. The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.
Yes, it's from the Nation, so you expect this kind of tripe, but it's still jarring when confronted with the reality that there are people out there who actually believe this stuff. By what standard is he competent at all? A Washington Post story about Ron Suskind's inside-the-White-House book states, "He asserts that Obama realized a secret truth in the fall of 2008 — that he was not ready to serve as president — and he writes that Obama 'lost ownership of his words and, eventually, his deeds.' " If true, that would be one of Obama's few beliefs that has any semblance of reality.

Can Anyone Explain To Me What Happened Here?

Did Amazon lose too much money by cutting off its California affiliates, is that why they're now cozying up to California? I can't come up with any other explanation, but in all the articles I've read about this I can't get a clear explanation of the motivation behind their about-face.

They Don't Like The Tea Party At Harvard

At least this communist doesn't. What's the point of going to Harvard and then going into government if the government's power is winnowed?
A disturbing conference is taking place this weekend, the Conference on the Constitutional Convention. Harvard Law School and the liberal group Fix Congress First are joining forces with the Tea Party Patriots to weigh the merits of a constitutional convention, because “democracy in America is stalled.”

Under the rubric of dialogue and debate between the “Left” and Right about amending the U.S. constitution, this conference will further legitimate the reactionary Tea Party movement.
The horror, actually discussing legally modifying the Constitution in accordance with its own provisions!

But let's cut to the chase:
The U.S. is waging unjust imperial wars. The ecosystems of the planet are endangered. The know-how and technology exist to produce enough food for everyone on the planet; meanwhile some one billion go hungry. Capitalism is a horror and a failure.

I put this challenge to progressive people seeking change and attending this conference. Rather than reaching out to the proto-fascists and Tea Party-ers with their anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, and racist-encoded “states rights” agenda, rather than looking to repair a system that has only meant misery and more misery for humanity—why not reach forward to a viable and emancipatory alternative? This is what the Constitution of the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) From the Revolutionary Communist Party, U.S. is about.
Yes, because communism has always been a great success. Does the author work at Harvard, hoping to be "first among equals"? I wonder if he's ever read Animal Farm.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Your Free Speech Doesn't Mean You Can Legally Stifle Someone Else's Speech

It's about time something happened about this; Irvine has been a problem for quite some time:
After more than two days of deliberation, an Orange County jury on Friday found 10 Muslim students guilty of two misdemeanors to conspire and then disrupt a February 2010 speech at UC Irvine last year by the Israeli ambassador to the United States...

A guilty verdict, the defense had said during the trial, could chill student activism and the free exchange of ideas at colleges nationwide.
Hopefully it will chill the idea that you can do whatever you want, claiming 1st Amendment protection.

I find the comments at the end of the article interesting, especially those by people I assume (based on their names) are Muslim. They don't like this decision at all.

How Much Autonomy Should College Groups Have?

Here's one way for schools to get out of this mess--stop funding student groups! Then the schools don't even have to try to make 1st Amendment, or silly PC, arguments on behalf of students.
Should campus religious groups be allowed to require their leaders to actually — you know — hold the beliefs of the faith-based organizations they seek to lead? Carol Swain, author of the new book Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise and professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt, has published an op-ed criticizing the university for attacking religious freedom in the name of political correctness.
Letting groups be self-funding would have the added advantage of reducing the cost of higher education.

Smartest President Ever? Really?

For someone who's supposed to be so smart....
WHOEVER’S PROGRAMMING HIS TELEPROMPTER MUST BE A GOP MOLE: L.A. Times: New gaffe: Obama hails America’s historic building of ‘the Intercontinental Railroad’. “A railroad between continents? A railroad from, say, New York City all the way across the Atlantic to France? Now, THAT would be a bridge! It’s yet another humorous gaffe by the Harvard graduate, overlooked by most media for whatever reason. Like Obama saying Abraham-Come-Lately Lincoln was the founder of the Republican Party. Or Navy corpseman. Or the Austrian language. Fifty-seven states. The president of Canada. Etc.” link
How about that shovel-ready bridge from Ohio to Kentucky--the one on which work isn't expected to start for another 4 years? You bitter clingers, it would be so much easier on all of us--yourselves included--if you'd just man up and admit you made a mistake. OK, you didn't like McCain, I get that, but you have to admit that this guy's a floundering dunce. (Cue reader MikeAT to point out that I'm insulting floundering dunces everywhere...)

Gallup Poll: More Americans See A Liberal Bias In The Media Than A Conservative Bias

You can get in a snit all you want, but Gallup is "the granddaddy of 'em all", among the most highly respected polling firms in the country. If you want to attack the messenger, I guess that's all you've got...
The majority of Americans (60%) also continue to perceive bias, with 47% saying the media are too liberal and 13% saying they are too conservative, on par with what Gallup found last year.
It appears not to have changed much in 10 years.

Update: The opening sentence at the link above is:
The majority of Americans still do not have confidence in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.
I wonder if anyone had this video in mind when responding to Gallup.

Is Science Ever Political?

Of course not! Never!
U.S. District Court judges aren't known for using inflammatory language in deciding the weighty issues that come before them on the federal bench. So it was remarkable to read the scorching indictment of a federal environmental agency and two of its scientists last week by Judge Oliver W. Wanger. (See also Washington Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold's detailed look at the case on Page 30.) The case concerns how the government should manage California water supplies and at the same time seek to preserve the delta smelt, an allegedly endangered species of minnow-like fish...

Wanger was angered by testimony from the two scientists, Frederick V. Feyrer and Jennifer M. Norris, that he said was "false," "contradictory" and "misleading." He accused the Interior Department of "bad faith" in providing the two scientists as experts, and claimed their testimony was "an attempt to mislead and to deceive the court into accepting not only what is not the best science, it's not science." An Interior Department spokesman defended Norris and Feyrer, telling the New York Times that "we stand behind the consistent and thorough findings by our scientists on these matters and their dedicated use of the best available science."

Wanger and the Interior Department scientists cannot both be right. The judge's assessment of their testimony and his conclusion about the agency's conduct in the case raise profoundly serious questions about the integrity and honesty of all the federal officials involved in the delta smelt case. And if the judge is correct in that case, taxpayers should be wondering whether other government scientists have given impeachable testimony on behalf of questionable federal environmental policies.

Very interesting.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Maybe A Good Idea, Poorly Implemented

Coming down from on high is a requirement that we take our prep periods and go observe another teacher. Then we'll go over our "checksheet" with that teacher, and in the process, perhaps both of us will improve our teaching.

I'm all about improving my craft, but I have some concerns about this approach.

First, it was stated explicitly that we "build walls" in our classrooms and that we need to collaborate. I raised the issue, who says we don't collaborate? It's actually kind of offensive that that's what's thought of us teachers. I collaborate all the time, just not "officially". Heck, last year I used to take short walks with two other teachers during our common prep period, and during that time we'd discuss classroom-related topics. During one of those walks we came up with and completely designed one of my stats projects! It's certainly nothing I would have come up with on my own.

Second, we're supposed to do this during our prep period. Now it's only one prep period, but we have that time for a reason! We already have "collaboration time" scheduled on Thursday afternoons; our prep periods are for planning lessons, grading, making copies, filling out IEP forms, writing letters of recommendation, communicating with parents, etc. They're not supposed to tell me what to do during that time, it's supposed to be left up to my judgement how best to spend that time.

Lastly, I don't really see it as my place to tell another teacher what they're doing "wrong". If they ask for my suggestions, I'd be happy to give them, but I don't think it's appropriate that I be mandated to give up my planning time to watch another teacher teach. Despite what teachers unions would have us believe, that is the job of administrators. They don't pay me to be an administrator, and I don't want to be an administrator. Why should I perform the tasks of an administrator?

My sense is that this mandated activity will go over like most such mandated activities--you can require us to do it, but you can't require us to care or to take it too seriously. This could have been so much better thought out, and presented so much better.

As it stands now, it's certainly not something to which I look forward with any gusto.

More Unsettled Science

Global warming isn't "settled" science, but how about Einstein's theories?
Nothing goes faster than the speed of light. At least, we didn't think so.

New results from the CERN laboratory in Switzerland seem to break this cardinal rule of physics, calling into question one of the most trusted laws discovered by Albert Einstein.

Physicists have found that tiny particles called neutrinos are making a 454-mile (730-kilometer) underground trip faster than they should — more quickly, in fact, than light could do. If the results are confirmed, they could throw much of modern physics into upheaval.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Won A Book!

A long-time reader (who can identify himself if he chooses to!) had a competition on his blog, and I was one of the winners! What did I win, you ask?

It arrived today. Thank you! The entries in the book are reminiscent of this post from a couple years ago.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Teacher Cheating Scandals

I don't recall many of these:
As we reported last week, many states have failed to implement simple and effective checks for teacher cheating. Scandals involving cheating by teachers and schools to pump up ever-more-important student test scores swept the country this summer. But they've also been happening for years, and oversight is only now beginning to catch up.

Here's an overview of some of the most shocking instances of teacher cheating, plus a few episodes that may have been overblown...

Monday, September 19, 2011

What The Heck Is Wrong With Washington State?

Are we a nation of laws, or are unions exempt from the law?

Our first recent story takes us to Longview, where the longshoremen (remember this guy?) ignored a judge's order to get back to work:
After a union wildcat strike turned violent on Thursday, triggering a walkout at five ports in Washington state, longshoremen went back to work on Friday.

But in an unusual twist, the National Labor Relations Board succeeded in getting a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction Thursday against further union activity at the Port of Longview after the union ignored the temporary restraining order that he issued a week earlier.
What's special about this case is that the company used union labor to do a job, just a different union.

And just down the street in Tacoma, teachers are illegally striking:
As Tacoma families prepared for another day without school today, negotiations between the Tacoma teachers union and the school district continued late into the evening Sunday.

The head of the state Public Employment Relations Commission, Cathy Callahan, mediated bargaining sessions.

The union said talks will resume this morning...

Tacoma teachers voted to strike Sept. 12, then voted again last week to remain on strike despite a judge’s order to return to work.
Good that the adults are setting the example up there, showing children the importance of following the law. And please, don't insult me by insinuating or even outright saying that these situations are in any way similar to the civil disobedience practiced in the civil rights era, wherein mistreatment and degradation of people was enshrined in law. Stating such would not only insult my intelligence, but would embarrass me for you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Forfeiting a Game Due To Sex

I'm not exactly sure why the game was forfeited, unless the team couldn't field enough players at the correct positions--positions, get it? It's a sex joke! Sometimes I slay myself.
A Maryland high school football team was forced to forfeit its game yesterday amid allegations several players engaged in inappropriate sexual activity with a female student.

Administrators at Kenwood High School are investigating the incident, reportedly involving members of the junior varsity team.

The encounter took place on school property and was consensual, according to district officials.
I can understand the penalties against the individual students, however. They must be taught appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

The Desegregation Racket

Why desegregate if failing to do so gets your schools more money?
More than a half-century after federal troops escorted nine black students into an all-white school, efforts to desegregate Little Rock's classrooms are at another turning point.

The state wants to end its long-running payments for desegregation programs, but three school districts that receive the money say they need it to continue key programs. And a federal judge has accused the schools of delaying desegregation so they can keep receiving an annual infusion of $70 million.

A federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday from both sides. The judges are expected to decide eventually whether Arkansas still has to make the payments and whether two of the districts should remain under court supervision.
Bad behavior is being rewarded, while there's no reward for good behavior. Guess which type of behavior you'll get?

What The Heck Has Happened To Britain?

These were the people that brought government and education to people around the planet. These were the people who created "common law", whose children created the US Constitution, who were the last, best hope of humanity in Europe in World War II.

What the heck has happened to them? What sickness has overtaken them?
London’s Daily Mail newspaper reports that teachers are being pushed to brand thousands of children as racist or homophobic in a permanent database run by Great Britain’s Department for Education.Records of these juvenile utterances follow students when they switch schools, and can be used against them if a future employer or university asks the school for a reference.Teachers who do not report any incidents are criticized for “under-reporting.”

Using the word “gaylord” was considered a hate crime. One child was entered into the database as a racist for calling another student a “broccoli head.”
I could be snarky and lament that they've never gotten over that loss of empire thing, but that wouldn't be a serious comment. This is a serious issue, resulting in a serious question: what has happened to them?

If The IRS Had Discovered The Quadratic Formula

Who doesn't love bureaucracy?! link

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why Blogging Was Light Today

My son and I took our first glider ride today.

I could have learned to fly gliders--at no cost to me!--when I was an exchange cadet at the Air Force Academy, but I valued my free time instead. In hindsight, it wasn't the best decision I ever made.

Why The Young, Especially, Should Be Interested In Reforming Entitlements

From Walter Russell Mead, via Instapundit:
The war on the young is led ‘by cadres of elderly men, content to manage decline. and exacerbated by younger generations, who don’t seem to know what’s going on or understand the gravity of the financial situation that will hit them in the future. . . .

The war on the young is most intense in countries (and, in the US, industries and states) which have the blue social model deeply embedded in their social institutions. It is an interesting struggle: these days, the young face serious trouble finding employment and will be saddled with debts run up by their elders as they grow up.

The older generations benefited from a kind of escalator system in life. You step on the escalator after finishing your education and it almost automatically carries you upward in life, with higher pay and higher status until, at retirement, you step off and enjoy a good, level standard of living for the rest of your days.

One of the younger generations’ biggest problems is that many of those escalators don’t work anymore. In Italy and Japan, companies are reluctant to hire young people on what American universities call “tenure track”; unsure about their future needs and resources they don’t want high cost employees that can’t be fired. The older workers are too powerful to dislodge — just as in American universities the tenured professors are too powerful to give up tenure. So younger workers increasingly are hired if at all on temporary contracts, with lower benefits and fewer prospects for promotion.
Wealth transfer from the young to the old isn't fair, just, or sustainable with decreasing birth rates.

Update: can the Republicans exploit that weakness?
The young people in the ad look dissatisfied and pouty. Barack Obama’s voice and the words "winning the future," from one of his old campaign speeches, echo in the background.

"You’re LOSING my future," says one young man.

The ad — which has aired during sportscasts, reality TV shows and late-night comedy programs popular with younger people — was produced for the College Republican National Committee. It is an attempt to play on the fears that haunt college campuses — fears that they won’t find jobs, fears that they’ll be living with less than their parents did.

Their fears are, of course, far from exclusive to their generation. But some say the fact that it has taken hold in a voting bloc that helped usher the president into office on a wave of hope and change provides a big opening for Republicans — unless the president can find a way to get them fired up again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Liberal Lets His True Feelings Shine Through

In this post about education reform comes this statement from someone who could only be a statist:
Don’t “roll back hard-won progress in student achievement,” responded Education Trust. “When left to their own devices, states have a long, well-documented history of aiming far too low and shortchanging the schools that serve our most vulnerable children.”
That's up for the people of the individual states to decide--at least according to my interpretation of the 9th and 10th Amendments.

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

Crony Capitalism

Government makes a lousy investment banker or venture capitalist:
Solyndra, the solar panel company whose highly publicized failure and consequent investigation by federal authorities has flashed across headlines recently, isn't the only business to go belly up after benefiting from a piece of the $800 billion economic stimulus package passed in 2009.

At least four other companies have received stimulus funding only to later file for bankruptcy, and two of those were working on alternative energy.
Limited government of enumerated powers. I wonder what section of the Constitution allows these so-called investments.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Don't Tug On Superman's Cape

I get the point of this lesson, but the manner in which it was presented was needlessly inflammatory:
A Kansas high school teacher has apologized and will change her lessons after parents objected when she stepped on a U.S. flag while discussing free-speech rights in her history class.

California Colleges and Student Loan Defaults

This article won't stay in front of the "pay wall" for very long but the chart shows that the schools with the highest default rates are, for the most part, Associate's Degree-granting schools (junior colleges and trade schools):
Almost one of every 12 recent California college graduates with student loans defaulted within two years of starting repayment -- if they ever started making payments at all, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education.

About 21,500 former California students scheduled to started loan repayment between Oct. 1, 2008 and Sept. 30, 2009 defaulted by Sept. 30, 2010. Default rates were highest among "for-profit" colleges. Community colleges also had high default rates, but relatively few of their students took out loans, given low costs.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's Not The Teacher's Classroom, It's The Taxpayer's Classroom

Five and a half years ago I wrote about Bay Area teachers who didn't want to put up posters in their classrooms, posters they felt advocated for a gay lifestyle.
This is truly a conundrum. Gay tolerance posters? While there are few more gay-tolerant than I, this seems a bit excessive to me--even in the SF Bay area! Why should we single out gays for tolerance? Are there no other groups that might merit tolerance but gay students--and in the SF Bay Area, no less??!! This Board policy strikes me as promoting a specific agenda that is so narrowly tailored that it's designed to cause problems. No one can argue with "tolerance" and "anti-bullying", but the devil is certainly in the details. "Tolerance" means to "tolerate", not welcome or condone or celebrate. I tolerate liberals :-)

Why the Board didn't commission a poster with the symbols of several different (harrassed) groups, with a message of tolerance? Why couldn't there be a pink triangle, a Star of David, a picture of a punker or goth, etc on a poster of tolerance? Focusing on a controversial 1.5%-6% (reasonable studies, not Kinsey's 10%) of the population just seems to me to be a Board that's either listening to a loud minority or is trying to show its liberal bona fides--and neither is fitting for an elected body in this country.
While I thought the Board's required posters were wrong in spirit, I recognized the authority of the Board to require that they be posted. Likewise, while I agree with this teacher's views, I also agree that the school/district can compel him to remove his posters:
Johnson has long displayed large banners in his classroom in Rancho Penasquitos that read: "In God We Trust,'' "One Nation Under God,'' and "All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed By Their Creator.''

In its decision, the appeals court cited previous U.S. Supreme Court cases when it ruled that the school district has the right to limit speech of public employees in the workplace and acted lawfully when it told Johnson to remove the banners.

"Just as the Constitution would not protect Johnson were he to decide that he no longer wished to teach math at all, preferring to discuss Shakespeare rather than Newton, it does not permit him to speak as freely at work in his role as teacher about his views on God, our nation's history, or God's role in our nation's history as he might on a sidewalk, in a park, at his dinner table, or in countless other locations," wrote Judge Richard Tallman.
They shouldn't require that he take them down, but they can require it.

Snark: I have no doubt they would not require teachers to take down Che Guevara posters.

Don't You Love Stories Like This?

And don't you just marvel at people like this?
Even the most adept chemistry student will spend an evening hopelessly staring at models of double helixes, polypeptides and ribonucleic acids.

Not Henry Wedler.

Blind from birth, Wedler, who is working on his doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of California, Davis, sees these complex structures in his mind and occasionally with his hands.

You might think Wedler faces a significant disadvantage in learning a complex subject that leans heavily on visual representations of things too small for the human eye to see.

But Wedler, 24, says his lifelong reliance on using his mind to visualize street grids and campus layouts aids in this intellectual pursuit.


Just looking at the title, you know who this is about:
Imagine you’re in the Obama White House, and this is what you face. Democrats lose a special election in a congressional district they have controlled since the 1920s and which was framed as a referendum on the president. There’s a possible scandal brewing over the White House’s effort to rush federal reviewers for a decision on a nearly half-billion dollar loan to a solar-panel manufacturer, Solyndra. The most recent Census Report shows median household earnings fell for the third consecutive year, back to 1996 levels. A record number of Americans are in poverty. In Afghanistan, the Taliban mounted a fierce assault on the U.S. embassy and NATO military headquarters in Kabul. A new CNN/ORC poll shows Obama’s disapproval rating has reached a new high while the number of Americans who think he is a strong leader has dropped to a new low. And that’s just today.

On a human level, one can sympathize with what the president, his advisers, and his supporters are going through right now. But there is a cautionary tale in this as well. When Obama was running for president, he was dismissive of those who came before him. The problems we faced, at home and abroad, would be fixed by signing this executive order and passing that piece of legislation. Hope and change were on the way. “I’m LeBron, baby. I can play on this level. I got some game,” Obama is reported to have said back in 2004.

Being president seemed so easy before he actually was president.
It's no wonder he tries to blame his failures on President Bush. He believes his own press releases, and is incapable of accepting that even after 2 1/2 years he's not up to the job.

Education Buzz

This week's is here, and includes my post about "collaboration time".

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cheerleading Attire At School

Believe it or not, this is happening in true blue California:
High school cheerleaders have been told to wear sweat pants under too-short miniskirts because a Northern California principal says the uniforms are too risque.

San Jose Piedmont High School principal Traci Williams says the miniskirts are OK for games, but not during school.
The dress code is the dress code. Wrestlers don’t wear their singlets to class, and swimmers don’t wear their suits to class—because they don’t comport with dress code. Why should cheerleaders get a pass?

Third West Point Story of the Day

From Coltzilla, an Indianapolis Colts fan site:
Campbell joins the Colts after a pretty amazing background story. He played on Army in college and entered the league via the 2008 draft (seventh round) only to be called to active duty before he could take the field. He returned to the Lions in 2010 but eventually was released and landed back in free agency. At 6-foot 2-inches tall and 237 pounds, he is big for the Colts linebacker corps and tape on him suggest he uses that size to lay big hits on his targets.

Second West Point Story of the Day

A press release from West Point's public affairs office:
A report released today by U.S. News & World Report's 2012 edition of Best Colleges ranked the U.S. Military Academy first in its Top 10 Public Colleges category.

“We are very pleased with U.S. News & World Report’s recognition of the quality of the educational experience at West Point,” said Dean of the Academic Board, Brig. Gen. Timothy Trainor. “We are very proud of our nationally renowned education program and attribute much of our success to such factors as accessibility of faculty, lively classroom discussions and experiences, and enrichment opportunities outside the classroom.”

In the Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs category, West Point was ranked No. 3 overall, with our Civil Engineering Program ranked No. 2.
We're not ranked as highly in football.

First West Point Story of the Day

From The New York Times:
The cartoon-purple boxes are hard to miss. The foresters who hang them from roadside trees all over the country call them Barney traps, for the friendly dinosaur whose color they resemble, but their purpose is anything but gentle.

The three-sided contraptions, baited with a chemical lure and coated with glue, are designed to catch the attention of the emerald ash borer — a deceptively pretty little beetle from Asia that has killed tens of millions of ash trees in less than a decade...

Finding even one beetle in a trap will set off federal and state quarantines, as happened this summer when an emerald ash borer was found at the United States Military Academy here, 60 miles north of New York City. Knowing that West Point’s 16,000 acres were in the path of the ash borer onslaught, Robert G. MacKenzie, a forester who works for the military academy, had volunteered in May to put up Barney traps...

West Point conservators have decided to cut down about 78 ash trees that are so close to buildings that they would cause serious damage if they become infested and fall (sic). The countless ash trees in West Point’s woods will be monitored, but not cut down.

The Steady March of Progress

5 months ago I was in fairly good shape, anticipating lots of skiing over Spring Break--certainly a novelty here in California.

4 months ago I was an invalid.

3 months ago I could get around a little bit, but my leg was still in an immobilizer and unable to bend at all. Any movement required crutches or a wheelchair.

2 months ago the immobilizer was off but I couldn't bend the leg much at all. Locomotion still required crutches or a wheelchair.

1 month ago I'd been allowed back into the gym. A small amount of flexibility had returned to the injured leg, and moving anything more than the shortest of distances required a cane. Could not walk down ramps or up or down stairs.

Today I walk with a small limp, no cane required. Physical therapy is done; I work out my injured leg on the leg press at the gym. Flexibility is not a problem, strength (and internal scar tissue) are. I can walk down gentle ramps (like my driveway) and up short flights of stairs.

Still to go: kneeling, walking down stairs, running, and kicking butt.

Monday, September 12, 2011

School Budgeting in California

The state budget signed several weeks ago required school districts to assume they'd get the same money from the state that they got last year--and to staff accordingly. The CTA thought this was great.

I wonder how the CTA will spin this:
Districts are forbidden to lay off teachers or cut programs, so they better stock up on magic beans because – surprise! – revenues are falling short of projections. The Sacramento Bee reports the state fell $541 million short of July expectations, and there are already signs the state may also miss its August projections.

Walking To School In The Snow, Uphill Both Ways

Hurricane Irene has caused such severe flooding in Vermont that some towns are inaccessible by road. How do the kids get to school? They hike around the mountain a little bit:
But on Wednesday, Aug. 31, at 7:55 a.m., three days after the storm closed down much of the state, the four school buses pulled up right on time, and off hopped 18 children from the dark side of the mountain (their electricity was still out).

“They were so proud,” Ms. Prescott said.

They had reason to be. Their families had discovered a half-mile-long forest path that they could walk, from Route 4 across the mountain to their school bus. At first, the woods were still and unsettling. “My hands shaked a little bit,” said Jillian Bradley, a second grader.

But as Sophia Hussack, another second grader said, “Since Vermont got hit by the storm, people think we couldn’t, but we do.” And what townspeople do and have done is a thing to behold: they have taken that quiet trail and in two weeks’ time turned it into the I-95 of wooded paths. More than a 1,000 people a day now walk it to get to their jobs and go food shopping on the other side. So many cars line Helvi Hill, the dirt road leading to the path on this side, that handwritten no parking signs have been posted to make sure the road stays passable.
It's a nice feel-good story. And if I can toss in some political commentary, I notice that no one there is waiting for the federal government to come save them.

Hat tip to reader Steve for the link.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What We Need More Of, Especially At Berkeley

Jobs like this one:
The University of California, Berkeley invites applications for a position as an Assistant Professor (tenure-track) in any of the following three areas: (1) Diversity and Identity; (2) Legal or Philosophical Frameworks for Diverse Democracies; and (3) Diversity, Civil Society and Political Action, or some combination thereof. The anticipated starting date is July 1, 2012. The search is part of the interdisciplinary Haas Diversity Research Center and will be conducted under the auspices of the Diversity and Democracy cluster of this Center. Applicants may read about the Haas Diversity Research Center and the Diversity and Democracy cluster at the website:
There's definitely a diversity problem at Berkeley, but it's not the problem implied in this job posting.

Hat tip to Discriminations for the link.

September 11th Thoughts

I don't get maudlin about this date. On this date we were spanked--why celebrate that? This date should serve to motivate us to ensure something like that never happens again.

Whilst perusing the interwebs I've come upon some interesting quotes and references that are apropos of the day:

Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts

Lee Harris: The Enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the Enemy always hates us for a reason — it is his reason, and not ours.

Mark Steyn: From "Let's Roll!" to "Let's Roll Over."

I'll add more if I find any that interest me.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What Do You Do With Genius Kids?

Some teachers ignore them, thinking that "those kids" can take care of themselves while the teachers have to look after "the rest of the class". Some teachers give them more work to do, as if being bored with 20 math problems is cured by being bored with 30 math problems. Some teachers try to see what they can do with that spark.

I've taught a couple of these kids. My school does a fairly good job with them, but there's really no plan involved in doing so. There are so few of them, can we afford to devote more resources to them? And let's not bring up the NCLB canard; we weren't really paying attention to such kids pre-NCLB, either. Is there something better we as a state or country can do? Where's Professor Xavier?
Andrew Almazán, the 16-year-old Mexican who has just received his psychology degree and is scheduled to finish medical school in two years, told me something in an interview last week that I wasn’t aware of: Millions of exceptionally talented youngsters in Latin America are being pushed out of public schools for lack of gifted-student programs.

In an interview from his home in Mexico City, Andrew told me that when he was in elementary school, he was bored in the classroom, and got into trouble with teachers for challenging what they were saying in class. His teachers saw him as a troublemaker, and diagnosed him with attention-deficit disorder, although he had an IQ of 162, higher than Albert Einstein’s...

Citing World Health Organization estimates, Andrew told me that an estimated 2.3 percent of the youth population of every country is highly gifted. That would amount to nearly 800,000 youths in Mexico alone, he said.

“But here in Mexico, about 95 percent of highly gifted minds are wasted because they are not identified as such,” Andrew said. “We are losing that intellectual capacity, because of a tendency to adjust everybody [downward] to the average.”

Friday, September 09, 2011

"You're Not On The PR Staff, Are You?"

From Instapundit:
This is the face of one of Obama’s core constituencies. This is what you voted for when you voted for “hope and change.” He can’t even curse creatively.

UPDATE: John Hinderaker: “Has any Tea Partier ever acted in such a violent, threatening, disgusting manner? No. You might think that the union member is a low-life from the gutter, but the remarkable thing is that in all probability, he makes more money than you do.”


Update: Could this be why the gentleman is so angry?
After a union wildcat strike turned violent on Thursday, triggering a walkout at five ports in Washington state, longshoremen went back to work on Friday.

But in an unusual twist, the National Labor Relations Board succeeded in getting a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction Thursday against further union activity at the Port of Longview after the union ignored the temporary restraining order that he issued a week earlier.

This Is How We Roll In California

We face what is clearly an unsustainable (to use a term currently in vogue) pension system with promises that cannot be kept. How do we deal with that here in the land of the "reality-based community"?
Lawmakers essentially threw in the towel Thursday on comprehensive public pension reform - at least for now.

With this year's legislative session scheduled to end at midnight today, the Assembly voted 51-21 to approve a last-minute bill declaring its commitment to pension reform but conceding that more time is needed.
If I had any faith they'd reform and not merely tinker around the edges, I'd applaud their being circumspect. Instead, I sigh at their lack of fortitude.

As a teacher, I'm probably screwing myself by sticking around California until retirement age.

Happy California Admission Day

On this date in 1850....

When I was in elementary school, this was a school holiday.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Oh, Bleep!

First bleep

Today in class I turned quickly in my chair at my desk and banged my knee on the corner of my desk. And not just any knee, but my injured knee. And not just any spot on my injured knee, but right on the injury itself. I, uh, "called out" in pain and probably mouthed a word I shouldn't have (at least it was sotto voce), and spent probably a full minute trying to regain my composure. I even said at one point, "If you've never seen a grown man cry, pay close attention, because it could happen very soon."

Oh, that sucked.

A couple hours later I was at what was probably my last physical therapy appointment. I still have follow-up appointments with an orthopedic doctor, but barring anything unforeseen, PT is done.

Second bleep

I've been unable to run a single step, and one of my goals is to run a mile around the school track on the 1-year anniversary of my injury. After noting all the progress I've made since my first PT appointment in June, I had a crazy idea at the gym a little while ago--let's see if I can run at all. So I went inside a mirrored workout room and gave it a shot. There's no way what I did could be described as running, but oh bleep!, I can shuffle at a faster-than-walking pace.

It's a start.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The March of Technology

I like watching old TV shows, in part because you get a glimpse of a different time. Lately I've been enjoying All In The Family on Antenna TV, an over-the-air channel I get.

In one of tonight's episodes, from 1978, Edith wanted to buy Archie an "new color TV" for their 30th anniversary. She needed $500.

$500 in today's deflated money would still buy more TV than Edith could have bought at any price in 1978. Same goes for computers and all sorts of technological gadgetry. I love how that works.

I still have my first computer--complete with printer/cassette interface. I assume all it needs is some new hearing aid batteries to bring it back to life. If memory serves, the whole thing cost me $300 in the early 80's.

Principals On Strike?

They are in Butte, Montana. And since the teachers are honoring the picket line, schools are shut down. Go read about it!

Another Economics Lesson

(originally posted 9/6/11--now updated and bumped to the top)

Sometimes you have to pull a Ross Perot and explain things in a folksy way--when speaking about the economy, doing this helps liberals understand:
Think of it this way: our cell phones have operating systems built into them. There's no Republican way to make a phone call with your iPhone, and no Democratic way to do it. There's no conservative approach to checking your email with a BlackBerry or an Android, and no liberal approach to doing it. You just do it the way your cell phone's operating system requires.

It's the same with an economy. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of economic operating systems: a free-market economy and a command economy. In a free-market economy, the government sets the rules and enforces them, but otherwise stays out of the way and allows individuals and businesses to call the shots. In a command economy, the government's role is so large that it not only sets and enforces the rules, but also calls the shots...

In a free-market economy like ours, it's the entrepreneurs who create jobs. They do this by starting new businesses, and by expanding businesses that are already up and running. If you want to create more jobs, you create an environment in which entrepreneurs will thrive. They'll take it from there, because creating jobs by starting and expanding businesses is what thriving entrepreneurs do.

Think of it this way: if you want more milk, create an environment in which cows will thrive. And just as it makes no sense to say you want more milk but oppose cows because they're smelly, dirty, and leave their droppings all over the place -- it makes no sense to say you want more jobs but oppose entrepreneurs because when they succeed they often wind up with more money than the rest of us. You cannot have it both ways...

Let me give you one example to illustrate this point: in the course of my lecture business I meet a great many owners of small- and medium-sized companies -- precisely the men and women we depend upon to create jobs for all the rest of us. One evening, when my lecture to a group of these entrepreneurs had ended and we were all having a drink in the hotel bar, the CEO of a rock-solid manufacturing company said something that stopped the conversation cold: "I'll be damned before I start hiring people now, just in time to send the unemployment rate plunging so it re-elects the president next year. In a second term, this guy'll kill my business." There was a dead silence, and then every other business owner at the table nodded in agreement.

The point isn't whether these CEOs are right or wrong. The point is that this is what they've come to believe, and their actions will be based upon their perceptions. For all of us who depend on our country's entrepreneurs to create jobs -- which is to say, for all of us without safe government jobs -- this is more than depressing. It's terrifying.
I'm just saying.

Update, 9/7/11: The link above was for the big picture, this link demonstrates the smaller picture:
From consumers to investors to voters, everywhere you look these days, confidence is falling over the state of the U.S. economy. And now a new scorecard by SurePayroll, the leading online payroll service, shows that small business confidence is lagging as well...

Just like the rest of us, small business owners have lost faith in any sort of government solution to the country's economic problems. Herein lies the real concern. "Small businesses are the ones that have traditionally grown us out of every recession we've had," says Alter. If this pessimism persists, it seems the country could be in this economic downturn for the foreseeable future.
I have a hard time believing they've lost faith because they expect lower taxes, less regulation, and a government that sees them as more than just social program contributors.

Update #2, 9/7/11: Why might business people be pessimistic? A possible answer:
It has now been a little over two years — and eight full economic quarters — since the end of the recession Obama inherited. It's time to ask: How does his record of economic growth in the wake of a recession stack up against the records of other presidents?

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) defines a recession as "a period between a peak and a trough" during which "a significant decline in economic activity spreads across the economy and can last from a few months to more than a year."

By consensus, the most recent recession ended in June 2009, less than six months after Obama took office...

Some might argue that the anemic post-recession growth rate under Obama has resulted from his having inherited a worse recession than most. There's little doubt that he inherited a particularly long (18-month) and significant recession. But the historical record suggests that, pre-Obama, the general rule was: the worse the recession (or depression), the better the recovery...

Average real quarterly GDP growth in the two years coming out of those recessions was 6.2%. The 2.4% figure under Obama has been a mere 39% of that — which, come to think of it, roughly matches Obama's current approval rating.
Only the willfully partisan can defend this president and his record.

Collaboration Time

Since I began employment in this school district about a decade ago, our school days have been lengthened a few minutes so that students can leave 75 minutes early on Thursdays. Students have "short Thursday" so that during the final 75 minutes of the work day, teachers can meet and "collaborate".

It's not a horrible idea, and it's produced some benefits in our math department. I wonder, though, if we're now reaching the point of diminishing returns, and have collaboration time for its own sake.

I don't need a specific time to collaborate with my fellow teachers. I do it all the time. So do they.

Today I made up a problem in my pre-calculus class--the domain of a composite function. It turned out to be a little more difficult than I at first thought, but I worked it out. A student asked a question that now, in hindsight, is easy to answer, but at the moment it caused me to stumble. I was pretty sure I determined the correct answer, but when I used software to graph the curve, my answer appeared incorrect. I doubted my work.

Rather than hemming and hawing, I went straight to another teacher, and right after class he came over. I walked him through my work and we found the source of the confusion--I typed "sqr" instead of "sqrt" for "square root" into the graphing program I used. As soon as I fixed that, the graph showed exactly the domain I had calculated. He had noticed right away that the graph didn't "look" correct, and that's where he focused his attention.

Less than five minutes and everything was cleared up. That is collaboration. And it happens all the time; it doesn't need time set aside for it to occur.

If you'd like to try the problem out yourself, here it is:
f(x) = 1/x
g(x) = squareroot (x+4)
What is the domain of the composite function g(f(x))?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Opt Out

A Wisconsin teacher explains why he's opted out of his state teachers union here. Note that his article is posted at a news site whose motto is "Your Progressive Voice". I applaud them for their candor and for publishing his article.
If the teachers union is as wonderful as it claims, then it should have no problem attracting members, without the need to force teachers to join. How is this any different from any other professional organization that teachers, as professionals, may choose to join? It’s a question I have been pondering since I became a public teacher in Wisconsin.

For years, I have chosen not to be a member of the union. However, this is a choice that I didn’t exactly have before Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill went into law. As a compulsory union state where teachers are required to pay union dues as a condition of employment, the most I could hope for was a “Fair Share” membership, where the union refunded me a small portion of the money that was taken from my paycheck that lawyers have deemed “un-chargeable.”

Every September, after lengthy, bureaucratic and unadvertised hurdles, I would file my certified letter to try to withdraw my union membership. Then, they would proceed to drag their feet in issuing me my small refund. I often wondered why this kind of burden would be put on an individual teacher like me. Shouldn’t it be up to the organization to convince people and sell its benefits to potential members afresh each year? Why should I have to move mountains each fall to break ties with this group that I don’t want to be a part of in the first place? Something seemed dreadfully wrong with that picture.

I long to have the same individual right in California that this teacher in "progressive" Wisconsin has.

Another Way To Pay That Higher Education Tuition

By Groupon:
A private, Chicago-based institution will be the first to put forth a deeply discounted deal on tuition via Groupon.

In an effort to bolster interest in its graduate teaching program, National Louis University will offer would-be teachers a Groupon for nearly 60% off tuition of an entry-level graduate teaching course.
Maybe it's just me, but wouldn't it make more sense just to lower the tuition if you want more people to attend your school? Why jump through coupon hoop?

What Teachers Really Want To Tell Parents

No, this post isn't like that teacher who lost, and eventually regained, her job after posting excessively rude and snarky comments about her students online. It's more of a "parents, believe me when I tell you your kid isn't perfect" commentary.

Need Another Reason To Want To Get Rid Of The US Department of Education?

I've written before about the new policy, pushed by the Department of Education, that lowers the standard of proof for a rape allegation against a student from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "preponderance of evidence". This is clearly a travesty of justice, and I'm glad at least one court agrees with me:
As the U.S. Education Department is aggressively reinforcing colleges’ legal obligations to address allegations of sexual assault -- and making examples of those that don't -- a federal jury on Friday found a university negligent for how it treated someone accused by a fellow student of rape.

The verdict will likely be mulled over at colleges across the country, where judicial hearings for alleged sexual assaults are the norm – and where confusion and a lack of guidance over how such hearings should transpire often result in the mishandling of cases, experts say. However, these discussions tend to focus on the rights of the accuser, rather than the alleged perpetrator.
You might want to click on that link and read the whole article.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Football Players Have Similar Majors?

It might seem so:
At Georgia Tech, where the famous fight song proclaims "I'm a heck of an engineer," nearly 70 percent of the football team (43 of 62 players) has chosen to major in management, a business degree dubbed the "M Train" by those on campus who consider it an easier route to a diploma than the school's renowned engineering program.

But the Yellow Jackets are hardly the only school where players tend to congregate in the same fields of study. There are four others universities where at least half the sophomores, juniors and seniors playing football are pursuing the same degree, The Associated Press found in a survey of the 68 schools in the conferences which receive automatic bids to the Bowl Championship Series, plus Notre Dame and Big East-member-to-be TCU.

At Vanderbilt, it's human and organizational development (35 of 59). At UCLA, history is a big draw (27 of 47). At Wake Forest, there's been a gridiron run on the communications department (34 of 60). At Baylor, upset winners over TCU on the opening weekend of this season, expect to find a lot of big guys in general studies (27 of 53).
Raise your hand if you're surprised. In fact, I'd be surprised if this weren't so, and I am surprised that the study didn't find this phenomenon to be more widespread.

The New Civility

Jimmy Hoffa, President of the Teamsters, in a warm-up speech prior to one given by President Obama:
“President Obama, this is your army,” Hoffa Jr. declared. “We are ready to march. Let’s take these sons of bitches out and take America back to where America we belong.”

I wait for the president to repudiate such comments by such an ardent supporter.

Still waiting....

What? What's that? Obama mentioned Hoffa in his speech?
“Did Obama disapprove of Hoffa’s incendiary message? Apparently not; he mentioned Hoffa only to say that he is proud of him. But, what the heck: he sat through ‘God DAMN America’ for twenty years without protest, so I guess he can put up with Tea Party ‘sons of bitches,’ too. . . . In the meantime, my suggestion to any Republican is that he respond to Obama’s challenge by saying, ‘We’re not going to double down on failure.’”
I'm sure our friends on the left will excuse Obama's religiosity. And his complete and total hypocrisy. And his complete and total failure as a president.

Update, 9/7/11: The Democrats are hyprocrites, there's no way around that:
Remember when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot in Tucson by a mentally ill gunman? Do you remember the many voices calling for civility in our political dialogue that sprang from that event?

That happened only eight months ago, but civility has evidently become passe.

We've received a few recent, unpleasant reminders of this fact. Just before the holiday weekend, video emerged of Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., telling a friendly crowd that some of his fellow members of Congress would like to lynch him because he is black. Given that Carson obviously made this up (if he didn't, he is free to return The Washington Examiner's calls at long last and name names), it's a cheap way of spreading false fears and exciting base voters.

On Labor Day, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa had choice words for Republicans at a union rally: "Let's take these son-of-a-bitches out and give America back to America where we belong." The first part of that sentence seems slightly more serious than putting "targets" on a campaign map, doesn't it? (And no, I have no idea what the second half means.)

Why Entitlements Must Be Reformed

From economic professor Mark Perry's blog:

That's just one entitlement.