Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Agree: School Went Over The Line On This One

There's nothing wrong with the mere mention of religious views in school, but even I think the school crossed a line in this case:
A North Carolina school has apologized after a teacher complained about a religious message found inside an Operation Christmas Child project.

“Our intent was not to offend anyone,” said Ira Trollinger, superintendent of McDowell County Schools in Marion, NC.

Trollinger said students at Glenwood Elementary School were preparing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, part of a community service project.

Operation Christmas Child is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, an organization run by Franklin Graham. They expect to send more than 8 million shoe box gifts to underprivileged children in 100 countries. Around 60,000 churches and 60,000 community groups in the United States are participating.

As part of the project, the school children received a questionnaire that asked students to fill in the blank: “I love Jesus because ______.”

A part time tutor at the school complained about the questionnaire arguing that it crossed the line and may have violated the First Amendment rights of students.

Trollinger told Fox News & Commentary that no children complained and no parents complained – just the part time tutor.
It doesn't matter who complained, it's still inappropriate.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Global Warming Religion

I've often called it the Church of Global Warming, and this Wall Street Journal article is pretty amazing.
Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen.

As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term "climate change" when thermometers don't oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other "deniers." And as with religion, it is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit...

Oh, you definitely want to read more.

This Isn't Tyranny.

It's at most an uncomfortable nuisance:
As education scandals go, the news that students at some of the best high schools on Long Island paid others to take their College Board tests seems mild. The Long Island scandal pales behind the sex scandal at Penn State.

Yet the fears driving the Long Island scandal come with much broader educational implications than those affecting Penn State. The cheating scandal reflects the tyranny that standardized testing has come to exercise over higher education in America.
Geez. There's no tyranny at all here. What rights are being trampled? If you want to get into a "good" school, learn a lot. Then you, too, can do well on the SAT and not have to cheat.

Why some people can't see that amazes me. The author of that piece is a professor; maybe we should talk about the "tyranny of essays" that causes students to plagiarize.

Again, geez.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Not Sufficiently Deferential"

If there was a rule against using your phone during this speech, bust her for that. But just saying something negative about the governor? Quit trying to impose thoughts on kids.
A few days ago, her high school class made a trip to Topeka, Kansas, where Governor Sam Brownback gave a speech to several high school classes. During the course of the trip, Ms. Sullivan sent out the following tweet: “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”

Ms. Sullivan didn’t actually make any critical comments in person, but the tweet, sent out to a following of about 60 people (though it’s over 800 now), somehow caught the eye of the Governor’s Director of Communication, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, during her daily monitoring of social media mentions of Governor Brownback. Shocked – shocked! – that a teenager’s tweet about a politician was “disrespectful,” she complained to the high school. “It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet,” she said.

The High School, in turn, apparently even more shocked about how kids these days don’t respect their elected leaders, scolded Ms. Sullivan and forced her to write a letter of apology to the Governor’s office. Sullivan wrote the letter – because she didn’t want a disciplinary action on her transcripts and have it affect her ability to go to college. But she is rightfully unapologetic in real life.
Obviously I'm against this compulsion on the part of the school, and some might wonder how I balance this with my agreement on the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case the Supreme Court decided a few years ago. The BH4J case involved public behavior, this case involves speech. Schools can proscribe behavior, but the bar for proscribing speech should be higher.

Update, 11/29/11: At least they figured it out:
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback apologized Monday for what he called his staff's "overreaction" to a disparaging tweet directed at him by a high school senior during a state Capitol visit.

Can't Live Without The Kiddie Porn

This sicko is so far gone that he couldn't wait until he was behind closed doors to check out his kiddie porn. No, he had to watch it while seated on an aircraft:
A university professor pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges that he viewed child pornography on his laptop during a flight from Salt Lake City to Boston...

Smith was sitting in first class when a passenger seated behind him saw the images and became concerned. The passenger took a cellphone picture of what Smith was doing, then alerted a flight attendant. The passenger also emailed a relative about the situation and asked that person to contact police, and the person did, Prosecutor Erik Bennett said.

Bennett said that Smith tried to erase pictures of what appeared to be pre-teen girls engaged in sexual acts after a flight attendant told him to turn off his computer.

The recently divorced Smith was met at the gate by state police, who asked for and were granted permission to view the contents of the laptop. Investigators allege they found several images of nude or nearly nude children, including girls apparently as young as 6 years old.
As I've said so many times, it's always a cop, a teacher, or a preacher. (At least, they're the ones that make the news.) And yes, I guess it's important to point out that his conduct is still only "alleged".

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Recovery Update

A few days ago marked 7 months since my injury. My son remarked recently how far I've come, but I still judge success, or the lack thereof, by what I still cannot do. That doesn't mean I don't recognize, and am not thankful for,the progress I've made so far, it's just that such a view doesn't motivate me to move ahead. It doesn't matter how far you've driven down the field, what matters is crossing the goal line into the end zone.

I'm getting a little better at stairs and at leg lifts. When I started doing leg lifts at the gym a couple months ago I struggled to lift 10 lbs with the bad leg, yet for the last week or so I've been able to do 20 lb fairly well. Yes, I recognize that 20 lbs is next to nothing, and the fact that it's taken a couple months to get to that level is somewhat pathetic, but I recognize the improvement. What I'm really looking for is to be able to walk down stairs like a "normal" person, able to lower my body down each stair without falling the last few inches from lack of strength.

Kneeling is still difficult, as there remains a noticeable amount of scar tissue under the skin. One goal was to be able to kneel and get presents from under the Christmas tree, and with less than a month to go I wonder if I'll reach that goal. At least at school I can squat down at a student's desk to offer assistance, although the strength to stand up from that position still isn't up to 100%.

When school started 3 months ago it seemed like such a long walk from my classroom to the office, but nowadays the distance isn't an issue. I do pay attention to the clocks a little more now, though, because if I'm late I can't just run across campus. A couple days a week I take a lap around campus with a couple other teachers on our prep period; I find that the break clears my mind and helps me focus on work when I get back.

Now, for the first time in over a week, I need to go to bed because I have to get up for work tomorrow. I look forward to that walk during 4th period....

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Agency Fee Rebate

Yesterday I received my agency fee rebate from the California Teachers Association (CTA). I receive this because in California, a "fair share" state, I'm required by law to pay dues to the CTA even though I'm not a member. Each year we "objectors" and the CTA have to jump through hoops, and we get refunded to us money the teachers unions--NEA, CTA, and local--admit to not spending on activities related to union organizing. The amounts are determined by an "impartial" auditor that's chosen and paid for by the CTA.

Last year I paid over $1,000 in union dues. Over $1,000. Refunded to me was $358.20. Here's the exact wording of the letter accompanying my check:
As noted in our prior letter, the rebate percentages are:

Look how much money these organizations are spending on activities not directly related to organizing employees! And remember, this is what their paid auditor says isn't chargeable, imagine what a truly impartial auditor would find!

What are these other, non-chargeable activities? Political donations and lobbying, to start.

The Utopia That Is California

It doesn't get any clearer than this:
California’s budget is in its usual multi-billion dollar deficit condition, so one could be forgiven for believing that the problem is too few taxes. Fortunately, Richard Rider spells out in depressing detail just how overburdened the California taxpayer is:

* California has the 3rd highest state income tax rate in the nation.

* California has the highest state sales tax rate in the nation.

* California has the 2nd highest corporate income tax rate west of the Mississippi and 8th highest overall.

* California has the 4th highest capital gains tax rate.

* California has the 2nd highest gas tax and the highest diesel tax.

* California property taxes per owner-occupied home are the 10th highest in the nation.

If the solution to the state’s problems were higher taxes, we’d be living in Shangri-La already.

This Is Better Than Anything Else They're Doing :-)

Maybe I've been a bit hard on (snicker snicker) these Occupy (insert city here) protesters. I've suggested they "get a job", and a couple have done just that! See, I support capitalism, and while some will decry this particular exercise of that economic philosophy, I think making a legal buck is better than banging (snicker snicker) a drum complaining that "the man" has got you down (snicker snicker):
An adult film company is capitalizing on the heat of the U.S. anti-establishment protests by using a tent in the middle of the "Occupy Oakland" encampment as the setting for a new gay porn flick.

Billed by The New York Observer as a "homoerotic caper through the tents of Oakland's Occupation," Dirty Boy Video's "Occupy My Throat" is likely to have been inspired by Brandon Watts, an original member of the Wall Street occupation who lost his virginity in Zuccotti Park before being arrested after a gruesome standoff with the police. Dirty Boy Video president Andy Fair reportedly contacted the 20-year-old Watts, whose experience was apparently noted in a New York Times magazine feature, and offered the protester cash for the chance to tape his next experience.

Did The UC Davis Protesters Deserve To Get Pepper-sprayed?

Let's listen to this little vixen explain how they provoked the police:

So, she complains that university "riot police" are on "her campus"--clearly she wishes they weren't--admits that she and her compatriots surrounded the officers and told them that if they wanted to leave they'd have to go through the students, and then she's surprised that the officers responded?

I'll grant that the officers did not appear to be under imminent threat; on the other hand, they shouldn't have to wait until they're in jeopardy before they act. I also grant those who have police power given to them in our society must be held to very high standards of conduct, as they have the power to take away that which is fundamental to our ethos as a people--freedom.

Did the officers respond appropriately? If you tease the nice dog enough, should you really be surprised when it nips at you?

Initially I was against this police behavior. Now I'm not so sure.

Update, 12/4/11: It's always nice when a fellow blogger links :) Coach also adds information from former students of his at Davis.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why I'm Not Interested In Discourse With The Occupy Crowd

Some of the things they say are correct, but to engage them on even these topics is a mistake. Don't get sucked in:
A smaller group of conservatives, however, believes the occupiers are onto something. The banks do have too much power. Wages have been stagnant. The problem, these conservatives say, is that Occupy Wall Street doesn’t really know what to do about any of the problems it laments. So this smaller group of conservatives, along with the majority of liberals, is more than happy to supply the occupiers with an economic agenda.

But they might as well be talking to rocks. Both left and right have made the error of thinking that the forces behind Occupy Wall Street are interested in democratic politics and problem solving. The left mistakenly believes that the tendency of these protests to end in violence, dissolute behavior, and the melting away of the activists is an aberration, while the right mistakenly brushes off the whole thing as a combination of Boomer nostalgia for the New Left and Millennial grousing at the lousy job market. The truth is that the violence is not an aberration and Occupy Wall Street should not be laughed away. What we are seeing here is the latest iteration of an old political program that has been given new strength by the failures of the global economy and the power of postmodern technology.
I'm not so sure I agree with this next paragraph, at least the part about the unions:

To be sure, there are plenty of people flocking to the tents who are everyday Democrats and independents concerned about joblessness and the gap between rich and poor. The unions backing the occupiers fall into this group. But the concerns of labor intersect only tangentially with those of Occupy Wall Street’s theorists and prime movers. The occupiers have a lot more in common with the now-decades-old antiglobalization movement. They are linked much more closely to the “hacktivist” agents of chaos at WikiLeaks and Anonymous.

I definitely agree with this last part:
When the police officers and sanitation workers reclaimed Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street’s supporters cried, “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.” Whether the sympathizers or the critics really understand the idea and the method of the movement is a good question. The idea is utopian socialism. The method is revolutionary anarchism.
This is why I don't engage them.

If you agree with one or two points they make, fine. Their methods are not going to resolve their issues; I hope we're not to the point where mob rule influences sober government. Act like adults, and take your issues to the government that's hired for such purposes. If you think the government is unresponsive or a lost cause, surely you can do better than to bang a drum in a park.

The linked article goes on to discuss utopian socialism, and I highly recommend you read the whole thing.

Update, 12/3/11: The Occupy movement continues to be revealed as the bowel movement it really is:
A few weeks ago in Denver I had the opportunity for some up close and personal time with the Occupy movement, and what I saw was about what you would expect. These are marginal and marginally intelligent people who have grown up conditioned by public educators and the welfare state to believe that they’re something special and entitled to the good life just because they’re special and entitled to the good life. And they’ve also been brainwashed to believe that if America doesn’t acknowledge their specialness and if, indeed, they’re not enjoying the good life, the problem must be a corrupt America.

Occupy is all about greed, self-actualization, and narcissism. The fastest and easiest way to feel superior is to assume the role of a victim … because a victim is always superior to his or her oppressors.

Occupy is also an army the left and Alinksy-style community organizers like Barack Obama have been breeding for decades. The formula is simple: feed enough self-esteem to those who don’t deserve it and you create an entire generation of entitled crybabies desperate to direct the frustration of their unfulfilled lives at whomever.
Yeah, what he said.

California Keeps Bending Over For Obama and Education Secretary Duncan...

...and it keeps getting the shaft:
In another cockfight between California and Washington over education, the U.S. Department of Education has rejected California’s application – and only California’s application – in the third round of Race to the Top. The denial exasperated the seven California school districts that led the state’s effort and were counting on $49 million earmarked for California as critical to do the work they had committed to do.

In a statement Wednesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst each criticized the federal government’s inflexibility in not accepting what they described as California’s “innovative” approach of giving control of the reforms to local school districts. Seven unified districts, including Los Angeles, Frenso, and Long Beach, formed a coalition known as CORE, the California Office to Reform Education, to compete for round three and work together on the reform.

Torlakson also said the federal government failed to scale back its expectations for Race to the Top reforms during this fiscal crisis. “I had hoped the federal Administration would be mindful of the financial emergency facing California’s schools and the severe constraints it has placed on state resources,” he said. (In the third round of RTTT, the federal government slashed the available funding from $3.4 billion to $200 million. For California, that reduced the potential award from as much as $700 million to $50 million.)

The federal government saw things differently. In a statement congratulating the other seven states in line for the money, federal officials said California “submitted an incomplete application.”
This state gave, and will give again, 55 electoral votes to Obama. I'm sure some people think that's enough for us to get the money, but it clearly isn't. Then we chucked our world-class math standards for watered-down national "common core" standards. We've moved towards evaluating teachers based on student performance. And we don't even get any more education money for doing this.

Those of you who thought NCLB was the problem, how do you respond to this disaster?

Update, 11/26/11: Ouch.
When does a four-page cover sheet cost $49 million? When it's part of California's application for the latest round of federal school improvement funding.

Had they signed the cover sheet, state officials would have been endorsing the establishment of statewide teacher evaluation methods – a commitment they would not make.

Federal education officials announced that the state's bid for Race to the Top funds was denied earlier this week because its application was deemed by the U.S. Department of Education to be incomplete.

You Don't Have To Go To College... learn what you could learn at UC Davis. All you have to do is watch and learn from the news:
A woman shot pepper spray to keep shoppers from merchandise she wanted during a Black Friday sale, and 20 people suffered minor injuries, authorities said.

The incident occurred shortly after 10:20 p.m. Thursday in a crowded Los Angeles-area Walmart as shoppers hungry for deals were let inside the store.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Best Part of Thanksgiving

A few dozen gathered at my mother's place, including the two newest members of the clan, as two of my cousins have newborns. I gave one cousin and his wife a break for awhile:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Snackies, Coda

Remember this idiot, the professor who walked out of class because his students didn't bring him snackies? Well, the university has made a decision regarding his conduct:
Students of Sacramento State professor George Parrott won't have to supply snacks anymore in order to be taught psychology.

The Bee's report on Parrott walking out of his Psychology 101 lab class before a midterm review two weeks ago because of the lack of snacks made headlines across the country.

Since then, members of the psychology department at California State University, Sacramento, met and decided it was unacceptable for the professor to have left the class, said Kim Nava, university spokesperson.

"He's been told by the dean not to repeat the behavior," she said.
This is an appropriate response, but I hope they were a little more, uh, direct in their closed-door discussions with him.

Climategate #2?

It's looking possible....

Update, 11/26/11: More here:
*5,000 leaked emails reveal scientists deleted evidence that cast doubt on claims climate change was man-made
*Experts were under orders from US and UK officials to come up with a 'strong message'
*Critics claim: 'The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering'
*Scientist asks, 'What if they find that climate change is a natural fluctuation? They'll kill us all'

Update #2, 11/28/11: Facts are such stubborn little critters:
The worst hurricanes were in 1926, the second-worst in 1900. The world's top hurricane experts say that there is no evidence that global warming affects storms. There is no such thing as a man-made hurricane. Storm cycles and long patterns of bad weather are entirely natural. Yet this good news is suppressed by our politicized media. We hear only one side.

More and more scientists are revolting against the global warming consensus enforced by government funding, the academic establishment, and media misrepresentation. They are saying that solar cycles and the complex systems of cloud formation have much more influence on our climate, and account for historical periods of warming and cooling much more accurately that a straight line graph of industrialization, CO2, and rising temperatures. They also point out that the rising temperatures that set off the global warming panic ended in 1998.

Khan Academy Success?

One report says so:
Last month we profiled the Khan Academy, a database of free videos that make learning subjects like math fun. Well, these videos are now being piloted in a school in California. Two grade five and seven classes in the district of Los Altos have chosen to heavily supplement their current methods with the Khan Academy. Their test run has so far yielded nothing short of colossal success, with both students and teachers alike more engaged and fulfilled.

I Didn't Know The President of the NEA Is A Former Math Teacher

Learned something new:

One reform idea floated by Republicans and others involves changing the definition of “effective teachers,” loosening restrictions on who can instruct in the classroom. Some argue that an experienced mathematician, for example, shouldn’t have to obtain a separate degree to become a teacher.

Mr. Van Roekel dismissed that idea as irresponsible.

The power of the teachers unions, many reformers argue, is the single biggest reason major changes have come so slowly to the U.S. education system.

Mr. Van Roekel strongly disagrees.

“I take it as a personal insult when people believe that anyone with a degree in math can do what I do in the classroom,” he said, referencing his 23-year career as a math teacher.

On the other hand, I haven't met too many teachers who thought their credentialing program was very useful. Teacher preparation needs to be completely revamped, getting rid of a lot of the political (8 zillion courses in "multicultural education", for example, as if no one's ever worked with people unlike themselves before) and focusing more on the practical. While I'll agree with Van Roekel that a good mathematician doesn't a priori make a good math teacher, neither does someone make a good teacher just because he/she has completed a credentialing program.

The Economist Is Three Weeks Behind Me

Almost 3 weeks ago I wrote the following:
If you drive a high-mpg vehicle, you don't get dinged with high gas taxes. However, if everybody drove high-mpg vehicles, we'd use less gas--which means the states and feds would get less gas tax revenue. Problem is, the roads would still need maintenance, so the taxes would have to be increased!

If everyone does it, there's no economic benefit to conservation.

Maybe someone at The Economist reads this blog :-) because here's what they reported in last week's edition:
And just as cars are growing more fuel-efficient, Americans are driving less. In 2010 they drove just under three trillion miles—less than they did in 2006. While better fuel-efficiency is good news for Americans’ wallets and less driving good for the country’s air, for its highways and mass-transit systems, it is something of a disaster.

That is because federal funds, mostly derived from fuel-tax revenue, account for 22% of all highway funding and 17% of mass-transit funding nationally (with the rest coming from state and local governments)...

But as that trend has slowed, the HTF (Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by federal gas tax monies) has suffered: monies paid into the HTF fell by around one-seventh from 2007 to 2010. From 2005 to 2009 every state received more from the fund than they paid in. Between 2008 and 2010 Congress transferred $34.5 billion in general revenues into the HTF—the first time it had ever received such an infusion. Earlier this year the Congressional Budget Office forecast that the HTF will be unable to fund highway maintenance by 2013.

So, what's the fair (don't you love that word??), or reasonable, or practical, way to fund highway maintenance?

Another Blow For "Equality" Mislands, Strikes Common Sense Instead

Joanne has the story: Boys are competing — and winning — on girls’ swim teams in Massachusetts, reports the New York Times...State law requires equal access to athletic opportunities and some schools have cut boys’ swim teams.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


As I said in a previous post I went to Fremont yesterday. After I got out of the army I lived for a few years in Fremont, and yesterday reminded me of what a nice place it is.

One thing that struck me right away was the racial and ethnic diversity. I live in a fairly white working-class suburb of Sacramento, and teach in a fairly white well-to-do part of town. I went to a mall and instantly noticed the large percentage of Asians and Middle Easterners there. I've been told that Fremont has the largest community of Afghanis outside of Afghanistan, and I saw good evidence of that!

Anyone who's ever attended 4th grade in California, or has been the parent of a 4th grader, knows that we study the Spanish missions in California History class. My son was born just a couple miles from Mission San Jose in Fremont:

Shortly after WWII, one of my grandfathers platted the streets in the Mission San Jose area and in a few other towns that later merged into the city of Fremont. I like driving by the street in the Irvington area that he named after himself :)

I went to Fremont to visit a friend and see his baby daughter, and while waiting for him to get home from work I dropped by Fry's Electronics. Hadn't seen a Nissan Leaf before....

It was a nice day trip. The baby was beautiful, the dinner was delicious, and the company couldn't have been better.

Give Me Shelter

Yesterday I went back to the Bay Area (specifically, Fremont) to visit a friend, and meet his wife and baby, before they move back to Washington State. I took the Central Valley route, south on I-5 and west on I-580 over the Altamont Pass. No, I had no Rolling Stones playing at the time.

On the crests of the foothills at Altamont are almost 5000 wind turbines. Not one of them was turning that I could see. It was a semi-cloudy November day in the Bay Area and even if the wind was light, not one windmill was turning.

How reliable is that?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Settled Science?

Einstein posited special relativity over a century ago, and it has been "settled science" for about that long. What if it's wrong?
One of the most staggering results in physics – that neutrinos may go faster than light – has not gone away with two further weeks of observations. The researchers behind the jaw-dropping finding are now confident enough in the result that they are submitting it to a peer-reviewed journal.

"The measurement seems robust," says Luca Stanco of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Padua, Italy. "We have received many criticisms, and most of them have been washed out"...

Theorists have been struggling to reconcile the September result with the laws of physics. Einstein's theory of special relativity posits that nothing can travel faster than light, and many physicists believe the result could disappear in a puff of particles.

One of my favorite quotes is, "When the facts contradict your expectations, believe the facts." If this result holds up, we go back to the drawing board.

Rhodes Scholars

This year's list has come out and includes a graduate of the school at which I teach! There was a family of girls with her last name, though, so I don't recall if I had this particular one or not (but I think I did!). She's now the 3rd Rhodes Scholar with whom I've been acquainted, after a West Point classmate of mine as well as one in the class after ours.

Kudos all around!


The person who created this poster is teaching future math teachers. It's enough to make you weep for the future.

Professors at 2 CSU Campuses "Occupy"

One of the two or three Republicans in San Francisco makes several good points:
This is absurd, and not just because a bunch of educated middle-aged teachers are carrying on like they are bad-ass street rebels. (back in my younger days, I would have bust a gut laughing at any of my high school teachers or college professors joining any kind of "movement"). These teachers are one of the reasons why the public universities are in so much trouble, both because of the high cost of employing them, and the low quality of their pedagogy. Yet, clueless students upset about tuition increases are no doubt thrilled to receive this show of solidarity. Uh, guys, these teachers are not your friends. Secretly, they want tuition to go up, so their salaries go up as well.

Not only that, they are feeding you a steady diet of nonsense, especially those hip professors who use Michael Moore movies as a teaching tool and keep a Nader For President bumpersticker on their office door. They've been telling you about how Republicans and "big business" are evil, but all of these cuts you are protesting - not to mention virtually every other problem in the formerly Golden State - are coming from Democrats in government. Wall Street isn't raising your tuition; Democrats are.

And not only that, the Democrats - who control virtually every lever of power in the state - haven't lifted a finger trying to cut the real expenses driving the state into a hole: public employee pensions, redistributionist welfare payments, and unchecked illegal immigration. No, it's always students. That's partly because kids are always good for some dramatic "student strike" headlines, but also because there's always another group of students coming along once the previous bunch has graduated. If anyone ever manages to realize they are nothing more than human shields for some retired bureaucrat's pension, they're already long gone. (boldface mine--Darren)
Where do you disagree?

How Bad Is The President?

Instapundit links and quotes:
Related: Nick Gillespie: Shepard Fairey’s Occupy Hope or, The Pseudo-Spectacle of Outsiderdom and OWS’s Critical Lack of Imagination.

In general, I find this sort of appeal to the Establishment depressing, but especially in this case. If the Occupy movement, like Fairey, sees Obama as a “potential ally” then what does it say about the way that the president has in fact governed? Like Sen. John McCain, Candidate Obama cast a vote in favor of bailing out the big banks and financial institutions while running for president. He then upped the ante and has shown absolutely zero ability to conjure up an economic recovery plan that does not rely on fixes that were rusted-out by the time Richard Nixon took that final flight to San Clemente back in the 1970s.

Obama’s record on civil liberties and foreign interventions is indistinguishable from George W. Bush’s, whose exit calendar from Iraq he is fulfilling. Except that Obama has managed to lower the bar when it comes to killing American citizens and committing American resources without even the fig leaf of congressional approval. Who wants to support the Solyndra-style crony capitalism, or bizarre gun-running operations such as Fast and Furious? What part of record numbers of deportations of poor Mexicans and raids of legal-under-state-law medical marijuana dispensaries in California does Fairey and Occupants not understand? . . . But for god’s sake, who the hell is Fairey kidding? Obama as Guy Fawkes, a minority Catholic plotting to blow up the government who is only remembered in contemporary America because of a graphic novel and rotten movie that was a stupid anti-Thatcher allegory? Obama isn’t the solution, in part or in whole. Every bit as much as George W. Bush, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, you name it, he’s the problem.

All of it.

Nick Gillespie (and Instapundit) is a libertarian, and is inclined not to like a statist like Obama. Still, if you disagree with the quote above, rather than just saying someone's a big ole poopyhead, state where you disagree with Gillespie.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Bit Too Dramatic?

The pedophilia scandal regarding one Penn State coach lessens the value of a Penn State diploma?
The human tragedy that's become the Penn State University child molestation scandal is forcing some high school students to think twice about attending the college — and to question whether a PSU diploma still has value.

"Several students I work with are expressing reluctance in attending PSU because of the scandal," says Naomi Steinberg, an independent college advisor in Boca Raton, Florida.
I don't see how the scandal affects the academic performance of Penn State graduates, but that's just me.

Would It Be OK If She Weren't Using District Equipment?

I say yes, but don't have confidence that courts would agree with me--we've got to hold teachers to the "halo/angel" standard:
Hot for teacher? She's got a business plan for that, apparently.

A 35-year-old California high school teacher is in hot water this week after her ex-husband reportedly revealed she was allegedly running "several" porn sites, including, from her district-issue laptop, Fox 40 in Stockton reports.
Darren's opinion: with very few extreme exceptions, what a teacher does in his/her off-duty hours is no business of the school district, especially if that conduct is legal.

This Will Win The Hearts And Minds

This reminds me of video I've seen out of Northern Ireland, where grown adults of one religion (Catholic or protestant) would be raising hell and blowing whistles because children of the opposite religion walked through their neighborhood to get to school.
They were caught in the middle of madness.

Some grade school students were forced to walk a gauntlet of screaming “Occupy Wall Street” protesters just to get to school on Thursday.

It was a wild day in lower Manhattan for most everyone involved, including elementary school children who had to brave the mayhem just to get to class on the other side of Wall Street.

In the middle of thousands of protestors yelling and chanting — some kicking and screaming – CBS 2’s Emily Smith found little school kids trying to get to class. Nervous parents led them through the barriers on Wall Street. The NYPD helped funnel the children, anything to ease their fears while some protestors chanted “follow those kids!”

“These guys are terrorists, yelling at little kids,” one father said.

When you have to harass children, you've lost the battle. Pack it up and go home, losers.

Paying For Grades

With some of the stories I hear, this just doesn't surprise me anymore:
In a story traditionally reserved for high school urban legends, Florida math teacher Jeff Spires was suspended over allegations that the veteran educator was actually allowing students to pay for their grades on quizzes and tests.

Mr. Spires, a teacher at Charlotte County High School in Charlotte County, Florida since 2002, was suspended without pay on October 14 and resigned two weeks later after several students came forward with pay-for-grade scheme allegations.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Teacher Suspended For Showing Jon Stewart Clips

Here's what happened:
A high school government and law teacher in Eureka, Illinois, is coming under fire for showing his students three segments of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." Rhett Felix, a first-year teacher at Eureka High School, reportedly showed segments that made fun of Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and allegations of his sexual harassment. The segments, from the October 31 and November 2 episodes, feature Stewart making multiple sexual euphemisms about Cain's pizza chain. Cain served as the chairman and CEO of Godfather Pizza from 1986 to 1996. When parents were made aware of what their kids had seen in the classroom, they started complaining about bleeped obscenities and sexual content being shown in the classroom as well as the teacher's perceived liberal bias. Monday night, the Eureka-based District 140 school board held a two-hour executive session to discuss the complaints against Felix. Even Eureka Mayor Scott Punke criticized how the situation was handled, advocating for Felix to be suspended pending an investigation. One of the parents, Thomas Enterline, called the content of the videos "deplorable" and said he "didn't find any humor in what he saw." School Superintendent Randy Crump suspended Felix on Tuesday and announced that he would be given a new teaching assignment upon his return to the classroom. Felix, who is on paid leave, is expected to return to the classroom November 28.
I think the penalty is a bit harsh, especially for a rookie teacher. The appropriate penalty is a stern talking to, at least the first time.

I'm Ticked. This Is *Not* Cool.

My Kindle Fire shipped two days ago and was supposed to arrive today. You can probably see where this post is heading.

Had it been shipped via UPS, I could have tracked that package every step along the way--out of this facility, into this facility, and I'd even know if they'd attempted delivery yet. Sadly, though, it was shipped via USPS, the post office, and as of last night, a day and a half after shipping, this is all the tracking page said:
November 15, 2011 06:50:31 AM CA Shipment has left seller facility and is in transit

Loads of information there, no?

We had a staff meeting at work today, and I left at about the time my mailman usually arrives at my house. As I pulled up to my house, though, I saw the mail truck parked a few houses beyond mine. I drove up and talked to him because I didn't want him to drive away without delivery. What did he have for me? Nothing. No Kindle, no yellow slip, no nothing. Uh, what does "2 day shipment" mean if it doesn't arrive in 2 days?

Here's what the package tracking information currently says:
November 17, 2011 01:30:24 AM Hayward CA Departure Scan
November 16, 2011 11:43:16 PM Hayward CA Arrival Scan
November 15, 2011 06:50:31 AM CA Shipment has left seller facility and is in transit
What has it been doing the last 15 hours? Why has it not been delivered?

How incompetent is the postal service?

Update, 11/18/11: According to the tracking information, it reached my city post office last night at quarter to 7. Good job, screw-ups.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Will This Affect The Teachers At All?

From last winter's Madison, Wisconsin brouhaha:
Seven doctors received a reprimand from a state board Wednesday for how they kept medical records after issuing controversial sick notes to demonstrators during the protests against Gov. Scott Walker's union bargaining law.

"The board action today holds these physicians accountable for their very public actions," said a statement from Sujatha Kailas, a physician and chairman of the Medical Examining Board.

Another two doctors received administrative warnings, a lesser form of discipline, according to the board.

In February, teachers from several districts called in sick so they could descend on the Capitol during work days to protest Walker's bill to curtail collective bargaining for most public employees. At the protests, some teachers secured doctors' notes to excuse them from work.

Do the school districts now have to honor these notes?

Saving Energy

For reasons I'll keep entirely to myself, I volunteered to attend a meeting of district Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 teachers today. One of our excellent retired teachers covered my classes today so I didn't feel too bad about going.

The meeting was held at a former elementary school abutting the district office "campus". The site is now a central enrollment facility, which to my way of thinking makes it a "district" site, with all the perks that connotes.


Our meeting was held in what had been the multi-purpose room. It was cold there. I don't mean slightly chilly, I mean I was actually shivering at times. I expected it to be temperate there--district people get to work in comfort!--but no, it was 63 degrees in that room. And it took quite some time before we were able to get even the slightest amount of heat in there.

The cold, of course, explains why I had to have an extra bagel, as a guy needs to stay warm somehow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Libs, Show Me How To Close The Racial Achievement Gap

It's often hinted, sometimes not so subtly, that the racial achievement gap persists because of those of us on the Right.

Well, Chicago isn't known as a Republican stronghold. Surely they have fixed the problem, no? No. And don't call me Shirley:

After 16 years of school reform, Chicago’s “racial gaps in achievement have steadily increased,” according to a study by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. White and Asian students are making more progress than Latinos; blacks are “falling behind all other groups.”

Some initiatives, such as closing underperforming schools, may have hurt students, Jean-Claude Brizard, the new superintendent, told the Chicago Tribune.

Occupy (Insert City Here) and Press Coverage

Who are the extremists, the Tea Party or the Occupy crowd? To listen to the news you'd think it was the Tea Party--after all, someone showed up to a Tea Party rally with a firearm! But how much violence occurred at Tea Party rallies? How much tuberculosis? How many Tea Party rallies were conducted outside the law--no permits, staying in parks after closing time, etc?

The Occupy crowd is violent. People were never raped at Tea Party rallies, cops never fired into Tea Party rallies, tear gas never had to be deployed at Tea Party rallies, and Tea Partiers were never arrested with hand grenades. As Instapundit said, "All the media myths about the Tea Party seem to have come true with regard to the Occupy movement, but the press doesn’t seem to care all that much."

Let's talk more about violence at these idiots and their press enablers:

In covering the Tea Party, of course, the Times emphasized its supposed extremism and violence. Brisbane doesn’t even mention these themes his column on Obamaville, even though there has been a good bit of violence there, whereas Tea Party violence was a figment of left-wing imaginations. That tells you something about the agenda of the Times and other like-minded news outlets.

The media helped create and now helps sustain the Obamaville monster, but that doesn’t mean they can control it. In recent days videos have surfaced from Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore., showing Obamavillians attacking local news crews attempting to report on the going-on.

The Portland video is especially creepy. It shows an angry white man–his face obscured part of the time by a pink scarf–shouting obscenities at a newsman, and declaring: “We are the 99%, you’re the 1%. . . . We don’t want you in our society.” The distinction between demonization and dehumanization is a very fine one, and media figures who have encouraged this foul and dangerous movement will have a lot to answer for if it continues to escalate.

But they’ll probably just blame the Tea Party or something.

Want to see the clear folly of their ideals? Bounce this idea off of them:
How would they view Occupy Planned Parenthood?

We've tolerated these adolescents for too long now. It's high time the police cleared them out, whenever and wherever they're breaking the law.

It would be wonderful if the press would quit covering for them, but then again, a pet unicorn would be wonderful, too.

Another Football Coach In The News

The news out of Happy Valley has been pretty grim the last week or two, so let's see what we can find out in, oh, say, Wyoming:
A high school football coach in Wyoming has resigned after orchestrating what may be the single-least appropriate motivational tactic in recent years, handing his players a "Hurt Feelings Report" in which students were asked to select from various offensive options to describe why they were upset.

As first reported by the Buffalo Bulletin, Casper Star-Tribune and The Advocate before being circulated throughout the Internet, Buffalo (Wyo.) High football coach Pat Lynch offered up a questionnaire to his players that offered the following possible reasons for their disappointment, as reported by The Advocate (Warning: Some of the choices are pretty abhorrent):

The survey, under a list of reasons for hurt feelings, includes such choices as "I am a queer," "I am a little bitch," and "I have woman like hormones." It asks for the name of the "little sissy filing report" and his "girly-man signature," plus the "real-man signature" of the person accused of causing hurt feelings.

You can see a full copy of the survey here.

After an investigation into the survey, Lynch tendered his resignation on Wednesday, with the Buffalo school board accepting it days later.
OK, definitely inappropriate even if it is a little bit funny--and let's be honest, it is a bit funny. But you want to know what the funniest part of the whole story is?
Still, the now-former coach will be allowed to continue as a guidance counselor at the school.
You can't make this stuff up!

P.S. His "report" is a little reminiscent of things my first battery commander used to say, but as soldiers, we were grown men.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Lesson Learned Is Clear

When you excuse and accommodate bad behavior, you get more of it:
A California school principal did not violate the freedom of speech of a group of students who wore American flags on their shirts on Cinco de Mayo when he told them to turn the shirts inside out or go home, a federal judge has ruled.

Citing past clashes between Mexican American and Anglo students over their clothing on the Mexican holiday, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware of San Francisco said school officials "reasonably forecast that (the shirts) could cause a substantial disruption" and were entitled to take steps to prevent it, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Hispanic students take offense at displays of American flags on "their day", and react negatively enough--cause enough of a problem--that the school bans not their behavior but American flag shirts.

It's easy to bash Christians--no one worries that Christians will cut their heads off. Try posting a cartoon of Muhammed, though. We're allowing the trouble-makers to dictate the rules. The lesson to be learned here is that if you want your way, all you have to do is cause trouble. This way there lie dragons, not a civic society.

Update, 11/15/11: A teacher at school today made an interesting point. Would the school ban gay pride t-shirts? After all, if you have a bunch of homophobes at the school, the pride t-shirts could set them off and you'd have carnage. Best to ban the gay pride t-shirts.

The court in effect sanctioned a heckler's veto. Bad call.

Wasn't This Decided in 1943?

I'm all about patriotism and saying the pledge of allegiance and standing/removing hats/shutting up during the national anthem, but requiring recitation of the pledge of allegiance was ruled unconstitutional during World War II (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette):
A Nebraska state senator plans to introduce a bill that would require all kindergarten through high school students to be led in a group recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lincoln Journal Star reports...

The Nebraska bill would be modeled after a Massachusetts law that does not compel students to participate in the pledge. Michigan, one of the states that does not have a pledge law, has a bill before its senate that would mandate that every student recite the pledge, according to the paper.
I believe the pledge should be said in classrooms every day, but the Supremes were correct in ruling that students should be allowed to opt out. That some will argue with me on this, claiming that students shouldn't even have to hear the pledge, shows how far we've sunk in this country on issues of civic responsibility and pride; there was a time when having merely to be present when the pledge was said wasn't considered oppressive or a political act.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Awesome Way To Take Advantage Of A Down Economy

Not everyone suffers when housing prices sink:
While students at other colleges cram into shoebox-size dorm rooms, Ms. Alarab, a management major, and Ms. Foster, who is studying applied math, come home from midterms to chill out under the stars in a curvaceous swimming pool and an adjoining Jacuzzi behind the rapidly depreciating McMansion that they have rented for a song.

Here in Merced, a city in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley and one of the country’s hardest hit by home foreclosures, the downturn in the real estate market has presented an unusual housing opportunity for thousands of college students. Facing a shortage of dorm space, they are moving into hundreds of luxurious homes in overbuilt planned communities...

The finances of subdivision life are compelling: the university estimates yearly on-campus room and board at $13,720 a year, compared with roughly $7,000 off-campus. Sprawl rats sharing a McMansion — with each getting a bedroom and often a private bath — pay $200 to $350 a month each, depending on the amenities...

This city of 79,000 is ranked third nationally in metropolitan-area home foreclosures, behind Las Vegas and Vallejo, Calif., said Daren Blomquist, a spokesman for RealtyTrac, a company based in Irvine, Calif., that tracks housing sales.
You can't fault them for seeking out a bargain or for living the good life on that bargain. As long as they can afford it....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Just Watched Gran Torino For The First Time


How Important Are Snackies?

Everyone I work with knows that I like snackies. A little treat here and there goes a long way towards maintaining concord in life. We bring food for staff meetings, and a group of us has "tea club" during our break on Wednesdays. But in all cases the food is brought voluntarily! Requiring students to bring food? I cannot be the only person who thinks this guy is a nutjob, can I?
Sacramento State professor George Parrott walked out of his Psychology 101 lab class Thursday morning because his students didn't bring any snacks.

Instead, he says, he went to breakfast with his teaching assistant.

The professor said students are told of the requirement to bring snacks on the first day of class. A handout from the teacher is clear – "Not having a snack = no Dr. Parrott or TAs. Now you are responsible for your own lab assignment."

He said the snack obligation is his way of encouraging students to work collectively. It connects students who might not otherwise interact on a commuter campus, said the professor...

Parrott said he doesn't feel bad about asking college students to bring food to class. The cost, he says, is offset by savings – about $200 – which students realize by not having to buy a textbook for the course.

Government Is At Least As Much Of The Problem As Wall Street

The solution to the "economic crisis" is not more government regulation. In fact, government bears the lion's share of the burden for said crisis:
Mozilo's almost 20-year-old quote is relevant again thanks to the uproar New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg caused last week when he criticized Occupy Wall Street's view of the financial crisis.

Bloomberg said, "it was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress, who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp. ... They were the ones who pushed Fannie and Freddie to make a bunch of loans that were imprudent, if you will."

The usual suspects on the left went crazy. The New York Times Paul Krugman called Bloomberg an "ignoramous," citing liberal blogger Mike Konczal's Fannie defense:

"The first thing to point out is that the both the subprime mortgage boom and the subsequent crash are very much concentrated in the private market ... [Fannie and Freddie] were not behind them," Konczal said.

Is Konczal right? Are Fannie and Freddie innocent of causing the mortgage crisis?

This we do know: Thanks to the widespread belief that the federal government would bail them out, Fannie and Freddie were able to borrow money at below-market interest rates.

This gave them a significant competitive advantage over private-sector firms which, by 1992, the two government-backed corporate entities had turned into an almost 70 percent share in the mortgage securitization market...

From 1992 through the height of the housing bubble, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac used their monopoly position in the mortgage securitization industry to reward firms like Countrywide for making bad bets in the housing market. Countrywide's success was a signal to other market participants to lower their standards as well.

Wall Street banks are not blameless for the financial crisis. But they were only responding to the incentives set up by the federal government. Ignoring this history will help no one.
Government distorted the market, with predictable results. My solution to so many of these problems is not to create more regulation and give government more power to distort, but to lessen government power. The market will correct itself. Sometimes that correction isn't pleasant, but how pleasant is the current return to stagflation brought on by government failure?

You get more of what you subsidize. With TARP and auto bailouts we've subsidized failure, and we will certainly get more of it. We're 3-4 years into this now, almost 3 years under President Obama's "steady hand" at the leviathan of state. Has anything improved? Are certain companies still "too big to fail"? What has the taxpayer gotten for his "contributions" to these bailouts? How is the average citizen better off?

Government is much more of the problem than it is the solution. And when you have a president as steeped in socialist ideology as is our current president, you get predictable results both in the economy and in the electorate:
President Obama's ratings on the the most important issue for his re-election -- the economy -- have posted the weakest showing of his presidency, according to a poll released Friday by CBS News.

About 60 percent of voters said they disapprove of Mr. Obama's handling of the economy, the highest on record. Just 34 percent approve of the job he is doing on the matter.

Cruising Through School

Now this is one of the most fun stories I've read in quite awhile:
Don't be fooled by the twin beds and stacks of books on Darwin. Molly Malarkey's dorm isn't like others at St. Mary's College of Maryland. The lounge downstairs has chandeliers and panoramic views of the St. Mary's River. Someone comes by to change the sheets and collect laundry. And, in a wardrobe, there are the orange lifejackets.

For the rest of the semester, the 18-year-old Malarkey and 239 other students are living aboard the Sea Voyager, a cruise ship about the length of a football field now docked at the school's southern Maryland campus. Earlier this semester, after heavy rains exacerbated a mold problem in two dorms and made some students sick, the school moved students out and put them up in hotels...

The party won't last for long, however. The school plans to have the students' dorms renovated and mold free by the end of the semester.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Smart, or Not So Much?

Here's one of those "are you smarter than the average bear" quizzes. You have several seconds to answer each question, but I tried to answer them as fast as I could (because that makes it more fun!). I scored 26.

Happy Veterans Day

You don't have to go to work or school today? You're welcome :-)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

1% vs the Teachers Unions

From EIA:
The union coalition spent $30 million – a third of it from NEA and its Ohio affiliate – or about $15 per “no” vote. Somehow the One Percent control all of the nation’s wealth, but never seem to be able to come close to outspending the teachers’ union. Maybe that’s how they stay so rich.

Big Brother

I like hearing a Supreme Court justice be so blunt:
A Supreme Court justice on Tuesday expressed major concerns that the government would engage in round-the-clock surveillance reminiscent of the totalitarian world of the George Orwell novel 1984 if the court ruled in the government's favor.

The court heard oral arguments in the Jones case, in which the outcome will determine whether warrantless GPS tracking by law enforcement is an invasion of Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

Justice Stephen Breyer questioned what a democratic society would look like if people believed the government was tracking them for days at a time.
Of course it's a 4th Amendment violation. However, after the Kelo decision, I don't have a lot of faith that the Court will make the correct decision.

Asking the Questions That Need To Be Asked

The Occupy (insert city here) crowd likes to whine about student loan debt. Deb Saunders asks the important questions:
I keep reading about young adults who owe, $60,000, $90,000, even $200,000 in student loans. How did you rack up that kind of debt? Where did you go to school and why that school? What was your major? How did you expect to pay your loans off? Details please.

Typical Lack of Leadership From Obama

Need another example? How about this one:
The Obama administration plans to announce on Thursday it will explore a new route for a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline, delaying a final approval beyond the 2012 U.S. election, sources briefed on the matter said.

The decision would be a victory for environmentalists, many of whom oppose the pipeline, and a setback for TransCanada Corp, whose $7 billion Keystone XL project is seen as the most important North American oil pipeline plan for decades.
I guess as president you can vote "present" sometimes.

Holding Someone Responsible

Twice already this month, here and here, I've written about some negative press received by a local school district because of its police force. The district brass have taken some action:
The chief for the embattled Twin Rivers Unified School District police force has been placed on administrative leave...

Breck was placed on leave the same day it was learned that the police force would curtail traffic stops and vehicle tows. The policy change comes after a rocky few weeks for the department.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Political Correctness Run Amok

The University of North Dakota has been strong-armed into changing its mascot from the Fighting Sioux, which it has been since 1930, because some people get their panties in a bunch over "a historically disenfranchised race of people" and "hurt":
Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed a law Wednesday overturning a last-ditch attempt in March by the Legislature — which counts many UND alumni among its members — to mandate that UND keep the Fighting Sioux name. That maneuvering caused scheduling headaches for UND teams and threatened its bid to join the Big Sky Conference as it transitions from Division II to Division I sports.

Since August, the NCAA has banned UND from hosting postseason tournaments and said the school's athletes may not wear uniforms with the nickname or logo during postseason play.
The NCAA is operating under the meme of "so open-minded, your brains fall out." How is a mascot at all "hurtful"? Did UND choose the Fighting Sioux to make a mockery, or because they thought it was something inspiring?

Whatever. I guess there are bigger battles in the world, but if you roll over for the little ones, how are you going to act for the big ones?

Sacramento State University's New Veterans Success Center

Three years ago I was privileged and pleased to interview some staff at Sac State's Troops to College office--not much more than a cubicle behinds the admissions office. Despite the cramped quarters, the director and staff impressed me with their work and vision. If you want to read about an excellent program with excellent people, click over to that link and get some good background information--this post will be waiting for you when you get back!

A couple weeks ago I received an invitation to the grand opening of the new Veterans Success Center, and tonight my son and I attended. What an uplifting evening! The Veterans Success Center is the new office for the old Troops to College Program, and we were there to celebrate its completion. The few speakers were thoughtfully brief, but they all spoke variations on a theme: it's not just the more spacious real estate, which is very nice and necessary, it's about the amazing work that's done there in the new center. One mentioned that on her travels to other universities, she found that other veterans centers are based on a deficit model--veterans must be helped to overcome some deficit they're perceived to have; Sac States is based on a success model, doing what is necessary to ensure our veterans succeed at school. Even the name of the office highlights this positive, forward-thinking outlook.

Democratic Congresswoman Doris Matsui also attended. After the speeches I made my way across the room to speak to her for a moment. I introduced myself and told her that her late husband nominated me to West Point; she very much appreciated hearing about that, and about the few correspondences I shared with him while I was a cadet. I also mentioned that I have a former student who wants to attend West Point, that she's his Congresswoman, and that he's looking forward to the upcoming interview process for his nomination; she seemed very interested in the topic, mentioning that interviews were going to be scheduled very soon. At that point I thought it best to let someone else get some "face time" so I excused myself. The congresswoman was very gracious.

All in all it was a very pleasant gathering, in nice, new quarters, for a terrific program. Sacramento State is, from the president on down, supportive of its veterans and of the varied veterans programs. As one speaker mentioned, it's not just the new quarters, but all the work that went into both their necessity and their creation, that made tonight so important.

It was a privilege to be there this evening.

Education Buzz

This week's is here, and includes my post about the not-very-judicious police force at a local school district.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

How Do You Describe The Person You Love?

I was recently challenged to pick a few adjectives to describe the person I've loved the most in life--romantic love, that is, not familial. Here's what I came up with:


What words do you come up with for yours?

Majors With The Lowest Unemployment Rates

If you don't want to put yourself into the position where the only way out of your bad decisions is to participate in an Occupy (insert city here) protest and whine for others to bail you out, you might consider one of these majors:
Majors and their unemployment rate:

1. Actuarial Science—0 percent

2. Astronomy and Astrophysics—0 percent

3. Educational Administration and Supervision—0 percent

4. Geological and Geophysical Engineering—0 percent

5. Pharmacology—0 percent

6. School Student Counseling—0 percent

7. Agricultural Economics—1.3 percent

8. Medical Technologies Technicians—1.4 percent

9.Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology—1.6 percent

10. Environmental Engineering, Nursing, and Nuclear Industrial Radiology and Biological Technologies—2.2 percent

Notice there's no Aggrieved Victim Studies, Film History, Anthropology, Psychology, Puppetry, or Medieval Literature majors on that list. And I admit that #3 is a bit disappointing.

The Stats Project

For as long as I've been at this school, one of the "big deals" has always been the Stats Project. Starting last year, that project has been mine.

We've spent the last couple of class days brainstorming questions and then winnowing down the list. Some of the questions are plain, some are on controversial topics, and some are just plain startling! Next week I'll send my students out into the other classrooms around school to random choose students and survey them. We'll collate all the data, and my students will have until Christmas Break to write up a report on the project.

It's a lot of work for all of us--certainly a lot of reading and grading for me--but it's a valuable teaching and learning tool.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Are We Really Going To Make Such Excuses?

Are California's teachers--especially the next-to-impossible-to-fire tenured teachers--really going to claim that testing requirements are forcing them to cheat?
The stress was overwhelming.

For years, this veteran teacher had received exemplary evaluations but now was feeling pressured to raise her students' test scores. Her principal criticized her teaching and would show up to take notes on her class. She knew the material would be used against her one day.

"My principal told me right to my face that she — she was feeling sorry for me because I don't know how to teach," the instructor said.

The Los Angeles educator, who did not want to be identified, is one of about three dozen in the state accused this year of cheating, lesser misconduct or mistakes on standardized achievement tests.

Who Are They Protesting, and Who Should They Be Protesting?

From the Washington Post:
President Obama has called people who work on Wall Street “fat-cat bankers,” and his reelection campaign has sought to harness public frustration with Wall Street. Financial executives retort that the president’s pursuit of financial regulations is punitive and that new rules may be “holding us back.”

But both sides face an inconvenient fact: During Obama’s tenure, Wall Street has roared back, even as the broader economy has struggled.

The largest banks are larger than they were when Obama took office and are nearing the level of profits they were making before the depths of the financial crisis in 2008, according to government data.

Wall Street firms — independent companies and the securities-trading arms of banks — are doing even better. They earned more in the first 21 / 2 years of the Obama administration than they did during the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, industry data show.
The Instapundit doesn't refer to him as President Goldman Sachs for nothing, you know.

My point is always this: you can't fault corporations for seeking government assistance. You fault the government for selling out to them. My solution is to cut government power so that the corporation has nothing it can seek from government.

The Occupy (insert city here) crowd are as misguided as they are clueless.

NPR Hit Piece?

I wonder what their rationale for this story is:
Today, we have a stark contrast: blue states like California, New York and Illinois are careening toward bankruptcy as a result of the irresponsible policies imposed by their Democratic politicians, while red states like Texas, Utah and the Dakotas are showing the way to prosperity.

North Dakota is perhaps the most famous example; it has unemployment only because a few people are between jobs. There are many more jobs than people in North Dakota, so the state eagerly recruits workers from the rest of the country. But South Dakota is, arguably, an even better example of red state success, because it doesn’t have any oil. Despite being oil-free, South Dakota’s unemployment rate is around one-half the national rate. Its economy is booming. Why? When I talk with business leaders around the country who have facilities in South Dakota or who deal with businesses there, they invariably emphasize the quality of South Dakota’s labor force. The phrase “work ethic” comes up again and again. And, of course, South Dakota has a friendly business climate. It hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 1974. And there isn’t a union in sight.

In a sane world, the news media would disseminate information about which states are most successful and what policies they pursue, so that other states can emulate them. That is a pipe dream, of course: we all know that in the world we actually inhabit, our media have an entirely different agenda.

Which leads me to the three-part hit-piece that NPR recently did on South Dakota.
It's true that on the topic under discussion in the NPR piece, South Dakota looks bad from a "proportionality" standpoint. But what about the 5 states with worse numbers than South Dakota? The two worst states, by NPR's own account, are Washington and Minnesota, why not report on those two?
All of this makes sense to a liberal journalist. If you are going to undertake a “yearlong investigation” of a state agency, concluding with the sensational claim that financial corruption and “cultural bias” are causing minority children to be “kidnapped” at a disproportional rate, are you going to waste your time in states like Minnesota and Washington? Don’t be silly–those states are run by Democrats, like you!
The author of the linked piece is going to dissect NPR's report in detail in upcoming posts, and closes with this:
For the moment, however, let’s just pause to consider why NPR thought it necessary to do a hit piece on South Dakota at all.

Why, indeed.

Update, 11/11/11: Powerline continues its debunking of NPR's story. Remember, NPR operates with taxpayer money.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

It'll Be A Lighter Than Usual Workout At The Gym Today

I'm certainly no gym rat. I go only 3 days a week: Tuesday for a 45 minute circuit-type workout, Friday for an hour-long workout, and Sunday for a 90 minute workout. Today's workout won't be a full 90 minutes, though, as I just watched 70 minutes of the 2nd half of the 49ers game while "pep walking" 5.3 miles on my elliptical trainer. My cardiovascular fitness is nowhere near where it should be or where it used to be, but I'm not going to fault myself when I can do anything non-stop for 70 minutes.

Maybe I'll cut my legs some slack at the gym today and do a short upper body workout. And maybe I'll go swim a few laps in the pool, too!

Grade Inflation Hurts Math/Science Majors?

Volokh links to a NYT article on grade inflation in humanities courses and concludes:
If taking math, science and engineering courses requires students to sacrifice their GPAs and class standing, it should be no surprise that many choose other courses of study.
It's unfortunate, but it makes sense.

Using Sports To Teach Stats

There are lots of real-life examples to be used in stats classes, sports among them. However, I'm not sure that focusing only on sports is the best way to teach stats, primarily because there are plenty of people for whom sports is a meaningless topic:
At colleges and universities, however, baseball and other sports have become fertile grounds for teaching formal statistics to otherwise wary undergraduates. Pascal’s triangle helps explain why the favored team often loses the World Series. Expected values develop rather unexpected value when they unmask football coaching blunders. And when it comes to Bell curves, which would you rather plot — your school’s N.C.A.A. basketball scores, or snowfalls in Saskatoon?
If your course is "Sports Stats", that's great. But for a general course I see two problems with this. First, not everyone enjoys sports, and second, there are so many other topics that can demonstrate the applicability of stats.

“Intro Stat as a course is frustrating because students don’t care about the things you talk about — economics, politics — but everyone can relate to sports in some way, either as participant or fan,” says Jim Albert, author of the 2003 textbookTeaching Statistics Using Baseball” and a professor of statistics at Bowling Green State, in Ohio. “The students are interested, and that’s all we’re looking for. They’re willing.”
I disagree. Personally, I don't even like baseball much. It's one thing to be there in the park enjoying a game, but I can't watch it on tv or read the paper about it or anything. And there are plenty of people out there who like economics and/or politics.
Flipping a coin twice is a mundane thought experiment; having Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns attempt two free throws with a game on the line is like watching ESPN in the classroom.
Can't stand basketball at all. And everyone can understand a coin flip.

Again, my point isn't to trash this idea--it certainly appeals to a certain segment of the population. But if you want a course that's universally applicable, you should probably include more than one topic. Why avoid weather, medicine, investing, gambling, psychology, test scores, manufacturing, "bar tricks", equal opportunity/discrimination challenges, weaponry, genetics, global warming (hehe), opinion polling, food production, red-light waiting time, and zillions of other topics, and focus only on sports?

American football is perhaps the greatest sport ever invented. Before my son was born I would spend all weekend on the couch, watching every game I could. I would run numbers through my brain constantly, predicting outcomes. Sometimes I'd even "reverse engineer" games, looking at game stats and trying to predict the finals scores of the games from them (it was more art than science, at least consciously, but I got to be very accurate at it). Fatherhood, though--especially single fatherhood--has reduced my football down to the point where I don't even know who's quarterbacking the Raiders today against Denver.

My point is that while I see the utility of using sports examples, and can even understand why many would take a "Math of Sports" class (I might enjoy a Math of Football class), such can never be more than a niche class.

Proper Attire For Instructors

I've written before on appropriate dress for teachers and professors. I don't insist on a suit and tie for men, but slacks and a collared shirt on most days seems reasonable to me. Shorts and flip-flops are a definite non-starter with me. Similar level of dress for women.

That this site exists is evidence that I'm not alone in my beliefs. It's called, "Prof or Hobo".

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Using Kids

They're not your kids to do with as you please, teacher:
A fourth-grade teacher in Wisconsin has been reprimanded after he allowed his students to participate in a political protest against Gov. Scott Walker on a field trip to the state Capitol building.
He received a reprimand in his file.

Democrat Leaves The Plantation, Pays Penalty

There was a time when such ideas weren't considered treasonous, even by Democrats:
Rep. Krusick, the proposal’s author, patiently explained that her purpose was to make the grant program more, not less, inclusive. “Many people, regardless of minority status, are poor,” she said. “And the intent of this amendment was for inclusivity for all.” Belief in colorblind inclusiveness, however, may now result in her expulsion from the Democratic party in Wisconsin, since Rep. Zamarripa told a Madison radio station “that she would support removing Krusick from the Democratic caucus.” And Rep. Leon Young, D-Milwaukee, sent Krusick a letter asking her to stay out of Democratic strategy sessions. “We’ve all got to be one and vote that way,” he said in an interview.

Even I, No Fan of President Obama, Can't Fault Him For This

Perhaps the French don't make such remarks--and if that's the case, then it's yet another in a long string of State Department protocol failures--but even if it's a faux pas, there would be no reason that Obama himself (absent protocol briefing) should know:
President Obama came, he saw, he insulted.

“Obama insults Sarkozy,” blared the headline on one French website, taking umbrage at Mr. Obama’s wayward remark at the G-20 summit here about the physical appearance of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mr. Obama thought he was making a gentle joke about Mr. Sarkozy, host of the summit, when he congratulated Mr. Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni on the birth of their baby daughter on Oct. 19. Instead, Mr. Obama caused a minor international incident.

“I want to make mention that this is our first meeting since the arrival of the newest Sarkozy, and so I want to congratulate Nicolas and Carla on the birth of Giulia,” Mr. Obama told reporters shortly after his arrival at the G-20, with Mr. Sarkozy at his side. “And I informed Nicolas on the way in that I am confident that Giulia inherited her mother’s looks rather than her father’s, which I think is an excellent thing.”

He added, “And so now we share one of the greatest challenges and blessings of life, and that is being fathers to our daughters.”

Mr. Sarkozy, who is said to be very conscious about his looks, did not appear greatly amused by the comment, and some observers who attended the meeting said Mr. Obama’s remark fell flat.

The French president, who has three sons from two previous marriages, later told reporters, “You see the great influence of Barack Obama. It’s been four years now he tells me to be a father of girls is fantastic, he has two. So I listened and followed his example.”

But Mr. Obama’s remarks, intended as a compliment for the French president’s glamorous wife, ended up in the eyes of some Frenchmen as tagging their leader as an ugly man. France took notice.
In defense of Obama, I have to tell the French to put on their big boy undies.

Hey California, Are You Listening???

From his mouth to God's (or at least Jerry Brown's) ears:
Gov. Cuomo got it exactly right a couple of weeks ago when he said, “You are kidding yourself if you think you can be one of the highest-taxed states in the nation, have a reputation for being anti-business -- and have a rosy economic future.”
Democrats weren't always anti-business....

Friday, November 04, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours

Earlier this week I wrote about the police force of a local school district, and the tasteless (I'm being generous there) shirts they sold. Now they've got another ball to juggle:
The embattled Twin Rivers Unified School District police force is facing new scrutiny: this time for its practice of towing vehicles with expired tags or other violations and using the penalty fees to supplement its budget.

Twin Rivers police generated $45,000 by towing vehicles last year, a 55 percent increase in revenues compared with 2008.

In internal department emails earlier this year, officers were given targets for making vehicle and pedestrian stops, and initially for vehicle tows as well.
There's evidence of quotas for tickets/towing as well. Of course, such actions cause people to wonder if students are treated correctly by these sworn peace officers.

There's something we learned pretty quickly at West Point--people who wear uniforms live in a fishbowl, they're constantly under scrutiny. The Twin Rivers police force has either forgotten or failed ever to learn that lesson. When a society gives uniforms and firearms to certain people, it does so with a sacred trust that the force they can apply won't be abused. They are rightly held to a higher standard of conduct.

Someone needs to whip that department into shape, and do so with a quickness. There seems to be a leadership failure somewhere in that district.

Way To Treat Your Union Member

Yes, the "victim" in this story is partially at fault for not looking at her own pay stubs. That doesn't excuse the union involved from keeping the share of her money that it's not entitled to:
She wasn't looking at her paycheck stub; didn't do it for years. When she finally got around to checking it out in 2009, she discovered that she'd been paying out not just one but two deductions in union dues in a lot of paychecks in 2008 and 2009. One deduction was at a teacher's (higher) rate and the other at her own lower clerical/teacher's assistant level.

On other checks, she'd only had one deduction, but it was coded for a teacher. In bits and pieces, dollars and cents, she'd been overpaying for union representation for quite a while.

So she went to the Houston Federation of Teachers for help, and what followed, as HFT itself confirms now, wasn't optimum. She kept getting assurances that things would be fixed — that she would be reimbursed for the overpayments — and nothing happened.
Hat tip to reader MikeAT.