Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why I'm Not A Socialist

Basically, he’s saying that Barack Obama, Harry Reid, John Boehner, and the rest of them don’t have a clue as to the ordinary goings-on of us average people. That’s probably why they do things like require us to buy toilets that don’t work and light bulbs full of poisonous mercury.

Those in Washington may have the best intentions when they do things like require Americans to purchase health insurance for the very act of breathing, but they fail to see how that will affect the lives of ordinary Americans. Ensconced in their bubbles, they like the idea of ‘helping’ people, so they pass legislation without any idea as to how the majority of us tick. link
At its core, socialism is at least paternalistic and more probably tyrannical. However good the intentions, the road to Hell still leads to Hell.

It's Great Work, If You Can Get It

From the New York Post:
Hell no, he won’t go.

In a defiant raspberry to the city Department of Education — and taxpayers — disgraced teacher Alan Rosenfeld, 66, won’t retire.

Deemed a danger to kids, the typing teacher with a $10 million real estate portfolio hasn’t been allowed in a classroom for more than a decade, but still collects $100,049 a year in city salary — plus health benefits, a growing pension nest egg, vacation and sick pay.

Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Cuomo can call for better teacher evaluations until they’re blue-faced, but Rosenfeld and six peers with similar gigs costing about $650,000 a year in total salaries are untouchable. Under a system shackled by protections for tenured teachers, they can’t be fired, the DOE says.
Until we educators quit protecting people like this, quit expecting unions to protect people like this, and start policing our own ranks, we can hardly expect to be considered professionals.

Set Up To Fail

From Joanne's Community College Spotlight:
Both intellectually disabled students and their instructors are set up to fail, writes Anonymous, a professor at a commuter college, in an essay in Inside Higher Ed.
We've probably all thought this at one time or another, usually in the context of modifications or accommodations required by IEP's. Click on the link to see what Anonymous has to say on the topic, from the junior college level.

Why Don't You Hear Much About "Occupy" Protests Anymore?

Here's why:
You can tell that the movement has lost popular support because the press suddenly stopped the breathless coverage. As I predicted, once it became clear the movement was hurting the Democrats, the coverage dried up.
Remember that less than 2 months ago there was a suggestion that my local union officially support that movement. I said then that they were a day late and a dollar short; I was right then, and even more right now.

Monday, January 30, 2012

College Students, Need A Job?

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Furor Over Start Time

Several months ago, word got to our faculty that a group of parents was working to move our school's start time (and hence finish time) 30 minutes later in the day. They did a fairly decent job of poring over research and late last year (month?) gave a presentation to the faculty. The presentation was clearly biased towards a later start time, but that was to be expected since that's what they wanted. They anticipated many challenges to their proposal and addressed each of them. A couple of "community forums" were held after school hours so that interested parties could raise their points, but they were sparsely attended.

After that first presentation to the teachers, a straw poll showed faculty support for moving the start time to be about 60%.

In mid-January the teachers union president came to give a presentation. He wanted to explain how making this change involved the union, the district, and their negotiation teams. He also mentioned that when making such decisions, a mere majority often isn't a good idea; he recommended a 75% majority. One of our teachers (correctly) pointed out that we couldn't get 75% of our faculty to agree on summer vacation, so the threshold was moved to only 55%. I believe this number was chosen because of the aforementioned straw poll.

Discussions about the change took place in the halls, in the staff lounges, via email, you name it. I questioned why only teachers got a vote on this, and not our administrative, clerical, custodial, or food service staffs. We took informal polls of students and parents and those, while not scientific, were overwhelmingly against the change. Some staff members thought a vote on the change was being forced on us in a time crunch. The issue was fast becoming contentious, and the vote was held.

The start time change failed, 57%-43%.

Yet Another Reason I'm Not A Socialist

I'm currently reading Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, so I find it interesting that Hayek also discussed fascism as it relates to socialism in his The Road To Serfdom. Here's a snip from the chapter called The Great Utopia, and its wisdom speaks as loudly today as when it was written 70 years ago:
Nobody saw more clearly than the great political thinker de Tocqueville that democracy stands in an irreconcilable conflict with socialism: "Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom," he said. "Democracy attaches all possible value to each man," he said in 1848, "while socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude."

To allay these suspicions and to harness to its cart the strongest of all political motives—the craving for freedom — socialists began increasingly to make use of the promise of a "new freedom." Socialism was to bring "economic freedom," without which political freedom was "not worth having."

To make this argument sound plausible, the word "freedom" was subjected to a subtle change in meaning. The word had formerly meant freedom from coercion, from the arbitrary power of other men. Now it was made to mean freedom from necessity, release from the compulsion of the circumstances which inevitably limit the range of choice of all of us. Freedom in this sense is, of course, merely another name for power or wealth. The demand for the new freedom was thus only another name for the old demand for a redistribution of wealth...

What is promised to us as the Road to Freedom is in fact the Highroad to Servitude. For it is not difficult to see what must be the consequences when democracy embarks upon a course of planning. The goal of the planning will be described by some such vague term as "the general welfare." There will be no real agreement as to the ends to be attained, and the effect of the people's agreeing that there must be central planning, without agreeing on the ends, will be rather as if a group of people were to commit themselves to take a journey together without agreeing where they want to go: with the result that they may all have to make a journey which most of them do not want at all.

Democratic assemblies cannot function as planning agencies...

Planning leads to dictatorship because dictatorship is the most effective instrument of coercion and, as such, essential if central planning on a large scale is to be possible. There is no justification for the widespread belief that, so long as power is conferred by democratic procedure, it cannot be arbitrary; it is not the source of power which prevents it from being arbitrary; to be free from dictatorial qualities, the power must also be limited. A true "dictatorship of the proletariat," even if democratic in form, if it undertook centrally to direct the economic system, would probably destroy personal freedom as completely as any autocracy has ever done.

Individual freedom cannot be reconciled with the supremacy of one single purpose to which the whole of society is permanently subordinated.
I choose freedom over the kind of order envisioned by the utopians, whose good intentions are paving the way to Hell.

A "Frost Fair" on the Thames Sounds Like Fun

From the Daily Mail:
The supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years.

The figures suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames in the 17th Century.

Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.

Smaller Class Sizes Don't Help Students Learn Better

From the Washington Post:
Two Harvard researchers looked at the factors that actually improve student achievement and those that don’t. In a new paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Will Dobbie and Roland Freyer analyzed 35 charter schools, which generally have greater flexibility in terms of school structure and strategy. They found that traditionally emphasized factors such as class size made little difference, compared with some new criteria:

We find that traditionally collected input measures — class size, per pupil expenditure, the fraction of teachers with no certification, and the fraction of teachers with an advanced degree — are not correlated with school effectiveness. In stark contrast, we show that an index of five policies suggested by over forty years of qualitative research — frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations — explains approximately 50 percent of the variation in school effectiveness.
I believe this to be true, but that doesn't mean I'm going to fight for larger class sizes. At some point it becomes a matter of working conditions; it takes me a long time to grade papers from a class of 37 students--and yes, I have classes that large.

The Main Problem With Higher Education, Shown In One Simple Graph

What Obama Won't Mention Today in Michigan: Campus Has 53% More Administrators Than Faculty

Not Classy

If you don't want to accept an award from someone you disagree with, don't go to the ceremony. It's narcissistic and selfish to go and then, in front of an audience, to make a scene of not accepting the award.

social studies teacher won't accept an award from Congressman Paul Ryan

Anyone want to try to justify this behavior? Anyone?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Government Shouldn't "Invest" My Money

From Power Line Blog:
But this got me to thinking: just what does a investment specialist with the Steadman Funds do after crashing and burning in such a comprehensive fashion? I wonder if maybe they went to work for the Obama administration’s “green energy investment” program? I offer this as a possible explanation after seeing the news this week that yet another green energy company backed with over $100 million in taxpayer dollars has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Ener1 Inc., a battery maker, has joined the ranks of Solyndra, Evergreen Solar, and Beacon Power in the Obama Administration’s Steadman-like portfolio of energy investment losers. More failures are thought to be in the pipeline, according to a recent CBS News report.
If the president really believed the Abraham Lincoln quote that he mentioned in this past week's State of the Union Address, that government should only do for people what they cannot do for themselves, then it has no business making risky "investments" in companies. Any one of us can do that all on our own. This president seems hell-bent on using his office to enforce his view of society on the rest of us, and I hope this dystopia ends next January.

Friday, January 27, 2012

You Know What Sucks? This Sucks.

This is just sad, sad, sad:
A man who took 10 years to create his own personal man-cave—in this instance, an awesome Star Trek starship interior replica that would make every Trek geek weep—has to tear it all down because his wife is divorcing him...

Unfortunately, the soon-to-be-ex-wife, named Georgina—who actually owns the apartment and has paid the mortgage since '94—wants to sell it in the divorce. So Alleyne has no choice but to destroy the entire thing...

So how much would it cost for Alleyne to rebuild the whole thing from scratch? Close to £100,000 ($155,630.63 U.S.). Ouch!
I'm sure someone's done it already, but if not, there should be an Android app that turns such tablets into PADDs or LCARS terminals.

Which Is The Bigger Problem Here?

Is it worse that a substitute teacher was dozing off in class, or that a student used "an unauthorized electronic device" (my term) to document it?
A ninth grader who snapped a picture of a snoozing substitute teacher with his cell phone camera and posted it on a social network is in hot water with his school district.

The unnamed student, who attends Mustang Mid-High School in Mustang, Okla., was suspended, according to ABC affiliate KOCO...

"Appropriate follow-up action has taken place," Mustang Public Schools spokeswoman Mary Leaver wrote to ABCNews.com.
Let's grant that the student violated a policy. Did the school act appropriately? If so, would the suspension be justified if, instead of putting the picture on a social network, the student had shown the picture to the school administration as a sort of FYI?

Al Gore Won't Like This...

...and neither will the rest of the lefties:
There's no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to 'decarbonize' the world's economy.
Who says so? The usual suspects:
Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris; J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting; Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University; Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society; Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences; William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton; Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.; William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology; Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT; James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University; Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences; Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne; Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator; Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service; Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.
Why do I believe these people while discounting others with similar credentials? Because these people make sense to me. It's truly as simple as that.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Occupy vs. Tea Partiers

This was sent to me today. Is it true? We know a lot of it is. Anyone want to defend the behavior of the animals in the 2nd column?
































































































































































School Choice Video By Juan Williams

“A Tale of Two Missions” – a film by Juan Williams and Kyle Olson – tells the story of competing cultures in American education through examples from Chicago.

While the fight for school choice rages across the nation, perhaps no better example exists than that of the Windy City. Traditional alliances are breaking down. Both political parties are pushing for education reform and expanded school choice. The status quo is under attack, because most reasonable people understand that thousands of Chicago students are trapped in failing schools.
There's a clip at the link.

It Doesn't Fit The Narrative, So No One Will Care

And we'll continue to spend money making school food that kids not only don't want to eat, but food that we force them to take (when they get free school meals) which they then throw away:
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University tracked the body mass indexes of 19,450 students from fifth through eighth grade...

No matter how the researchers looked at the data, they could find no correlation at all between obesity and attending a school where sweets and salty snacks were available. link
A valuable study for my statistics classes.

What Lessons Are We Allowing These Students To Learn

If they're going to act like children, holding their breath until they get their own way, we should reinstate the principle of in loco parentis--and then swat them on the butt and send them to bed without dinner:
Following a noontime rally Tuesday, University of California, Davis, students spilled into an unused campus building, saying they intend to occupy it around the clock.

The students entered the building that formerly housed the Cross Cultural Center shortly before 1 p.m. The building will take the place of a tent encampment as the center of operations for the campus Occupy movement, said student Artem Rafkin.

"We are going to be permanently occupying it," Rafkin said.
Good lord, are there any adults in Davis?

I'm Officially Old Now

Some would say I've been old for a long time. Perhaps I could challenge that claim before, but now there's no way: two members of my West Point graduating class have just made general!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teachers And Race

OK, so this article was somewhat interesting, but I found this little tidbit of information to be both interesting and counter-intuitive:
As you can see, Asian teachers, who presumably have a college degree, actually score lower than college bound Asians! This means they’re almost certainly drawn from a below average set of college graduates. For whites there is not so much discrepancy. And interestingly for blacks teachers seem to be drawn from the higher end of the distribution.
How does this statement, if true, relate to this post?

What Could Explain This?

How could this possibly be, with all the emphasis on multicultural education?
Educators are expressing alarm that the performance gap between minority and white high school students continues to expand across the United States, with minority teenagers performing at academic levels equal to or lower than those of 30 years ago.
Must be that all those liberal, union-loving teachers are closet racists. Yep, that's what I'm going with.

This Is How We Demonstrate Tolerance and Critical Thinking Skills

I wonder how many of us in the education community think this reaction, if it's accurately reported, is acceptable:
A 15-year-old Wisconsin boy who wrote an op-ed opposing gay adoptions was censored, threatened with suspension and called ignorant by the superintendent of the Shawano School District, according to an attorney representing the child.

I Wonder How Many Teachers Will Drive To This

I received this link at my school email address today. In case it disappears into the ether some day, here are the first two lines:
The annual Green California Summit will be held on April 26-27 at the Sacramento Convention Center, is the state's the largest annual event focused on green policy, practice and technology.

It's already a can't miss destination for many in the education community, but for 2012, it has more to offer educators than ever!

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Was Supposed To Have Happened Two Years Ago Yesterday?

One of President Obama's first acts as president was to sign an executive order closing the Guantanamo Bay prison within one year. Three years later, and two years after that deadline, Guantanamo Bay is as bustling as ever:
Obama campaigned on closing the facility in Cuba and, in one of his first actions as president, issued an executive order calling for it to be dismantled within one year. But as he enters the final year of his first term, human-rights groups are dismayed that the end of Guantánamo is nowhere in sight.
He was wrong to campaign on closing it, he was wrong to order it closed, and he's a loser for not being able to enforce his own orders.

Three strikes.

Become A Member of the Weather Stasi

In the former East Germany, the Stasi was the name of the secret police. There were everywhere and knew everything--mostly because they found ways to get people to spy and/or report on their neighbors.

This organization wants you to report on your weatherman:
“This is an important moment in the history of the AMS,” said Daniel Souweine, the campaign’s director. “It’s well known that large numbers of meteorologists are climate change deniers. It’s essential that the AMS Council resist pressure from these deniers and pass the strong statement currently under consideration.”
Interesting that they admit that large numbers of meteorologists are climate change "deniers". Why do you think that might be?

7th Blogiversary

Seven years ago I wrote my first blog post. This is my 7,449th post.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Evening With Diane Ravitch and a Couple Thousand of Her Closest Friends

On Friday night, January 20th, my friend and fellow conservative blogger Mr. Chandler of Buckhorn Road and I zipped down to the Sacramento Convention Center to hear a talk by noted "education historian" Diane Ravitch. I didn't realize it was sponsored by a bunch of teachers unions; I thought it was going to be an intellectual talk by someone who used to agree with me but now has switched sides. I thought I was going to get some really good information that would "challenge my assumptions" and make me think. Instead, what I got was, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor, a liberal red-meat bacchanalia. As Mr. Chandler described it, we were "pilgrims in an unholy land".

We entered the Convention Center, where a couple thousand seats had been set up. Interestingly enough, they were mostly filled by the time the talk started. Imagine, a couple thousand teachers coming to hear a talk by someone who used to support the No Child Left Behind Act! As we entered we were given the following playbill (click to enlarge):

Holy crap! Linda Darling-Hammond, one of the crazies of the "educational equity" movement, was going to be a speaker! At this point we had our first realization of what we were in for.

The first speaker didn't make it a minute into his speech without launching an attack on Michelle Rhee, about whom I've written glowingly several times on this blog (type Rhee into the search box at the bottom of this page). When he spoke later he mentioned the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento's only remaining newspaper and one that is widely recognized to be somewhat left-leaning. He attacked the Bee, saying, "Without the News and Review, where would we be?" The Sacramento News and Review is an alt-weekly paper; just to give you a sense of what it's like, the vast majority of the ads in the back of it are for massage parlors, so-called medical marijuana dispensaries (which the feds started going after a couple weeks ago), and 1-900-SEX phone numbers. It's sort of a counter-culture paper. I read it every once in awhile, but let's not pretend for a moment that it's "mainstream" or "balanced". Anyway, for whatever reason, the Bee isn't liberal enough or radical enough for this Knudson fellow! And to make matters worse, his question generated significant applause! I just cannot understand that. The Bee isn't supportive of public schools? Really? (Incidentally, here's the SN&R's interview with Ravitch. It's actually the type of reasonable, sober discussion that I expected at Friday's talk from someone with Ravitch's gravitas.)

The second speaker was Tom Torlakson, the CTA's hand-picked Superintendent of Public Instruction. The first thing you need to know about Torlakson is that he's a dork. Imagine a dork trying to be a cheerleader for the crowd: "Teaching is awesome, right? You guys love kids, right? These are some great speakers, right?" It seemed like he was just trying to generate applause and, like all the other speakers, slobbered all over himself to praise Ravitch--someone he and the others wouldn't have touched with a 10-foot pole just a couple years ago.

Torlakson attacked standardized testing several times, even throwing out the new pejorative "bubble testers" to describe people who support standardized testing. News flash: Torlakson runs the department responsible for our state standardized testing program! He and other speakers talked down NCLB, but our state testing regimen is far more rigorous than anything NCLB requires! Torlakson talks about the stress of teaching, but so much of that stress comes from his department! The crowd clapped and cheered--like sheep cheering the butcher.

Sac State University is a fairly liberal school, and the teacher education program there even more so, so when I saw that the Dean of the College of Education was a speaker, I expected lunacy. Instead, she delivered a lot of pablum but didn't say anything completely stupid. I will admit, I was suprised that while introducing Linda Darling-Hammond, Sheared mentioned that Linda was an advisor on President Obama's transition team, and that mention got only tepid response. From a bunch of teachers. Wow.

I went into full-on battle preparation mode for Darling-Hammond, and was rewarded for doing so when the first thing she talked about was "marching and rallying for education". She also blasted NCLB, which Ravitch at one time supported, but never mentioned who wrote that law (hint: he used to be known as the Lion of the Senate), a theme to which I'll return when discussing Ravitch's talk. Like the other speakers, she attacked NCLB without pointing out that if it went away tomorrow, our state testing regime would remain virtually untouched because of our state testing mandates, most of which predate NCLB, and that the person responsible for enforcing those mandates was sitting on the stage with her. Darling-Hammond came across as a "true believer", but tempered her words enough so as not to across as batcrap insane.

No, that was left to Ravitch.

"You have the only governor in the nation who gives a damn about education." Really, Diane? See, I expected a sober discussion from her, and she goes straight for the red meat. She followed that comment up with a dig at Michelle Rhee--not a discussion, not a "here's where I disagree" comment, but just a dig. She did the same thing with Governor Scott Walker, saying "Let's all hope that he is soon recalled." Ravitch, who admits in the SN&R link above that there definitely are problems in American public schools, didn't "go there" in her talk; no, she said that the only crisis in American education is that it's under attack! And it's under attack by "right wingers", a phrase she used over and over again, whose hidden purpose is to privatize public schools. One of her repeated phrases was about the "corporate reform movement".

At one point I leaned over to Mr. Chandler and said, "She's an angry old biddy, isn't she?" We weren't getting reason from her, we were getting vituperation.

I was very disappointed in the logical fallacies, and the boogeymen, that she kept bringing up. "We must improve them (schools), not lose them." She seems absolutely convinced that there is a movement afoot to destroy public schools and to privatize them. If you believe that's so, then her statements make sense. If you don't, and she offered no evidence that it's so, then she's insane. She piled on: There are two goals of the "corporate reform movement", privatization and deprofessionalism.

Does this sound sane, or like a conspiracy theory?

Her bad statistics and bad logic could have been picked out by my first-year statistics students. At one point, when talking about how charter schools in Milwaukee haven't improved education, she said that African-American charter students in Milwaukee score no better than African-American students in Mississippi. Uh, to determine if the schools are an improvement over Milwaukee's public schools, shouldn't those kids be compared to African-American students in Milwaukee public schools? She makes several of these types of errors. In another attack on Michelle Rhee she mentioned something, I didn't write down what, that good teachers do, and then said that "Michelle Rhee certainly didn't do that in DC." Great applause line, but Michelle Rhee never taught in DC, she was the chancellor (superintendent) of the public schools there.

These types of logical errors detract from Ravitch's credibility.

I had hoped to hear why she changed from being an NCLB supporter and school reformer to whatever it is she is today; I got that information from the SN&R article linked above, not from Ravitch's talk. Every attack was against "right wing" something-or-others. Bottom line, she's just another liberal hack. "Public schools are a public good." But as I always say, "Universal public education is sacred, but public schools are not." A convert is always the most zealous. She didn't explain why she changed her mind, but she's certainly a zealot now. She attacked US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan a lot, but dared not mention his boss.

Near the end of her speech she was railing against some measures of school performance, and said, "I am not an economist, I am a historian. I don't think these (measures) should ever be used!" I leaned over to Mr. Chandler and said, "That's why she's not an economist."

She confused "bonus pay" with "merit pay", and concluded that merit pay doesn't work. But Mike Miles in Colorado Springs shows that true merit pay does work, and the students in his district, not affluent by any measure, are better off because of it.

"Organize, agitate, demonstrate!" "Act up, silence equals complicity!" Do these sound like cries from a particular side of the political spectrum? Do they sound like the clarion call of a reasoned person, or of a zealot? To ask the questions is to answer them, and that's how Ravitch closed her talk--to thunderous applause.

I didn't expect a red meat feeding frenzy. From someone of Ravitch's stature I expected much more intelligence, decency, and evidence. It's not that I disagreed with her--I knew going in that that was the case--it's just that I expected better. I was truly disappointed at the intellectual shallowness of her talk. This was the great Diane Ravitch? Really?


Update, 1/23/12: This EdWeek article discusses how a review of charter school studies shows many to be "flawed,problematic".

Friday, January 20, 2012

College Financial Aid

Out of nowhere these two questions just popped into my mind this morning, on the subject of financial aid:
1. At what age do colleges stop looking at parent income?
2. Why do they do so at all for 18-year-olds, who are legal adults in all 50 states?

Where Was I This Evening?


It may take me a couple days to transcribe my notes and publish a post on the evenings speakers, but rest assured, it will get done!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Don't Support Racial Discrimination

That makes me a bad guy in some circles, because it means I don't support affirmative action:
The San Francisco Chronicle noted Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown had joined a challenge to the portion of 1996′s Proposition 209 that prevented state universities from using race in college admission decisions, with his lawyers telling the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the provision of state law “imposes unique political burdens on minorities” and violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. But what the media almost never point out, and the Chronicle doesn’t, is that the UC admissions status quo before 1996 indisputably punished a minority. This is particularly insane when one realizes that affirmative action is meant to atone for white racism. In California, who paid the price for this historical sin? Asian-American students. Says who? Says The New York Times, quoting UC documents. link
Combine that story with this one (my previous post) and one has to wonder what's going on in higher ed.

I Don't Know Where To Begin In My Exasperation

What do these people want?
An unpublished study by Duke University researchers that says black students are more likely to switch to less difficult majors has upset some students, who say the research is emblematic of more entrenched racial problems.

The study, which opponents of affirmative action are using in a case they want the U.S. Supreme Court to consider, concludes black students match the GPA of whites over time partially because they switch to majors that require less study time and have less stringent grading standards. Opponents of affirmative action cite the study in a case they want the U.S. Supreme Court to consider.

About three dozen students held a silent protest Sunday outside a speech by black political strategist Donna Brazile that was part of the school's annual Martin Luther King Jr. observance. And members of the Black Student Alliance have met with the provost to express their unhappiness with the study and other issues on campus.
These protesters/complainers--do they think the report's methodology or data is flawed in some way, or, what seems more likely from the story, do they just not like what the data tell them?

First Day of Winter

Here in Northern California we recently had our 4th driest December on record. Temperatures lately have been almost spring-like.

For a few days now, we've been prepared for a big storm blowing in from the Pacific. This morning the sky was overcast and temperatures were in the low 40s instead of their usual 30s, and this afternoon the first sprinkles came. This isn't a heavy rain by any stretch, but it's expected to be persistent--continuing off and on for the next week.

Winter has finally started in the Sacramento Valley.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Costa Concordia

Here is a satellite view of the Costa Corcordia, and here is the Google Earth view:The Google Earth image is from 2005; I wonder if they'll update it to one that shows the ship.

Education Buzz

The first Education Buzz of the new year is here and includes my post about a bill that would allow "gender identity" to determine which team (boys or girls) that a student would try out for, and which locker room/bathrooms he/she would use.


Oh, there could be scratching and hair-pulling in this one:
Gov. Cuomo will give New York’s teachers one month to agree to a statewide performance evaluation plan — or he’ll write his own educator-rating scheme into the budget for legislative approval, The Post has learned.

In the ultimatum — which Cuomo will level at the United Federation of Teachers and New York State United Teachers as he presents his budget today — the governor will also insist the state union drop its lawsuit challenging certain provisions of the evaluation system, a source close to the administration said.
From time to time I enjoy a little internecine warfare, but only when it takes place on the Left :-)

Another School Paper Steps Into The Line Of Fire

All opinions are valued and respected, unless we disagree with yours:
A Wisconsin high school is in the middle of a free speech debate after they apologized for publishing a student essay opposing gay families who adopt children. School officials called the essay a form of “bullying and disrespect.”

The column ran on the editorial page of the Shawano High School student newspaper. It was part of an op-ed featuring a student supporting gay families who adopt children and one opposed to the idea.
Makes you wonder why they published the essay in the first place, doesn't it?

And seriously, if expressing an opinion, even an unpopular opinion, is now "bullying", then the term no longer has any meaning or usefulness. Like a Top 40 song that's been played too many times in the last hour, it's just been run into the ground.

Obama Kisses 200,000 Potential Jobs Good-bye

What is the motivation behind not approving this Keystone XL pipeline? If the argument is "green", consider this: that oil is going to be drilled, transported, and refined, and it will be refined either in the United States or in China. It will be refined. If your argument is environmental, wouldn't you prefer to have the refining done in the United States, which has much stricter environmental standards than does China?

I just don't get this guy.

Update: Canadian Ezra Levant says that Obama chose Venezuela and Saudi Arabia over Canada, and notes that Venezuelan "heavy oil" has a higher carbon footprint than does Canadian oil sands oil.

And why should it matter that he chose Saudi Arabia over our closest ally and biggest trading partner?
After improving with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, U.S. favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted. In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush Administration, and lower than Iran's favorable ratings (except in Saudi Arabia)...

While many Arabs were hopeful that the election of Barack Obama would improve U.S.-Arab relations, that hope has evaporated. Today, President Obama's favorable ratings across the Arab World are 10% or less.

Obama's performance ratings are lowest on the two issues to which he has devoted the most energy: Palestine and engagement with the Muslim world.
And that's not me saying that, boys and girls. It's from a Zogby poll taken for the Arab American Institute in 2011. Usually I wouldn't care if people in those countries love us or not, but if you're going to bash President Bush and say that as President you'd do a better job of getting them to love us, and as President one of the first things you do is go on the Great American Apology Tour, and then you fail and they hate us even more, your failure should count against you--and I'm happy to point it out.

This president is a buffoon.

Why Capitalism Is A Good Thing

From page 63 of the January 14th-20th 2012 issue of The Economist:
Strange to recall, Kodak was the Google of its day. Founded in 1880, it was known for its pioneering technology and innovative marketing. "You press the button, we do the rest," was its slogan in 1888.

By 1976 Kodak accounted for 90% of film and 85% of camera sales in America. Until the 1990s it was regularly rated one of the world's five most valuable brands.

Then came digital photography....
They didn't/couldn't compete, and now they're ready for bankruptcy. Other companies have stepped in to fill the breach.

Is this "bad"? Should we lament the loss of jobs? Should government somehow step in and "save" this company, like it did with Sears or Circuit City? Oh, wait....

Sometimes, companies need to close their doors. Times change, the market changes, and those that cannot compete will be replaced by those that can. Always remember that this is a good thing; sadly, that seems to be only a conservative viewpoint anymore, not a common sense viewpoint.

(Yes, it sucks when people don't have jobs anymore. Are we going to lament the loss of all those whale oil and/or buggy whip jobs, too, while we're at it?)

Income Disparity

Ah, the things you can do with statistics:
Inconvenient truth: the distribution of income in the U.S. is basically the same as it was a quarter-century ago—and the middle class has gained ground over the last decade...

In other words, most of the reported rise in income disparity since 1979 had already occurred by 1986, and there has been no significant trend since then.

There’s more. From 2000 to 2009, tax filers with adjusted gross income of at least $500,000, who represented the top 0.5 percent of all returns in both years (similar in spirit to the CBO report, which looks at the top 1 percent of households), saw their average adjusted gross income decline by 15 percent and their average after-tax income decline by 11 percent. All other filers—the 99.5 percent—saw average increases of 15 percent in AGI and 17 percent in after-tax income. The middle class has not “lost ground” over the last decade.
If this is true, why might some want to make claims about income disparity--claims that are unsupported by data? I wonder....

Spring Semester Starts Today

Monday was the Dr. King holiday, and yesterday was a teacher work day to grade all the final exams we gave late last week. Today, everything resets.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Oftentimes, Mockery Is Deserved

The TSA thinks a cupcake is a security threat? Well, behold the new "TSA-compliant" cupcake!

They are buffoons, and deserved to be mocked as such.

Monday, January 16, 2012

One Of My Favorite Commercials Of All Time

I don't know why, but I remember finding this commercial absolutely hilarious when it aired.

And no, I've never purchased the product.

Today's Holiday

Happy Dr. King Birthday (holiday). We're a better people for his having been among us.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Social Media First For Me

At some ungodly hour last night or early this morning, I was checking "the Facebook" on my Kindle Fire and, since I've "liked" Carnival Cruise Lines, I saw a cryptic message expressing sympathy for those on the Costa Concordia. What the heck? So I came into my library and got on the "big screen"--gotta love my 24" swivel monitor!--and did a search. Holy crap! I'll be cruising off the coast of Italy for a few days this summer so I'm quite familiar with Costa, and to see a story of a modern cruise ship run aground is almost otherworldly.

This is the first time I can recall first learning about a major event from so-called social media.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why Not Just Admit It's A Failure

Everyone loves Head Start. After all, those poor, unfortunate children shouldn't have to suffer educationally because their parents can't afford to send them to boarding school.

But it's a flop. It provides no lasting benefits to students. I mean, does it matter if Head Start kids are "with the pack" in 1st grade if they're again trailing the pack in 3rd grade and beyond?
“Head Start” has been the poster child of federal aid to education ever since the Lyndon Johnson administration introduced it as part of the Great Society. And for decades liberals have pointed to it as one of the great advances that the federal government has brought to education, and as evidence that creative social engineering by smart professional interventionists can change the world.

But a long-suppressed government report finally released by the Obama administration report is shaking the foundations of Head Start, and the news isn’t coming from right wing conservatives but from Joe Klein at Time magazine.
But let someone suggest cutting funding for Head Start....

Want More Proof Of How Screwed Up California's School Budgeting Is?

Go read EIA's latest, which starts thusly:
Last June in the dead of night the California legislature passed AB 114, which required school districts to assume they would receive the same amount of money from the state in the 2011-12 school year as in 2010-11, and to budget accordingly. Gov. Jerry Brown quickly signed it into law.
Any guesses how that's turned out? You can find out at the link, but I don't think it'll be too much of a surprise to learn that "hope", "smoke", and "mirrors" are involved.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Really? In The 21st Century?

How could anyone think this would fly in this day and age?
A Cincinnati landlord who claimed a black girl's hair products clouded an apartment complex's swimming pool discriminated against the child by posting a poolside "White Only" sign, an Ohio civil rights panel said Thursday in upholding a previous finding.
OK, so her hair products clouded the pool. I get that. Forbid the hair products. But to ban a class of people from the pool--a protected class, no less--well, that's just stupid.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Freedom From Forced Unionism

"A Right to Work law secures the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union." See which states are Right To Work states here.

Update, 1/12/12: In ‘Right to Work’ Battle, Narrative Trumps Fact on NPR.
Some helpful numbers you'll never hear from government-funded radio.

More California Lunacy

You really can't make up something this bizarre:
Days after a landmark law went into effect requiring California schools to teach about gay historical figures, a new piece of proposed legislation is likely to spark even more controversy.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), AB 266 would require schools to allow students to play on sports teams according to their “gender identity” and not their biological sex...

However, revised language in the proposed bill would mandate that students “shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs, activities, and facilities, including athletic teams and competitions, consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records”.

Under the proposal, a boy who claims a female “gender identity”, for example, would have the right to try out for a girls sports team.

In addition, the bill would also require opposite-sex access to “sex-segregated facilities” that could possible include locker rooms.
Anyone foresee any interesting "difficulties" with such a stupid law?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How Our Country Has Changed

Via Instapundit:
A SOCIETY DOES NOT SURVIVE, UNLESS IT HAS A REASON TO SURVIVE: Video of Dennis Prager telling University of Denver students, “I believe the greatest threat facing America – I’ve believed this my entire adult life — is that we have not passed on what it means to be an American to this generation.”

St.-Exupery said that a society is built on what is expected of men, not what is provided for them. Contrast “ask not what your country can do for you” with the Occupy Wall Street, anti-capitalist/socialist rants we hear today.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Where Does Your NEA Dues Money Go?

EIA has the details, including this caveat: "Here is an alphabetic list of the 121 recipients of NEA's contributions, with relevant web links. All of these were paid for with members' dues money (the union's federal PAC is a separate entity funded through voluntary means)". Do you notice any political slant to those donations?

Coming Soon To A Socialist Country Near You

What is it about socialist countries that causes them to do things that normal people would consider bat-crap insane?
Greek disability groups expressed anger Monday at a government decision to expand a list of state-recognized disability categories to include pedophiles, exhibitionists and kleptomaniacs.

The National Confederation of Disabled People called the action "incomprehensible," and said pedophiles are now awarded a higher government disability pay than some people who have received organ transplants.

The Labor Ministry said categories added to the expanded list — that also includes pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, fetishists and sadomasochists — were included for purposes of medical assessment and used as a gauge for allocating financial assistance.
At least some of the Greek citizens are questioning the move.

Could you see something like this happening in the US? How about just here in California? Sadly, to ask the question is pretty much to answer it.

Hat tip to reader Mark Perry.

Choose Your Major Wisely

“Get a useful education, a job, and a hobby in that order,” Rubin concludes. “And don’t expect the hardworking people, who have had to make compromises in their own lives, to pay for you to do whatever you want.”

Hear hear!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Did They Buckle? Was I Right All Along? Or Is Something Else Going On?

Two years ago, my local Walmart stopped providing shopping bags--customers were to bring their own. It was Walmart's "green" initiative, but I have to believe that part of the calculus involved the money they'd save on bags. My local store did an "experiment" without bags--which was no experiment at all--and then all Northern California stores were to go bagless. I wasn't pleased, wrote several posts about it (one's here), and decided that Walmart didn't much want me as a customer. I estimate that the money I spent at Walmart has dropped off 90% since then, with Safeway and a couple other places picking up the slack.

Today, though, I went to Walmart (it's still close by and cheap, if not entirely convenient) to pick up a few items--and what did I see at the checkouts? Why, clean, white, pretty Walmart bags! Did they learn the lessons that I saw coming a mile away? I asked the checker, and she didn't know why the bags had returned, but suspected that they'd be reintroduced for the Christmas shopping season (why, one might wonder) and they were just using up the stock.

I hope this is a permanent change. I don't want to carry bags around whenever I go to shop.

On a side note, while there I was looking in the $5 video box, and found Antwone Fisher. I'd never seen the movie, remember hearing good things about it, so I bought it. Impressive movie. I recommend it. Have Kleenex on hand.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

What Constitutes An "Appropriate" Yearbook Picture?

The students editors thought the one shown in this story wasn't:
A Colorado teenager whose yearbook picture was rejected for being too revealing is vowing to fight the ban with her high school’s administration, but the editors of the yearbook insist it was their decision alone on the photo.

The five student editors of the Durango High School yearbook in Durango, Col., told the Durango Herald they were the ones who made the call not to publish a picture of senior Sydney Spies posing in a short yellow skirt midriff and shoulder-exposing black shawl as her senior portrait.

“We are an award-winning yearbook. We don’t want to diminish the quality with something that can be seen as unprofessional,” student Brian Jaramillo told the paper on Thursday.
Her attire wouldn't pass my school's dress code.

When I was in high school, we all went to thie same portrait studio, put on similar-looking coats and ties (for boys) and gowns (for girls), and those were our yearbook pictures. But that was then, this is now.

Then, now, what about the future? Perhaps in the future she'll be thankful that her skank-pic wasn't saved for posterity in the yearbook.

A Little Difficulty Tying Math And Social Studies Together

I can see the problem here:
Several Gwinnett parents contacted Channel 2 Action News in outrage after their children brought home a math assignment that referenced slavery and beatings.

Christopher Braxton talked with Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh and said he couldn't believe it when he read his 8-year-old son's math homework Wednesday.

"It kind of blew me away," Braxton said. "Do you see what I see? Do you really see what I see? He's not answering this question."

The question was a word problem that said, "Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?"

Another math problem said, "If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?"...

(District spokeswoman) Roach explained the teachers were trying to incorporate social studies lessons into the math problems, which is something the school district encourages. But the problem with the questions is there is no historical context.

I guess it would have been OK if the students had also been studying the antebellum South?

Update, 1/8/12: Curmudgeon weighs in on the topic with his usual grace, wit, and style :-)

Friday, January 06, 2012

An Interesting Silver Lining

If you've been reading this blog for more than a couple weeks you probably know that last April I was in a fairly traumatic skiing accident. The accident itself wasn't horrible, but having a ski slice a knee tendon was extremely damaging physically, mentally, and emotionally. This weekend I will get on a treadmill at the gym and run--first time since the doctor approved me to do so almost 2 weeks ago.

Before spring break last year I bought a season pass deal at a ski resort--it was good for the remainder of last season (which extended into the 4th of July weekend with that long winter we had!) and all of this season. I spent several months before finally getting official word from the resort that they'd cancel the pass for this season and would reissue it for next season.

Winter hasn't started yet in Northern California. Last month was the 4th driest December on record. There is no snow up in the mountains; the resorts are open and running but with only a couple of inches of man-made snow.

Today a friend said to me, aren't you glad your season pass isn't for *this* season? You'd feel cheated!

You know, that's one way of looking at it!

Campus Speech Codes

No one knows more about them than the folks at FIRE:
Activists embarked on a campaign in the 1980s to eradicate hurtful, bigoted and politically incorrect speech by enacting speech codes at universities across the country. Although the movement presented itself as a forward-thinking way to make campuses welcoming, the initiative stood in stark contrast to the celebrated “free speech movement” of the 1960s, whose proponents understood that vague exceptions to free speech were inevitably used by those in power to punish opinions they dislike or disagree with. And unfortunately the effort gained momentum as prestigious institutions passed speech codes...

Overly broad harassment codes remain the weapon of choice on campus to punish speech that administrators dislike.
Do you think the originators of these speech codes knew what they were doing, or did they genuinely have good intentions?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Apple Didn't Fall Far From The Tree

I like Matt Damon's acting, but as a person I find him to be, well, not a very intelligent person. Yes, I know he was accepted to some big Ivy League school but didn't go, but last year's foul-mouthed Save Our Schools rant should disavow anyone of the notion that he's a deep thinker. If you disagree, point me to some links demonstrating that he is a deep thinker. I'll wait while the crickets chirp.

Gotta give him points for insisting on ideological purity, though. Remember this the next time he (or any other leftie) talks about reaching out to people with differing viewpoints, finding common ground, etc.:
The actor Matt Damon and his mother, a professor of education, on Wednesday turned down an award from the country’s largest teachers union after reading an opinion article that the union’s president had co-authored with the founder of Teach for America.

Writing that she was “confused by your collaboration” with Teach for America, Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige said she and her son, Mr. Damon, no longer desired to be nominated for the National Education Association’s Friend of Education Award.
Hat tip to EIA.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Dam-med If He Does, Dam-med If He Doesn't

My congressman has a great idea, and it syncs with the generally-left-leaning view out here in the West that we need to tear down dams and restore rivers to a more natural setting:
Dan Lungren, a Republican member of Congress from Sacramento County, wants to give the world "a second Yosemite Valley." The valley already exists, in Yosemite National Park - buried under 300 feet of water in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which provides San Franciscans and 1.7 million other Bay Area residents with pristine water straight from the Sierra.

All that would be needed would be to blow up the dam, which Yosemite godfather John Muir fought to his dying breath in 1914. The Schwarzenegger administration in 2006 estimated the cost at $3 billion to $10 billion.

Lungren said Yosemite holds a special spot in his heart, as it is where he met his wife. But his critics, pointing to his zero rating from the League of Conservation Voters, say Lungren's environmental record is anything but romantic.

They suspect that Lungren is taunting San Francisco liberals or positioning himself for a re-election race in a competitive district against Democratic challenger Ami Bera, who touts a " 'smart' and 'green' relationship with the earth"...

The battle over restoring the Hetch Hetchy dates back to the Reagan administration. Democrats have always smelled a GOP stunt that forces Democrats to defend a dam in a national park and lets Republicans quote John Muir about the splendor of mountains...

Harrington (general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission) said he can't debate Lungren's personal attachment to the park. "But let's face it," he said. "Everybody who has ever talked about going after Hetch Hetchy has been conservative Republicans who love to push it in San Francisco's face."
He says that like it's a bad thing :)

On a serious note, I would ask our leftie friends the following: when is it acceptable to tear down a dam, and when is it not?

From links in the article, here's what Hetch Hetchy looks like now, and here's what it looked like before it was dammed (although I assume it appeared in color in real life!).

Where Non-Discrimination Principles And Aiding Students Conflict

You can tell by the title where the post is headed--go read it over at Rhymes With Right.

If You Don't Go To College, You Won't Be Successful In Life

That's the message conveyed by idiotic laws like this one:
D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown will introduce a bill Wednesday that would require all city high school students to apply to at least one college before graduating.
He's wasting the time of colleges as well as of students who have no need or desire to attend a college. Paternalism run amok--what a shock it's occurring in the nation's capital.