Thursday, May 31, 2012

Different Schedules

Tomorrow night I get to go to my nephew's graduation.  I have 7 work days after he graduates before I'm done for the summer.  My own seniors don't graduate until next Thursday.

Whatever, my nephew didn't get Ski Week off in February.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Decision Has Been Made

How am I getting to Friday Harbor?  Click here to find out!

More Evidence That It's A Spending Problem, Not a Taxation Problem, In California

This is so typical:
Legislation to provide nearly a billion dollars in middle-class college and university scholarships passed the Assembly on Wednesday, but lawmakers have not yet taken up a companion bill to provide funding.

In this state what matters is that your intentions are pure (and leftie), not that they make any sense.

Solving The Big Problems In Math And Physics

If you think math and physics are good only for building rockets and bridges and airplanes and computers, think again:
One of the more intriguing conundrums in fluid dynamics is the puzzling behaviour of bubbles in Guinness, the famous Irish stout.

As many drinkers will attest, the bubbles in Guinness appear to sink as the drink settles and the head forms. How can this be, given that bubbles are less dense than the surrounding fluid and so should rise?

Over the last ten years or so, physicists have begun to pick this problem apart. Most recently they've shown that it is not the bubbles that sink but the liquid, which circulates in a way that is downwards near the glass walls and upwards in the interior.  As long as the downward flow of the liquid is faster than the upward motion of the bubbles, they will appear to sink.

But that still leaves a puzzle: why does the liquid circulate in this way?

Today, a dedicated team of Irish mathematicians reveal the answer. Eugene Benilov, Cathal Cummins and William Lee at the University of Limerick say the final piece in this puzzle is the shape of the glass, which has a crucial influence over the circulatory patterns in the liquid.
So there you have it.

Harmless Joke, Or Cruel?

It's harmless if you're the teacher, cruel if you can use it to extort money from the school:
The mother of an 8-year-old Arizona girl who was presented with a "Catastrophe Award" for apparently having the most excuses for not having homework believes her child was humiliated by her teacher.

Christina Valdez said her daughter, Cassandra Garcia, came home one day from class at Desert Springs Academy in Tucson, Ariz., with the paper award.

The document, which looks like a colorful card, contained the following message: "You're Tops! Catastrophe Award.  Awarded to Cassandra Garcia. For Most Excuses for Not Having Homework"...

 "I think it's cruel and no child should be given an award like this. It's disturbing," she said, adding that she was not aware her daughter had a problem with homework"....
And that says it all.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What Does The CTA Do Right?

Nothing, in my opinion, and nothing in the opinion of this fellow, either:
Troy Senik’s “The Worst Union in America,” is a deadly accurate piece which appears in the Spring 2012 edition of City Journal. Not surprisingly, the author was referring to the California Teachers Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association. It wasn’t too hard for Senik to make his case because the evidence is, well, overwhelming. With its ever ready cash on hand (forcibly taken from teachers who have no choice but to fork it over), CTA has stopped every meaningful education reform measure that has been proposed, ensured that meaningless reforms like small class size in early grades are mandated, protects underperforming and criminal teachers, bullies political opponents and encourages lawbreaking when it is to their political advantage.
These views may explain why the author is the president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.  He's clearly a brilliant and perceptive guy, linking (just above the picture, about 2/3 down) to my humble blog :-)

OK, Larry and I are predisposed not to like the CTA.  Fair enough.  But I challenge anyone here (especially the u-bots!) to tell me where Larry's wrong with the points he brings up in his article.  Do share with us not only where Larry is mistaken, but give us your unvarnished "truth".  I defy you.

What To Do When The Friend of My Friend Is My Avowed Enemy

Diane Ravitch--what's she going to do?
Hat tip to Stephen Sawchuk at Teacher Beat for reporting on the $550,000 grant the National Education Association Foundation received for labor-management collaboration from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. NEA’s charity arm previously received $358,000 from the Gates Foundation...

 Time to get out the popcorn again as we await the response of Matt Damon’s mom. And let’s not forget 2010 NEA Friend of Education Diane Ravitch, who had this to say about Gates and his “Billionaire Boys’ Club” in an opinion piece posted – where else? – on the NEA web site...

So, are they only Evil Corporate Puppetmasters when they give money to someone else, or is the NEA leadership a bunch of sell-outs? Let the debate begin.
You remember Diane Ravitch, don't you?

Well, given the bat-guano craziness of her arguments, I'm sure she'll find some way to justify it.

Interesting Correlation

I'll have to run the numbers to see if these percentage differences are statistically significant or not, but either way I don't see them as practically significant.  Still, it's funny to give this information to the adherents of the Church of Global Warming:
Are global warming skeptics anti-science? Or just ignorant about science?

Maybe neither. A study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change finds that people who are not that worried about the effects of global warming tend to have a slightly higher level of scientific knowledge than those who are worried, as determined by their answers to questions like:

"Electrons are smaller than atoms -- true or false?”
"How long does it take the Earth to go around the Sun? One day, one month, or one year?"
“Lasers work by focusing sound waves -- true or false?”

The quiz, containing 22 questions about both science and statistics, was given to 1,540 representative Americans. Respondents who were relatively less worried about global warming got 57 percent of them right, on average, just barely outscoring those whose who saw global warming as a bigger threat. They got 56 percent of the questions correct.

"As respondents’ science literacy scores increased, their concern with climate change decreased," the paper, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, notes.
Huh.  You don't say.  Hmmm, very interesting.
Dr. Richard Lindzen, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at MIT, was one skeptical scientist who signed the letter (titled No Need to Panic About Global Warming). He said that the finding that skeptics know as much or more about science surprised him "not at all."

"MIT alumni are among my most receptive audiences," he added.

I'm Not This Bright

While I accept your high praise and hosannas regarding my getting accepted into grad school, I'm just not as bright as this guy:
A German 16-year-old has become the first person to solve a mathematical problem posed by Sir Isaac Newton more than 300 years ago.

Shouryya Ray worked out how to calculate exactly the path of a projectile under gravity and subject to air resistance, The (London) Sunday Times reported...

Newton posed the problem, relating to the movement of projectiles through the air, in the 17th century. Mathematicians had only been able to offer partial solutions until now.
My senior project at West Point involved shooting a projectile at an airplane moving at constant speed and altitude.  I did the computer programming in what I called "blocks", so that one block could be removed and another inserted as the program got more complicated.  I envisioned adding diving and climbing aircraft, as well as accounting for air resistance.  It would have been a "partial solution", but hopefully one good enough to bring down enemy aircraft.

I had no idea until I read the linked article that an exact answer was even possible.

Why Taxing The Rich Isn't Enough

The "rich" may have more than you and/or I do, but there aren't enough of them.  You could confiscate every American billionaire's wealth and not put a dent in our national debt.  Heck, I'm fairly sure you could even cover one year's deficit with all that money, and then what would you do next year when the rich didn't have anything to covet anymore?

Yes, covet.  It's class warfare, nothing more and nothing less.  Here is some interesting information about taxing the rich:
We continually hear that "The Rich" got richer thanks to the tax cuts enacted in 2001 George W. Bush's first term. If that’s the case, why is it that in the wake of these lower tax rates (set to expire at the end of this year) the top 1% of income earners now pay roughly 40% of the income taxes collected. As you can see by the chart below from the non-partisan Tax Foundation, that’s double the share they paid back in the early 1980s.

Still convinced the “wealthy” (whatever that means) don’t pay their fair share? It turns out that the U.S. has the most progressive personal income tax rates of any country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). According to the Tax Foundation, “the top 10% of U.S. taxpayers pay a larger share of the income tax burden than do their counterparts in any other industrialized country, including traditionally ‘high-tax’ countries such as France, Italy, and Sweden.” (1) Moreover, the Tax Foundation calculates that even if you took as much as half the annual income “from every person making between one and ten million dollars,” you’d only reduce the federal deficit by 1%.
We don't have a taxation/income problem in this country as much as we have a spending problem.

My Alma Mater

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
About 15 students could face disciplinary action after school officials say they were caught red-handed executing a senior prank.

The students are suspected of spray-painting exterior walls and dumping dirt and debris in the driveway of Foothill High School, 5000 McCloud Drive, in the Twin Rivers Unified School District.
As one commenter at that link said:
A "prank" is something like putting a giant hat on a statue. Something harmless and hopefully a bit funny. Destruction of property is not a prank.

Read more here:
A "prank" is something like putting a giant hat on a statue. Something harmless and hopefully a bit funny. Destruction of property is not a prank.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Monday, May 28, 2012

How I've Spent Memorial Day

I grew up in North Highlands, the suburban town outside the gates of McClellan Air Force Base.  It was never the nicest of areas, was never going to make any magazine's list of "best towns to live in", but it was home.

McClellan was closed by BRAC some time in the 90's and is now a business park.  No one's going to confuse North Highlands with Beverly Hills, but the town looks nicer than I remember from my childhood--the houses are painted and the lawns watered and better maintained now.  And for that I'm glad.

I went back to North Highlands this morning to watch the Memorial Day parade.  My son marched in it as part of his high school JROTC program's color guard, and of course I had to go take video (he's the rifle bearer on the left side of the rank, next to the California flag).  The judges awarded them 1st place in the parade in their category.

People from North Highlands and beyond lined the 1-mile route down Watt Avenue to watch the Ben Ali riders, beauty pageant winners, VFW officials, police and fire vehicles, and various military units, and so many others, march in a this parade dedicated to fallen service members.

May those service members rest in peace and honor.

No One Ever Taxed Themselves Into Prosperity

Illinois is showing what happens when you try:
Sixteen months ago, Democrats pushed through the largest income tax increase in Illinois history, an unpopular decision that was billed as a crucial step to put state government on the road to financial recovery.

Yet last week lawmakers made deep cuts in health care for the poor, and this week they face tough votes to raise the cigarette tax, strip away public worker pension benefits and slice spending on social services. Despite all that, the giant pile of unpaid bills that has loomed over state government for years is expected to keep growing.

So why didn't the roughly $7 billion more a year the state is collecting from that income tax hike fix Illinois' money problems?

Pension payments continue to increase dramatically each year. The same is true for health care costs as more people seek coverage during a down economy. And that stack of bills keeps rolling over from one year to the next partly because lawmakers declined to go along with Gov.Pat Quinn's request to use some of the income tax windfall to borrow to pay it off.
Tax increases are just throwing good money after bad unless they're accompanied by significant spending cuts, entitlement reforms, and adult budgeting.

We in California are an inclined plane wrapped helically around a pointed cylinder--we're screwed.

This Bodes Well For My Masters Program

In 1960, the average undergraduate grade awarded in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota was 2.27 on a four-point scale.  In other words, the average letter grade at the University of Minnesota in the early 1960s was about a C+, and that was consistent with average grades at other colleges and universities in that era.  In fact, that average grade of C+ (2.30-2.35 on a 4-point scale) had been pretty stable at America's colleges going all the way back to the 1920s (see chart above from, a website maintained by Stuart Rojstaczer, a retired Duke University professor who has tirelessly crusaded for several decades against "grade inflation" at U.S. universities).
By 2006, the average GPA at public universities in the U.S. had risen to 3.01 and at private universities to 3.30.  That means that the average GPA at public universities in 2006 was equivalent to a letter grade of B, and at private universities a B+, and it's likely that grades and GPAs have continued to inflate over the last six years...
"Conclusion: Across a wide range of schools, As represent 43% of all letter grades, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. Ds and Fs total typically less than 10% of all letter grades. Private colleges and universities give, on average, significantly more As and Bs combined than public institutions with equal student selectivity. Southern schools grade more harshly than those in other regions, and science and engineering-focused schools grade more stringently than those emphasizing the liberal arts. It is likely that at many selective and highly selective schools, undergraduate GPAs are now so saturated at the high end that they have little use as a motivator of students and as an evaluation tool for graduate and professional schools and employers."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Planning Another Trip

In addition to the big secret trip in July, I'm currently making plans to go visit a friend of mine who is currently "wintering" on his boat in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, WA.

Getting from Sacramento to Seattle is easy; getting from Seattle to Friday Harbor is not so easy.

The easiest, most enjoyable, most convenient, and most expensive option is to take a Kenmore Air floatplane.  That would cost more than the entire Southwest Airlines flight.

The next possibility is an airporter shuttle, which would take me from the airport to Friday Harbor by ferry.  The only inconvenience with this conveyance is that to get back to Seattle airport I'd have to meet the shuttle in Friday Harbor at 5:45 am.  Ugh.

There's a ferry from Seattle to Friday Harbor, but the time it runs each day won't jibe with any flights either coming or going.

I *could* rent a car and drive to a car ferry, which runs a couple times a day, but that's a bit ridiculous, too. I hate renting cars.

So it comes down to convenient/expensive or inconvenient/affordable.  Suggestions?

Update, 5/30/12:   I looked at just about every combination of shuttles, ferries, car rentals, and flights I could find.  Shuttles and ferries were actually the hardest to arrange, and it would have taken all day long, with several waits of several hours, before the end of one leg of the trip would become the beginning of the next.  I don't want to travel all darned day.

So I leave Sacramento at a reasonable hour and fly to Seattle.  After 1:20 of wait time I'm picked up by the float plane's shuttle, by which conveyance I'm taken to the float plane.  We land on Friday Harbor, where my friend's boat is docked.

Four days later I meet the float plane at the dock in the afternoon and fly back to Seattle.  A bit of a wait at Sea-Tac this time, but I'll survive.  I get home not too late at night.

I'm limited to 24 lb of luggage on the float plane!

I definitely went with convenient/expensive.  I'm getting too old to tolerate inconvenient.

Friday, May 25, 2012

What Are The Ramifications For High School Counselors and Disciplinarians?

From Science Daily:
People who rate themselves as having high emotional intelligence (EI) tend to overestimate their ability to detect deception in others. This is the finding of a paper published in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology on18 May 2012...

Professor Porter says: "Taken together, these findings suggest that features of emotional intelligence, and the decision-making processes they lead to, may have the paradoxical effect of impairing people's ability to detect deceit.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's Official

Dear Mr. Miller:

Your application for admission to the University of Idaho and supporting credentials have been reviewed. We are pleased to inform you that you have been granted admission to the M.A.T. program in Mathematics.

Your formal acceptance letter will be mailed shortly.

Congratulations and welcome to the UI.
University of Idaho

Stupid Suspension Shenanigans

In some schools this would get an award, but in one New York school it gets you suspended:
Cyber-bullying and bullying in general has no doubt become a hot button topic amongst teens, which is why Jessica Barba, a freshman at Longwood High school decided to make the issue the focus of one of her school projects on persuasive promotion. Instead, the project got her in some hot water and led to her suspension from school.

"When they told me i was suspended i just started hysterically crying," said Jessica.

Barba wrote, edited and starred in an anti-bullying video project by playing a fictitious character, Hailey Bennett, and even created a fake Facebook page. The Bennet character was tormented and cyber-bullied in the video. In the end, the character commits suicide.

"I wanted to influence kids to do the right thing and not bully," said Jessica.

Barba added there were several posts on the fake Facebook page and video indicated the Bennett character and all the events taking place were not real. A local parent, however, became alarmed after seeing the Facebook page and contacted school officials, leading to Barba's one week suspension.

Now, Barba and her parents will have to face a hearing before school administrators to determine when she'll be allowed back.
I'm still trying to understand exactly what it was she did wrong, besides provide an opportunity for school officials to show how stupid they are.

More School Idiocy

On the heels of this story of a nurse who almost let an asthmatic student die because he didn't have a signed form comes this story of high quality dental care in school:

A Framingham mother is demanding answers after her son’s tooth was pulled at school by a teacher’s aide. What made the matter worse was the tooth wasn’t even loose.

Mother Sabrina Grant said her 10-year-old autistic son Chris Quirk went to the Wilson Elementary School one day last week with a loose tooth. When he came home, Grant said a different molar had been pulled out without parental permission by a teacher’s aide.

“When I realized he got off the bus it was the wrong tooth they had pulled out, it was even worse,” said Grant.

She said she received an email from his fourth-grade teacher saying the loose tooth had been a distraction.
You know what else is a distraction?  A criminal complaint and a civil lawsuit.

How Fares California?

Not well, judging from one story and a related anecdote.  First, the overview:
The euro zone isn't the only economy reeling from "failed states." The United States has several of its own — most notably California and Illinois.

According to the CIA's world factbook, California's economy is the ninth largest in the world with a gross state product of $1.9 trillion. Illinois' economy is the world's 23rd largest economy with a gross state product of nearly $630 billion.

These are impressive figures, to be sure, but both states have seen their global position slip in recent years — and further erosion is likely thanks to poor fiscal stewardship and anti-competitive tax increases.

Both California and Illinois are hoping that tax hikes will bridge gaping deficits created by politicians' failure to rein in government growth — including expanded entitlements and exorbitant public sector pensions.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. This is precisely the sort of unchecked public sector growth that has landed Greece in its current predicament — a worsening crisis that has pushed the entire euro zone to the brink of collapse.
California is not only shedding jobs, it's shedding companies:
The backbone of a new social website with free online classifieds is looking to not only leave Palm Springs, but leave California altogether. offers "neighborhood bulletin boards" for neighborhoods throughout the United States, so where the company moves to is really wide open, said spokeswoman Faith Jackson.

"California's tax hike will place a strain on SquawkBoard's growing company and is seeking to save various taxes by moving out of the state," she said.

Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking to raise taxes and establish across-the-board cuts as a way to shore up the state's $16 billion budget gap.  Sales and income taxes are first on his list, with hopes of raising enough money to prevent more cuts to education.

Will our friends on the left figure this out before the last company to leave turns out the lights?

Red Meat

I have the May 2012 issue of California Educator, mouthpiece rag of the California Teachers Association, and it's full of--I know what you thought I was going to say!--it's full of all the leftie tripe you'd expect from a labor union.

What amazes me, though, is the total lack of intellectual effort that goes into it.  It's nothing but vapid thoughts augmented by angry words, without a shred of logic, of reason, if intelligence added.  So instead of taking the magazine apart piece by piece, I'm going to direct your attention to only one item, a 2-page poster you can " your classroom, worksite, or wherever you think it important to share our opposition to the Corporate Power Grab."  To find this poster, click here to get to the digital version of the magazine and then scroll through the pages until you get to pp 21-22.

Go look at the poster.  Look at in in detail, then come back.  I'll wait.  :-)

Great, welcome back.  I only have one question for you--what is this poster about?  "It's about the Corporate Power Grab Initiative", you might say.  But what is that? Its actual name, mentioned in the smallest font on the poster, is the "Stop Special Interest Money Now Act".  What does this act do?  Why does CTA oppose it?  What makes it so heinous that I should hang up this poster in my classroom--where I don't have very many students of voting age?

This poster doesn't tell us anything.  I look on the pages immediately before and immediately after the poster, hoping in vain that there will be some explanation there about what exactly this act says and why it's so bad.  But there's nothing.

I'll bet I could ask every teacher at my school about this poster, and not one of them would be able to tell me about the act in question, but most of them will vote against it because the CTA tells them to.

That poster is the intellectual equivalent of a temper tantrum.  It's nothing more than red meat, designed to inspire a thoughtless feeding frenzy.

And it's directed at college-educated people, who will no doubt devour it--at least the CTA thinks and hopes they'll devour it.  If that isn't a sad commentary on both teachers and their union, I don't know what is.

Update, 5/28/12:  Is it even legal to post such things in a classroom?  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jail Is Not A Good Enough Remedy For This

Would a situation like this happen anywhere but in a public school?
Volusia County School officials stand by a Deltona High School nurse's decision to refuse a student his inhaler during an asthma attack, citing a lack of a parent's signature on a medical release form.

"It's like something out of a horror film. The person just sits there and watches you die," said Michael Rudi, 17. "She sat there, looked at me and she did nothing."

He said the school dean found his inhaler during a search of his locker last Friday. The inhaler was still in its original packaging -- complete with his name and directions for its use; however, the school took it away because his mother hadn't signed the proper form for him to have it.

School leaders called Sue Rudi when her son started having trouble breathing. She rushed to the office and was taken back to the nurse's office by school administrators and they discovered the teen on the floor.

"As soon as we opened up the door, we saw my son collapsing against the wall on the floor of the nurse's office while she was standing in the window of the locked door looking down at my son, who was in full-blown asthma attack," Rudi said.

Michael Rudi said when he started to pass out from his attack, the nurse locked the door.
"I believe that when I closed my eyes I wasn't going to wake up," he said.
Does common sense--not to mention mere humanity--not come into play at all?

Blast From The Past #2

Going through Statcounter and seeing which posts were looked at in the past few hours, and this one turned up.  It's a post about my opposition to the Every 15 Minutes program and my tentative support, absent evidence proving ineffectiveness, of the Real DUI Court In School program.

The post itself is fine, but the comments afterward show the benefits of having an online community like the one that's developed here with regular readers of RotLC.  An outsider, "PA MOM", jumps right in with a request for help--what a joy it is to see the level of concern and compassion shown to this guest (a stranger) by our digital "family".

Posts like this one make me proud--not because my writing is spectacular, but because of the caliber of reader it's attracted.

(Note:  the followup to the post above is here.)

Maybe It's Because I'm In California, But This Information Surprised Me

From Gallup, with charts at the link:
The 41% of Americans who now identify themselves as "pro-choice" is down from 47% last July and is one percentage point below the previous record low in Gallup trends, recorded in May 2009. Fifty percent now call themselves "pro-life," one point shy of the record high, also from May 2009.
And that's not just conservatives/Republicans, folks.  Remember, American Catholics vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

Senior Awards Night

Got home not too long ago from our school's Senior Awards Night, at which I was privileged to present the awards from our math department.  Senior Awards Night is yet another of those milestones that gets passed on the way to graduation, and those milestones are zipping by very quickly lately.

As I sat there, my thoughts drifted back to May 24th, 1983, the night of my own Senior Scholarship Reception, a night that meant so much to me that it took up an entire page, in shorthand, in my journal.  Just reading a few sentences there allows me to understand what those kids were feeling tonight. 

"It's not the end of 4 years, it's the beginning of a lifetime...."

Blast From The Past

Someone googled herself, found a mention of herself on my blog, and commented.  I replied.  These are the 26th and 27th comments, from Ashley and me, respectively.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

OK, It's A Little Odd, But Does This Merit Being Fired?

I don't get what motivates certain people.  Did this woman truly do something immoral, illegal, or against some rules?
The daughter-in-law of Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, who has served as a volunteer high school track and field coach in Oregon, was fired on Monday after an investigation proved that she escorted a 17-year-old member of her boys track squad to the school's prom.

As reported by the Associated Press, 41-year-old Melissa Bowerman, the daughter-in-law of waffle-sole inventor Bill Bowerman, escorted an unnamed 17-year-old on the Condon (Ore.) High track team to the school's prom after the runner told her he lacked a date for the prom. Bowerman, who is married to 73-year-old co-coach Jon Bowerman and also has a son on the same team, told the AP that she offered to take the student to prom in part to motivate him to improve his grades in his English class.

"If they go on [academic] probation and suspension, then they can't go to the track meets," Melissa Bowerman told the AP. "I said, 'OK, I will go with you, but we've got to talk about English first. You're going to do better in English.'"

Bowerman insisted that she and her date only danced to "a couple" of slow songs and spent the rest of the evening playing ping pong and foosball. The student's father also said he was OK with the coach escorting his son because, "Melissa has been like a surrogate mom to these kids for years."
It's not a motivational method I myself would use, but if they weren't making out and the kid's parent had no issue, what exactly is the issue?

Looks Like A Way Cool Movie

Trailer on hulu.

Darn! A Direct Threat To Me!

Last year our school had 3 statistics classes--the first time in forever that's happened--and I taught them.  This year I have only 2, but next year I'm already scheduled for 3 very full classes.  This is good news for my job security!  Then I read this:
In experiments at six public universities, students assigned randomly to statistics courses that relied heavily on “machine-guided learning” software -- with reduced face time with instructors -- did just as well, in less time, as their counterparts in traditional, instructor-centric versions of the courses. This largely held true regardless of the race, gender, age, enrollment status and family background of the students.

I'm no Luddite, though.  If machines can do some of what I do better than I can, then it makes sense to use them.  I'm confident enough in my own abilities, though, to believe that there will always be a place for someone like me somewhere in the education field.

Inappropriate Vanity Plate?

Some people don't understand the military.

I read this and thought it was funny:
In what is being disputed as a matter of taste over a matter of law, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles revoked a former U.S. Army sergeant’s choice of vanity license plate letters, saying that the seven-letter series "ICUHAJI" is an affront to American citizens of Arab descent.

The letters spell a derogatory phrase sometimes used by service members.
Let me start by saying that "Haji" isn't derogatory, but I'll come back to that name in a minute.

It isn't uncommon in the army to give a name to the "opposition".  Watch any WWII movie and you'll hear the Brits referring to the Germans as "Jerries", as in Jerry the German.  When I was in Germany we referred to Germans collectively as "Herman"--"Herman doesn't like Pershing missiles".  When we faced the Soviet Union, we would refer to their people as "Ivan".  These aren't derogatory, they're just part of the language--a slang, if you will.

Haji was a dark-skinned character on the old Johnny Quest cartoon.  He wore a turban so was probably Indian, but his darker skin was probably enough to draw the comparison to Middle Easterners.  Now I'm not saying that it's the height of intellectualism to use Haji as a synecdoche for anyone from the Middle East, but neither is it derogatory.

The "legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee" quoted in the article is an idiot.  He made the point that ICUJEW might be considered inappropriate--did the army sergeant's plate read ICUMUSLIM or ICUMOHAMMED?  Would ICUIVAN be considered inappropriate?  Gawd I hate professional victims.

Gotta Love Typos

This isn't the first time this typo has ever been made, and I'm sure it won't be the last:
The University of Texas at Austin's public affairs assistant dean has issued an apology after a commencement listing for the program's forthcoming graduates contained a typo citing the Lyndon B. Johnson School of 'Pubic' Affairs.

Remember The Civility Argument?

Remember the War on Women?  Just sayin':
An online video of a South Carolina union leader pummeling a pinata featuring a likeness of her state's Republican governor is eliciting strong reactions from across the political spectrum...

In the video, posted to YouTube, Dewitt is encouraged by others at the gathering, with calls of "Hit her again" and "Give her another whack."
Go ahead, liberals, defend it.  Tell me why this isn't near as bad as putting a "target" on someone's state in a political ad, or how Governor Haley's actions merit this kind of response.

Dewitt herself is proffering such excuses, you may as well join in and look as good as she does.

Even David Brooks Is Starting To Get It

He almost sounds conservative here:
While American companies operate in radically different ways than they did 40 years ago, the sheltered, government-dominated sectors of the economy — especially education, health care and the welfare state — operate in astonishingly similar ways.

More Student Loan Heresy

I do believe it's time to have a frank discussion about government involvement in student loans, and about how much of a public good--as opposed to the obvious personal good--higher education is. 
Why am I subsidizing student loans for Harvard kids?

BURKE: Exactly. The burden – and risk – is passed along to taxpayers, including the three-quarters of Americans who don’t hold a college degree (and likely earn less than those who do hold a degree). Taxpayers will be on the hook for $6 billion if the rates are kept low.

BADER: I have no idea why. It never made sense to me even when I was at Harvard. Harvard has a huge endowment, and just hoards it. It’s not mostly for the students. As the Dean of Harvard Law School publicly said then, students are merely “incidental.”

Don’t federal subsidies drive up the price of tuition?

BURKE: Keeping interest rates artificially low will fail to drive down college costs in the long run. Colleges will once again be able to increase costs, and students with easy access to low-interest loans will once again be able to pay. The Obama administration has significantly increased federal involvement in the student loan industry, effectively nationalizing student lending through language buried in Obamacare, by continuing to increase federal subsidies, and by “forgiving” student loans altogether after 20 years on the backs of taxpayers. But these policies only exacerbate the college cost crisis, continuing a vicious cycle whereby college costs rise in tandem with ever-increasing federal subsidies.

BADER: Yes, federal subsidies do drive up tuition. It’s Econ 101: basic economics dictates that conclusion.
Why isn't the so-called "occupy" crowd protesting against these particular 1%-ers that didn't earn their money?  Hm.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Idiots In Oregon

Wily, or stupid?
Management sent layoff notices to seven of the 42 professional staffers and 13 of the 40 associate staffers, for a combined layoff of almost 25 percent. As you might imagine, the staff contracts set seniority as the top criterion for layoffs, with the last-in to be the first-out. But OEA management is trying to throw a curveball past its own employees.

Instead of laying off in reverse order of hiring, the union is laying off in reverse order of positions being created. This has resulted in two employees with more than 30 years of experience receiving pink slips.

That's a hell of a maneuver, and one easily replicated by school districts if any had the sand to try it. Can't lay off your most senior employees? Merely appoint them to head the new Teacher Evaluation Center, or some such dodge. Pitch it as a promotion. Then lay them off because they hold the most recently created positions. It's either devilishly clever or delusional. In what reality will the staff union stand for that?

Since OEA's projections are based on removing high-end employees, it might also mean additional layoffs or spending cuts will become necessary when the staff union puts the kibosh on the scheme.
I don't know how other types of unions work, but I've read too many such instances of teachers unions that shaft their staff employees to believe that this is just a one-shot deal.  It's just more evidence that unions don't exist for workers, but for union brass (and the Democratic Party).

UpdateAnother teacher union story, this time from San Diego.

Freakin' Amtrak

I haven't ridden Amtrak in years, but 6 weeks from today it might be convenient for me to do so.  Unfortunately I'm one of those people who reads the fine print, and the fine print regarding luggage is ridiculous to the point of being stupid.  Here's the email I just sent Amtrak:
From the Amtrak web site:
Size Limit: Each carry-on bag may not exceed 28" x 22" x 14" in size...

I want to take Amtrak from Sacramento to the Bay Area to begin my trip to Europe.  I'll be gone for two weeks and my suitcase has dimensions several inches larger than those above, as I'll be gone for two weeks.  How rigidly is this baggage size rule enforced?  I can't take the train if I can't take my luggage with me.
There is no checked baggage on this particular route, so I would have to carry my bags on.

I'll try to remember to post Amtrak's response when I get it.

Response #1:
Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting Amtrak. We respond to online inquiries 7 days a week between the hours of 8 am and 11 pm (ET). E-mails are answered in the order that they are received. We will respond as soon as possible.

Please do not reply to this message.

Amtrak Customer Service
Response #2, 5/24/12:
Thank you for contacting us.

The following guidelines apply to baggage you check, and which is stored in separate baggage storage areas on a train.

*Three-Piece Limit: Each ticketed passenger may check up to three pieces of luggage at no charge. You may also check up to three additional pieces upon payment of $10.00 per piece.

*50-Pound Limit: Each checked bag may weigh no more than 50 lbs. We will not accept heavier pieces.
Size Limit: Each checked bag may not exceed 36 x 36 x 36 inches in size.

*Suitable Bags: Please be sure to pack your baggage using sturdy luggage or containers that are capable of withstanding normal handling. Please note that we do not accept plastic storage containers, lightweight suit bags, and other similar items as checked baggage.

*Baggage Tags: Attach your name and address to each item. Free identification tags are available at stations or from crew members, or you may use your own.

*Where Available: Checked baggage service is available at many stations and on many trains and Amtrak Thruway buses throughout the country. See individual station pages on this site, available from the 'Stations' section, for more information.

*Check-In Time: Please check all baggage at least 30 minutes prior to departure, and longer for special items. Baggage checked less than 30 minutes prior to departure may be delayed.

*Claiming Checked Baggage: Checked baggage will be available to be claimed within 30 minutes of arrival. Always identify your baggage by the claim check numbers. Storage charges apply to baggage not claimed within two days of arrival.

*ID Required: To check baggage, you must have a valid photo ID. For more information about ID requirements, please see our Passenger Security and ID page.

*Special Items: Amtrak accepts a number of special items such as baby strollers, bicycles, golf bags, musical instruments, and skis. In most cases there is a handling charge of $5.00 per special item.

Each ticketed passenger may also carry-on up to two (2) pieces of luggage on board. Not included in this limit are personal items such as briefcases, purses, laptops, and infant paraphernalia such as strollers, diaper bags and car seats.

Each carry-on bag may weigh no more than 50 lbs. and may not exceed 28x22x14 inches in size.

If space allows, a passenger may be permitted one carry-on bag that is larger than the acceptable per unit dimensions. However, this bag may not exceed the dimensions of two suitcases of the allowable size.

Each carry-on bag must be visibly tagged with the name and address of the passenger. Passengers may use their own personal identification tags, or may obtain Amtrak baggage identification tags at station ticket offices, or onboard trains from a member of the train crew.

For more information on what can and cannot be carried onboard our trains, please select Baggage Guidelines listed under the section Rider's Guide on

If you have other concerns regarding these guidelines, let us know. If you prefer you may call us at 1-800-USA-RAIL (872-7245). Enter zero to bypass the automated system.

We hope that this information will be helpful and we look forward to serving you on board Amtrak.
This isn't entirely clear:  since there's no checked baggage, can I carry what would have been checked baggage on board?   My suitcase meets the requirements for checked baggage dimensions.  Or is it all considered carry-on baggage on this train? 

I'm probably safe just carrying my bags on board, but it would be nice not to be faced with uncertainty.

Education and Technology

I think this post is just about right:
But a classroom without clickers, or without a smartboard, isn’t going to be inherently inferior to one loaded with all the latest gadgets, because it’s not the gadgets that do the teaching: it’s the teacher.  And the teacher should use whatever technology he or she thinks will improve what he or she is up to vis-a-vis the students — no more, and no less.  Whether a piece of technology will be useful and fruitful is primarily a question of how a particular bit of technology relates to that teacher’s methods, personality, and style...

I would love to listen to a lecture by Aristotle, or Avicenna, or Anselm, or even Neitzsche.  But it would be stupid for me to require that they use Powerpoint.
It's not the technology, it's what the teacher does with it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Language of Commercial Success

I think being bilingual is great, but in California so-called "bilingual" education is, in fact, monolingual Spanish.  English is the language of success:

The 149-year-old university, located in Italy's business capital Milan, is set to become the first Italian place of higher learning to teach all its graduate courses in English when it kicks off its academic year in 2014.

The aim is to kit out its students with the right stuff to gain access to the global jobs market. It's also meant to attract top-class international students at a time when competition among universities worldwide is hotting up.

"We need to prepare all our graduates for a professional world that demands a rigorous international outlook," Politecnico rector Giovanni Azzone told Reuters.

The university - one of the world's top 50 engineering schools according to QS World University rankings - will offer all its Master of Science and PhD courses in English and will invest 3.2 million euros to attract international faculty.

Stories About Idiot Teachers Make Me Cringe

This story makes me cringe:
After reviewing a video in which a North Rowan High School teacher tells a student he can be arrested for speaking ill of President Barack Obama, the Rowan-Salisbury School System said it can be a learning experience.

Meanwhile, an expert on politics at Catawba College says the social studies teacher just doesn’t have her facts straight when she insists speaking your mind about a president can get you charged with a criminal offense...

It begins with a classroom conversation about a recent news story detailing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney allegedly bullying a classmate in prep school. It turns into a heated, sometimes confrontational debate.

One student asks, “Didn’t Obama bully someone though?”

The teacher responds: “Not to my knowledge.”

In response to the Romney story, conservatives have recently been pointing to a passage in Obama’s book, “Dreams from My Father,” in which the president writes that while in grade school he shoved a little girl, the only other black student in his grade, after other students called him her boyfriend.

When the student tells the teacher that Obama admitted to bullying a girl in school, the teacher goes on the defensive.

“Stop, no, because there is no comparison,” she says. Romney, she says, is “running for president. Obama is the president.”

When the student says they’re both “just men,” the teacher continues to argue that Romney, as a candidate for president, is not to be afforded the same respect as the president.

The teacher tells the class Obama is “due the respect that every other president is due.”

“Listen, let me tell you something, you will not disrespect the president of the United States in this classroom,” she says.

The student replies that he’ll say what he wants.

“Not about him you won’t,” the teacher says.

Later in the conversation, the teacher tells the class it’s criminal to slander a president...

Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College and a widely known political analyst, weighed in on the video.

“I think what this broke down to was a perceived personal slight by an instructor against someone she sees in a positive view, and things just went out of control from there,” Bitzer said in an email to the Post.

Bitzer said he thinks the teacher did go a “bit overboard in being rude towards the student.”
Update, 5/22/12:  The teacher has been suspended with pay pending an investigation.

Public Universities With The Worst Graduation Rates

The worst has a rate of 4%.  Holy crap.

The entire list is here.  Fortunately a few of them are ones no one has ever heard of, and a few of the big names appear to be satellite campuses.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

After the Election In November, One Side Or The Other Will Be Saying This

I hope it's not my side:
“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”
From Firefly's Captain Mal Reynolds.

When Two Arguments Collide

A nonprofit founded by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur has filed a sweeping, high-stakes lawsuit challenging state teacher protection laws. A victory would overturn a tenure, dismissal, and layoff system that critics blame for the hiring and retention of ineffective teachers. A loss in court could produce bad case law, impeding more targeted efforts to achieve some of the same goals.

Students Matter is the creation of David Welch, co-founder of Infinera, a manufacturer of optical telecommunications systems in Sunnyvale. The new nonprofit filed its lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday on behalf of eight students who attend four school districts. A spokesperson for the organization told the Los Angeles Times that Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad and a few other individuals are underwriting the lawsuit. They have hired two top-gun attorneys to lead the case: Ted Boutrous, a partner in the Los Angeles law firm of  Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and Ted Olsen, former solicitor general for President George W. Bush.

The lawsuit asserts that five “outdated statutes” prevent administrators from making employment decisions in students’ interest. The tenure statute forces districts to decide after teachers are on the job only 18 months whether to grant them permanent job status. Once granted tenure, they gain due-process rights that make it expensive and difficult to fire them even if they’re “grossly ineffective.” And then, when an economic downturn comes – witness the last four years – a Last In/First Out (LIFO) requirement leads to layoffs based strictly on seniority, not competency.   link
I don't like the argument that says that LIFO unfairly hurts poor kids or minorities, and because of that it's wrong.  Still, it'll be interesting to see how that argument plays here in California, land of the CTA.

Yesterday Was A Good Day For Me

As it was Friday it already had a leg up on the other days, but yesterday was one of those banner days.

I gave my pre-calculus students a quiz on Thursday.  The quiz covered sigma notation and inductive proofs, and the class had struggled through the inductive proofs for a couple days, but when I graded the quizzes yesterday morning the average grade was 90%.  Nice.

Each year I mention the thoughtfulness and generosity of our PTSA.  Yesterday they held our end of the year luncheon, A Taste of Italy, and there was more than enough to eat!  And at the luncheon, I won a door prize--a $10 Starbucks card.

After work we held a gathering for the impending retirement of two of our math teachers.  It was at the manse of our department chair, and among the guests were our two math teachers that retired last year.  Again, good times and more than enough food and drink.

As I said, yesterday was a good day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lions and Lambs, Lying Down Together

Could this be the first time I've ever agreed with anything Bill Maher has said?

Nowhere On The Planet

Last year I bought a 3D camera.  It was made in the 90s, but since I have a couple pieces of "technology" that will someday end up in a museum I thought this might make for a nice addition--especially at only $10.

I could find only one company on the planet that would develop the film for this camera, and in February I sent them a roll of film from my cousin's wedding reception.  Today I received the following email from them:
Hello Darren;
I’m afraid I just learned that the 3D printer is permanently broken so I will not be able to do your prints. Please do not send any more film or money. My other services are unaffected.
I will refund your money and return your film but it will take some time. I will have to get back the film from the printer.
Thank you for using the service.
I may be starting a new digital 3D print service in the future. Look at the home page of the Snap 3D website for news on this.
Sorry about the end of the film service.
If you learn of any new companies that will develop 3D prints, please let me know!

Will This Kind Of Faux-Offense Never End?

From Joanne's blog:
Sigh.  These people (and by “these people” I mean the morons who perpetuate this sort of stupidity — morons of all races) never get tired of proclaiming perfectly well-intentioned things to be offensive, do they?
What's the crime today?
A second-grader in Colorado was assigned to dress up as a historical figure for a “wax museum day”.

Given the sheer amount of time and attention given to Martin Luther King in the typical school year, it might come as no surprise that this second-grader wanted to come as King.

America's Top Colleges

When my alma mater scores well, these lists are obviously well done :-)

#3 US Military Academy
#5 Stanford
#6 Harvard
#9 MIT
#10 US Air Force Academy
#13 Cal Tech
#14 Yale
#17 US Naval Academy
#18 Notre Dame
#21 Brown
#22 Duke
That's enough from the Top 25.

My (hopefully) new alma mater, home of the Vandals, comes in at #449.
Hometown Sacramento State comes in at #501.

Because of our emphasis on financial prudence, the zero-cost military service academies rank highly.  West Point, which topped the list two years ago, ranks third this time, thanks to outstanding teaching (#3) and high alumni salaries (#8), while the Air Force Academy (#10) and the Naval Academy (#17) glide easily into the top 20.  Even the less prestigious academies – the Coast Guard (#97) and the Merchant Marine (#158) — score well.

Outside of the academies, the highest ranked public school is the University of Virginia (#46) followed closely by the College of William and Mary (#49) and UCLA (#55).
Let's not forget that the service academies also rank high in "student employment upon graduation" :-)

Thursday, May 17, 2012


What other name is there for Schumer and Casey?  Should people be required to be Americans just so they can pay higher taxes?
Two top senators went after Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin Thursday over his decision to renounce U.S. citizenship, unveiling a proposal they claim would bar him -- or anyone -- from de-friending the United States in order to avoid taxes.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who unveiled the proposal alongside Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said their so-called "Ex-Patriot Act" would subject high-earning ex-Americans to a steep capital gains tax.

The bill was their answer to the move by Saverin last year to renounce his citizenship and move to Singapore. The decision, made public in a recently released IRS list, came ahead of Facebook's initial public offering, and fueled speculation that Saverin cut ties with America in order to cut down his tax bill. Singapore does not impose capital gains taxes.
The law would force him to prove he *didn’t* do it to avoid taxes? How would you prove a negative?

Just like so-called hate crime laws, I don't really like laws that penalize people specifically for holding what some would consider the "wrong" views.

People should be able to renounce their citizenship whenever they want.

Update, 5/27/12:  I like this from Mark Steyn:
No one should begrudge Mark Zuckerberg his billions, and decent people should revile in the strongest terms thug-senator Chuck Schumer's attempts to punish Zuckerberg's partner Eduardo Saverin for wishing to enjoy his profits under the less confiscatory tax arrangements of Singapore. It is a sign of terminal desperation when regimes that can't compete for talent focus their energies on ever more elaborate procedures to prevent freeborn individuals voting with their feet.


 Authorities are investigating a hazing incident involving a Utah high school that included senior cheerleaders soaking incoming squad members with condiments and forcing them to strip to their underwear.

Ogden School District spokeswoman Donna Corby said the nine cheerleaders from Ogden High School have been suspended.

What is the benefit?  Are we only a quarter inch above a pack of wild animals, and have some innate need to assert physical dominance over others?

Haircut Merits Suspension?

I remember how unruly junior high students could be.  At the first jr high at which I taught, we sent kids home if they had "unnatural" hair color--blue, lime, neon pink, etc.  They're just too squirrely, and too easily distracted, to allow individual kids to stir the pot that much.  Now that I've taught high school for 9 years, though, and am not living the jr high life, I have trouble justifying this type of school reaction:
A young San Antonio Spurs fan faces an in-school suspension on Thursday if he doesn't somehow find a way to alter the image of Matt Bonner that was shaved into the back of his head. You read the previous sentence correctly. The Spurs forward, who is averaging just 14.6 minutes per game in the postseason, has apparently made such an impact on Woodlake Hills Middle School student Patrick Gonzalez that the youngster decided to have a hairstylist shave an image of the Spurs sharpshooter into the back of his haircut. Via Tas Melas, here's the image that has the principals at Woodlake Hills Middle School in righteous fear of the apparently inevitable anarchy and lawlessness in the school halls that will result if Gonzalez comes to school on Thursday without changing the haircut:
Pic at the link.

Had I not lived through it myself I would probably say this was excessive, but I remember enough not to be sure that it is.

One of Many Problems The President Has

From The Atlantic: “Obama’s big problem, I think, is that he is no longer the president he said he would be. Above all, he’s stopped trying to be that president.”
When was he ever the president he said he'd be, outside of being a socialist?

This is not what I'd call leadership:
President Obama's budget suffered a second embarrassing defeat Wednesday, when senators voted 99-0 to reject it.

Coupled with the House's rejection in March, 414-0, that means Mr. Obama's budget has failed to win a single vote in support this year.
If the president truly wanted to run against a do-nothing Congress, he could do worse than to start with the Democrat-run Senate, which hasn't passed a budget since before Obama was elected.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


If your data is bad, the statistics generated from those numbers will also be bad:
The National Center for Education Statistics plans to check data on about 5,000 high schools after faulty information from the federal agency led to erroneous rankings for three high schools on U.S. News & World Report’s yearly “Best High Schools” report
Garbage in, garbage out.

It's Called *Home*work, But You Shouldn't Leave It In Someone Else's Home

You especially shouldn't leave it in a home you're burglarizing:
An 18-year-old Utah man was arrested on suspicion of burglary after police say he left his homework at the crime scene.

Read more here:

The Morality of Unpaid Internships

I'm not sure I agree with this fellow, but he makes an interesting argument:
This summer, millions of students -- some graduating, some between school years -- will spend the summer working. Some will work at restaurants and on retail floors, where working is called "working." Some will work at think tanks and non-profit organizations, where working is called "interning." Estimates put the number of unpaid interns every year between 500,000 and one million. So, in a country where working for free is mostly illegal, a student population somewhere between the size of Tucson and Dallas will be working for free, in plain view.

A few years ago, I was a proud part of unpaid intern nation. I took unpaid internships at two think tanks, a campaign and a magazine. Were they useful? Definitely. Were they moral? Harder question.
I lean towards one of the arguments that he dismisses, that internships are used by students merely to gain education and a "leg up" on others when they apply for paid jobs.  That poorer students, who must support themselves with paid jobs, are at a disadvantage in this situation isn't enough (for me) to call the system immoral, as poorer students are at a disadvantage in almost every situation!  That's reality, not morality.

But I find his arguments interesting.  Not necessarily strong, but interesting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Long Gray Line

Over Spring Break I took my son to Philadelphia, and on the third day of that trip we made a day trip to West Point (posts here, here, and here). 

Periodically we sit down and watch tv or a movie together, and I thought that now that he's seen the place in person, it's time--so over the course of tonight and tomorrow night we'll watch The Long Gray Line, a John Ford classic from 1955. 

We stopped at an hour and a half into it, and he's still interested in the story.  Being on his JROTC program's color guard and saber guard teams, he was especially attentive to the parade shots (which were, admittedly, most impressive).

I enjoy these times.

Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Guy

The original link is here:
I’LL TAKE LEG-TINGLES FOR $200: Chris Matthews Bombs on ‘Jeopardy!’ After Repeatedly Mocking Palin for How She’d Do. Palin-mockery is a symptom of intellectual insecurity. Usually, that insecurity is well-founded. . . .

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Party of the Rich

From Instapundit:
POLITICO: Obama’s Wall Street Problem. “The giant $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase highlights a central problem in President Barack Obama’s case for a second term: Four years after the financial crisis nearly brought the nation to its knees, very little appears to have changed. . . . And now one of the largest banks in the United States, headed by a Democrat and operating with government guarantees, has turned in the kind of headline-grabbing, casino-style style loss that drives voters crazy and that Obama’s financial reform bill was supposed to stop.” Unexpectedly.

Plus this: “The guy in the street in 2008 and 2009 was worried about his or her deposits, and now it’s clear they should still be worried.”
I'm just saying.

And then there's this:
OBAMA GOES AFTER BAIN CAPITAL, but he’s vulnerable on Crony Capital. “We welcome the Obama campaign’s attempt to pivot back to jobs and a discussion of their failed record. Mitt Romney helped create more jobs in his private sector experience and more jobs as Governor of Massachusetts than President Obama has for the entire nation. President Obama has many questions to answer as to why his administration used the stimulus to reward wealthy campaign donors with taxpayer money for bad ideas like Solyndra, but 23 million Americans are still struggling to find jobs. If the Obama administration was less concerned about pleasing their wealthy donors and more concerned about creating jobs, America would be much better off.”
And this:
As Katrina reports, Mitt Romney left Bain Capital in 1999 to manage the Winter Olympics, two years before GST Steel declared bankruptcy. But that hasn’t stopped President Obama from blaming him for the company’s 2001 collapse. In a new Obama campaign video, ex-steel workers criticize Romney for being “out of touch” with the “average working person.” Left unmentioned (and blameless) is Jonathan Lavine.

Lavine, according to the Los Angeles Times, is a top Obama bundler and a managing director at Bain Capital. Lavine, who has raised over $100,000 for the president, was at the firm when GST Steel declared bankruptcy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Shades of the Stasi

Doesn't this sound a bit too secret police-y?
New Jersey education officials will no longer use a standardized test question that asked third-graders to reveal a secret and write about why it was difficult to keep.

The question appeared on the writing portion of some versions of the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge given to third-graders this past week. And it drew criticism from some parents, who thought it was inappropriate.

The state Department of Education says the question was reviewed and approved by it and a panel of teachers. They said it was only being tried out and would not count in the students' scores.
Could they come up with no better writing prompt than that?  No?  Then fire them all.

Why I'm Not A Socialist

Over the past 7+ years of writing this blog I've given many reasons, and related many anecdotes, about why why socialism is bad.  They summarize quite nicely to socialism withers the human spiritHere's another of those anecdotes:
In the end, I concluded, what set the United States apart from Spain was the difference between earned success and learned helplessness.

Earned success means defining your future as you see fit and achieving that success on the basis of merit and hard work. It allows you to measure your life's "profit" however you want, be it in money, making beautiful music, or helping people learn English. Earned success is at the root of American exceptionalism.

The link between earned success and life satisfaction is well established by researchers. The University of Chicago's General Social Survey, for example, reveals that people who say they feel "very successful" or "completely successful" in their work lives are twice as likely to say they are very happy than people who feel "somewhat successful." It doesn't matter if they earn more or less income; the differences persist.

The opposite of earned success is "learned helplessness," a term coined by Martin Seligman, the eminent psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. It refers to what happens if rewards and punishments are not tied to merit: People simply give up and stop trying to succeed.

During experiments, Mr. Seligman observed that when people realized they were powerless to influence their circumstances, they would become depressed and had difficulty performing even ordinary tasks. In an interview in the New York Times, Mr. Seligman said: "We found that even when good things occurred that weren't earned, like nickels coming out of slot machines, it did not increase people's well-being. It produced helplessness. People gave up and became passive."

Learned helplessness was what my wife and I observed then, and still do today, in social-democratic Spain. The recession, rigid labor markets, and excessive welfare spending have pushed unemployment to 24.4%, with youth joblessness over 50%. Nearly half of adults under 35 live with their parents. Unable to earn their success, Spaniards fight to keep unearned government benefits.

Meanwhile, their collective happiness—already relatively low—has withered. According to the nonprofit World Values Survey, 20% of Spaniards said they were "very happy" about their lives in 1981. This fell to 14% by 2007, even before the economic downturn.

That trajectory should be a cautionary tale to Americans who are watching the U.S. government careen toward a system that is every bit as socially democratic as Spain's.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Wealth For Me But Not For Thee

From Instapundit:
LIFE IN THE ONE PERCENT: “Socialist Hollande owns three homes on the Riviera,” according to the London Evening Standard. “Francois Hollande, 57, who ‘dislikes the rich’ and wants to revolutionise his country with high taxes and an onslaught against bankers, is in fact hugely wealthy himself.”

Great Lunch

Just got back from lunch with a former student of mine who will graduate from the Naval Academy in a couple weeks.  After some graduation leave he'll start his masters degree in aeronautical engineering at MIT.  This is the caliber of student with which I'm periodically privileged to work.

Friday, May 11, 2012

California's "Education Budget"

Yesterday after our staff meeting our union rep gave us an update on the state of district finances and contract negotiations.  We got the best case financial scenario (the district has a little extra money if Governor Brown's tax hikes get approved in next November's election) as well as the worst case (the district has to cut even more if the tax hikes aren't approved).  One teacher stormed by me in frustration, saying to no one in particular, "More cuts?  When will this end?"

Well, Teacher X, it will end when you quit voting for the Democrats who keep running this state down the economic drain.  It will end when you stop supporting a political party that chases businesses and jobs out of the state.  It will end when you stop killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.  It will end when you quit voting to take from the productive and give to the unproductive out of some misplaced and misguided sense of "fairness".

Here's how bad it is:
Gov. Jerry Brown warned Californians on Thursday to brace for another round of difficult budget cuts as he hand-delivered boxes of petitions to election officials requesting that his proposed tax hike be placed on the November ballot.

Brown, who is expected to unveil his revised budget proposal Monday, said he needed far more than the $4.2 billion in spending reductions he asked for in January. And he continued to raise the specter of even deeper wounds to public schools, colleges and other state services if his bid for tax hikes fails.
Remember, California's budgets are now passed by a simple majority, not a 2/3 majority, meaning they pass without the need for any bipartisanship or a single Republican vote.  Democrats own this mess--have for years, really--and don't seem to be doing such a good job at getting us out of it.

So, Teacher X, it's not going to end any time soon.  But I'll bet I know how you're still going to vote this November, all the while wondering why we're in this mess.

Update, 5/13/12This is how we roll in California:
Brown says that, now that the "real" numbers are out, he's going to have to present a revised budget featuring more of the dread "draconian cuts." He promises that cuts will fall heavily on public education spending, prisons, state parks, and other areas that the average person considers to be basic functions of state government. Meanwhile, it will be full speed ahead on high speed rail, the Air Resources Board, the DREAM Act, six-figure pensions to 55-year olds, and welfare benefits and "free" health care to illegal aliens. 

Of course, says Brown, we can avoid all that by passing his "temporary" (hah!) tax increases on the November ballot. Brown really is a social democrat. He obviously thinks "austerity" means cutting essential services and raising taxes while keeping the welfare/redistributionist state intact. It hasn't worked in Europe, so why the heck does he think it'll work here?

A Brilliant Point

From Joanne's blog:
Frank Fleming offers a modest proposal to solve the student loan and debt problem: Set a minimum age of 30 for college loans.
In a sane world, if a teenager walked into a bank and said, “I would like a $50,000 loan to major in modern dance,” the bank manager would call security, who would then pummel the stupid kid, and everyone would end up smarter for it. But what happens instead is that Uncle Sam walks by and says, “I like his moxy. Give him the loan; I’ll guarantee it. And I’ll make sure he can’t ever get out of his stupid choice through bankruptcy.” So they give this giant amount of money to a dumb kid, and then the colleges are waiting outside, saying, “Hey! They’re giving huge loans to moron teenagers; we need to get some of that money!” So we have colleges preying on these gullible saps, increasing costs while their diplomas plummet in value in a complete mockery of our capitalistic system.
We don’t let 18-year-olds buy alcohol,  Fleming points out. Why let them borrow huge sums of money? If the borrowing age for student loans was set at 30, borrowers “might actually have some idea of what money is and what debt means.”
I don't know why this is "a modest proposal", as I could take it entirely seriously--unlike the eating of Irish babies.

On a related note, I truly don't understand why parental income is taken into account when determining what price to charge adults for college.  That's some crazy market distortion, there.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"A Weirdly Glamorous View Of Socialism and Communism"

Watch a man from the former Soviet Union school this OWS punk.

There's No 1st Amendment in Britain

Quite the conundrum:
Catholic schools in Wales are under fire after circulating a petition against the Welsh government's plans to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, the Telegraph reports.

Last month, the Catholic Education Service asked 365 secondary schools in England and Wales to begin circulating a letter by the Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark defending the traditional definition of marriage. They also reportedly encouraged schools to promote the Coalition for Marriage campaign petition...

While the schools insist they are merely teaching Catholic values, secular and humanist campaigners accuse the schools of "political indoctrination" by promoting the campaign among students, the Telegraph reports.

The Welsh government is now reviewing whether the schools are breaking equality and political impartiality laws by circulating the archbishops' letter.
Well, it's a conundrum if you believe in religious liberty.

Donkey Show?

Where did they even come up with this idea?  I certainly wasn't thinking such things in 6th grade:
Authorities in Mexico's Gulf coast state of Campeche said Wednesday they are investigating how a porn video was made by sixth-graders inside their school.

State Education Department spokesman Omar Kantun said the video was apparently made in an empty classroom during recess in late April.

"It is real, the case is real, the video exists," Kantun said. "The Education Department is very concerned."

He said an investigation is being conducted by his department and the teachers union to determine whether any adults were involved.
Click on the link to find out what they were doing. I'll bet you'll be surprised.

Is This Really Worth Pitching A Fit Over?

I don't know what causes some parents to get their panties in a bunch over silly things like this:
A Florida high school science teacher faces dismissal amid allegations that she used a "cone of shame" dog collar to discipline students.

Pasco County Schools Superintendent Heather Fiorentino has recommended firing Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, 47, for putting a dog collar on at least eight of her ninth-grade students during two days last month.

The collar was reportedly the type used to prevent animals from licking their wounds after surgery. "Cone of shame" is a reference to the animated film "Up," which Bailey-Cutkomp had previously shown to students...

Some of her students say it was all a joke, in good fun.
I guess some parents must want their kids to be suspended from class for even the most minor infractions, because that's about all we teachers are left with.  I know of a teacher who's had threats from a parent over assigning a detention.

It's Not About Learning At All

If parents want to put their kids in such a school, I guess I'm ok with that, but how can so-called educators support this?  Answer:  it's not about education.
A Los Angeles charter school with low test scores will stay open, reports the LA Times. Academia Semillas del Pueblo has friends on the school board who overruled a closure recommendation by administrators.

The school teaches in English, Spanish and Nahuatl, an indigenous language of Mexico, notes the Times. The co-founders are “dedicated to teaching culture that stretches back to before colonial Mexico.” An International Baccalaureate program has been added.

But students test poorly compared to similar students in other schools, including those taught in languages other than English.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

This Berkeley Student Has A Cool Dorm Room

I don't know this Berkeleyite's political leanings, but these tidbits about his dorm room entertain me nonetheless:
After several months, Cal-Berkeley freshman Derek Low created "BRAD," the Berkeley Ridiculously Automated Dorm, reported Monday.

Low can remotely manage lighting and curtain positioning, create the perfect atmosphere for homework, set the mood for romance and impress fellow dormies with his "party mode."

Everything is designed to work through voice commands, wireless remote or a computer application. Low even has a motion detector that will turn on the lights and open the curtain when he returns from class, Time magazine reported.
Sounds a little bit like my room at Aria last summer.

LA Students Will Have To Pass College-Prep Classes To Graduate

So much stupidity in so little a space:
Students "will rise to the challenge as they always do," he (the superintendent) told the Board of Education. "Gone must be the days when some youth get orange juice and some get orange drink."
First, students don't always rise to the challenge.  The guy in charge of the education of the students of Los Angeles should know that from experience.  Anyone who could say something so stupid shouldn’t be in education, much less the superintendent of the 2nd largest district in the country.

And I don't even know what he's talking about in his second sentence.

Who's Waging The "War on Women"?

The libs--and it's been going on a long time.  Remember this, feminists?
 I confess, it was pretty riveting when John McCain trotted out Sarah Palin for the first time. Like many people, I thought, “Damn, a hyperconservative, fuckable, Type A, antiabortion, Christian Stepford wife in a ‘sexy librarian’ costume — as a vice president"...

But ideologically, she is their hardcore pornographic centerfold spread, revealing the ugliest underside of Republican ambitions — their insanely zealous and cynical drive to win power by any means necessary, even at the cost of actual leadership.

Sarah Palin is a bit comical, like one of those cutthroat Texas cheerleader stage moms....

As a woman who does not believe what Palin believes, the thought of such an opportunistic anti-female in the White House — in the Cheney chair, no less — is akin to ideological brain rape.
Is it OK to say such things, as long as the speaker is a woman?

Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell and Condi Rice aren't "authentic" blacks because they don't toe a liberal line, and Sarah Palin will be subjected to every misogynist stereotype possible because she doesn't, either.

But don't judge them based on their race or sex.

Liberals are the biggest hypocrites of all.