Thursday, February 28, 2013

Obama's Education Secretary Openly Lies About The Effects of the Sequester, Washington Post Calls Him On It

Why anyone would believe a single word coming from any mouthpiece of the current Administration is far beyond me.  Just this week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has lied through his teeth three times regarding the apocalyptic effects of sequestration; his claims were bad enough that the Washington Post, hardly a right-leaning paper, gave his claims 4 Pinocchios, their worst rating:
Duncan’s claim, on one of the Sunday morning shows, that teachers were already getting pink slips because of the looming sequester was actually the second time he had made this assertion.

“I was on a call yesterday, people are starting to give RIF [reduction in force] notes,” Duncan said in a meeting with reporters Feb. 21, three days before his appearance on CBS. “Schools are already starting to give teachers notices.”

Oddly, however, the Education Department for days was unable to cough up the name of a single school district where these notices had been delivered. Then, on Wednesday, Duncan appeared before the White House press corps and produced a name — Kanawha County in West Virginia — with a major league caveat. “Whether it’s all sequester-related, I don’t know,” he said...

In fact, no one in the county seemed to know what Duncan was talking about, including the education reporters who cover the school district for the Charleston, W.V., newspapers. “There’s very little sequestration-related panic, at least on the education side of things,” one reporter said...

The administration has been on thin ice with some of its claims about the impact of the sequestration cuts. Duncan’s assertion that “as many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs” also appears to be hyperbole...

There is little debate that across-the-board spending cuts in education funding will cause pain for some schools and states. But there is no reason to hype the statistics — or to make scary pronouncements on pink slips being issued based on misinformation.

Indeed, Duncan’s lack of seriousness about being scrupulously factual undercuts the administration’s claim that the cuts are a serious problem.

Duncan made this claim not once, not twice, but three times. Let this be a teachable moment for him: Next time, before going on television, check your facts.
That's about as close as the Post is going to get to saying "liar, liar, pants on fire", so I just said it for them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Only In America Could Something This Stupid Happen

In no other country on the planet would this even be contemplated:
A Texas high school student has filed a federal lawsuit against her school and her teachers after she was punished for refusing to salute and recite the Mexican pledge of allegiance.

The Thomas More Law Center filed the suit on behalf of Brenda Brinsdon alleging the McAllen Independent School District violated the 15-year-old girl’s constitutional rights when she was forced to recite the Mexican pledge and sing the Mexican national anthem.

Brinsdon, who is the daughter of a Mexican immigrant and an American father, refused. She believed it was un-American to pledge a loyalty oath to another country.

Ironically, the school district has a policy that prohibits a school from compelling students to recite the American Pledge of Allegiance.
Well, duh.  That was decided by a 1943 US Supreme Court decision, but let's continue:
The recitation of the Mexican pledge and the singing of the Mexican national anthem was part of a 2011 Spanish class assignment at Achieve Early College High School.  The teacher, Reyna Santos, required all her students to participate in the lesson.

When Brinsdon refused to back down – she was punished, the lawsuit alleges. She was given an alternative assignment on the Independence of Mexico. The teacher gave her a failing grade – and then required the student to sit in class over a period of several days to listen to other students recite the Mexican flag.

The lawsuit states Brinsdon offered to recite the American pledge in Spanish but the teacher refused her request.

“It’s astonishing that this Texas school would deny Brenda her right of conscience and free speech not to pledge allegiance to a foreign country,” said Thompson...

And while she is fluent in Spanish and English and is proud of her Mexican heritage, Brinsdon is a “true-blooded American,” Mersino added.
Who will defend this teacher's actions?  Anyone?

Bad Teacher Doing A Bad Thing

Doesn't this just make your heart sink?
A California high school student was shocked at what she found when she decided to play detective and stop a string of thefts from backpacks during gym class.

Justine Betti said she decided to hide in a locker to see if she could catch the thief in action. She didn’t expect the alleged culprit to be her gym teacher.

After all of the students left the locker room, the teacher stayed behind, rummaged through backpacks and took money, Betti said.

“Something needed to be done. That’s not okay,” she told ABC News’ Sacramento affiliate KXTV.  Betti is a sophomore at Linden High School in Linden, Calif., about 60 miles southeast of Sacramento.

Betti decided to hide in the locker again — this time, with a cellphone camera to record what she saw. She set up a second camera in another locker to get two angles.
I'm curious if this teacher's union is gearing up a defense.


If you're one of the 7 people in the country who hasn't seen this video yet, I'm privileged to be the one to provide it for you:

Both those teams are full of winners.

Update, 2/28/13:  Clearly CBS isn't full of winners, as they're removed the video due to copyright considerations.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why We Can't Build Any More Hoover Dams

I periodically hear people, often liberals, claim that America isn't great anymore, and as evidence say that we don't build things like the Hoover Dam anymore.  Even President Obama said so last fall:
The dam is frequently cited by Obama as an example of American ingenuity and the value of government-funded investment in public infrastructure.
There are plenty of reasons why we can't or don't, and many of those reasons are liberals. Here's a modern example:
The application for approval (for the Keystone XL pipeline) has been under review by the U.S. government for more than four years, far longer than any other cross-border pipeline project and more than twice as long as it would take to build the pipeline.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Strippers For Teens

I'm not convinced this is really genuinely truly endangering the welfare of a child, but it's certainly base:
World’s Best/Worst Mom Hired Strippers For Her Son’s 16th Birthday Party

I'm sure you don't want to miss the picture of the stripper upside down on the boy's lap with her crotch in his face.

And People Still Talk About This Guy For The Supreme Court

The correct way to amend the Constitution is via Article V.  That's why the Founders put Article V in the Constitution.

"But Darren," some claim, "the Article V hurdle is too high!  Things have changed, times have changed, and we need an easier way to make things right!"  My answer to that is to change the Constitution to make it easier to change the Constitution, not just ignore Article V because it's (intentionally) difficult.

Of course, if you're an ideologue California Supreme Court justice in arm's reach of the US Supreme Court, that pesky Constitution isn't something you have to worry about for long:
Asked about the doctrine of enumerated powers and whether it was possible to reconcile the limited view of federal power articulated in The Federalist with modern Supreme Court doctrines, Liu demurred. “If I had an answer to that I’d have written a book,” he quipped, observing the question of federal power is an enduring constitutional and political debate. Despite the language of enumeration, he noted, “there are certain economic realities that have shifted our understanding of these words over time,” such as the increasingly integrated economy. Nonetheless he noted that it is a hotly debated proposition whether courts should rely more on founding era understandings or contemporary realities.
That's fancy talk for "I'll do what I think is right, the Constitution be damned."

You want a poster child for liberals?  There you have one.

Amazon Student

I probably spend $39/year in shipping costs on Amazon anyway, so now that I'm a student again I'm taking advantage of this offer.  If you're a student, too, check it out!

Most Miserable Cities In The US

The list created by Forbes involves the scrutiny of the country’s largest urban areas which are then ranked via factors such as the city’s crime rates, foreclosures, taxes, home prices, commute times, weather, and decreasing populations.

Go take a look at the list, and note the following:  of the 20 most miserable cities, how many are west of the Mississippi?  And of those, how many are in California?

Socialism doesn't work because, as Margaret Thatcher said, eventually you run out of other people's money.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

University Students and Their Expectations

A couple days ago I posted on the pleasant experience I had in Reno, meeting up with two former students.  I wrote about how pleased I was that they'd figured out that personal responsibility is one of the important life lessons to be learned at college.

Clearly not everyone has figured that out:
Such accusations reveal little about the professor in question; no one ever satisfactorily distinguishes a boring professor from a boredom-inclined student — which is not to suggest that boring professors do not exist, simply that Rate My Professors cannot recognize them. What the comments reveal are students’ assumptions about what they are owed by their teachers and what constitutes a good classroom experience. Most pointedly, they show the extent to which higher education in North America has become a consumer product like any other, catering to client satisfaction and majority appeal. Reading through the comments, one is disheartened not only because so many are crude and illiterate but also because they indicate how deeply most students have imbibed the canard that university is about being entertained and helped to feel good about oneself.
The following observation, though, doesn't apply only to college:
Statistical researcher Valen Johnson has demonstrated in Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education (2003) that student responses to their university experience have been corrupted by an entitlement mentality about grades. Because students tend to excuse poor performance by pointing to external factors, they often blame their teachers when marks are lower than expected — when, as one student wrote on the site, they are “completely blindsided by a bad grade.”

Accuracy vs. Political Correctness

Rasmussen reports:
Voters continue to believe that political correctness trumps accuracy in most school textbooks. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 16% of Likely U.S. Voters think most school textbooks are more concerned about accurately providing information. That's down from 27% in March 2010. Fifty-nine percent (59%) think most textbooks are chiefly concerned with presenting information in a politically correct manner, consistent with attitudes for the past three years. Twenty-five percent (25%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Considering the requirements of California textbooks, this result should be higher in California. I wonder if it is.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Skiing Yesterday and Today

It snowed a little on Tuesday, so skiing yesterday was beautiful.  My knee, though, hurt like heck--I don't think I can do this anymore.  Here are two phone-cam videos from the top:

They're mp4 files, and I don't know if Blogger will recognize them as videos or pictures....

Update, 2/23/13:  Try this Vimeo link.

Teachers Unions As Bullies

The author of this piece is the president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network (CTEN), of which I am a board member.

Here's the setup:
The Michigan Education Association had its apple cart turned upside down when the Wolverine State went "right-to-work" in December. This means that, unlike California and 25 other states, a worker doesn't have to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

My introduction to union coercion came in 2005, when, as a middle school teacher in Los Angeles, I joined the Prop. 75 campaign. That initiative would have prohibited public employee labor organizations from collecting the part of union dues which goes for politics without prior consent of the employee. Sensing a disruption in their forced dues gravy train, the California Teachers Association went into overdrive. It raised union dues on its members for a three-year period and mortgaged their offices in Sacramento, then used the millions they accumulated to scare teachers and the public – ominously warning them of imaginary horrors that would be visited on them if the proposition passed.
Here's the part the unions and their u-bot zombie supporters just cannot argue:
Teachers unions are forever telling its members how much the union does for them in the way of wages, job benefits, etc. You would think that an organization that does so much for its members wouldn't have to resort to bullying to keep them in the fold.
The rest of the piece is just as strong, go take a read--especially the part about the unions' specious "free rider" complaint.

College Life

Yesterday I drove up to Reno, skiing a little bit on the way up.  I'd arranged to meet a couple of former students (now UNR students) for dinner at Circus Circus, and I hope they enjoyed themselves as much as I did.

They've already figured college out.  They both said how college is "on you"--no one cares if you go to class or not, if you do your work or not, if you do well in the classes or not.  Personal time management (e.g., not procrastinating) and personal responsibility have been the most important things they've learned.

One made a very specific point.  He said that there's plenty of time to party, you don't need to go to college to party.  Those that do, those that can't stand their classes and are only there for the social aspect of it, aren't learning anything.   His point was that you should study what you like so that you look forward to going to class; that will help build the sense of responsibility to actually go.

We agreed that partying is fun now, but when it's over you have nothing more than a nice memory that will no doubt fade with time.  You could have the same experience partying after working as a shopping cart gatherer at your local grocery store, you don't need to pay the high cost of tuition to experience that.  Getting an education, though, lasts forever--and you can still party on weekends.

I'd say they're coming along just fine for freshmen.


My grandfather died 16 years ago.  Several years after that, when we moved my grandmother into an assisted living facility, I bought nana and grandpa's house.  I've lived here for 7 1/2 years and very infrequently I get mail addressed to one or the other of them--often solicitations for money.

Today I received mail from Chase addressed to my grandfather.  It felt like a credit card so I opened it--and sure enough, there was not one but two credit cards in grandpa's name.  Remember, he died 16 years ago.  You'd think a bank as big as Chase wouldn't  have to use such old lists.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pardon Me, Would You Have Any Grey Poupon?

Who didn't like those commercials?  No one?  I thought not, so it's good they're coming back:
After a 16-year hiatus, the mustard that mocked its own stuffy image in one of TV's most famous commercials will once again take to the airwaves during the Academy Awards show on Feb. 24. 
And now the bad news:
The spot comes as Kraft Foods looks to boost sagging sales of the Dijon mustard, which is facing competition from a growing variety of high-end condiments on supermarket shelves.

I Can See Clearly Now, The Rain Is Gone

Yesterday's rain here in the Valley meant snow up in the Sierra, enough that checking the CalTrans web site showed that chains were required over Donner Summit.  As I look out the window this morning, though, I see nothing but the clearest of blue skies--not a cloud--and I-80 is clear.

Guess I'll make use of this:

I have another post scheduled to appear later today, enjoy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


The less I blog (and I know I haven't been blogging much lately), the more spam I get.

How does that work?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Give Her The Axe

This is remarkable on a couple different levels:
A tenured professor who forced her students to sign pledges that they would vote for President Barack Obama last November should be fired, the college’s president recommended.

Sharon Sweet, an associate professor of mathematics at Brevard Community College in Florida, is guilty of electioneering, harassment, and incompetence, according to a three-month investigation into her classroom behavior leading up to the November election.

The Board of Trustees will hold a hearing on the matter, and then vote on whether to adopt President James Richey’s recommendation that Sweet be fired.

It's All About The Money. In Fact, That's All It's Ever Been About.

If you have to compel someone to buy your service, your service obviously sucks.  Just sayin:
Less than six weeks before Michigan's controversial right-to-work law takes effect, teachers unions across the state are clamoring to get new contracts approved, in what some observers say is an effort to get around the measure and keep dues flowing into union coffers.

Union leaders representing teachers in Utica, Plymouth-Canton, Dearborn and Detroit Public Schools are all working toward new collective bargaining agreements ahead of the new law, which takes effect March 27.

The law includes a clause that says all contracts in place before that date are immune from the new rules, which means members would be tied into paying dues until the new contract expires. The measure bans requiring financial support of a union as a condition of employment for private-sector and most public-sector workers.
If I were a representative of those school districts, I wouldn't negotiate at all.

How did California become more union-crazy than Michigan, home of the UAW, and Wisconsin, home of the so-called progressive movement? Can we ever fix this?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How Many Homosexuals

I once read that reasonable estimates put the percentage at 1.5-6%, nowhere near Kinsey's long-discredited 10%.  Gallup further informs:
The percentage of U.S. adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) ranges from 1.7% in North Dakota to 5.1% in Hawaii and 10% in the District of Columbia, according to Gallup surveys conducted from June-December 2012. Residents in the District of Columbia were most likely to identify as LGBT (10%). Among states, the highest percentage was in Hawaii (5.1%) and the lowest in North Dakota (1.7%), but all states are within two percentage points of the nationwide average of 3.5%.

Why There Was No Blogging Yesterday

Gave my son some freeway driving experience yesterday, but the veteran driver took over before we got to the Bay Bridge.

If you've never driven in San Francisco, count yourself lucky. Being a nice dad, I spared my son and took the headache upon myself. Once we were back in the East Bay I let him take the conn to get us home.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I Need A Break!

Next week is Ski Week--or officially, Presidents' Week.  Yes, I get a week off school.

I'm exhausted.  Am I exhausted because it was a rough week, or am I exhausted because I knew there was a break coming and waiting for it to get here took all I had, or is there something else at work?

Whatever it is, it's taken me 3 nights to get through one of my video course 50-minute classes, and tonight I was still struggling. 

I'm glad to get a week off!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Because Obviously, Hispanics Aren't Americans

Some people.  Sheesh.
Four California high-school students were reportedly suspended for chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A!” and wearing American flag bandanas during a basketball game. While their punishment has since been rescinded, school administrators said “the incident is far from over.”

Oxnard Union School District superintendent Gabe Soumakian told Fox News Radio that “we need to pursue this further” and “work with teachers and students and the community about the concept of cultural proficiency.” Soumakian and Camarillo High School principal Glenn Lipman felt that the students’ actions might have had racist undertones since the schools have large Hispanic student populations.

“We wanted to make sure [their actions weren't] racially motivated, and I told the kids I just want to be sensitive to the feelings of everybody,” Lipman said. “If we’re doing it for patriotism, that’s fine. But if we’re doing it for something else that’s racially motivated, I’m not going to allow that.”
I'm curious--are Americans a race? What racial overtones do you get from USA! USA! ?

You Can't Win For Losing

We're always told to try to "make learning real", to "engage" the students, to get away from lecturing and "show" them something.  This teacher did, the student was barely inconvenienced, and now the teacher is considered the king of bad judgement:
What started off as a history lesson at Schrade Middle School in Rowlett ended up with a 7th grader having rope marks around his neck.

A history teacher was trying to teach lasso techniques used during cattle drives. He asked for student volunteers, and had them run... then tried to rope them.

"[The teacher] was visiting with the students, telling the students about how Cowboys would corral maverick steers back into the herd," explained Garland Independent School District spokesman Chris Moore.

The 13-year-old volunteer ended up with bruises.
Bruises? They look like scratches to me.

When I was in 11th grade US History class our teacher brought in a pillory.  I volunteered to be locked in it.  The pillory was bolted to plywood, and I stood on the plywood--what if I'd fallen over and cracked my skull?  Would the teacher have been showing bad judgement by putting me in the pillory, or would it merely have been a bad accident?

This kind of behavior on the part of the parents, and the response from the school system, should be enough to dispirit any teacher.  You know what?  Just sit down, shut up, and take notes.  No one gets hurt doing that.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Should Universities Really Have Anything To Do With This?

My answer is "no":
Over the last decade, as activists started pushing colleges to accommodate transgender students, they first raised only basic issues, like recognizing a name change or deciding who could use which bathrooms.

But the front lines have shifted fast, particularly at the nation's elite colleges, and a growing number are offering students health insurance plans with coverage for gender reassignment surgery.

No college or university offered such treatment just six years ago, but when Brown University said last week that its student health plan would be extended to cover sex-change surgery beginning in August, advocates for transgender students said Brown would become the 36th college to do so.
If private schools want their plans to offer this, that's their business. But the University of California system, which I subsidize with my tax dollars? Are you kidding me?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Technology For Its Own Sake

I'm not the only one who wasn't smitten with Cupid's technology arrow:
Professors at top research universities are highly skeptical of the value of the instructional technologies being injected into their classrooms, which many see as making their job harder and doing little to improve teaching and learning.

That's the conclusion of "Technological Change and Professional Control in the Professoriate," published in the January edition of Science, Technology & Human Values. Based on interviews with 42 faculty members at three research-intensive universities, the study was funded under a grant from the National Science Foundation and particularly focuses on professors in the sciences, including chemistry and biology, with anthropology thrown in as a point of comparison.

Consider the opinions of two different chemists. "I went to [a course management software workshop] and came away with the idea that the greatest thing you could do with that is put your syllabus on the Web and that's an awful lot of technology to hand the students a piece of paper at the start of the semester and say keep track of it," said one. "What are the gains for students by bringing IT into the class? There isn't any. You could teach all of chemistry with a whiteboard. I really don't think you need IT or anything beyond a pencil and a paper," said another.
Some of the professors make a point that I've made for years--that technology is good for administrative tasks but its usefulness in teaching is somewhat more limited.

Rose-Colored Glasses

You know what the problem with columns like this is?  It's the fantasy that the pre-NCLB days were filled with wine and roses, and that's just ridiculous.  The reason NCLB was instituted in the first place was because there was (and still is) wide consensus that our high school graduates weren't up to snuff.  That may or may not have changed, but blaming NCLB is blaming the symptom, not the disease.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Getting Out of a Rut

It was just over 25 years ago that I got my first apartment, a 2BR/1BA in a nice complex just outside of Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, CO.  My mother and grandmothers got together and helped outfit me--I had plenty of bath towels and dishes and even furniture.  My mother had also bought me some nice framed posters of places I'd been--Florence, Paris, and New York.  To that mix I bought and framed a picture of Schloss Neuschwanstein.

Every place I've lived for the next 25 years, those posters lived, too.  In my current house, in which I've lived for 7 1/2 years, Florence held a place of honor over my fireplace while Neuschwanstein held guard in my bedroom.

This weekend I was out doing some shopping at my favorite art store (OK, it was Ross, but whatever) and I saw a beautiful picture of the Grand Canal in Venice.  It looks like a photograph that had been transferred to canvas, and the price was right.  It now hangs over my fireplace; Florence is (temporarily?) in a closet.

On my cruise last summer I won a lithograph of an oil painting of the Casino building in Avalon, Catalina Island, and being tired of tripping over the shipping tube, I decided to go out and get a frame for it.  The custom matting (the picture is an odd size) will be here this week, and Avalon will replace Neuschwanstein in my bedroom.

After 25 years, I'm starting to change the decorations in my abode :-)

Update, 2/13/13:  Here are the new pictures:

The Science Is Settled (Until It Isn't)

From the February 2013 issue of Smithsonian:
The idea that the Clovis people, as they came to be known, were the first Americans quickly won over the research community. “The evidence was unequivocal,” said Ted Goebel, a colleague of Waters at the Center for the Study of the First Americans. Clovis sites, it turned out, were spread all over the continent, and “there was a clear association of the fauna with hundreds, if not thousands, of artifacts,” Goebel said. “Again and again it was the full picture"...

The Clovis theory, over time, acquired the force of dogma. “We all learned it as undergraduates,” Waters recalled. Any artifacts that scholars said came before Clovis, or competing theories that cast doubt on the Clovis-first idea, were ridiculed by the archaeological establishment, discredited as bad science or ignored.

Take South America. In the late 1970s, the U.S. archaeologist Tom D. Dillehay and his Chilean colleagues began excavating what appeared to be an ancient settlement on a creek bank at Monte Verde, in southern Chile. Radiocarbon readings on organic material collected from the ruins of a large tent-like structure showed that the site was 14,800 years old, predating Clovis finds by more than 1,000 years. The 50-foot-long main structure, made of wood with a hide roof, was divided into what appeared to be individual spaces, each with a separate hearth. Outside was a second, wishbone-shaped structure that apparently contained medicinal plants. Mastodons were butchered nearby. The excavators found cordage, stone choppers and augers and wooden planks preserved in the bog, along with plant remains, edible seeds and traces of wild potatoes. Significantly, though, the researchers found no Clovis points. That posed a challenge: either Clovis hunters went to South America without their trademark weapons (highly unlikely) or people settled in South America even before the Clovis people arrived.

There must have been “people somewhere in the Americas 15,000 or 16,000 years ago, or perhaps as long as 18,000 years ago,” said Dillehay, now at Vanderbilt University.

Of the researchers working sites that seemed to precede Clovis people, Dillehay was singled out for special criticism. He was all but ostracized by Clovis advocates for years. When he was invited to meetings, speakers stood up to denounce Monte Verde. “It’s not fun when people write to your dean and try to get you fired,” he recalled. “And then your grad students try to get jobs and they can’t get jobs.”
The applicability of this cautionary tale to the Church of Global Warming is self-apparent.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Asteroids--Caused By Global Warming

The CNN anchor said it, not me.
“Talk about something else that’s falling from the sky and that is an asteroid. What’s coming our way? Is this an effect of, perhaps, of global warming or is this just some meteoric occasion?”
Watch video at the link, decide for yourself.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Results Are In

I scored 46/50 on yesterday's test.  The test was open book/notes, but on the bad news is that there are no bonus or extra credit points on it to make up for the goofy errors I made.  I'm still satisfied with the results.

Grades in that course come 90% from tests and 10% from a project.  My instructor approved my project yesterday:  I'm going to try multiple regression to determine if I can predict an NFL team's score in a game if I'm given only total yards, total number of offensive plays, and number of turnovers.  If my model works, I can try it out next season as a predictor for which teams should win--and see if I get over 50/50.  If nothing else, it's fun :)

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Taking The Night Off

I took the 2nd of 6 tests today for my class this semester, Statistical Analysis.  I'm done with math for tonight!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Does Education Drive Economic Growth?

Jonah Goldberg says "no":
Higher education in particular is almost universally championed as the key to "winning the future"

— a buzz phrase the president borrowed from Newt Gingrich awhile back. New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt calls education the "lifeblood of economic growth."

Often channeling such writers as Thomas Friedman, whose fondness for the Chinese economic model borders on the perverse, Obama routinely elevates education to a national security issue. "There's an educational arms race taking place around the world right now — from China to Germany, to India to South Korea," Obama said in 2010. "Cutting back on education would amount to unilateral disarmament. We can't afford to do that."

Now, obviously, education is important and necessary for a host of reasons (and nobody is calling for "disarmament," whatever that means). But there's little evidence it drives growth.
I have long asked to see some evidence that all our spending on higher education in this state is of value to the taxpayer and not just to the student who gets heavily subsidized college.  It's not that I'm against higher education or believe that California's 50-year-old master plan for higher education is a bad idea, but when faced with its cost, I wonder if we can afford it anymore.  Merely asking the question brings a barrage of commentary about the public benefit of our "investment" in higher education, but I've never seen evidence.

Goldberg suggests I shouldn't hold my breath anticipating such evidence.  Go read the whole thing.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

It's Not That I Disagree With The Thesis...

This would be getting a lot more attention if the president had an (R) after his name instead of that (D), which must be the chemical formula for teflon since it allows anything bad to be deflected by its wearer:
The Department of Justice has developed a white paper outlining the specific circumstances under which the United States can conduct a lethal drone strike against an American citizen, a copy of which was obtained Monday by NBC News.

The paper provides the first detailed look at the criteria the Obama administration uses to judge if it can legally kill American citizens traveling abroad without the benefit of due process. The release of the administration's legal rationale comes days before CIA nominee John Brennan is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Panel members, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), have been pressing the administration on the issue for more than a year.
I don't fault the president for this, although it is hard to jibe with his pre-election stances. But I do call out the so-called anti-war left who, if the president had an (R) after his name, would be out protesting in the streets by the tens of thousands.  I'd seriously have more respect for them if they were honest about their intentions.

Update, 2/6/13:  Instapundit encapsulates:
NOBEL PEACE PRIZE UPDATE: Drone Strikes, Waterboarding, and Moral Preening. “So what do you think Senator Barack Obama would have said if President George W. Bush had pursued these policies? And how do you think the press and the political class would have reacted?”
Update #2, 2/11/13Here's a longer list:
Obama's national security policy has continued some of the most controversial moves of the Bush administration. Silence from much of the left.

Update #3, 2/12/13: Even the Brits notice:
The same month, former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith - who provided the legal authorization for the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program - went to the New Republic to celebrate that Obama was not only continuing the core Bush/Cheney approach to terrorism, but even better (from his perspective), was strengthening those policies far beyond what Bush could achieve by transforming Democrats from opponents of those policies into supporters.

And exactly as Goldsmith happily predicted, polls now show that Democrats and even self-identified progressives support policies that they once pretended to loathe now that it is Obama rather than Bush embracing them.

Monday, February 04, 2013

School District Theft

How could any right-thinking person think this is a good idea?
A proposal by the Prince George’s County Board of Education to copyright work created by staff and students for school could mean that a picture drawn by a first-grader, a lesson plan developed by a teacher or an app created by a teen would belong to the school system, not the individual...

The proposal is part of a broader policy the board is reviewing that would provide guidelines for the “use and creation” of materials developed by employees and students. The boards’s staff recommended the policy largely to address the increased use of technology in the classroom.
I would be against this even if it applied only to teachers, who are at least paid, but students? The idea is that we compel them to be there, then take ownership of what they create?

I'm entirely baffled.  I honestly don't see how this could be legal, much less moral.

Taking ownership of teacher material is more of a gray area for me.  It all comes down to what they pay me to do; if I do something on my own time, I own it.  Even if I used it in my classes, I still created it on my own time for my own satisfaction and the school district has no claim to it.
It’s not unusual for a company to hold the rights to an employee’s work, copyright policy experts said. But the Prince George’s policy goes a step further by saying that work created for the school by employees during their own time and using their own materials is the school system’s property.
The old adage of "follow the money" certainly comes into play:
Kevin Welner, a professor and director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, said the proposal appears to be revenue-driven. There is a growing secondary online market for teacher lesson plans, he said.

“I think it’s just the district saying, ‘If there is some brilliant idea that one of our teachers comes up with, we want be in on that. Not only be in on that, but to have it all,’ ” he said.
This guy gets it right:
Peter Jaszi, a law professor with the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic at American University, called the proposal in Prince George’s “sufficiently extreme.”

Jaszi said the policy sends the wrong message to students about respecting copyright. He also questioned whether the policy, as it applies to students, would be legal.

He said there would have to be an agreement between the student and the board to allow the copyright of his or her work. A company or organization cannot impose copyright on “someone by saying it is so,” Jaszi said. “That seems to be the fundamental difficulty with this.”

Cahn said he understands the board’s move regarding an employee’s work, but he called the policy affecting the students “immoral.”

“It’s like they are exploiting the kids,” he said.
It's that very reason why I think it's wrong for teachers to use company makes money off of student work without compensating the students. In short, it's theft.

Hat tip to reader MikeAT for the link.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Real "Gun Nuts" Are Those Who Go Nuts at the Thought of a Firearm

Is there anyone with a sound mind who will try to defend this?
This time, Daniel McClaine, Jr., a freshman at Poston Butte High School in Tan Valley, Arizona, made the mistake of setting a picture of a gun as the desktop background on his school-issued computer.

The picture shows an AK-47 lying on a flag, reports KNXV-TV. The gun isn’t his, McClaine assured the ABC affiliate in Phoenix. He found it on the Internet and liked it, partly because he is interested in serving in the military after graduation...

This incident is the latest in a growing line of extraordinarily strong reactions by school officials to things students have brought to school — or talked about bringing to school — that are not anything like real guns.
At D. Newlin Fell School in Philadelphia, school officials reportedly yelled at a student and then searched her in front of her class after she was found with a paper gun her grandfather had made for her. (RELATED: Paper gun causes panic)

In rural Pennsylvania, a kindergarten girl was suspended for making a “terroristic threat” after she told another girl that she planned to shoot her with a pink Hello Kitty toy gun that bombards targets with soapy bubbles.

At Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School in Maryland, a six-year-old boy was suspended for making the universal kid sign for a gun, pointing at another student and saying “pow.” That boy’s suspension was later lifted and his name cleared. (RELATED: Pow! You’re suspended, kid)

In Sumter, South Carolina, a six-year-old girl was expelled for bringing a clear plastic Airsoft gun that shoots plastic pellet to class for show-and-tell. The expulsion was later revoked.
As the Instapundit alluded to, why aren't the adults practicing the "critical thinking" skills that they like to think they're teaching the children?

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Is It Too Early, Or Too Late, To Say "I Told You So"?

The IPCC gets around to agreeing with me:
The Earth has been getting warmer -- but how much of that heat is due to greenhouse gas emissions and how much is due to natural causes?

A leaked report by a United Nations’ group dedicated to climate studies says that heat from the sun may play a larger role than previously thought.

“[Results] do suggest the possibility of a much larger impact of solar variations on the stratosphere than previously thought, and some studies have suggested that this may lead to significant regional impacts on climate,” reads a draft copy of a major, upcoming report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)...

“Climate science has the problem of trying to explain why we are now in our 17th year without a significant warming trend. As a result, you are seeing many forecasts of warming for this century being ratcheted down,” he said.
All this has happened before, and it will happen again. Earth's climate is cyclical, with or without SUV's.

Why, then, do the True Believers cling to their global warming with religious fervor?  I point out the reasons in this post, among others.

It's All About The Money. That's All It's Ever Been About.

Some teachers hang onto the fiction that their local/state/national teachers unions exist to make their lives better, or perhaps to make the world a better (read: liberal) place.  They can choose to hang onto that belief with religious fervor, pretending that it's so, but we all know it's crap:
The president of Michigan’s largest union is instructing officials to prepare to sue its own members, according to a leaked memo issued after the state adopted right-to-work laws in December.

Steven Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association, circulated an email to local unions officials and staff instructing them to monitor revenue streams in light of the right-to-work laws, which are set to go into effect on March 27, 2013. The law allows workers to opt out of union membership unless they have an existing contract with their employer.

“We will use any legal means at our disposal to collect the dues owed under signed membership forms from any members who withhold dues prior to terminating their membership in August,” Cook wrote.
The tone of the message shocked labor reform activists.

“The level to which the MEA appears to be willing to go after its own members—the same ones whose interest they claim to represent—is amazing,” said Mike Van Beek, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center. “When it comes to their revenue, we know where their priorities stand.”
When you have to compel someone to give you money, there's a good chance your reasons for doing so are illegitimate.

Expelled For Cheating

When I attended West Point there was a single sanction for violating the Honor Code: dismissal. That's been relaxed in recent years, and it came to mind as I read this article about an Ivy League school:
Harvard has forced dozens of students to leave in its largest cheating scandal in memory, the university made clear in summing up the affair on Friday, but it would not address assertions that the blame rested partly with a professor and his teaching assistants.

Harvard would not say how many students had been disciplined for cheating on a take-home final exam given last May in a government class, but the university’s statements indicated that the number forced out was around 70. The class had 279 students, and Harvard administrators said last summer that “nearly half” were suspected of cheating and would have their cases reviewed by the Administrative Board. On Friday, a Harvard dean, Michael D. Smith, wrote in a letter to faculty members and students that, of those cases, “somewhat more than half” had resulted in a student’s being required to withdraw...

The Administrative Board’s Web site says that forced withdrawals usually last two to four semesters, after which a student may return...

While Harvard has not identified the course or the professor involved, they were quickly identified by the implicated students as Introduction to Congress and Matthew B. Platt, an assistant professor of government. Dr. Platt did not respond to messages seeking comment Friday.

In previous years, students called it an easy class with optional attendance and frequent collaboration. But students who took it last spring said that it had suddenly become quite difficult, with tests that were hard to comprehend, so they sought help from the graduate students who ran the class discussion groups and graded assignments. Those teaching fellows, they said, readily advised them on interpreting exam questions.

Administrators said that on final-exam questions, some students supplied identical answers, down to, in some cases, typographical errors, indicating that they had written them together or plagiarized them. But some students claimed that the similarities in their answers were due to sharing notes or sitting in on sessions with the same teaching fellows. The instructions on the take-home exam explicitly prohibited collaboration, but many students said they did not think that included talking with teaching fellows.
This is what I don't understand. If you're smart enough to get into Harvard (assuming you got in on your brains), why would you need to cheat in a class?  Or is Harvard not an "academic" school anymore, but rather merely a marker of wealth or diversity?

Abuse of Power Should Cost

Usually it doesn't, as transgressors get off the hook with "qualified immunity"--it's their official position, not they themselves, that took the illegal steps.  That argument didn't work this time:
There is great news for students from a Georgia jury today, as former Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari has been found liable for $50,000 in damages for unjustly kicking one of his students, Hayden Barnes, out of school for a collage he posted on Facebook...

Rooting For The Underdog

I know nothing about this topic except what I've read in this article, but it sounds believable enough that I'm compelled to root for the underdog.  Go Antigua!
For the rare cases where a member doesn't comply with a ruling, the WTO allows the victorious country to put domestic pressure on a non-compliant member by allowing the prevailing member to penalise an entirely "innocent" sector of the other member's economy.

In this instance the United States has never complied with the judgement in our favour. Further, years of patient negotiating has resulted in nothing but frustration. American officials have stepped up efforts to enforce the very laws ruled invalid by the WTO. The industry that once employed some 4,000 Antiguan people now employs just a couple of hundred...

Just as in the United States, in Antigua the government owes a duty to its citizens to protect and enforce their rights. We have reluctantly decided to suspend intellectual property rights protections for American firms and products. Hopefully, the remedy will work as designed, and American business interests can convince the Obama administration to follow international law.

For why should, for example, the U.S.motion picture industry suffer just so the federal government can continue to protect the monopolies of the big American gambling interests?

A School With A Vocational Focus?

Where do such wacky ideas come from?  I mean, really, the thought of preparing students for actual jobs instead of pretending they're all going to college is just, well, uh...
The energy capital of the world soon might have a high school befitting its title.

Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier on Friday announced preliminary plans to develop a magnet high school for energy, petroleum and technology careers. Much like DeBakey High School for Health Professions, the small campus would help educate and train students for jobs in one of Houston’s most important industries.
Ah, now I know the correct tack to take:

They're preparing kids to make global warming worse! Dirty oil, why can't they make a school advocating solar and wind power?  I'll bet George Bush is involved....

OK, I'm done pretending to be a liberal for the day.  Thanks to reader MikeAT for the link.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Women Marching In The Streets About Senator's Abuse Of Women (or girls)

What?  They're not?  Why not?
SO HOW COME WE’RE NOT HEARING FROM ALL THE LIBERAL WOMEN on the Bob Menendez prostitution scandal? Oh, right, because he’s a Dem. Of course, the real scandal is that he stiffed them on the tab.
Update, 2/2/13: As Instapundit says today:
JIM TREACHER ON FACEBOOK: “The same people who claimed Mitt Romney was waging a ‘War on Women’ are doing everything they can to avoid talking about Bob Menendez.”
You might almost think they're not serious, just partisan or something.