Thursday, April 30, 2015

Free To Good Home

Our campus is a "ranch-style" campus in that it's spread out and every classroom opens to the outdoors, as opposed to being a large building with classrooms opening to interior hallways.  Because it's so spread out we actually have 3 staff rooms, one on each side of campus and one centrally located in the office.

There are some unofficial rules that have developed over the years.  If something is in a cupboard or in a refrigerator, don't touch it if it's not yours.  If it's on a table it's fair game.

Usually that applies to food.  But last night I was going through my closet and I found 4 shirts I hadn't worn in forever,a couple of which still had the dry cleaning tags on them.  I know how to get rid of them!  On my way to the central staff room this morning one of my students stopped me to ask why I was carrying hangers of shirts--a minute later it was one down, three to go.  The remaining three made it to the staff room with a "Free To Good Home" sign, and by the time I went back this afternoon to pick up my paycheck stub there was no sign of any of them!

Does your school operate in a similar manner?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

California's Drought

Depending on which figures you believe, if every single lawn in California were left to die California would save somewhere between 1-2.5% of its water.  I question whether the cure is worse than the disease.

I've cut back on shower times, I never wash my car, I've allowed my backyard to die and I barely water my front yard.  I even put a bucket in the shower while I allow the water to heat up--and I water my orange trees with that water.  Heck, I even brush my teeth out of a cup so as not to leave the water running.  I say all that to demonstrate that I don't support wasting water, and I practice what I preach.

But let's be honest--domestic use is only about 10% of water use in California.  If all homes were to stop using all water, we'd save that 10%.  In other words, these personal cuts and drastic fines that Governor Brown wants to impose are for show only, they don't really do anything to make water available to Californians.  He and his ilk have fought new dams in this state for most of my life--that is why we're running so low on water.  His condescension regarding "your nice little green grass" is Obama-like.  It's typical of the "I know what's best for you" liberal, but it's not good leadership or good stewardship.

Unexcused Absence

Dad's correct here:
"At the marathon, they watched blind runners, runners with prosthetic limbs and debilitating diseases and people running to raise money for great causes run in the most prestigious and historic marathon in the world.

"They also paid tribute to the victims of a senseless act of terrorism and learned that no matter what evil may occur, terrorists cannot deter the American spirit.

"These are things they won't ever truly learn in the classroom."
He's wrong in thinking his family trip should be an excused absence:
The father of twins attending a Pennsylvania elementary school hit back at a principal who informed him in a letter that his children were not excused for missing school earlier this month when they attended the Boston Marathon to cheer him on.

The Philadelphia Magazine reported Tuesday that Mike Rossi, who is a part-time radio personality, was miffed when he received the letter from the principal, Rochelle Marbury, of Rydal Elementary School in Huntington Valley, Pa.
He said he'd take his kids out of school again for similar reasons.

The trip may have provided every single experience he claimed, and then some.  But that doesn't mean his kids' absence should be considered excused; if parental claim were the standard there'd never be an unexcused absence.

He's free to take his kids out of school whenever, and for whatever reason, he thinks appropriate; no one's taking that away from him.  He doesn't get to dictate school policy, though, just because he wants to.

Complete and Total Failure Of The Left

If you claim to believe in results you can't possibly be a leftie--unless burned and hollowed cities are what you support:
In Baltimore, as the National Guard steps in, curfews are imposed, and business owners pick up the pieces from their burned-out, looted stores, let’s not forget why one more American city has been torn apart by racial violence. Blue America has failed at social justice. It has failed at equality. It has failed at accountability. Its competing constituencies are engaged in street battles, and any exploration of “root causes” must necessarily include decades of failed policies — all imposed by steadfastly Democratic mayors and city leaders.

Are the riots caused by the Baltimore Police Department’s “documented history” of abuse? Which party has run Baltimore and allowed its police officers to allegedly run amok? Going deeper, which American political movement lionizes public-employee unions, fiercely protecting them from even the most basic reform? Public-employee unions render employee discipline difficult and often impossible. Jobs are functionally guaranteed for life, and rogue officers can count on the best representation money can buy — courtesy of Blue America.

The accompanying graphic is telling as well:
The left is morally bankrupt.  Witness the invective against Whole Foods for daring to feed National Guardsmen brought in to protect people and property:
Whole Foods was criticized Tuesday for their efforts to support local law enforcement who have been working tirelessly to secure Baltimore after riots took hold of the city Monday evening.

“We teamed up with Whole Foods Market Mt. Washington to make sandwiches for the men and women keeping Baltimore safe. We are so thankful to have them here and they’re pumped for Turkey & Cheese,” one of the supermarket’s local store’s posted online.

Almost immediately, Whole Foods found themselves in a firestorm of controversy.
What they are doing is "unconscionable", they are feeding "the oppressor".

To lefties, feeding those who stop rioting is a bad thing.  Noted.

Update, 5/2/15More evidence to support the thesis:
A few weeks ago, there was an election in Ferguson, Mo., the result of which was to treble the number of African Americans on that unhappy suburb’s city council. This was greeted in some corners with optimism — now, at last, the city’s black residents would have a chance to see to securing their own interests. This optimism flies in the face of evidence near — St. Louis — and far — Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco . . .

St. Louis has not had a Republican mayor since the 1940s, and in its most recent elections for the board of aldermen there was no Republican in the majority of the contests; the city is overwhelmingly Democratic, effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department. Baltimore has seen two Republicans sit in the mayor’s office since the 1920s — and none since the 1960s. Like St. Louis, it is effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department. Philadelphia has not elected a Republican mayor since 1948. The last Republican to be elected mayor of Detroit was congratulated on his victory by President Eisenhower. Atlanta, a city so corrupt that its public schools are organized as a criminal conspiracy against its children, last had a Republican mayor in the 19th century. Its municipal elections are officially nonpartisan, but the last Republican to run in Atlanta’s 13th congressional district did not manage to secure even 30 percent of the vote; Atlanta is effectively a single-party political monopoly from its schools to its police department.

American cities are by and large Democratic-party monopolies, monopolies generally dominated by the so-called progressive wing of the party. The results have been catastrophic, and not only in poor black cities such as Baltimore and Detroit. Money can paper over some of the defects of progressivism in rich, white cities such as Portland and San Francisco, but those are pretty awful places to be non-white and non-rich, too: Blacks make up barely 9 percent of the population in San Francisco, but they represent 40 percent of those arrested for murder, and they are arrested for drug offenses at ten times their share of the population. Criminals make their own choices, sure, but you want to take a look at the racial disparity in educational outcomes and tell me that those low-income nine-year-olds in Wisconsin just need to buck up and bootstrap it? Black urban communities face institutional failure across the board every day. There are people who should be made to answer for that: What has Martin O’Malley to say for himself? What can Ed Rendell say for himself other than that he secured a great deal of investment for the richest square mile in Philadelphia? What has Nancy Pelosi done about the radical racial divide in San Francisco...

Yes, Baltimore seems to have some police problems. But let us be clear about whose fecklessness and dishonesty we are talking about here: No Republican, and certainly no conservative, has left so much as a thumbprint on the public institutions of Baltimore in a generation. Baltimore’s police department is, like Detroit’s economy and Atlanta’s schools, the product of the progressive wing of the Democratic party enabled in no small part by black identity politics. This is entirely a left-wing project, and a Democratic-party project.

When will the Left be held to account for the brutality in Baltimore — brutality for which it bears a measure of responsibility on both sides? There aren’t any Republicans out there cheering on the looters, and there aren’t any Republicans exercising real political power over the police or other municipal institutions in Baltimore. Community-organizer — a wretched term — Adam Jackson declared that in Baltimore “the Democrats and the Republicans have both failed.” Really? Which Republicans? Ulysses S. Grant? Unless I’m reading the charts wrong, the Baltimore city council is 100 percent Democratic.
I'm sure it's more fun to blame Republicans, though. It allows the liberals to avoid the cognitive dissonance that would otherwise make their heads explode.

Update, 5/5/15Thomas Sowell says it like nobody but Thomas Sowell can:
That vision is nowhere more clearly expressed than in attempts to automatically depict whatever social problems exist in ghetto communities as being caused by the sins or negligence of whites, whether racism in general or a “legacy of slavery” in particular. Like most emotionally powerful visions, it is seldom, if ever, subjected to the test of evidence. 
The “legacy of slavery” argument is not just an excuse for inexcusable behavior in the ghettos. In a larger sense, it is an evasion of responsibility for the disastrous consequences of the prevailing social vision of our times, and the political policies based on that vision, over the past half century. 
Anyone who is serious about evidence need only compare black communities as they evolved in the first 100 years after slavery with black communities as they evolved in the first 50 years after the explosive growth of the welfare state, beginning in the 1960s. You would be hard-pressed to find as many ghetto riots prior to the 1960s as we have seen just in the past year, much less in the 50 years since a wave of such riots swept across the country in 1965...

You cannot take any people, of any color, and exempt them from the requirements of civilization — including work, behavioral standards, personal responsibility, and all the other basic things that the clever intelligentsia disdain — without ruinous consequences to them and to society at large. 
 Non-judgmental subsidies of counterproductive lifestyles are treating people as if they were livestock, to be fed and tended by others in a welfare state — and yet expecting them to develop as human beings have developed when facing the challenges of life themselves.
Liberals don't care about results.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Does This Happen In California?

Could this really have happened?
After being suspected of marijuana possession at Serrano Middle School, both girls were sent to Vice Principal Shenita Stevenson’s office. An unidentified male school official was present in the room as well.
According to KTLA 5, Wilson-Pringle’s 13-year-old daughter claimed she was asked to:
 “take off her jacket, take off her shirt, take off her T-shirt, unfasten her bra and pull her bra out — literally pull her bra out from the bottom and shake her breasts.”
Alvarado’s 15-year-old daughter was then apparently patted down by the male official.
Let's review one of my favorite sections of California education code:
ARTICLE 8. Searches by School Employees [49050 - 49051]
  ( Article 8 added by Stats. 1988, Ch. 1102, Sec. 1. )

No school employee shall conduct a search that involves:
(a) Conducting a body cavity search of a pupil manually or with an instrument.
(b) Removing or arranging any or all of the clothing of a pupil to permit a visual inspection of the underclothing, breast, buttocks, or genitalia of the pupil.
(Added by Stats. 1988, Ch. 1102, Sec. 1.)
It's pretty clear to me.

Personalizing Education

As I say about school these days, all roads lead to college--"force fed", in the parlance of this article:
Rob Friedman “learned very little” in high school — except in “small engines” and “auto shop” classes, he writes in Education and the Art of Minibike Maintenance in the Wall Street Journal.

Many of his vocational classmates quit high school, he writes. They were being “force-fed” college-prep courses.

His parents — a doctor and a teacher — pushed him to earn a college degree. Friedman enrolled in junior college, but dropped out to run his car-repair business.

He promises to go back to school when business slowed down, but it never did.

Half our students want an academic education leading to a university degree, Friedman writes. But his auto-shop classmates — and many others — do not.
It's what I cautioned against at the Kids First Roundtable a few weeks ago.

We have to get away from the relatively new ideas that a) everyone must go to college or be a failure, and b) public education should be overwhelmingly academic.

Last week we had some time at the end of one of my classes, so rather than just let the kids socialize I somehow ended up on the topic of credit.  Students were paying rapt attention, and asking important questions, as we talked about loans, credit, credit cards, credit scores, and the like--and every one of these students is college-bound.  You see, we don't have a "consumer finance" course at school, and one certainly wouldn't fit into the Common Core curriculum California has adopted.  Do they even know how to maintain a checkbook register?

The high school I attended had wood shop, metal shop, auto shop, electronics, and construction.  We also had drafting, typing, shorthand, art, music, drama, and who knows what else.  The school at which I teach has some excellent visual and performing arts classes--but only one shop teacher.  There are no other true electives.

And that needs to change.

Compelling Common Core

From National Review Online:
There was a time when Common Core supporters loudly insisted the program — adopted by no fewer than 46 states — was most assuredly not federal, that any allegation that this astounding national uniformity was the result of federal pressure was a nasty, vicious lie. The State Standards Initiative confidently declares as “myth” the assertions that “Common Core State Standards were adopted by states as part of the [federal] Race to the Top grant program” or that the “federal government will take over ownership” of Common Core. The Initiative’s position is clear: “The federal government will not govern the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core was and will remain a state-led effort.” (Emphasis in original.) 
Yet when Common Core is threatened by a large-scale parental revolt, look who moves in to crush the dissenters’ dreams — Arne Duncan, the race-baiting (federal) Secretary of Education. 
 Last week an estimated 184,000 New York students (out of 1.1 million) opted out of this year’s Common Core–mandated English tests, a more than three-fold increase from last year’s 60,000 opt-outs. Large-scale opt-outs threaten the validity of the tests, decreasing the likelihood that they fairly measure overall student achievement. In some schools the opt-out rates have crippled the tests. One Manhattan school reported an 85 percent opt-out rate, and other schools — including one in Park Slope, Brooklyn — have reported opt-out rates exceeding 30 percent.  
With the tests in crisis, Arne Duncan said this week that if the states can’t fix themselves, the federal government will “have an obligation to step in.” This means not just threatening to cut federal funding, but essentially forcing states to withhold their own funds from delinquent schools...

But it wouldn’t be the Obama administration unless it injected race into the debate.
Compulsion and directing from the top.  It's all they know.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Direct Instruction

I have long been a proponent of direct instruction in the classroom.  I operate on the theory that my school district pays me a moderate amount of money on the supposition that I know more about math than the students in my classes and should therefore impart that knowledge to the dumplings, and not expect the students to create the knowledge from thin air:
The Chinese favour a “chalk and talk” approach, whereas countries such as the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand have been moving away from this direct form of teaching to a more collaborative form of learning where students take greater control.

Given China’s success in international tests such as PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS, it seems we have been misguided in abandoning the traditional, teacher-directed method of learning where the teacher spends more time standing at the front of the class, directing learning and controlling classroom activities.

Debates about direct instruction versus inquiry learning have been ongoing for many years. Traditionally, classrooms have been organised with children sitting in rows with the teacher at the front of the room, directing learning and ensuring a disciplined classroom environment. This is known as direct instruction.

Beginning in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, teachers began to experiment with more innovative and experimental styles of teaching. These included basing learning on children’s interests, giving them more control over what happened in the classroom and getting rid of memorising times tables and doing mental arithmetic. This approach is known as inquiry or discovery learning.

Based on this recent study of classrooms in the UK and China and a recent UK report titled What makes great teaching?, there is increasing evidence that these new-age education techniques, where teachers facilitate instead of teach and praise students on the basis that all must be winners, in open classrooms where what children learn is based on their immediate interests, lead to under-performance.

The UK report concludes that many of the approaches adopted in Australian education are counterproductive:
Enthusiasm for discovery learning is not supported by research evidence, which broadly favours direct instruction.
Especially during the early primary school years in areas like English and mathematics, teachers need to be explicit about what they teach and make better use of whole-class teaching.
The Chicoms are doing it right.  I expect opponents of this philosophy to go slippery slope and reductio ad absurdum any moment now.

University Removes "Straight Pride" Posters

I was going to post on this but Joanne (and her commenters) have said everything I would have.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

You Cannot Register Until You Have Undergone Our Indoctrination

Several years ago the University of Delaware required incoming freshmen to complete an indoctrination program.  Yes, it was indoctrination, and as soon as the program became public the university was shamed into stopping it.  Just a few short years ago, such blatant biases were considered more than untoward.  People are now so inured to liberal excess that I wonder if the public will even bat an eyelash at this, given how exhausting it is to constantly fight such tyranny:
All CSUN students registering for the 2015 Fall Semester are being forced to participate in an online, SIMS-style character game about sexual assault before being allowed to claim a seat for any course.

The game, titled “Agent of Change” and designed by feminist activists, does not allow students to complete the game until they have given enough “correct” answers as per the designers’ stated philosophical influences, such as “norms challenging,” “feminist theory,” and “social norms theory.” According to the Agent of Change website, the program helps users “see the connections between these power-based violations, how these problems affect their lives, and what they can do to challenge the cultural norms that help sexual violence flourish.”

If Rape Is So Bad, Why Do You *Not* Want The Legal Process Involved?

Lefties prefer these university kangaroo courts to actual courts because "niceties" like due process and evidence aren't required in the sham courts:

Vice President Joe Biden was in Illinois today talking about campus sexual assault. I agreed with almost everything he said. Why? Because he was discussing things that no one except the worst among us could disagree with.

Having sex with a woman who is passed out is rape. Of course. Beating a woman is wrong. Of course. Rapists should go to jail. Of course.

What Biden didn't discuss was that the issue of campus sexual assault isn't as simple as he makes it seem. The black and white examples he gave are not the norm on college campuses. There is no "discussion," as Biden claimed, about whether it's rape when a woman is passed out.

Where the discussion lies is in he said/she said situations where there's evidence and witnesses that say she was not passed out or incapacitated, and where the accuser appeared to be a willing participant until months after the encounter...

Biden also said that campus rapists shouldn't just be facing expulsion, but "should go to jail." Absolutely. The problem is that if expulsion and jail are possibilities, as they are with crimes, then both accusers and accused should have due process rights. But that might cut down on the number of students suspended or expelled, as evidence and the presumption of innocence are less valued in disciplinary hearings than accusations are.

The legal process goes both ways:

The Columbia University student being called a rapist by members of the media and a woman who has been carrying her mattress around for performance art is suing.

Paul Nungesser was accused by fellow Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz of brutally beating and raping her during a sexual encounter he insists was consensual. Despite a police investigation that failed to charge Nungesser and the university finding him "not responsible," Sulkowicz and her enablers — including Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, have continued to harass Nungesser by calling him a "rapist."

Now, Nungesser is suing his university, its president and trustees and the visual arts professor that allowed the mattress project to go forward.

Nungesser and his attorneys, Nesenoff & Miltenberg LLP, allege that the university was complicit in allowing the harassment to commence, which "significantly damaged, if not effectively destroyed Paul Nungesser's college experience, his reputation, his emotional well-being and his future career prospects."

We'll see how the legal process works on this side of the equation, but I certainly hope he wins. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Free Speech, "Rape Culture", and Soft Minds

If university students cannot bear to hear an opposing opinion, if hearing one induces the vapors, perhaps they're neither strong enough nor mature enough to attend college.

In November last year, anti-rape activists at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, erupted in outrage when it was announced that libertarian feminist Wendy McElroy had been invited to take part in a debate about sexual violence. McElroy, as it happens, was herself the victim of a rape so violent it left her with permanently impaired vision. But she has since incurred the wrath of those who claim to speak for rape victims by vehemently disputing the existence of what radical feminists call ‘rape culture’. Rape culture, McElroy has written, is ‘a lie [which] has been successful in spite of reality’ and is now being used to justify an illiberal and sinister attack on due process. Whether one agrees with this view or not, it ought to be obvious that transparent debate of this issue is not only legitimate, but vital. McElroy’s activist opponents disagreed. The very expression of opinions like hers, they insisted, constitutes an intolerable threat to student safety.

This dismal scenario is now being re-run following an invitation extended by Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians (OCRL) to feminist writer Christina Hoff Sommers. Sommers – a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and author of the 1994 polemic Who Stole Feminism? – also considers ‘rape culture’ to be a dangerous moral panic. And, like McElroy, she believes it must be discredited with the careful marshalling of evidence and argument. Her opponents, on the other hand, while maintaining the truth of their own claims to be self-evident, have preferred to marshal only disgust and invective, the most recent manifestation of which has been an open letter published in the Oberlin Review beneath the maudlin headline ‘A Love Letter To Ourselves’...

Instead, what follows is an example of question begging in its crudest form:

By denying rape culture, [Sommers] is creating exactly the cycle of victim/survivor blame, where victims are responsible for the violence that was forced upon them and the subsequent shame that occurs when survivors share their stories, whose existence she denies. This is how rape culture flourishes. By bringing her to a college campus laden with trauma and sexualised violence and full of victims/survivors, OCRL is choosing to reinforce this climate of denial/blame/shame that ultimately has real-life consequences on the wellbeing of people who have experienced sexualised violence.

Or, in other words, it is dangerous to challenge the existence of rape culture, since to do so inflames rape culture. 
Why would people want to believe such things?  What do they get out of it?

Bright Blue California Can Get Obamacare Right, Right?

Health Reform: Back in 2013, ObamaCare supporters couldn't talk enough about how California was a showcase for how the law would succeed. Isn't it funny that nobody is making such claims any more?

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote a few months into ObamaCare's first open enrollment period that "What we have in California, then, is a proof of concept. Yes, ObamaCare is workable — in fact, done right, it works just fine."

It turns out that California is a proof of concept, but not in the way Krugman thought.

As Californians are discovering to their dismay, their state's ObamaCare program is a nightmare of technological glitches, bureaucratic ineptitude and overpriced plans that under-deliver care.
California can't even get socialism right.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Earth Day?

Dr. Perry reminds us of 18 "spectacularly wrong" predictions from Earth Day 1970 (by the way, we should be living in a Mad Max scenario according to many of them):
In the May 2000 issue of Reason Magazine, award-winning science correspondent Ronald Bailey wrote an excellent article titled “Earth Day, Then and Now” to provide some historical perspective on the 30th anniversary of Earth Day. In that article, Bailey noted that around the time of the first Earth Day, and in the years following, there was a “torrent of apocalyptic predictions” and many of those predictions were featured in his Reason article. Well, it’s now the 45th anniversary of  Earth Day, and a good time to ask the question again that Bailey asked 15 years ago: How accurate were the predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970? The answer: “The prophets of doom were not simply wrong, but spectacularly wrong,” according to Bailey. Here are 18 examples of the spectacularly wrong predictions made around 1970 when the “green holy day” (aka Earth Day) started....
There's plenty of evidence that the earth, and humanity, are doing just fine, at least as far as survival goes:
Since the first Earth Day back in the 1970s, the environmentalists -- those who worship the creation rather than the Creator have issued one false prediction of Armageddon after another and yet despite the fact that their batting average is zero, the media and our schools keep parroting their declinism as if they were oracles not shysters.

Here are the factual realities we should be celebrating on Earth Day.

Talk About Making Lemonade

This seems like a very smart idea:
LiveCode is raising money to teach people with autism to code mobile apps.

The software development company has a goal to raise $350,000 through a 45-day crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The money will pay for 3,000 young autistic adults to take a six-month online training course.

The program is a modified version of LiveCode's Create It product, which teaches people with no coding experience how to create basic apps like messaging, calculators, and clocks. LiveCode says the goal is to give people on the autism spectrum an opportunity to develop job skills.

Autism is a developmental disability caused by a neurological disorder that affects a person's social and communication skills. But most people with autism are highly skilled in other ways. Many are particularly adept at recognizing patterns and paying close attention to detail.

"That can make coding tasks ideal," LiveCode says.

The company launched its Indiegogo fundraiser on Thursday, to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Steely Dan Will Be So Disappointed

Do you remember this awesome song?

FM, no static at all, and it's going away in Norway:
The death knell of FM radio has sounded in Norway, but fortunately for listeners, that doesn't mean radio is going away. Instead, Norway is shifting to Digital Audio Broadcasting, a system already used by half the country, Ars Technica reports.

The country is the world's first "to decide upon an analogue switch-off for all major radio channels," as puts it. The end of FM is due on a rolling basis in 2017.
What will a Norwegian Steely Dan sing about?  DAB, no analog at all...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Progress on the Research Paper

Yesterday I sent the rough draft of my research paper over to one of our exceptional English teachers.  I knew she wouldn't understand the math, I just wanted her to check it for adherence to the MLA formatting rules.

I'm tired of these different formatting rules.  Seriously?  APA, MLA, EIEIO?  Oh, and toss in Chicago for good measure, damn them!

There was much red ink.  I followed some of the formatting rules too slavishly, and she showed me references which stated I didn't have to be so rigid.  She had me rewrite a sentence or two and they now sound much better than they originally did.  I open the paper with a reference to Isaac Newton; her suggestion also to close with a tie-in to Newton was great and I will incorporate that into my final draft.  Mostly, though, she focused on formatting issues and those should be easy to fix--but there were plenty of them.

One thing I will not change, though, is my British style of putting punctuation in quotations.  The American method is "If I have seen further it is by standing on the sholders (sic) of Giants," even though the comma (at least in my mind) doesn't belong to the quotation.  The English method makes more sense to me: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the sholders (sic) of Giants", with the comma outside the quote.  When it comes to commas, I'm a limey.

I Teach Some Artists

We have some very talented artists at our school.  We have an internationally-recognized music program and very high quality art and ceramics programs.  One of my students, who often doodles dragon-type creatures in class, was absent today but sent me the following picture:
It's an amazingly good likeness!

Getting a very cool, completely unexpected gift like this is one of the perks of being a teacher.

Monday, April 20, 2015

What If Teachers Did This?

Is dark humor allowed only for medical personal, or can others jump on the "denigrating others" bandwagon?
Nurses make fun of their dying patients. That’s okay.

The laughter of the ER staff echoed down the hall as Lauren, a nurse in Texas, talked about a patient who had ingested “a thousand ears of corn,” requiring her to repeatedly unclog kernels from the oral-suction tubing. The episode had earned Lauren surprise gifts of corn nuggets from a respiratory therapist and a can of corn from an EMS technician. But not everyone found the story so funny. When Lauren entered a patient’s room nearby, the patient said to her: “I hope you’re not that insensitive when you’re telling your friends about me later.”

Although patients typically don’t overhear it, a surprising amount of backstage joking goes on in hospitals — and the humor can be dark. Doctors and nurses may refer to dying patients as “circling the drain,” “heading to the ECU” (the eternal care unit) or “approaching room temperature.” Some staff members call the geriatric ward “the departure lounge.” Gunshot wound? “Acute lead poisoning.” Patient death? “Celestial transfer.”

“Laypeople would think I’m the most awful human being in the world if they could hear my mouth during a Code Blue,” Lauren told me when I was reporting my new book on nursing. (I agreed to use only her first name, so she could speak freely about behind-the-scenes hospital life.)

Indeed, while people may readily excuse gallows humor among, say, soldiers at war, they may have a lower tolerance for it among health-care professionals. “Derogatory and cynical humour as displayed by medical personnel are forms of verbal abuse, disrespect and the dehumanisation of their patients and themselves,” Johns Hopkins University professor emeritus Ronald Berk contended in the journal Medical Education. “Those individuals who are the most vulnerable and powerless in the clinical environment ... have become the targets of the abuse.”

I strongly disagree. The primary objections to gallows and derogatory humor in hospitals are that it indicates a lack of caring, represents an abuse of power and trust, and may compromise medical care. But in my reporting, I found that nurses who use this humor care deeply about their patients and aren’t interested in abusing their power. Their humor serves to rejuvenate them and bond them to their teams, while helping to produce high-quality work. In other words, the benefits to the staff — and to the patients they heal — outweigh occasional wounded feelings...

That’s not to excuse all humor by health-care professionals. For example, mocking disabilities and using racial, ethnic or other cruel epithets go too far.
I accept dark humor, or any other kind, when it's kept within the group it's intended for, but let's not pretend that this isn't mockery of people in their care.  As the Instapundit said, "Okay, so let me get this straight:  It’s okay to make fun of the dying, but not their ethnicity or race.  Because racism and stuff."

Can teachers get in on this, too?  Can we get an officially-sanctioned Washington Post pass to mock students?  Can we be told it's ok, it's entirely good for morale, and the public should accept it because our important work outweights "occasional wounded feelings"?

Extolling A Holocaust, or Vilifying A Saint?

Pick a side, any side:
The Vatican is mounting a campaign to defend an 18th century Franciscan missionary who will be canonized by Pope Francis in the U.S. against protests from Native Americans who have compared his conversion of natives to genocide.

The Vatican is teaming up with the archdiocese of Los Angeles and the main U.S. seminary in Rome to host a daylong celebration May 2 at the North American College to honor the Rev. Junipero Serra, who introduced Christianity to much of California as he marched north with Spanish conquistadors. Francis will celebrate Mass in his honor.

For the church, Serra was a great evangelizer and a model for today's Hispanics. Many Native Americans, though, say Serra helped wipe out native populations, enslaved converts and spread disease as he brutally imposed Christianity on them. They have staged protests in California and there is a move to remove his statue from the U.S. Capitol.

Vatican officials on Monday defended Serra's record, saying it shows he worked in defense of Native Americans, often intervening to spare them from the more brutal colonial officials.

The Rev. Vincenzo Criscuolo, a Franciscan at the Vatican's saint-making office, said it was important to look at Serra as "a man of his time" who, like many others at the time used corporal punishment as an educational tool.

"It is not to be excluded, but it wasn't 'genocide,' it wasn't a death penalty," he told reporters.
Columbus is such a bad guy these days, but wasn't he, too, just "a man of his time"?

I'll let the Native Americans and Hispanics battle this one out on their own.  I'm not Catholic, (ethnic) Native American, or Hispanic, so I'll just watch this from the sidelines.

Why Should I Pay For Public Universities?

The theory behind publicly-financed higher education is that there's some perceived societal good that comes from having a more educated public.  That view doesn't jibe well with this piece from the major Sacramento newspaper:
UC Davis administrators christened them as “the seven inviolate principles.” They added the extra point later to make “the eight core principles.” For more than a decade, they’ve guided the Aggies into the world of big-time college sports.

Campus officials came up with the principles around the same time the student body in 2003 voted a fee hike on itself, partly to fund the transition to Division I competition. The principles were a promise of sorts the school wouldn’t sell its academic soul to achieve athletic prominence.

Last week, athletic director Terry Tumey left UC Davis to pursue other opportunities, administrators said. Like all such departures, his created an opportunity to inspect a public institution amid transition, which led to an examination of the inviolate cores – and a conclusion that maybe they need to be compromised...

(ESPN broadcaster and UC Davis alum Mike) Bellotti thinks UC Davis has to give way to lower admission standards, if you want more and better players. He also shudders at the principle that coaches are required to teach on the side.

At UC Davis, neither basketball’s Jim Les nor football’s Ron Gould are exempted.

Said Bellotti: “I was astounded.”
I'm astounded that I should pay tax dollars to support a university that would lower admission standards for football players. What, exactly, is the purpose of college, and what, exactly, is the purpose of college football? Why, exactly, should I pay for the latter at all, and for the former if it exists merely to support the latter?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Left's Latest Methods of Stifling Debate

I'll just lift the entire brief post from the Instapundit:
SARAH HOYT: Take Your Nose Off My Fist. ” If your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose, what if I move my nose and rest it on your fist, so you can’t move?” Well, that’s the whole point of “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” and the like.

Two Months From Today

The big summer trip starts two months from today--it seems so far away!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Right To Work

“There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

"To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."
-Thomas Jefferson

Friday, April 17, 2015

Infinity: Why I'm Pursuing The Master's Degree That I Am

Yesterday one of my students, one who almost never engages me in conversation, asked me a question right before class was over:  he wanted to know how "infinity" could have different sizes.

My degree was in applied math, not theory.  I did calculus, differential equations, partial differential equations, separable differential equation, numerical solutions to differential equations, some math modeling (probably with differential equations), etc.  Math history, number theory, set theory, graph theory--those weren't the classes I took in college.

Interestingly, they're covered in varying degrees in the courses I'm taking for my master's degree.  Yes, I could have gone to National University and in 10 months picked up a Master's in Education with an Emphasis on Curriculum and Instruction and gotten a mambo-sized pay raise, but instead I chose to pursue a degree that would make me a better math teacher rather than just a better-paid one.  I can't fault people who did go the National (or similar) route, as they just played by the system's rules, I just want more.

And it's working.  I'm a much better statistics teacher than I was because now I have both a broader and a deeper understanding of what I teach, I can answer the "why" questions and tempt students with a taste of what university math could have in store for them.

So when this student asked me about infinity, I was able to answer his question somewhat.  I told him I'd like to review my notes and to check with me tomorrow, which was today.  Last night I consulted my notes and wrote up 2 pages of commentary and examples to show how the size of the infinity that encompasses the set of natural numbers (1, 2, 3, ...) is the same size as that of the integers or even the rational numbers, but the infinity of the set of real numbers (or even just the numbers between 0 and 1) is larger than the infinity of the natural numbers.  When my instruction was done today, he and I got together and went through the integers and rational numbers but didn't have time to go through the real numbers.  I told him if he couldn't figure out my examples by Monday, we'll meet again then and go through it.

A year ago I wouldn't have been able to answer his question, now I can.  That makes me a better math teacher.  That's why I'm getting the degree I am.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

California's Drought and Its Crazy Governor

This is from The New York Times so you liberals have to believe it:
When Gov. Jerry Brown of California imposed mandatory cutbacks in water use earlier this month in response to a severe drought, he warned that the state was facing an uncertain future. “This is the new normal,” he said, “and we’ll have to learn to cope with it.”

The drought, now in its fourth year, is by many measures the worst since the state began keeping records of temperature and precipitation in the 1800s. And with a population now close to 39 million and a thirsty, $50 billion agricultural industry, California has been affected more by this drought than by any previous one.

But scientists say that in the more ancient past, California and the Southwest occasionally had even worse droughts — so-called megadroughts — that lasted decades. At least in parts of California, in two cases in the last 1,200 years, these dry spells lingered for up to two centuries.

The new normal, scientists say, may in fact be an old one.

Few experts say California is now in the grip of a megadrought, which is loosely defined as one that lasts two decades or longer. But the situation in the state can be seen as part of a larger and longer dry spell that has affected much of the West, Southwest and Plains, although not uniformly. “The California drought is kind of the latest worst place,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona.
What the NYT didn't report is that Brown is on record saying the drought is caused by anthropogenic global warming, a unicorn that doesn't even exist. Additionally, he wants households to cut back on water usage by 25% and recently signed legislation that will impose pretty strong penalties on those who don't do Crazy Ole Uncle Jerry's bidding; that, however, ignores the fact that household water usage in this state runs somewhere between 4 and 10% of all water use.  Agriculture and industry use the lion's share.  That means that even if households cut 25% of water use--we let our lawns die, don't flush toilets after each use, take 5 minute showers, don't fill swimming pools, and in so many other ways act like we're living in the third world--we'd save somewhere between 1 and 2.5% of all the water in California.

I know that in a democracy we get the government we deserve, but come on.

There Is A Rape Culture In The World, But It's Not On US University Campuses

Let's have some direct talk about the foolishness of so-called rape culture:
Gender relations on campus have never been more tenuous, as evidenced by our current obsession with what we’ve carelessly labeled a ‘rape culture.’ Yet among all the rhetoric, no one has thought to ask the obvious: How did we land in such a messy and litigious sexual environment? Do we honestly believe the average college male poses a grave threat to the average college female? That would mean the previous generation of mothers just happened to produce a giant crop of rapists. Either that or something in the water caused men to turn on women en masse.

C’mon. Sex on campus isn’t new—what’s new is the nature of that sex...

There is no rape culture on campus. (Note I didn’t say no one’s ever been raped on campus.) What there is is an awful lot of gray between the sheets. And this phenomenon exists because, for one thing, two people are drunk—which is a problem in itself—and because women are under the impression their libidos are the same as men’s. They are not. When women have sex, it isn’t recreational. It’s significant. That is why women sometimes lie about having been raped. They’re distraught over the previous night’s (or previous year’s) events.
Yes, women lie about rape. (If this upsets you to hear, you have an undeniable bias against men. Your knee-jerk reaction is that men are inherently bad and women are inherently good.) They lie because not many women are able to have sex for fun and walk away unscathed. That’s why they’re almost always drunk when the sexual liaison occurs.

That isn’t victim blaming, nor does it make men blameless. It just means the real phenomenon that exists on campus is that men, who are more sexually charged by nature, are responding to women’s advances and getting burned.
As I say so often when it comes to these liberal memes, you have to wonder why some people choose to believe that something like "rape culture" exists.  What (good) do they get out of such a sick belief?

Are We Getting Our Money's Worth?

California has 11-12% of the US population but look at the tax money collected here:
California is not only the nation’s most populous state but the 800-pound gorilla of taxation, a new Census Bureau report reveals.

During the 2013-14 fiscal year that ended last June, California collected $138.1 billion in taxes of all kinds, 16 percent of all state taxes collected in the nation and more than the next two states, New York and Texas, combined...

The report covered just state taxes, not those levied by cities, counties, school districts and other local governments, such as California’s approximately $50 billion in local property taxes.
Among the worst roads in the country.  Low performing schools.  Excessive regulation.  One-third of all welfare in the country.

Do you see any connections?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Majoring In Ideology

Aggrieved Victims Studies have been around for awhile, now we have "sustainability":
And now there is a new fad rampaging across the college landscape—sustainability. For the last ten years, this mania has been gathering momentum because, like identity studies, sustainability pushes the hot buttons for leftist academics: environmentalism, anti-capitalism, salvation through liberal activism, and the chance to hector all those wrong-thinking people. It’s almost irresistible.

How far the sustainability movement has spread into American higher education is the subject of a deeply researched study by the National Association of Scholars, Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism. “In less than a decade,” write authors Peter Wood (president of NAS) and Rachelle Peterson (Research Associate at NAS), “the campus sustainability movement has gone from a minor thread of campus activism to a master narrative of what ‘liberal education’ should seek to accomplish for students and for society as a whole"...

Traditionally, academic disciplines conveyed a body of knowledge to students: chemistry, biology, history, literature, foreign languages, philosophy, economics and so on. But (and again like identity studies), there is no body of knowledge regarding “sustainability.” It’s just a farrago of beliefs, attitudes, and grievances centering around the general notion that most humans aren’t living the right way and unless we make drastic changes, we’re doomed.

Wood and Peterson argue that sustainability is not really an academic discipline; rather, it’s an “ideology that unites environmental activism, anti-capitalism, and a progressive vision of social justice.” Like a religion (hence the reference to fundamentalism), sustainability never questions its tenets. It posits them and even has “pledges” for students and school officials to adhere to. And the courses that go into the sustainability curriculum are far more like preaching than teaching.

Consider, for example the “Ethics of Eating” course at Cornell, a school that has gone head over heels for sustainability. Students are required to “either defend your eating habits or change them.” It’s advocacy, not intellectual study. There is nothing wrong in trying to convince people to become vegans, but doing so has no connection with the functions of a higher education institution.

Imagine the outcry if a college sponsored a course where students were expected to defend their religion or change it...

Sustainotopians (as the authors call them) don’t want doubts about their creed seeping in. As the report documents, when students dare to question the beliefs that undergird sustainability, they’re often treated in an uncivil, unscholarly fashion. That’s what happens when true believers take charge of education; a “you’re with us or you’re against us” mindset shoves aside reflective inquiry and discussion.

It’s bad enough that there are openly doctrinaire sustainability courses, but at least students can avoid them. Frequently, however, sustainability precepts are smuggled into other courses, where, Wood and Peterson write, “the unsuspecting student meets it not as a tenet to be discussed, but as a baseline assumption on which all subsequent scholarship and dialogue rests"...

The report concludes with ten recommendations for educational institutions that don’t want to make a Faustian bargain with the sustainability crusaders....
Well worth the time to read.

Get Rid Of The High School Exit Exam?

Ah, the exit exam.  Why not just fold it into the other standardized testing we do, and hence maybe make it so that students have some reason to put effort into these tests?
Thirteen years after ushering in what was then considered a cutting-edge readiness tool, California is set to join a handful of states that have decided the high school exit exam isn’t useful.

Legislation that would suspend the California High School Exit Exam beginning with the class of 2017 is set for its first public hearing this week.

A number of other states have recently taken the same action largely because of a growing recognition that there’s little data supporting the validity of some exit exams and yet thousands of students each year are denied a diploma based on scores from the assessments.
I'll be honest, I'm not sure that anyone deserves a diploma who couldn't pass California's test.

If You're Looking For "The Patriarchy", You're Looking For An Excuse

Let's beat this horse until it's dead, dead, dead:

Women earn just 77 or 78 cents to the dollar that men earn.

That line is thrown around so often it must be true, right? As with most outrageous statistics, the shock disappears when you do even a bit of research into its background.

I first heard the claim when I was about 10 years old. My friend's mom told us, apropos of nothing, that men earn more than women simply for being men. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but looking back I see how absurd such a suggestion was. For that to be true, there would be no point to hiring men at all. Employers could just hire all women and cut salary costs by 25 percent...

I don't know how many times this myth has to be busted before people stop repeating it, but here we go again.

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler has a great takedown of the myth, giving "two Pinocchios" to those who continue to push it as a means of telling women they're perpetual victims of discrimination. One important factor that Kessler points out is that women often choose lower-paying fields. He includes two lists, the first showing that nine of the 10 highest-paying fields are dominated by men (the second highest-paying profession, pharmaceutical sciences, has slightly more women than men). The second list shows that nine of the 10 lowest-paying fields are dominated by women (theology and religious vocations has vastly more men than women).

Proponents of the wage-gap myth like to claim that the patriarchy pushes women into those less lucrative careers. That's a sad commentary on their way of thinking — their notion that women are simply too dumb or weak to think for themselves and choose the career they actually want. I think the numbers show that women are choosing the careers they prefer but those careers just aren't as lucrative as those chosen by men. There's nothing wrong with that. Do what makes you happy.

You have to wonder what kind of person wants to believe this myth is true, and why they want it to be true.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How Many More Hits Can They Take?

Salvo after salvo gets fired:
Bain v. CTA is the latest lawsuit to challenge teacher union hegemony.

For the third time in three years, a lawsuit has been filed in California that challenges the way the teachers unions do business. In May 2012, eight California public school children filed Vergara et al v. the State of California et al in an attempt to “strike down outdated state laws that prevent the recruitment, support and retention of effective teachers.” Realizing that some their most cherished work rules were in jeopardy, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) chose to join the case as defendants in May 2013.

But three days before they signed on to Vergara, the unions were targeted again. On April 29, 2013, the Center for Individual Rights filed suit on behalf of ten California teachers against CTA and the National Education Association (NEA). The Friedrichs case challenges the constitutionality of California’s agency shop law, which forces public school educators to pay dues to a teachers union whether they want to or not.

Now in April 2015, the teachers unions are facing yet another rebellion by some of its members. Bain et al v. CTA et al, a lawsuit brought by StudentsFirst, a Sacramento-based activist outfit founded by Michelle Rhee, was filed on behalf of four public school teachers in federal court in California. It challenges a union rule concerning members who refuse to pay the political portion of their dues. Contrary to what many believe, teachers are not forced to join a union as a condition of employment in California, but they are forced to pay dues. Most pay the full share, typically over $1,000 a year, but some opt out of paying the political or “non-chargeable” part, which brings their yearly outlay down to about $600. However, to become “agency fee payers,” those teachers must resign from the union and relinquish most perks they had by being full dues-paying members. And this is at the heart of Bain. As EdSource’s John Fensterwald writes,

Although paying this portion is optional, the teachers charge that the unions punish those who choose not to pay it by kicking them out of the union and denying them additional economic benefits, such as better disability and life insurance policies. The unions provide those benefits only to members. This coercion, the teachers argue, violates their constitutional right to free speech. About one in 10 teachers in California have opted out of paying the portion of dues supporting politicking and lobbying.

In addition to losing various types of insurance, the affected teachers also give up the right to vote for their union rep or their contract, the chance to sit on certain school committees, legal representation in cases of employment disputes, death and dismemberment compensation, disaster relief, representation at dismissal hearings and many other benefits.

The question becomes, “Why should a teacher lose a whole array of perks just because they refuse to pay the third or so (it varies by district) of their union dues that go to political causes?
Why, indeed?

Another Sicko

Is it just me, or do others also believe that you cannot simultaneously support this type of living arrangement and believe that so-called rape culture exists in our universities?
Police say a student at the University of California at Berkeley has been arrested and charged with using his cell phone to secretly record a fellow student in a dormitory bathroom.

UC Berkeley Police said Monday 20-year-old Alfredo Mendez has been charged by Alameda County prosecutors with invading a person's privacy, a misdemeanor.

Police say the 20-year-old student was arrested Thursday following a complaint by a UC Berkeley female student who saw him using his cell phone to record inside a co-ed restroom she was using.

The 19-year-old student told police she noticed a cell phone "extended underneath the stall partition with the camera facing up."

Police say she exited the stall and waited for the suspect to leave the adjacent stall. When the male suspect exited, the victim recognized the suspect as a resident on their floor.   link

Monday, April 13, 2015

Math Is Harrrrrrrrrrd

It must be hard for Obamacare supporters:
If you are masochistic enough to read the “reporting” of the legacy media on Obamacare, you will have noticed a spate of recent stories with titles like the following from CNBC: “Health spending post-Obamacare seen $2.5 trillion lower.” This headline is not only awkwardly worded. It is, like the article over which it appears, misleading. It misrepresents a new study from the left-leaning Urban Institute concerning projected health care spending in a way that suggests the nation has saved enormous amounts of money thanks to the “Affordable Care Act.”

This is absurd, of course, but it highlights an underappreciated element of the health care reform debate—the adversarial relationship that exists between Obamacare’s partisans in the press and basic statistics. This running gun battle between math and the media manifests itself in two ways, depending on the limitations of individual journalists: Most just can’t handle the numbers, and are thus easily taken in by specious studies and grifters like Jonathan Gruber. A far smaller group can manage the math but must ignore its implications in order to support “reform.”
Lies, damned lies, and statistics?

Clearly The Best Use of Pentagon Money

What is our military now, a uniformed version of the late great Antioch College?
An issue that could “dramatically affect” the mission of the United States Armed Forces is telling soldiers when it is okay to kiss a girl.

The Air Force is the latest branch to employ the services of Mike Domitrz, a speaker and author known for his “May I Kiss You?” training session, to teach servicemembers about consent and sexual assault prevention.

On Thursday the Air Force awarded Domitrz’s company, the Date Safe Project, $10,000 for three training sessions.

Domitrz’s 60 to 90 minute sessions offer a “unique combination of humor and dramatic story telling,” the Air Force said in an attachment detailing the contract terms.

“The ‘May I Kiss You’ presentation minimizes defensiveness and promotes an open discussion of an often silent topic,” the Air Force said.  link
I'm offended by the sexism inherent in the claim that someone would only want to kiss a girl. And I'm offended at the demeaning term "girl".

Yes, there's a lot about this that offends me and my common sense.

It Was The Standardized Test That Got Him In Trouble

My guess is that even using the teacher's not-so-secure password wouldn't get the adult felony charge were it not for the state test on the teacher's computer:
A Florida eighth-grader has been arrested on a felony charge after playing a prank on a teacher he didn't like, officials said Sunday.

Authorities say 14-year-old Domanik Green broke into a school computer at the Paul R. Smith Middle School in Holiday and changed the background of the teacher’s computer to one that displayed an image of two men kissing, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told reporters Thursday there was nothing amusing about what Green did. He said the boy hacked into a computer containing the 2014 standardized test Florida administers to students in all its public schools.

“Even though some might say this is just a teenage prank, who knows what this teenager might have done,” he said.
Looks like it was last year's test.  What's it doing on the teacher's computer?  Lots of interesting questions here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Teaching Math in the 21st Century

Barry Garelick has written a book with that title, an excerpt of which can be downloaded here.  Here's the opening:
This book takes place in the 21st century and a school district in California. Like many
districts in the U.S., it is married to the groupthink-inspired conception known as 21st
century learning. Those who have fallen under the spell of this idea believe that
today’s students live in the digital world where any information can be Googled, and
facts are not as important as “learning how to learn”. It is a brave new world in which
students must collaborate, be creative, work as a team and construct new meanings.
Teaching subjects such as math, history, science and English (now called Language
Arts) as separate disciplines is an outmoded concept; they should be blended into an
integrated discipline.

In the world of 21st century learning, one prevailing belief is that procedures don’t
stick; they are forgotten. Habits, however, are forever. Students are to be taught
“learning skills”, “critical and higher order thinking” and “habits of mind” in order to
prepare for jobs that have not yet been created.

In short, it is an educational orientation that I and others like me 1) do not believe in
and 2) find ourselves immersed in. It was the underlying belief system in which I had
to work during two long-term sub assignments which are the subject of the book you
are about to read.
I think I'm going to like this book.

Update, 4/18/15:  The Amazon link.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

How To Make This Happen?

Gisela Aviles is a 49-year-old real estate agent in Corona. Henry Yoshikawa is a 71-year-old former administrator for a tiny school district in Placer County. And Arianna Rivera is a 23-year-old bank teller in East Los Angeles.

Although strikingly different, they are among an overwhelming majority of California voters who shared remarkably similar views about teachers in a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. They agree that teachers receive tenure much too quickly. And they believe that performance should matter more than seniority when teachers are laid off.

They also favor making it easier to fire instructors — although, at the same time, they think highly of teachers and want more resources for public schools that serve disadvantaged children. link
How do you make such changes when the capitol is so beholden to the teachers union, which is against such changes?  Students Matter certainly has a role to play.

The Gods of Irony Smile Upon Us

Five of our school's math teachers decided not to attend the last 3 hours of the unconscious bias training a few weeks ago, so this past Thursday we met for an hour to review the statistics standards that are imbedded in the Common Core Integrated Math 1, 2, and 3 courses that our district is switching to next year.  Believe it or not, standard deviation is mentioned in the Integrated 1 standards--freshman math!  To be honest, we're not sure exactly what level of detail we're supposed to address in these standards, but it's best anyway if teachers know significantly more about a subject than merely what they're supposed to teach, so we spent our first hour (two more to go!) reviewing introductory statistics.

One of the foundational concepts in inferential statistics is the difference between a population and a sample.  If you want to learn something about a population, you take a sample from it and infer about the population from that sample.  The formulas for calculating the standard deviations of a population and a sample are slightly different; if we were to use the "population" formula for a "sample", that sample would always underestimate the true standard deviation.  Therefore the formula has to be tweaked a little bit, the value inflated, so that the sample standard deviation becomes a good predictor of the population standard deviation.

This tweaking makes the sample standard deviation what is known as an unbiased estimator for the population standard deviation.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Delicate Flowers of Michigan

Have you heard?

The University of Michigan was supposed to show the movie American Sniper, but some of the tender little dears thought the movie too violent, too anti-Muslim, too conservative!  The decision was made, the movie would not be shown.  In its place, the children's movie Paddington would be shown.

The movie is back on, so you might think more rational heads had prevailed.  Not so much.  There was a compromise:
Now comes news that, no, no, the university—generally regarded as one an outstanding academic institution—will now show American Sniper as planned. Via
University Vice President for Student Life E. Royster Harper called the decision to cancel the Friday night showing a "mistake" in a statement.
"The initial decision to cancel the movie was not consistent with the high value the University of Michigan places on freedom of expression and our respect for the right of students to make their own choices in such matters," Harper said. "The movie will be shown at the originally scheduled time and location."
And for all the students who wanted to see Paddington? They too will be made whole:
Harper added that the university will also screen the family-friendly film "Paddington" as an alternative.
Ohio State fans should bring teddy bears to the next game against Michigan. They deserve it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

What Were They Doing?

My research paper is on John Napier and the invention of logarithms.  I know that his motivation for inventing logs was to simplify some of the trigonometric calculations being done in astronomy, but while everyone says that, I can find no example of such a problem.  What kinds of problems were astronomers solving?  What calculations were they doing circa 1595?  And how the hell did they even do trigonometry the way they did, where the "sine" of a 60 degree angle on a circle of radius=100 is entirely different from the "sine" of a 60 degree angle on a circle of radius=1000?

It seems silly to try to write a paper on a topic and not be able to have a single example problem, but that is the quandary in which I find myself.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

For The Math Lovers Out There

The city of Koenigsburg, which spanned two sides of a river as well as an island in the river and land at the fork of the river, was connected by 7 bridges.  The locals used to try to cross each bridge exactly once and return to where they started.  This was the Koenigsburg Bridge Problem, and over 2 centuries ago Leonhard Euler, one of the best mathematicians of all time, showed why it couldn't be done and what bridges would have to be built in order for it to be able to be done. 

I guess those Wall Street writers at Business Insider think about more than just money:
Business Insider is headquartered in a city that also has a number of bridges, and so we were curious as to whether a tour of the bridges of New York City, going over each bridge exactly once, was possible.
Why does anyone care?
This particular puzzle is, at a glance, mostly just a fun observation, whose only application is for particularly fastidious marathon runners. However, it holds an important place in the history of mathematics. Euler's writings on the Bridges of Koenigsburg problem represented some of the first work in what would become the modern mathematical areas of topology and graph theory...

Graph theory is enormously useful in studying networks. Power grids, computer networks, and relationships between people on social networking sites — to give just a few examples — can all be modeled by different types of graphs, and results from graph theory are essential to understanding and managing these complex systems.
So yeah, pretty cool stuff.

2 Army Stories

I, like everyone else, have to wait until next week to find out what Army's new "branding" looks like.  The stretched "A" logo, and the "Black Knights" team names, have never settled well with me.  Like plenty of commenters on Facebook, though, I'd settle for a football team that could win a few seasons, especially against Navy.

The second story relates to "the" army, not West Point.  Did you know that the army's helicopters are all named after Native American tribes?  Iriquois (the official name for the Huey), Kiowa, Blackhawk, Apache, et. al. (but not the Cobra), they're named after Native Americans.  Isn't co-opting Native Americans a bad thing, a la the "tomahawk chop" in Atlanta?  Where is the line to be drawn?

For this author, the line is drawn after helicopter names but before sports teams:
But Waxman, the managing editor of Boston Review, created a false equivalence between a football team named after a term generally considered to be a racial slur—“redskin”—and products named after the proper names for Native American tribes—Apache, Kiowa, etc.

A quick tip for op-ed writers. For something to be offensive, people generally need to be, well, offended in the first place. Yet notably absent from Waxman’s missive are any quotes from irate Native American leaders—a particularly glaring omission.
I'm not buying it.  I recall issues with a certain university and the Sioux, and some Sioux claimed to be offended and plenty of others said they weren't.  Boom, the name was deemed offensive.

People don't name their sports teams after something they detest.  They name them, in most cases, after something they like (Dolphins, 49ers, Pelicans, Rockies) or something that inspires fear or respect (Raiders, Buccaneers, Bears, Broncos, Patriots, Chiefs, Warriors, Kings, Bulls).

I'm waiting for sober Irish-Americans to demand Notre Dame change its mascot, or non-elitists to demand San Francisco State change its mascot.

West Point is changing away from Black Knights, I'm just waiting for someone to call the move racist.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Back To School After Spring Break

No one wanted to be back at school today, including me.  The trees and flowers are starting to bloom and pretty soon it'll be time to use "senioritis" as an excuse.  Not to worry, I have two memes for the occasion:

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Will It Be A "Non-Apology" Apology?

You know those non-apologies that go something like, "I apologize if you were offended by what I said", making you the central person (after all, you were offended) and the offending person somewhat of an ancillary character in the story?  It'll be interesting to see what we get here in a few moments:
Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of Rolling Stone's much-maligned story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia, plans to formally apologize for her mistakes, according to CNN's Brian Stetler.

Erdely stopped responding to questions and interview requests at the beginning of December, as reporters began to call into question the details of the story. (Richard Bradley and I were the first to do so.) Since then, the story has completely collapsed and was essentially confirmed as false by The Washington Post and the Charlottesville police department...

As The Daily Caller notes, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism will also release its report on what went wrong tonight at 8 p.m. EDT. A press conference will be held tomorrow.
No one at Rolling Stone or UVA has yet been fired for this blood libel.

UpdateThe apology is better than I expected, but still no heads have rolled:
Rolling Stone magazine on Sunday night apologized and officially retracted its discredited article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, and an independent review said the article may cast doubt on future rape accusations.

The review, undertaken at Rolling Stone's request, presented a broad indictment of the magazine's handling of a story that had horrified readers, unleashed widespread protests and sparked a national discussion about sexual assaults on college campuses.

The report from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism on the editorial process called the article a "story of journalistic failure that was avoidable."
Here's a slightly more "liberal" view of the findings:
An institutional failure at Rolling Stone resulted in a deeply flawed article about a purported gang rape at the University of Virginia, according to an outside review by Columbia Journalism School professors.

The review, published Sunday night, says the failures were sweeping and "may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations."

At the same time the review came out, Rolling Stone officially retracted the story and said sorry. But the publisher, Jann Wenner, has decided not to fire anyone on staff. He believes the missteps were unintentional, not purposefully deceitful.

One thing is clear: All of this could have been avoided if the writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had made more phone calls.
CNN could have been a little more succinct in its narrative had it replaced the entire article with "nothing to see here, move right along."  There was a horrific crime committed, and it wasn't by fraternity brothers at UVA.  That might explain the following sentences:
The fraternity is considering suing Rolling Stone; a spokesman said the frat may have more to say on Monday.
The specter of legal action may explain why Columbia says "Erdely and the editors involved declined to answer questions about the specifics of the legal review" of the story, "citing instructions from the magazine's outside counsel."
I'd love to see the fraternity own Rolling Stone--in the literal sense, not the colloquial one--after a lawsuit.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Cultural Descendants of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement

What would those Berkeleyites of yesteryear think about today's universities and university students?
Students at Dixie State University have filed a lawsuit against their school after administrators refused to approve their request to distribute flyers to promote their libertarian club, hand outs that rebuked big government by playfully lampooning George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Campus officials denied the flyers on the grounds that they violated school policy, which does not allow students to disparage others, according to the lawsuit. But the students, members of Young Americans for Liberty, allege their free speech rights have been infringed, and a leader of the group said in an interview administrators are “silencing and marginalizing” them.

The lawsuit also cites an incident in which a security guard for the Utah campus actively monitored the group’s “free speech wall” display for so-called hate speech.
The irony of "free speech zones" is that, almost by definition, the rest of the campus is not a free speech zone.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Kids First Roundtable

Earlier this week I was one of a dozen or so people who participated in a roundtable discussion about the possible future of public education in California.  I don't intend to quote the people who attended--that's not the point at all--but I want to give an overall impression of what occurred.

As you can see at the link above, the meeting was hosted by Students Matter, the organization responsible for bringing the Vergara case which ruled that California's tenure and last-in-first-out layoff practices violate the state constitution.  Ben Austin of Students Matter, and former congressman George Miller, led the discussion and took questions and comments from a group of 10 policy advisors, community leaders, and (three) teachers.  The first thing I'd like to point out is who was not there, either by design or by fortune:  the CTA.

Ben started off, and his opening remarks left no doubt as to his liberal bona fides--lots of "white privilege" talk when what he really meant was that he can afford to live in a good area and send his daughter to a high-performing school.  He discussed the schools that poor kids attend, how they get the most inexperienced teachers and have the highest teacher turnover because of last-in-first-out employment practices.  He couched his vision of the end of tenure, however that turns out in practice, in terms of civil rights for students.

Congressman Miller has a long history of interest in education, identifying himself as one of the 4 principal co-authors of the No Child Left Behind Act.  No conservative, though, Miller seeks to ensure that every child has competent teachers and has a chance at an education that will ensure opportunity in the future, not a sentence to yet another generation of poverty.

Let there be no doubt.  Both of these men are flaming liberals.  They've reached "my" views, but via a distinctly leftward path.  Via their own routes they have come to the same conclusions I have about certain aspects of education in California, and in one of my first comments I pointed out exactly that.  It was a "reach across the aisle" moment.

The conversation started being about adults--how do we attract and keep good teachers for poor kids, how pay disparities among nearby districts and drain teachers from the lower paying area--but eventually we got back to talking about students, what they need, and how to provide it.

I was insistent that whatever plan they propose--and the idea right now is for Students Matter to propose a plan in the fall--it must have overwhelming support.  Parents, teachers, politicians, all must support it overwhelmingly.  It cannot have unpopular components that can only be passed if my faction gets 51% and gets to shove it down the throats of the other 49%, and after the next election the other faction gets 51% and not only reverses the original course but does something else ideological.  Education in this state is mired in politics, and one way to get past that, at least part of the way, is to temper ideological wants and desires and genuinely try to create a consensus about what we want public education to be, what we want students to have, and how we want to provide it to them.  Yes, I know that that doesn't leave sufficient opportunities for graft or self-aggrandizement for the guys in the big white building downtown, but if we're rethinking what we want education to be, we should at least try for what's right.

When I decided to attend this meeting I went with one message I wanted to convey.  I thought, if I could only state one idea, what would it be?  My purpose for attending was to share the following:  that while every student should have a quality education that will allow them the opportunity to attend college,  we must get away from the notion that every child must attend college.  Every high school class does not have to be "academic", and raising graduation requirements to be the entrance requirements for our state universities will only water down course content and do the exact opposite of providing a good education for all students.  We must banish the banal (and totally nonsensical) phrase "college- and career-ready" from the educational lexicon, as if those two are in any way necessarily equal.  Not everyone wants or needs to go to college, and what kind of people are we who essentially tell non-college-bound students, "The very first thing you've done as an adult identifies you as a failure."  That cannot be the goal of our education system, whatever it becomes!  If you believe that all children are unique, you cannot simultaneously believe that all children must travel exactly the same road for 12 years.  We must do more than shove facts into their heads in high school; we must offer them opportunities to pursue their own interests, to develop the inquisitive "lifelong learner" state of mind by allowing them to trade some "academics" for valuable trade, artistic, or philosophical pursuits.  We have to provide a strong foundational education for everyone, but allow it to be tailored somewhat as the students proceed through high school.  Let's not try to force even the square student pegs into the round "college prep" hole.

That was the message I wanted to convey.

There was much commentary from all the participants, most of which I agreed with.  It was intelligent, it was respectful, it was forward-thinking.  I'm glad to have been a part of it, and encourage interested persons to participate in future roundtables to be held in San Diego, LA, Fresno, and the Bay Area.