Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Trip Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:  Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.  The Faeroe Islands, Finland, and Iceland would be included in a list of Nordic lands, but not Scandinavian.

Today's question is:  which "seasonal" palace is part of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Trip Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:  459m, or 1506'.

Today's question is:  which are the Scandinavian countries?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Trip Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:  Finland.

Today's question is:  within 10%, how deep is the deepest point in the Baltic Sea?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Trip Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:  Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

Today's question is:  in which of the countries on my itinerary were these ships built?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Trip Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:  Tallinn, Estonia, and Helsinki, Finland.

Great Britain uses the pound sterling.
Denmark uses the krone.
Russia uses the ruble.
Sweden uses the krona.

Today's question is: which Royal Caribbean ships are the largest cruise ships in the world?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trip Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:  Helsinki.

Today's question is:  at which of those ports is the euro the official currency?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Trip Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:  Southampton.

Today's question is: my cruise leaves from near London with stops in Copenhagen, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, and Skagen (Denmark).  Which of these is the furthest north?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trip Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:  I'm writing this post on Sunday, June 14, and scheduling it to appear on June 23.  As of close of business last Friday the 12th, $1.56 equaled one pound.  You can get the most recent exchange rate here.

Today's question is:  my ship leaves port today--Harwich, a little north and east of London.  From which English port did the Titanic and the Mayflower set sail on their famous voyages?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Trip Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:  1999.

Today's question is:  within 10 cents, what is the US$-to-British pounds exchange rate?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sights Around Greater London

posted at 10:10 pm local time

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

My dad and I, 1967.

My dad, my son, and I, 2013.

Trip Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:  David Cameron.

Today's question is:  in theory we'll ride the London Eye today.  In what year did it open?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Trip Trivia

If all goes according to plan, I should be in London today.  Yay me!

Today's trivia question:  who is the current Prime Minister of Great Britain?

Friday, June 19, 2015

I'm Off!

I've scheduled this post to appear at the time my flight leaves Sacramento.  Our initial destination is London, followed by a Baltic cruise, followed by Reykjavik (I'm finally getting there!).  I won't have internet much of the time, but don't despair--I've scheduled trivia questions each day!  Additionally, I'll endeavor to post a picture or two when I can, as I'll be taking the Chromebook with me.  It might take days for me to be able to post your comments (answers to trivia questions--looking up the answers is no fun!) so don't be surprised if they don't show up right away.

My house and dog are in good hands, I'm off to Northern Europe!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Trademarking a President

Is it just me, or does this seem like a frivolous, harassing move by the Roseville school and its attorney?
When Matthew Krol, board president for the new John Adams High School in Colorado, opened the trademark demand letter from an attorney in Sacramento, he was baffled.

The letter from a lawyer representing the John Adams Academy in Roseville directed the Littleton, Colo. high school to choose another name or face the possibility of legal action.

“I just couldn’t believe it. It would be different if we had a name that was geographic, like Grand Canyon School,” said Krol. “We’re talking about a president of the United States and a founding father of our country.

“You look around, and a lot of schools have the name of a founding father,” he said, noting that he found nearly two dozen schools named after the second U.S. president in an internet search. “I just can’t see how somebody could trademark a president of the United States"...

Most of the nearly two dozen John Adams school namesakes that Krol found online have been using the name for years. Trademark attorneys say schools anywhere in the country that have been using their names longer than the school holding the trademark registration, known as common-law rights, can continue doing so.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article24889306.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article24889306.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

College Rapes

What's almost as disgusting as rape itself are the people who lie about rape in order to advance their own agendas:
A new report on sexual assault released today by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officially puts to bed the bogus statistic that one in five women on college campuses are victims of sexual assault. In fact, non-students are 25 percent more likely to be victims of sexual assault than students, according to the data. And the real number of assault victims is several orders of magnitude lower than one-in-five.

The full study, which was published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division within DOJ, found that rather than one in five female college students becoming victims of sexual assault, the actual rate is 6.1 per 1,000 students, or 0.61 percent (instead of 1-in-5, the real number is 0.03-in-5). For non-students, the rate of sexual assault is 7.6 per 1,000 people.

The higher rate of victimization among non-students is important due in large part to recent accusations that U.S. colleges and universities are hotbeds of so-called “rape culture,” where sexual assault is endemic, and administrators and other students are happy to look the other way.
When the facts contradict your expectations, believe the facts.

Is This *Really* What Unions Are For?

If this actually happened I wonder if this would be a nonchargeable expense--in other words, if I could get the cost of this refunded to me as an agency fee payer since it doesn't relate to pay, benefits, working conditions, or labor organizing:
Back in April a proposal was made by representatives to the California Teachers Association State Council that the union “offer free information and testing for Sexually Transmitted Diseases and the prevention thereof.”

Alas, CTA’s board of directors had time to deliberate on the idea and decided not to pursue it “because there are other venues to achieve the same results.”

Impending Teacher Shortage?

When I started teaching 18 years ago I was told there was an impending teacher shortage.  Every couple of years someone tosses that hand grenade into the camp circle and everyone scrambles--but the shortage never happens.  How can that be?

EIA is on the case:
California Teacher Retirements Down 8%. It’s hopeless, I’m sure, but let’s see if we can head off the next stampede of California teacher shortage hysteria at the pass.

Thanks to the National Center for Education Statistics, we now know that teacher turnover rates shouldn’t be giving us the vapors anymore. With the people currently working in K-12 mostly staying put, we only have to worry about the two ends of the pipeline: new recruits and retirees.

A study by the National Council on Teacher Quality definitively showed an oversupply of new elementary teacher candidates for the available openings. However, California was one of the few states producing fewer new teachers than demand dictated.

Good news, though. NCTQ’s numbers were for 2012-13, and new data from the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) show teacher retirements fell from a high of 11,645 in 2013 to 10,736 last year – a drop of nearly 8 percent.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing issued 11,500 new teaching licenses last year. All other factors being equal, supply and demand should be pretty close, especially considering there is a cohort of teachers laid off during the recession years available to return to work.
Facts aren't as fun as watching Chicken Little run around like his head's been cut off, but they have the advantage of being real.

There is some bad news, though:
Even with a rosier economic picture, the state’s teacher pension system is only 68.5% funded. It was 85% funded a mere 10 years ago.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

AP US History

I'm not saying that US history should be taught in a sanitized, "onward and upward" style where everything is great and getting even better.  I believe in teaching history in the "warts and all" style.  Unfortunately, some people seem to focus on the "warts" and leave out the "and all":
Dozens of historians have sent the influential College Board back to the drawing board, after determining that its U.S. history exam for university-bound high schoolers is too heavy on social politics and too light on key events in America’s past.

While the College Board can’t directly dictate what is taught in high school Advanced Placement classes, by writing the test that half a million college-bound students take each year it strongly influences the curriculum crafted by teachers. It also publishes a guide to what will be on the test, which was what raised alarms with 55 historians who signed onto a letter earlier this month criticizing the board.

“Lost in the new guidelines is the central role of the American Founders in inspiring our country,” Harvard University history professor Harvey Mansfield, who signed the letter, told FoxNews.com.

“Students are not led to the idea that America is an experiment in self-government, that all its struggles and troubles, its drama and heroes, come back to its great ambition to make freedom and equality a reality.

“Instead of this,” Mansfield said, “the guidelines present America as just another society, wandering, mistaken, prejudiced and boring.”

Students Are Not "Customers"

What this post says about college can equally be applied to K-12:
American Universities and a former president of Cornell and the University of Iowa, in the Washington Post.
Unlike a car, college requires the “buyer” to do most of the work to obtain its value.

. . . The courses the student decides to take (and not take), the amount of work the student does, the intellectual curiosity the student exhibits, her participation in class, his focus and determination — all contribute far more to her educational “outcome” than the college’s overall curriculum, much less its amenities and social life. Yet most public discussion of higher ed today pretends that students simply receive their education from colleges the way a person walks out of Best Buy with a television.
When college students see themselves as consumers, they “feel entitled to classes that do not push them too hard, to high grades and to material that does not challenge their assumptions or make them uncomfortable, writes Rawlings.
So let’s acknowledge that college is not a commodity. It’s a challenging engagement in which both parties have to take an active and risk-taking role if its potential value is to be realized.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mainstream Journalists

At my school, statistics is a class that is for the most part reserved for seniors--and the vast majority of those students who take it are doing so only because they have passed Algebra 2, need a 4th year of math for college entrance, and don't want to take pre-calculus or AP Calculus.  In other words, they're not the most math-philic students we have.  On the first day of school I tell them that I recognize this and that I know they're all going to be poets or journalists. 

I say it as an icebreaking joke, but maybe I'm not far off:
After thousands of examples of the intellectual flaccidity and inferiority of the journalists in our midst, we have to accept the fact that they are not the best and the brightest. They are, overwhelmingly, college students who couldn't handle college math, couldn't manage to do the work to pass Biology 101 and Chemistry 101, and were daunted by the prospect of reading a bunch of long books with lots of facts in them, so history was not an option either.

So what was left? (fill in the blank)_____ Studies or Journalism.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I Have A Better Solution

The University of Missouri has a plan to cut down on campus rapes:
Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin tasked the alumni consortium with devising policies that effectively communicate to the fraternities the pressing nature of sexual assault and alcohol abuse issues, with an eye on “eliminating” assault on campus.

Unfortunately for the chancellor, the consortium’s April 8 draft leaked, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The proposed rules would limit alcohol at frat houses to beer, prevent frats and sororities from hosting out-of-town formal events and require them to drug-test members.

In perhaps the most controversial provision, the consortium would ban women from frat houses Thursday through Saturday from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. each night, as well as certain other times of the year...

“By restricting women from certain locations under the guise of ‘safety’, this [curfew] policy lends itself to the notion that women cannot make choices for themselves about their own safety,” said the letter, signed by all members of the association’s executive board and each sorority president. The drug-testing policy is “absurd and unwarranted,” they told Loftin.
Perhaps they should just have "separate but equal" colleges for men and women.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


It's sad, what's happened in Zimbabwe under Mugabe .  The saying goes, "People used to go to Rhodesia to see the ruins of (old) Zimbabwe.  Now they go to Zimbabwe to see the ruins of Rhodesia."  Inflation has gotten a little bit out of hand there recently:
Zimbabweans will start exchanging 'quadrillions' of local dollars for a few US dollars next week, as President Robert Mugabe's government discards its virtually worthless national currency, the central bank said on Thursday.
The southern African country started using foreign currencies like the US dollar and South African rand in 2009 after the Zimbabwean dollar was ruined by hyper-inflation, which hit 500bn percent in 2008. 
I have one of the 100 trillion dollar notes shown at the link.

From the BBC:
But from Monday, Zimbabweans can exchange bank accounts of up to 175 quadrillion (175,000,000,000,000,000) Zimbabwean dollars for five US dollars.

Higher balances will be exchanged at a rate of Z$35 quadrillion to US$1...

Zimbabwe's economy has struggled since a government programme seized most white-owned farms in 2000, causing exports to tumble.

Mr Mugabe has always blamed the economic problems on a Western plot to oust him.
Huh. So a government "social justice"-style program is the cause of this inflation? Huh.

Update, 8/28/16:  Here are two articles from the left-leaning New York Times, one older and one relatively new.
3/23/05   A Morsel of Goat Meat
The hungry children and the families dying of AIDS here are gut-wrenching, but somehow what I find even more depressing is this: Many, many ordinary black Zimbabweans wish that they could get back the white racist government that oppressed them in the 1970's.

"If we had the chance to go back to white rule, we'd do it," said Solomon Dube, a peasant whose child was crying with hunger when I arrived in his village. "Life was easier then, and at least you could get food and a job."
8/24/16  ‘No One Is Safe’: Zimbabwe Threatens to Seize Farms of Party Defectors
Do I even need to quote from that one?  Or is the title clear enough?

Neo-segregation Is A-OK!

Self-segregation is one thing--I completely support the desire of people to associate with whomever they want.  On the other hand, doesn't government send a mixed message about segregation when universities help students self-segregate while simultaneously blowing on the diversity trumpet?
The University of Oklahoma has announced plans to provide a separate but equal student lounge for LGBT+++++ students...

So let’s get this straight (pun intended): Instead of working to ensure that LGBT students aren’t harassed and treated equally, the University of Oklahoma–a public university subject to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment–thinks it’s better to offer a segregated “safe space” for LGBT students? Seriously?

How about a taxpayer-funded “safe space” for conservatives, or pro-life students, or even (gasp!) white men? Would the University of Oklahoma think such spaces would be important to furthering its mission of inclusion and diversity, too? Yeah, we know the answer. Oh well, it will make an interesting lawsuit.
Reading the post above I was reminded of previous posts I've written on the subject:
Link  It's 2013, do we really need a women-only lounge on a public university campus?

Link  I don't accept that universities should tolerate, much less condone, separation of the races.  When we say that one group of people can do something or go somewhere and another group can't--that truly cannot be justified in my egalitarian mind.  I understand being a minority, but that shouldn't give you rights, privileges, or entitlements that everyone else doesn't get in a country like ours.  Certain groups don't like it when I bring up Dr. King's color-of-skin-vs-content-of-character remark, but I actually believe in it.

That's why I find stories like this one so appalling:
Ethnic Minorities Deserve Safe Spaces Without White People

The Cliff at the End of the Self-Identification Road

Over 8 years ago I wrote about a student who was seeking a leg-up in college admissions:
I have a student who has a very Hispanic last name. If he added an accent mark to his first name (his middle name is already acceptable), he'd be about as Hispanic as one could get.

He's also about as white as one could be. And I don't just mean in skin color.
It's a short post, go take a read.

I send you there because that post came to mind when I read this one today:
So now that NAACP’s Rachel Dolezal has been “outed” as “white,” it makes me wonder: What is “white” anyway? Okay, admittedly, Dolezal doesn’t appear to have any African ancestry in her blood, as her parents say she is of German, Czech, and Swedish ancestry, with a smidgen of Native American in there somewhere...

The question arises more recently with our current President, Barack Obama, whose mother is white and father is black/Kenyan. Despite this 50/50 white/black ancestry, President Obama self-identifies as “black.”  But why? If one is of “mixed” race, may one simply choose whichever race one wishes?

What makes someone “black,” for example? Was Plessy really “black”? The railroad conductor thought he was. Is one’s race merely a subjective matter of self-identification?

Self-identification does appear, at least to the political left, to be the sine qua non of gender.

Progressives/liberals have aggressively defended the “right” of Bruce Jenner to call himself a “woman,” if/when he so desires, despite the fact that he has not yet had his male genitalia removed, and will always have male XY chromosomes.

If gender is merely a matter of self-identification, should not race be also? I have always thought that, given the affirmative action-laden higher education admissions process, applicants should self-identify as “black” or “Native American” whenever they so desire.  I mean, why not? If they feel black or Native American, should not they be able to claim such an identity, as Rachel Dolezal has done? Doing so would quickly cause affirmative action to collapse of its own ridiculous weight...

What would a university do if an applicant self-identified as “black” on an application but showed up looking “white”? And if the university made such a judgment, what on earth would that mean? How would the university defend its belief that a student didn’t “look” black?  What sort of bizarre racial stereotypes would it rely upon in making such an appearance-based judgment? And if the university actually decided to take action against the student for racial misrepresentation, what on earth would that mean? How would the university judge whether the student was really “black”?  What percentage of blood would suffice for such a progressive institution? Fifty percent? Ten percent? One percent?

Friday, June 12, 2015

California's Eco-nuts Must Be Sobbing

I know what let's do, let's have our state employee and teachers retirement systems divest from oil companies!

Update:  And on a completely different note, let's see some more hyperbole that helps explain why I don't really believe lefties' Chicken Little claims:
New York City underwater? Gas over $9 a gallon? A carton of milk costs almost $13? Welcome to June 12,  2015. Or at least that was the wildly-inaccurate version of 2015 predicted by ABC News exactly seven years ago. Appearing on Good Morning America in 2008, Bob Woodruff hyped Earth 2100, a special that pushed apocalyptic predictions of the then-futuristic 2015.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Free SAT Prep

What's Kaplan to do?
The College Board gave unprecedented access to the revamped SAT it plans to introduce next spring to Khan Academy, which has developed diagnostic quizzes and interactive practice tests that will be accessible to anyone with Internet access. Khan Academy, based in Mountain View, is known for its free web-based library of instructional videos and academic exercises.
The SAT is being made easier, too:
The redesigned SAT will be graded on a 1,600-point scale last used in 2004, and will make the now-required essay section optional. Test-takers no longer will lose points for wrong answers, a feature meant to discourage guessing but that produced agonized complaints that the exam was more an exercise in strategy than a measure of college-readiness.

The questions were written with an eye toward adhering more closely to what students are learning in high school and evaluating the practical knowledge they will need for life beyond college, Coleman said. For example, $10 vocabulary words like “querulous” have been replaced with more commonly used terms such as “synthesis,” he said.
Hat tip to Joanne for the link.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Dare To Hope It's True?

The underlying message is that Common Core standards are so excellent and unique that states attempting to distance themselves from them won’t do any better.

Yet this message is incorrect, and Common Core is dying. Consider the following.

First, the curricula of high achieving nations vary widely. Singapore’s curriculum differs from Japan’s, which in turn differs from Hong Kong’s.

Pretending that Common Core succeeded in finding the unique and perfect combination where others failed—and without any evidence of success—is both arrogant and foolish. Further, all serious studies have found Common Core academically mediocre, trailing behind international high achievers in its expectations. As for the proponents’ definition of “alignment,” they consider having the same content but in a different grade as “aligned.” One is forced to conclude that Common Core’s “excellence” exists only in the mind of its peddlers.

But mediocre academics are not the reason for Common Core’s death. Rather, its death comes because states are abandoning its goal of lock-step national uniformity.

Long May She Wave

A friend and I just got back from a short trip up to Reno--you know, a "get the heck out of Dodge for a couple days" trip.  Yesterday I was drying off after getting out of the hot tub and I heard a nearby lady talking.  She'd had maybe one or two too many and was speaking her mind.  Her rant went something like this:

I love this country!  I was born in a Communist country.  Here I don't wait in line for food.  Look, I'm even fat!  (She had a couple extra pounds but wasn't fat.)  People who don't like it here, to Hell with them.

I picked up my shirt, showed it to her, and said, "I love this country, too."  Then I put it on and went back to my room to get ready for dinner.
(The picture was taken last summer at Rainbow Falls in Hilo, Hawaii.)

This Will Be Good For Teachers. Not.

What are they smoking, ground-up unicorn horn?
California’s two mammoth public-pension funds — the California Public Employees Retirement System and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System — are short a shocking $225 billion that they’re going to need to pay for the retirements of government workers. But what is it about the two pension funds that worries the state’s Democratic Party? Their fossil-fuel investments.

Delegates to the state’s annual Democratic Party convention voted over Memorial Day weekend in favor of a resolution urging the funds to dump oil, natural gas, and coal stocks. The vote follows the introduction earlier this year of state legislation that would require the pension funds to sell all coal-related stocks and study the implications of dropping oil and natural gas stocks. With the resolution, local Democrats jumped on the divestment bandwagon, inspired by radical environmentalist Bill McKibben, which has so far persuaded the endowment funds of about two dozen universities to sell shares in fossil-fuel companies. Yet if CalPERS and CalSTRS’s past social-investing records are any indication, the real losers from divestment won’t be the energy companies, but California taxpayers.

“I’ve been involved in five divestments for our fund,” CalSTRS chief investment officer Chris Ailman told his board earlier this year. “All five of them we’ve lost money, and all five of them have not brought about social change.”
For lefties it's not about the result.  It's about checking off another box on your list of liberal bona fides--and feeeeeeeeling good (read: superior) about yourself for "doing something".

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Summer Camp!

I'm sure all our diversity-loving, open-minded, somewhat totalitarian (why else would they like government so much) friends on the left will be packing up their kids and sending them to an international summer camp like this one:
The Associated Press has published photos of opening day at a nearly 30-year-old summer camp in North Korea on July 29, 2014.
The Songdowon International Children’s Camp in Wonsan is supposed to help young foreigners (especially from Communist countries) get acquainted with the isolated country, attracting over 300 attendees from Russia, China, Vietnam, Ireland and Tanzania, the AP reports. Charging $270 per child, the government-subsidized camp boasts activities like cooking, volleyball, swimming at a private beach, boating and even access to a water slide. Accommodations include air-conditioned rooms with video games.
OK, the story's a year old, but still, what great fun!

Monday, June 08, 2015

Teachers Unions Don't Make Good Arguments For Themselves

In the late 60s and early 70s, three major complaints by teachers helped drive the teachers union movement:  pay, class size, and working conditions.  Here we are 40 years later and teachers are still complaining about exactly the same things.  How have unions helped?

Here's a recent example wherein the California Teachers Association shoots itself in the foot:
The other day I came across this slide from a California Teachers Association presentation.

Rather than argue that Californians are not stingy – which is what the normal reaction would be – suppose we simply agree that funding has been on a precipitous decline since 1972. The union wants to illustrate a lack of commitment to school funding. But what does the same assertion tell us about the California Teachers Association?

Prominent parts of the union’s mission statement tell us that CTA “exists to protect and promote the well-being of its members; to improve the conditions of teaching and learning.” The union calls itself the “preeminent voice for public education in California.”

Yet in the salad days of 1972, there was no collective bargaining law for teachers in California. Evidently 40 years of CTA efforts have done nothing to forestall the reduction of the state’s school spending ranking from 19th to 42nd.
And they're not alone:
CTA is not the only union inadvertently undermining its own performance. The American Federation of Teachers recently released the results of an unscientific survey showing an overwhelming majority of teachers to be highly stressed. As the Yahoo! News story said, “It sounds like the worst job ever.”

Again, if we accept this complaint in this context, what does it say about the job AFT has been doing? If by its own admission it can’t protect the interests of its members, then who needs it?

Sunday, June 07, 2015

You Know What The Problem With Affirmative Action Is?

I read this story and wondered what the kid's SAT score was.  Its absence is glaring:
It would have been a success story if Fullerton High School senior Fernando Rojas, the son of Mexican immigrants whose schooling stopped in the eighth grade, was accepted to college. But the 17-year-old achieved a surprising clean sweep — he was accepted to every Ivy League school.

Predicting GPA

There are many ideas out there to predict a college student's GPA, but what about something real time?  What about an app?
A smart phone app can guess how college students are spending their time and predict their end-of term grades, according to a Dartmouth experiment.

Andrew Campbell, the lead investigator, admits to NPR that it sounds “creepy.”
A smartphone generally has Wi-fi, GPS to detect location, an accelerometer which detects motion and a microphone, which can pick up nearby sound. The phone also senses whether or not it’s being charged or being used.

Using this information and a map of the campus, the researchers designed an app that can guess whether the student is sleeping (phone is charging, no interaction), walking or running, studying (low noise level, 20+ minutes in same place, low interaction with phone) or partying (at a fraternity or sorority house but don’t live there, loud noise, typical party night).

Not surprisingly, students who studied more got higher grades.
They say it's a "Fitbit for the brain."

Saturday, June 06, 2015

How Much Longer Do We Have To Tolerate This Disaster?

From the Huffington Post:
Hawaii's health insurance exchange announced on Friday that it will be shutting down, and its nearly 40,000 enrollees will be transitioned to the federal Obamacare marketplace, Healthcare.gov
Can they get anything about Obamacare to work?

Friday, June 05, 2015

Behavior At Graduation Ceremonies

Joanne links to a story about people being charged in part because they cheered too much at a graduation ceremony.

I left two comments on her post, linking to earlier posts I've done on this subject.  My take, in short:  it's a graduation ceremony, not an English soccer match.  Act accordingly.  Yell excessively later, at your own party.

First Day of Summer Vacation

I didn't get out of bed until after 9:30 this morning. 

I love summer vacation.  One of the few perks of being a teacher!  (Is unpaid time off *really* a perk?)

Wednesday, June 03, 2015


Do you have a word that you use that no one else does?  I probably do but have no idea what it is. 

Anyway, I have a friend who, more than anyone else I've ever known, uses the word "penultimate".  In his honor I note that today was the penultimate day of the school year!

Who Doesn't Have Anxiety?

I've written before (here, here, here, and here) about the new ring for which to reach in educational accommodations, a diagnosis (real or imagined) of anxiety.  And now The New York Times is on the case:
Anxiety has now surpassed depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students, though depression, too, is on the rise. More than half of students visiting campus clinics cite anxiety as a health concern, according to a recent study of more than 100,000 students nationwide by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State.

Nearly one in six college students has been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety within the last 12 months, according to the annual national survey by the American College Health Association.

The causes range widely, experts say, from mounting academic pressure at earlier ages to overprotective parents to compulsive engagement with social media. Anxiety has always played a role in the developmental drama of a student’s life, but now more students experience anxiety so intense and overwhelming that they are seeking professional counseling...

Because of escalating pressures during high school, he and other experts say, students arrive at college preloaded with stress. Accustomed to extreme parental oversight, many seem unable to steer themselves. And with parents so accessible, students have had less incentive to develop life skills.

“A lot are coming to school who don’t have the resilience of previous generations,” Dr. Jones said. “They can’t tolerate discomfort or having to struggle. A primary symptom is worrying, and they don’t have the ability to soothe themselves.”

And we're right back to what I've so often said about K-12, that we enable their disability by accommodating it rather than teaching students how to function despite their disability.  Now back to the Times story:
Anxiety-ridden students list schoolwork as their chief stressor. U.C.F.’s center and after-hours hotline are busiest when midterm and final exams loom. That’s when the center runs what has become its most popular event: “Paws-a-tively Stress Free.”

The other afternoon, just before finals week, students, tired and apprehensive, trickled into the center. The majority were not clients.

At a tent outside, their greeter was the center’s mascot and irresistible magnet: a 14-pound Havanese, a certified therapy dog whom many clients ask to hold during individual sessions, stroking his silky white coat to alleviate anxiety.

“Bodhi!” they called, as he trotted over, welcoming them to his turf with a friendly sniff.

For the next two hours, some 75 students visited the center, sitting on floors for a heavy petting session with therapy dogs.

They laughed at the dogs’ antics and rubbed their bellies. They remarked on how nice it was to get a study break.

On the way out, the students were handed a smoothie and a “stress kit,” which included a mandala, crayons, markers, stress balls and “Smarties” candy.
Yes, of course that sounds like great fun.  Doesn't the so-called stress kit, though, seem more than a bit infantile for people who are supposed to be adults? 

It's not that I'm unfeeling, it's that I want to teach students how to function as adults in the world.  I experience plenty of stress and anxiety at times but I don't resort to crayons and Smarties, nor do I see how those would resolve whatever situation I find myself in unless I'm anxious about not being able to color while on a sugar high!

We can shield people from the real world, or even pretend that it doesn't exist, but we're not doing anyone any favors when we do that.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Modifying the Graduation Cap And Gown

Should a Native American student be allowed, in the name of religion, to attach an eagle feather to his graduation cap?
Denied the right to attach an eagle feather to his graduation cap, a Native American student is suing his California school district. Christian Titman, 18, a member of the Pit River Tribe, claimed his rights to freedom of religion and expression are at stake. He will participate in the Clovis High School ceremony on Thursday.

The tribe considers eagle feathers sacred and symbolic of a significant accomplishment, said his lawyer.
I side with the school district on this one.  The student's religion doesn't mandate the wear of the feather; he wants to wear it to set himself apart--which is exactly the opposite purpose of the cap and gown. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Union

Remember how the unions got all those carve-outs from Obamacare?  They want to be exceptions to minimum wage laws, too:
As readers of this column know, Los Angeles recently decided to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour across the board, including even tipped workers like waitstaff. A lot of businesses opposed the new rule on the grounds that it would make their operations unaffordable. Now a new group is joining them in saying the law's not right for their operation: union leaders.

You read that right. Union leaders are saying that the $15 minimum wage is a bad idea. Not for everyone, of course; for most businesses and workers, they think it's splendid. But for union operations, they need an exemption. Rusty Hicks, the head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said businesses that have collective bargaining agreements with employees should be able to negotiate a wage below the "minimum."
Update, 6/7/15: From EIA (6/1/15):
Quote of the Week. “With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them. This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.” – Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which is lobbying for a unionized workplace exception to the county’s new $15 minimum wage law. (May 27 Los Angeles Times)

Great News

The last of my statistics classes took the final exam this morning, and not one student failed the course.  That's a nice feeling!

Update:  I didn't have a single student fail this semester in any course.  Never had that happen before!