Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Two Things Lefties Can't Tolerate: Humor, and Opinions That Differ From Their Own

Some people are so delicate and fragile that they shouldn't ever leave home, much less attend a university:
Three contributors to the Claremont Independent, a conservative campus newspaper and website, posted photos of themselves in tank tops that said “Claremont Independent: Always Right.”

Called “racist, sexist, classist” “ignorant,” “white supremacists,” etc. on social media, they also were attacked for “insensitivity” and making students “emotionally ill,” reports The College Fix, which captured screenshots...

Claremont Independent editor Hannah Oh asked critics to “engage with us and offer constructive criticism.” Contributors include moderates, libertarians and classical liberals, she wrote.

What if she’d said being called a racist, sexist, white supremacist had made her emotionally ill? Surely, the insults qualified as a “micro” — or perhaps even a “macro” — aggression.
I'm old enough to remember when universities were the "home" of the free speech movement.


It needs to be said again and again until the truth wins out:
While the huge multi-million pay packages of a few hundred CEOs get all of the media attention, what usually receives much less attention is the small number of CEOs represented in the annual salary surveys, especially compared to the total number of CEOs in the US. For example, the WSJ’s executive compenstation survey last year included only 300 CEOs at large, U.S.-traded public companies, and the AP analyzed compensation figures for only 337 companies in the S&P 500 last year. The AFL-CIO did an analysis of the CEOs of 350 companies in the S&P 500 in 2013 and then computed a “CEO-to-worker pay ratio” of 331 times, up from a ratio of 300 ten years ago and 200 twenty years ago.

Although these samples of 300-350 CEOs are representative of large, publicly-traded, multinational US companies, they certainly aren’t very representative of the average US company or the average US CEO. According to both the BLS and the Census Bureau, there are more than 7 million private firms in the US, so the samples of 300-350 firms for CEO pay represent only one of about every 21,500 private firms in the US, or about 1/200 of 1% of the total number of US firms. And yet the AFL-CIO, Financial Times, AP, the WSJ and others compare the average annual wages of hundreds of millions of full-time employees working at the more than 7 million US companies to the CEO pay of executives at only several hundred companies, which is hardly a fair comparison.

We can get a more accurate and complete picture of CEO compensation in the US by looking at wage data released recently by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its annual report on Occupational Employment and Wages for 2014. The BLS report provides “employment and wage estimates by area and by industry for wage and salary workers in 22 major occupational groups, 94 minor occupational groups, 458 broad occupations, and 821 detailed occupations,” including the occupational category “chief executives.” In 2014, the BLS reports that the average pay for America’s 246,240 chief executives was only $180,700. The CEOs of the 300-350 S&P 500 firms that supposedly represent typical CEO compensation represent only one out of about every 820 firms in the country (or 1/7 of 1%) that have a CEO at the head. The larger sample of almost a quarter-million CEOs reported by the BLS gives us a much better understanding of “average CEO compensation.”

For the larger sample of CEOs reported by the BLS, their average pay of $180,700 last year was an increase of only 1.3% from the average CEO pay of $178,400 in 2013. In contrast, the BLS reports that the average pay of all workers increased by 1.7% last year to $47,230 from $46,440 in 2013. That’s right, the average worker last year saw an increase in their pay that was more than 30% greater than the increase in pay for the average US CEO.

And the “CEO-to-worker pay ratio” for the average CEO compared to the average worker was only 3.83 times last year (see chart above), nowhere close to the pay ratio of 331X reported by the AFL-CIO using the 350 highest-paid CEOs in the country. Call it a “statistical falsehood-to-truth ratio” of 87-to-1 for the AFL-CIO’s exaggerated, bogus ratio.
Our practical application of arithmetic and statistics for the day.  Why do our friends on the left trumpet the false number?  Because it advances their agenda.  They have to lie to advance their agenda.

Update, 10/1/15:  Let's remember that the president of Planned Parenthood, a so-called non-profit that profits from the selling of babies' body parts, makes over half a million dollars a year, which is almost 3x the average American CEO pay.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What's Wrong With Common Core?

I can't speak for the English standards, only the math standards.  Those aren't as good or as rigorous as what California gave up, and the strongly implied suggestion that so-called discovery learning is the approved way to "teach" isn't so great, either.

But don't take my word for it:
Like Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, the EPA’s regulatory assault on energy production, Obama’s anti-suburban moves, American policy in the Middle East and other fundamental transformations, Common Core is so big and sprawling a change that it’s often tough to see it whole. That problem has just been solved by Drilling through the Core, a book that’s bound to become the go to handbook of the Common Core’s opponents.

Drilling through the Core is a collection of essays by the most informed and prominent critics of the Common Core, including Sandra Stotsky, Ze’ev Wurman, William Evers, and R. James Milgram. It includes a wonderful treatment of the Founders’ views on the study of history by James Madison biographer Ralph Ketcham.

But what sets the book apart is the 80 page introduction by Peter Wood. Calmly and with crystal clarity, Wood explains and connects nearly every aspect of the battle. It’s all here, from the most basic explanation of what Common Core is, to the history, the major arguments for and against, and so much more. The controversies over both the English and math standards are explained; the major players in the public battle are identified; the battle over Gates Foundation’s role is anatomized; the roles of the tests and the testing consortia are reviewed; concerns over data-mining and privacy are laid out; the dumbing-down effect on the college curriculum is explained; as is the role of the Obama administration and the teachers unions.
There's plenty more, go read the whole thing.

Update, 9/30/15Support for Common Core is eroding:
What’s the bottom line? At least three things are clear. First, sentiment is highly sensitive to how the question is asked. Depending on which of the above questions one selects, it’s possible to argue that the public supports the Common Core by more than two to one or that it opposes it by more than two to one. This should remind us to take any particular set of poll results with more than a few grains of salt. 

Second, support for the Common Core remains positive but exhibits a clear downward trend.
Like Obamacare, it will get even less popular as people learn more about it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Why I'm Not A Socialist

From the Wall Street Journal:
Go back, for a moment, nearly 30 years. In March 1987, Margaret Thatcher visited Mikhail Gorbachev, the reforming leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in Moscow. Sitting in the Kremlin, the two argued for hours. At one point, Mr. Gorbachev accused Mrs. Thatcher of leading the party of the “haves” and of fooling the people about who really controlled the levers of power. The Iron Lady had an answer: “I explained,” she wrote in her memoirs, “that what I was trying to do was create a society of ‘haves,’ not a class of them.”
Hear hear.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Scorch Trials

I watched Maze Runner several months ago and genuinely liked it.  It was yet another "teens fight to save the world" story, the first in a series, but it was still quite good.  I considered it a cross between Lord of the Flies and The Cube (which, if you haven't seen, is a thriller).

Today I watched the second installment, Scorch Trials.  It was a cross between 28 Days Later and Hunger Games Part 2.  Not as good as Maze Runner, which is to be expected, but not a bad movie.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Straight A's Are Not Enough

A few months ago I was contacted via email and asked to review Straight A's Are Not Enough by Judy Fishel.  I agreed to do so, received the book, and started reading.  The real world intruded so I didn't finish the book until today, but I'll tell you right now, I liked it.

Subtitled Breakthroughs in Learning for College Students, the book's purpose is clear.  The thesis is offered in the preface:  "(l)earning is more important than grades."  And at that point it's necessary to take a detour.

The author believes that too many students are either more interested in a diploma than in an education, and hence focus on short-term grades rather than on long-term knowledge, or else don't know how to learn beyond passing tests and getting grades.  Teaching mostly seniors in high school, I have to concur with that, but I can't dump that solely on my students because I was that way, too.  And we can't really fault students for being like that, as they're just responding to the rules of the game as we've taught them.  Oh, I wanted the education, and I'd have been happy to remember everything I ever learned, but I was too focused on grades to make that happen.  It's only now, decades into adulthood and well-settled into my life, that I now put so much effort into my master's classes.

But I don't kid myself, I still want the grades.  And that's OK; look again at the title of the book.  Straight A's are perfectly fine, but they're not enough.  I finally want more.

Straight A's Are Not Enough is organized into 23 chapters covering topics as varied as  how we learn, goal setting, time management, note taking, effective writing, organization, reading, research, memory, etc.  Reading each chapter I was impressed at how organized the author herself is, presenting the material in a logical, engaging manner.  What's somewhat entertaining for me, though, is the list of "strategies" in each chapter--101 of them in all, each with steps to follow!  There's no way a student could follow every step of every strategy--they'd have no time for their coursework!--but these strategies serve as eye-openers and signposts for effective learning.  Just as an example, let's take a look at the strategies from Chapter 9, Take Notes You'll Want To Study:
Strategy 9.1  Prepare to Take Notes
Strategy 9.2  Demonstrate Your Intentions To Learn
Strategy 9.3  Recognize Lecture Clues
Strategy 9.4  Try Different Note-Taking Formats
Strategy 9.5  Use Your Notes Well
Strategy 9.6  Rewrite Notes To Learn
Despite their generic names, what I like about Fishel's strategies is that they're real, concrete strategies that anyone can follow.  They're not, for example, like the following strategy for making money in the stock market:  "buy low, sell high."  How do you know when the price is low, how do you know when it's high?  The steps should be common sense but are stated outright nonetheless.  Here, for example, are just the first two steps of Strategy 9.2, with explanatory details:
Step 1:  If you have a cell phone, turn it off and put it away.  Avoid distractions.
Step 2:  Stay awake, alert, and focused.  It helps to sit near the front where you can see and hear the professor better and where he or she will see you.  Don't sit by friends who will whisper to you, write notes, or otherwise distract you.
Again, those are obviously "duh" statements, but they're good, practical advice.  The strategies for verbal and visual organization are very good, as are the suggestions for time management.

Besides the strategies and their associated steps, there are morsels of wisdom spread throughout the book:
"Learning is more important than grades."  
"...(S)tudents often use study time to read their assignments and then think they're finished.  This is part of the reason they learn so little and forget it so quickly."

"Learning involves far more than memorizing facts."

"When you were younger, your teachers and parents enforced discipline.  They set goals for you and made sure you did the necessary work to reach them.  In college, you must set your own goals and be self disciplined."

"A person who is not resilient sees mistakes and poor results as an indication that they are failures." 

"People who aren't able to concentrate have not disciplined their minds...Several studies have reached the obvious conclusion that students who attempt to multitask during classes or while 'studying' learn less and make significantly lower grades."

"If you are in college, we can assume you had some of the best learning skills in your high school.  But that doesn't mean that your skills are adequate for college."

"Just as students often read without much thought, too many students look at an essay question and start writing before thinking about what to say."

"If you don't know what you want to achieve in your presentation, your audience never will."
You get the idea.

Fishel's point comes through loud and clear--if you're going to spend 4 years and many tens of thousands of dollars to get a bachelor's degree, why not come out of that process with an education, too?  She describes 4 types of learners (she's very big into lists!):  shallow learners, who just want to complete an assignment; strategic learners, who work for grades; deep learners, who want to understand basic concepts; and intentional learners, who choose which type of learner they're going to be in accordance with their goals.  She notes on p. 30 that "students using the shallow and strategic approaches are both extrinsically motivated...Students using both the deep and intentional approaches to learning are intrinsically motivated.  Their reward is learning itself, not the grades."  I agree.

I'm obviously a big fan of this book.  It's opened my eyes to how I myself can be a better student; I'm going to keep it in my classroom so my students can take a read.

Straight A's Are Not Enough

Full disclosure:  the book was sent to me free of charge with the understanding that I would post a review of it.  I have received no payment of any kind, and this review is entirely my own with no influence from any other person or group.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Don't Become The Peacock

I've come up with a new saying:  don't become the peacock.  Here's the background:

Last Sunday evening my sister, a realtor, held an event at a local zoo.  The Bacon Mania food truck was there, as well as an ice cream vendor.  I'm sure a fun time was had by all--well, almost all.

One of the bear enclosures doesn't have a "roof", just a very tall fence around it.  I noticed the peacocks like to sit up on the top of the fence and survey the area.  Well, it was feeding time for the bears, so the zookeepers put some bear kibble into the enclosure.  One of the peacocks decided to fly down and eat some of the bear food.  In short order it became bear food.  By the time I got over to the bear enclosure there was nothing left but a few bones and a scattering of feathers.

Don't become the peacock.  It's a versatile saying, useful in many situations :)

It's Stories Like This One That Give Public Schools A Bad Name

Normal, rational, real people recognize that, as in the Kenny Rogers song, "sometimes you gotta fight when you're a man."  There are some things worth fighting for, and defending the helpless is probably on the top of the "when violence is authorized" list--except at government education centers like this one in sunny California:
A California teenager who rushed to help a blind classmate being beaten up by a bully has been kicked off the football team.

The high school junior was hailed as a hero for intervening after he saw the 'visually impaired' student being repeatedly hit round the head during lunch break at Huntington Beach High School, California on Wednesday.

Footage, filmed by a bystander, shows the teen knocking the bully to the ground with a single punch to stop the attack.
I understand the rescuer has been both kicked off the football team and suspended from school.  Our schools are supposed to be oases of "tolerance", but "zero tolerance" policies rule the day.

Has this made CNN yet?  It hadn't when last I looked.

Anyway, I find the pithiness of this comment refreshing:
'The day you punish people who protect the helpless is the day you've lost humanity. Don't be STUPID!'

Obamacare Reminder

From Investor's Business Daily:
Since 2006, the average annual increase for family plans at work has been 4.9%, down from around 10% a year from 1999-2005.

Slightly less higher premiums aren't what President Obama promised Americans when he ran for office touting his medical overhaul. He specifically said his plan would cut premiums.

"We will start," Obama said back in 2008, "by reducing premiums by as much as $2,500 per family."

That $2,500 figure was Obama's mantra on health care. You can watch the video if you don't believe it.
Bottom line up front:
Health Premiums Have Climbed $4,865 Since Obama Promised to Cut Them $2,500

Thursday, September 24, 2015

College Students, Parents, and Who Has What Rights

This article got me thinking:
Passed in 1974, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is an unwieldy piece of legislation affecting all institutions that receive funding from the Department of Education. Although it has been amended over the years, the law’s bottom line remains: “Once a student reaches 18 years of age or attends a postsecondary institution, he or she becomes an ‘eligible student’ and all rights under FERPA transfer from the parent to the student.”

This essentially means that you have no right, as a parent, to know what or how your children are doing in school. They can binge-watch True Detective rather than attend classes, never disclose their grades, maybe become seriously anxious or depressed, and you have to take their word for it when they say “everything’s fine.”
So if these college students are adults, free and clear of their parents in these matters--so much so that parents can't even know how they're doing in school--how can it possibly make sense to expect the parents to pay for school, and/or to include parental income in financial aid calculations?  Either parents are a part of the "team", or they're not.  It seems not just wrong-headed but wrong to expect them to pony up the cash but otherwise be completely left out of the loop.

The Pope Is Wrong On Capitalism

The lede in this article pretty much says it all:
Free enterprise has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and will answer Pope Francis' call to bridge the opportunity gap.

I'm reminded of this clip of Milton Friedman on the Phil Donahue show:

This pope isn't impressing me as his predecessors have.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How Rapidly and How Far Left The Democrats Have Gone In 20 Years

I think nowadays they just try to one-up each other in coming up with crazy ideas to promote:
So just to review, despite their obvious shortcomings in regards to the First and Second Amendments (some things never do change), the Democrats of the 1990s were anti-illegal immigration, pro-welfare reform, pro-defense of marriage, took a hard regime change-oriented stance towards Saddam Hussein, and when it came to the economy, as Bill Clinton said in 1993, “We’re Eisenhower Republicans here. Here we are, and we’re standing for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market. Isn’t that great?”

...Too bad Hillary is running against all of those policies, but you can’t have everything.

Saccheri Quadrilaterals, A Calculus Coincidence

I have a hard enough time with Euclidean geometry.  Especially in my current class, wherein we're proving a number of Euclid's propositions, I can't keep track of them in order, which means I don't know "what I'm allowed to know" and/or use for each proposition; for example, I can't use Proposition 32 to prove Proposition 29.  It's driving me nuts.

But at least Euclidean geometry makes some sense to me.  It "exists" in the same world I do.  Non-Euclidean geometry is just insane.  I can't make heads or tails of it.

Last night I was working on a non-Euclidean proof--I had to show that the summit angles of saccheri quadrilaterals are equal.  Can I use the "fact" that diagonals or rectangles are equal, or not?  Am I "allowed" to know that for this proof, or not?  If so, the proof is trivial.  If not... I punted, gave it up for the night.

This morning I was thinking about someone I used to know who died yesterday--coincidentally, a former geometry teacher.  Out of nowhere the proof jumped into my mind, I'll give it a shot when I get home this afternoon.  I think I can do it without assuming the diagonals are equal (I should be able to conclude they are using congruent triangles).

I'm reminded of a time 33 years ago, when I was first taking calculus.  I beat my head against the wall and did my homework by following the example problems in the book without understanding what I was doing.  This went on for a few weeks, I'd never not understood a subject before.  It was a most disconcerting feeling.  One night, though, I went to bed, not even thinking about calculus, and when I woke up it all just made sense to me.  I have no idea how.

The subconscious mind is a scary and powerful thing indeed!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Black Lives Matter, So Does Free Speech

Another candle shines brightly in the darkness:
Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable. As members of a university community, we always have the right to respond with our own opinions, but there is no right not to be offended. We certainly have no right to harass people because we don’t like their views. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.
Update, 9/30/15: The school acted correctly, the students did not:
Activists at Wesleyan have pushed the university to defund the Argus, the school’s main newspaper, in response to a commentary that questioned the tactics of the Black Lives Matter movement. The piece in question suggested that the BLM movement was responsible for cop killings, and questioned whether its tactics were actually effective in creating change. Campus activists, in turn, started a petition to defund the paper, which was signed by some 170 students—not a large number, even on a campus of 2,900 undergraduates, but still concerning. I am not disappointed that students have reacted, forcefully, in this way. I am disappointed in how they have reacted, and how much campus life have changed there since my childhood—a change the reflects a broader evolution of college politics that troubles so many...

Today’s Wesleyan students could have reacted to the piece in question by writing a response in the Argus. They could have started their own radical newspaper. They could have leafleted, or invited speakers, or used any other means to respond with better, more enlightened speech. By going straight to authority, they have instead embraced establishment power and asked it to be part of a liberatory struggle. That is folly. Institutions like Wesleyan may be made up of radicals, but they are by their nature conservative entities; that’s the nature of self-protective institutions.
This line struck a chord with me:
The fact that Wesleyan students so often advocate egalitarian politics while embodying privilege in their behavior does not indicate existential hypocrisy on their part. It simply illustrates the fact that many college students are still too young to meaningfully connect their politics to their own personal conduct.
Yep.  To paraphrase Jaime Escalante in Stand And Deliver, "It's not that they're stupid, they just don't know anything."

A Sign of Maturity and Common Sense at American University

It's a small step, but an important one:
The Faculty Senate at American University has passed a resolution affirming the importance of academic freedom and questioning the use of "trigger warnings" that alert students to books or other materials that may be offensive or upsetting to them. The resolution was not prompted by an incident at AU, but concerns -- especially among librarians -- that they might be asked in the future to provide such warnings.

Monday, September 21, 2015

"The Research Show..."

This particular research shows what logic would lead you to expect, which is why our friends on the left won't believe it:
One huge study conducted by Seymour Lipset, Stanley Rothman, and Neil Nevitte involving thousands of faculty members and students at 140 U.S. colleges and universities sought to determine the educational impact of racial diversity. (An abstract and the entire study are available here.)

Subjects were asked to give their evaluation of the quality of education at their institution, of the academic preparation and work habits of their student body, and of the state of race relations on their campus. Then separately, using government statistics, the investigators, three outstanding scholars, determined the proportion of black and other minority students at each institution involved.

If diversity has the great benefits claimed for it, institutions with higher proportions of minority students should surely have been rated more highly than those with lower proportions.

The reverse proved to be the case. Every benefit claimed for campus diversity was contradicted by the results of this study. Students, faculty and administrators all responded to increasing racial diversity by registering increased dissatisfaction with the quality of education at their institution and the work ethic of their peers.

In every instance, a higher level of diversity was found to be associated with less educational satisfaction and worse race relations among students. Even if these results are wide of the mark, a study so large and carefully devised seriously undermines the claim that the educational benefits of racial diversity are “compelling.” They are very probably illusory.
Lefties will probably call the study's authors racists:
A study out of Denver’s Diversity Symposium has found the only way for people to extinguish racism in their own souls is to become experts at identifying racism in others...

When asked by one reporter if this would simply cause more negative feelings and conflict, and bring about a greater divide, the Doctor said, “It’s up to each individual to overcome racism in his or her own life. Obviously the more a person has been corrupted and defiled by this hideous cancer, the harder they will have to strive in order to recognize their disease in others, and thus rid themselves of the malady which afflicts them. They are essentially killing two birds with one stone. Eradicating racism in their own lives while also spreading awareness so that others may tackle the issue on their own terms. An issue which has poisoned our culture since the dawn of man.”
What's scary is that I can't tell if this latter article is satire or not.

This Saddens Me

I've been a Talker For Walker, but now he's dropping out:
Scott Walker announced Monday he is dropping out of the GOP presidential race.

The Wisconsin governor entered the primary in July as a front-runner in Iowa and a darling of both the conservative base and powerful donors after winning battles against public unions in his left-leaning home state. But that promising start was quickly dashed after poor debate performances dried up support from donors.

"Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately," Walker said at a news conference in Madison, Wisconsin. 

He encouraged other trailing Republican candidates to follow his path.

"I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner," said Walker, referencing businessman Donald Trump. "This is fundamentally important to the future of our party, and, more important, the future of the country."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

College Vs. High School

I'm not saying this list is the end-all, be-all, but there are some funny things in it:
11 Things That Are Normal To Do In College That Aren't In High School

One disagreement, #1 is just rude.  It's at the very least impolite to fall asleep when others have a reasonable expectation of your attention, such as at work or in class or when company is sitting on your couch.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

We Don't Need To Worry About The Smart Kids

If you concern yourself with the future competitiveness of the nation, you need to worry about the smart kids.  If you concern yourself with equity, you need to worry about the smart kids:
The second big reason to attend to the schooling of high-ability youngsters is a version of the familiar equity argument: these kids also deserve an education that meets their needs and enhances their futures, just like children with other distinctions and problems. They have their own legitimate claim on our conscience, our sense of fairness, our policy priorities, and our education budgets. What’s more, many of them also face such challenges as disability, poverty, ill-educated parents, non-English-speaking homes, and tough neighborhoods.
I sometimes wonder if some people don't resent the smart kids.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Which California Universities/Colleges Help Students Earn The Most?

The major Sacramento newspaper ran a story showing the median pay of California university graduates 10 years after starting college, and included graduates of about 100 California institutions of higher learning.  There are many caveats to this data that are listed towards the end of the article, but the top university on the list may surprise many (I actually guessed it correctly!):
That's right, boys and girls, CSU Maritime (aka the California Maritime Academy).  It's degree offerings and student body size are both comparable to those of the US Coast Guard Academy, about which I wrote here.

Do Computers Help Learning?

Certainly an overuse doesn't, as we learn here:
The more students use computers, the lower their achievement, according to a report from the OECD...

In countries where students often use online chats for schoolwork, the decline was sharp. They “may be missing out on other more effective learning activities,” the report suggests...

In addition to crowding out other activities, such as reading, “computers might also be killing more helpful paths of thought and discovery,” Ferdman writes.
If you're surprised by this, raise your hand.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Most Recent Frustration

In the master's class I'm currently taking, we've recently set out proving several of the propositions from Book 1 of Euclid's Elements.  Here's what gets me:

I don't know what I'm "allowed" to know when doing these proofs.  I can't imagine I'm supposed to memorize dozens of propositions, in order, so I know what I am and am not allowed to use on these proofs.  I don't even know what straightedge/compass constructions I'm allowed to use, either.  I'm dreading the upcoming test, I have no idea what I'm supposed to know and how I'm supposed to get that information.

How the heck?!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Best Of... My 1st 10,000 Posts

I started this blog in January of 2005, and this post marks my 10,000th post.  In light of that rather significant milestone I present here a retrospective, a list of what I consider some of my best posts over the last almost-11 years.

Freedom Is A Little Piece of Broken Concrete
Environmentalism and the Skeptical Mind, Part 1
Environmentalism and the Skeptical Mind, Part 2
Environmentalism and the Skeptical Mind, Part 3
Math For Social Justice, Part 1
Math For Social Justice, Part 2
Graphing Calculators--and Tanks!
The Price of Gas 
A Waste of Money: AP Courses for the Unprepared 
My Evening With Diane Ravitch 
Why I'm Against the New DMV Driver Test 
Teaching: Craft, Trade, or Profession?

I consider Freedom Is A Little Piece of Broken Concrete to be my best post ever.

Don't count on my lasting another 10,000 posts!

Dr. King Must Be Spinning In His Grave

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

How far the left has strayed from those ideals when we read articles like this one published in The Atlantic:
Color-Blindness Is Counterproductive
Many sociologists argue that ideologies claiming not to see race risk ignoring discrimination...

Many sociologists, though, are extremely critical of colorblindness as an ideology. They argue that as the mechanisms that reproduce racial inequality have become more covert and obscure than they were during the era of open, legal segregation, the language of explicit racism has given way to a discourse of colorblindness. But they fear that the refusal to take public note of race actually allows people to ignore manifestations of persistent discrimination.
What's a decent person to do? You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Does This Really Merit An Outcry?

It's "helpful information", not mandated action:
Teacher suggests bedtimes for kids; parents lose it
If you don't want to send your kid to bed at a certain time, then don't!  But to get fired up because someone posted a chart online?  Wow, defensive much?

If This Were Happening To Women...

It's happening to men, so no problem, apparently:
Last week, Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, suggested that even innocent students should be booted from campus if they were accused of sexual assault. According to Polis: "If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people."

So one of the longstanding traditions of American law — that it is better to let 10 guilty men go free than to imprison one innocent — has now been turned on its head. Under the Polis standard, it’s basically the other way around.

According to Polis, it’s not such a big deal: "We’re not talking depriving them of life and liberty, we’re talking about their transfer to another university, for crying out loud," Polis said, laughing off the idea that his suggestion would violate due process rights. He is not alone in taking the due process rights of the accused lightly, a widely-backed Democratic senate bill is just more circumspect.
Liberals, is it really worth it to you to disregard some of the greatest advancements in law in human history--due process, trial by a jury of your peers, innocent until proven guilty--just to score a few short-term political points? 

Who will protect you when they come for you?

Political Correctness Means Living In Fear

I'm teaching my statistics classes the rudiments of Excel.  Tomorrow they're going to type some data into Excel, sort it, graph it, etc.  The data includes a list of the 50 states and, among other things, the cigarette tax and the adult smoking rate in each state.  We're going to see if there's a relationship (we'll get to "correlation" next week) between those two variables.

Along with the data I included some Gallup information about smoking.  Turns out California has the 2nd lowest rate of adult smokers (at least of cigarettes!) in the country, led only by Utah.  I asked the classes if anyone was surprised to find California to be so far down that list, and few were.  I then asked why Utah might have the lowest rate of smoking.


I could tell from the looks on their faces that it wasn't an "I don't know" silence; no, it was an "I'm afraid to say" silence.  In one class I called on a student and she was in obvious turmoil; "I can't say it" was all she could get out.

Everyone knew the likely answer.  Utah has a large population of Mormons, who in general don't smoke.  But my students were petrified to say that.  They feared that the mere mention of that particular religion would brand them as some sort of "-ist" or "-phobe".  I didn't even ask them to make a judgement call as to whether or not a religious prohibition against smoking is a net societal good or not, I merely asked them to identify a religious group.  And they couldn't, or wouldn't, do it.

What are we teaching them?

Perhaps we're teaching them that foolishness like this, in which the only appropriate response is ridicule and mockery, is entirely justified and reasonable:
We have a major microagression situation at, get this, Oberlin College.

Apparently there was an intramural soccer match scheduled at the same time as a Latin Heritage Club meeting. A White Male (uh oh) sent out an email to a Hispanic girl noting that he'd like to have her at the match, if she wasn't going to the Latin Club meeting.

He wrote the most racist sentence since Mein Kampf:
Hey, that talk looks pretty great, but on the off chance you aren't going or would rather play futbol instead the club team wants to go!!
Anyone see the problem there?

That's right, he said the f-word-- Futbol. He racistly appropriated the Spanish language.
Here's what the Lantina maniac wrote back to him....
The commenters on that blog post were correct in their reaction; anyone who gives any indication at all that La NiƱa (see what I did there?) is justified in her reaction is, IMNSHO, an idiot.  Our society, though, our culture, has empowered a college student to--do what exactly?  Act like a complete and total b***h because she can get away with it, and for no good reason?  What is so wonderful about being a victim, anyway?

I don't like the crop we're sowing, I'm tired of reaping these diseased vegetables.

UpdateThis is the most entertaining response I saw on the latter topic:
This person is purportedly a college student at a well regarded university. If she is falling apart when someone uses a Spanish word in a manner she doesn't like, she is bound to be one of two things. A SJW drain on the economy in the form of vexatious litigation to force goodthink and punish badthink or become the embittered crazy person you meet on the subway who takes everything as a personal slight/insult. Neither is a good outcome.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

It's A Good Thing I Don't Pick Them For Football

If I chose my schools based on football, no school would admit me.

30 years ago or so I went to West Point.  Yesterday Army lost to perennial football powerhouse UConn, 22-17.

A dozen or so years ago I went to Sacramento State for a year in order to get my CLAD certificate.  Yesterday Sac State lost to Washington, 49-0.

I'm currently working on my master's degree through the University of Idaho (who da ho?  Idaho).  Yesterday Idaho lost to USC, 59-9.

I don't pick 'em very well.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Super Succinct Sentence on Sexism

Her whole day is full of oppression, microaggressions, and sexism.

Or is it?
Hey, Blake, here’s an idea: Maybe the reason people aren’t taking you seriously is because you seem weak, whiny, paranoid, and unable to handle anything without taking it so personally that you become too upset to function.
Such delicate flowers belong in a greenhouse, not in a university.

Do People Really Worry About Stuff Like This?

I can't fathom how sad someone must be to fret over stuff like this:
During the British Science Festival, a group of experts pondered whether or not some of the images we have sent into space might be too sexist and too white — which would clearly be sending the wrong message to any aliens out there. 

Yes, seriously. Dr. Jill Stuart, considered an expert on the “politics” of space, expressed particular concern about a plaque on the 1972 Pioneer 10 spacecraft that featured a naked man and woman. “The plaque shows a man raising his hand in a very manly fashion while a woman stands behind him, appearing all meek and submissive,” Stuart said, according to an article in the Guardian. 

 “We really need to rethink that with any messages we are sending out now. Attitudes have changed so much in just 40 years,” she continued. 

 Even worse: The man and the woman were both white. 
At least the man wasn't wearing the wrong shirt.

LIberal Lies

Things must be pretty good in this country or liberals wouldn't have to make up lies like "war on women", "rape culture", or "food insecurity", as examples:
The Agriculture Department announced this morning that 48 million Americans live in “food insecure” households. Soon you’ll hear we’re suffering an epidemic of hunger. While the federal government is already feeding more than 100 million Americans, we’ll be told that it just isn’t enough.

But it isn’t true. “Food insecurity” is a statistic designed to mislead. USDA defines food insecurity as being “uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food"...

USDA noted: “For most food-insecure households, the inadequacies were in the form of reduced quality and variety rather than insufficient quantity"...

USDA food security reports, by creating the illusion of a national hunger epidemic, have helped propel a vast increase in federal food aid in recent years. But that has been a dietary disaster across the land.

A Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study concluded that “food insecure” adults are far more likely to be obese than “food secure” adults — indicating that a shortage of food is not the real health problem. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, “seven times as many (low-income) children are obese as are underweight.” President Obama proclaimed September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Such Laws Will Disappear Only When They're Used Enough By The "Wrong" People

There are certain laws--think child support and/or alimony--that are entirely too often used as a bludgeon, most often against men.  Men don't talk to their friends about how much alimony they can get, for example.  I find alimony and other such laws to be institutionalized sexism, and they'll only go away when enough men reap their benefits.  So it is with anti-discrimination law, and look who's howling about it:
California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, a 1959 law named after a powerful California politician, was a precursor to the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act. It prohibits businesses from discriminating against folks based on specified attributes, currently including sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation. It is, by design, a very broad and flexible tool, and has repeatedly been interpreted to protect groups and classes beyond those listed explicitly. Defendants found liable can be ordered to pay up to three times the actual damages the plaintiff suffers (and no less than $4,000), and can be ordered to pay the plaintiff's attorney fees. A losing plaintiff can't be ordered to pay a winning defendant's attorney fees, with certain narrow disability-law exceptions.

Recently the Unruh Act provoked outrage. Why? Because this broad, flexible, and unilateral law was invoked creatively by the wrong people. Here's how The Mary Sue put it...
Go read the shrieks of indignation, read the sense of entitlement in their words.  Equality sure does suck, doesn't it?
Here's the thing: if you only wake up to how broken the system is when it's abused by one of your ideological enemies, you're a vapid partisan hack. The legal system — including, but not "only" or "especially" civil rights laws — is a tool of extortion, deceit, and thuggery... If you're only irritated by this when a group of Wrong People target a group of Right People, you're not to be taken seriously.

Stupidity From Sacramento #2

From National Review:
You can’t make this up. It is (invisible) National Suicide Prevention Week...
And what does the California Assembly go and do during National Suicide Prevention Week? Vote to legalize assisted suicide....

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Stupidity From Sacramento

Where do we stop with this whitewashing (if you'll pardon the pun) of history?  Must everyone have been perfect?  I say he who is without sin should cast the first stone.  Clearly we have nothing more important to deal with in California than Robert E. Lee:
Public schools and roads in California bearing the names of Confederate leaders will soon need to rebrand if Gov. Jerry Brown signs Senate Bill 539.

The state Senate on Tuesday voted 31-2 to send the measure to the governor’s desk. Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, introduced the bill this summer in the wake of Charleston church massacre, arguing that California should not be honoring those who nearly tore the country apart during the Civil War to protect slavery...

Among those institutions that would be affected are two elementary schools in Southern California named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The small coastal city of Fort Bragg, a former military outpost named for an officer who later defected to the Confederacy, was exempted to ease passage of the bill.
I'm ready to go all in on this renaming craze, and I'm sure our friends on the left will join me.  Let's recall that Berkeley was named after a slave-owning Anglican priest.  Ohmigawd, we can't have a city with such a name.  And how about all those Catholics--you know, those people who don't like abortion like good Californians do--we can't have cities named after them!  Say good-bye to San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Santa Barbara, etc.  And Sacramento--the capital of the state!--is named after a religious activity, a sacrament!  Who were the natives around here, the Maidu?  Let's find a good Maidu name for Sacramento.

You know what?  My elementary school was Kohler Elementary.  There's a street nearby also called Kohler.  Hm, I don't know who Mr. (I'm assuming it's a Mr.) Kohler was, but I know that the school and the street were named after Camp Kohler, within the (former) confines of which both are found.  I know what took place at Camp Kohler.  Does it make sense to rename the school and the street?

How far do we want to take this?  However far, does it take us in a good direction?

Update, 9/16/15:  Utopia gets another step closer:
The California State Assembly voted Thursday to ban the state's schools from using "Redskins" nicknames and mascots, a move that could soon make it the first state to specifically prohibit schools from using the name that continues to spark controversy across the nation.
more here:

Congratulations to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

As of today, Elizabeth passes Victoria to become the longest reigning monarch in English history:
Already the country's longest-lived monarch and the world's oldest-serving sovereign, at approximately 5.30pm on September 9 Elizabeth will reach yet another milestone when she becomes Britain's longest reigning monarch, breaking Victoria's record of 63 years, seven months and two days on the throne. 
She's a leader I've long admired.  She has always demonstrated class and dignity--I admired her mother, too.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

How Can You *Not* Trust These Government Schemes?

And European ones, at that:
The United Nations body that oversees greenhouse gas reductions is reeling from another cap-and-trade scandal that may have put 600 million tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere -- roughly speaking, the annual CO2 output of Canada or Britain -- while the emissions were ostensibly suppressed, according to an independent study.

In the process, the fraudsters, largely in Russia and Ukraine, were likely able to transfer credits for more than 400 million tons of their apparently bogus greenhouse savings by April 2015 into Europe’s commercial carbon trading system -- the largest in the world --thereby undermining that continent’s ambitious carbon reduction achievements.
Who's surprised?

Why We're Not More Like Europe

National Review has good words on the subject:
But ignore those for the moment and consider what often is presented as the dispositive argument in these cases: The United States, alone among advanced nations, fails to maintain policy x, where x represents any item from the progressive wish list, from so-called universal health insurance to censorship of unpopular political views to the abolition of capital punishment to, in this case, mandatory paid leave. “The United States, alone among advanced nations, clings to these atavistic ways,” the argument goes, “and must join the rest of the civilized world in x”…

The Left, full as it is of being who have for years received their news from Jon Stewart, believes the Right to be full of cartoonish Europe-haters who cannot believe that there is no NASCAR event in Florence. (They cannot believe that John O’Sullivan exists.) But if you flip over to, say, the Heritage Foundation’s annual ranking of countries on the metric of economic freedom—not only freedom from excessive taxation and regulation but freedom from corruption and political management—you see a lot of those wicked welfare states high up on the rankings: New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, and Denmark are all more highly rated than is the United States.

Conservatives sometimes turn the “no other country in the world” argument around: The government of no other economically advanced country presumes worldwide tax jurisdiction, as the United States government does, and no advanced country has a corporate tax as high as in the United States. If we are to go around the world cherry-picking policies from happy countries, we might pass over French paid-leave laws in favor of the Swiss capital-gains tax (generally 0.00 percent) or the Swiss national minimum wage (there isn’t one), or Finland’s very liberal (in the good sense of that word) education system, or Sweden’s free-trade regime and its financial-regulatory system. We’d have to make radical improvements on our federal balance sheet to get our public debt down to Norwegian levels. Our friends on the Left note that Germany has stronger labor unions than we do; we might also note that they have better unions, that IG Metall is a far less destructive and more collaborative organization than is the UAW. As our progressive friends celebrate Australia’s relatively high minimum wage, we might nod along and note that it excludes workers 21 years of age and younger, which is not unlike Charles Krauthammer’s proposal for a two-tiered minimum wage.

Where conservatives differ radically from progressives is in understanding that polities are not plastic, that culture and institutions and history and people matter, and that as attractive as we might find this or that aspect of another country’s governance, it takes the mind of a child to believe that Swiss or Singaporean policies will product Swiss or Singaporean results in New Jersey or Mississippi.

When confronted with a policy maintained by the United States alone, the progressive finds it very difficult to imagine that there might be a good reason for that, or that this might be desirable. The United States is practically alone in the world in its absolute commitment to freedom of speech, for example, something in which old-fashioned liberals once took pride but modern progressives detest and seek to change, pronouncing themselves scandalized by a Supreme Court decision declaring that a group of American citizens is entitled to show a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton without government permission and that the government may not ban the showing of films or the circulation of books and other media. G. K. Chesterton’s advice—economically summarized by John Kennedy as “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up”—is almost always relevant. It is, for example, why we still have a Bill of Rights, one of the greatest barriers in the history of political immuring, rather than conducting periodic referenda on individual liberties.

Monday, September 07, 2015

It's Easier To Dumb Everyone Down

Many school districts, including my own, are making it harder and harder for students to accelerate their math instruction--and they're doing so under the guise of Common Core:
The San Francisco Unified School District made the news recently when they decided to eliminate first-year algebra for eighth graders entirely. Algebra will now be offered only as a high school course in that school district.

The decision is not without controversy and many parents have been protesting, saying that it limits the choices qualified students may have. The other side of the argument is that too many students who were unprepared to take algebra in eighth grade were pushed to take it, resulting in many students failing the course.

Of course it is a mistake to allow students to take algebra if they are not mathematically prepared. Students need to have mastery of fractions, percentages, decimals, ratios, and negative numbers and to be able to solve a variety of word problems. But if a student is qualified to take algebra in eighth grade and would do well in it, why not give the student that choice?

But a growing trend among school districts these days is to limit (or as in SFUSD, eliminate entirely) those choices under the guise that Common Core doesn’t encourage acceleration. Districts prefer and think it better that students take algebra starting in high school. Common Core, however, defines four pathways that may be taken, one of which allows for taking algebra earlier than ninth grade...

I recall a person from the school district office, who I will call Sally, talking to a group of us math teachers in advance of a “math night” to be held for parents to explain the District’s policy on “compacted” math pathways.  Sally described how the District was phasing out the “accelerated math” in which qualified students in eighth grade — and even some in seventh grade — were allowed to take Algebra 1.

She did say they were working on pathways for those students who may be “really, truly” gifted and for whom algebra in seventh or eighth grade may be appropriate. This was likely not going to sit well with some parents, she said.

“There’s been a lot of parent pushback,” she sighed. “I imagine we’ll have the usual Debbie Downers and Negative Nancies in the audience on ‘math night’. But I want to make two things clear: that there’s no shame in taking Grade 8 math; under Common Core it’s equivalent to the traditional Algebra 1.” (This is debatable based on what I’ve observed in Grade 8 math classes) “And secondly, placement in eighth grade Algebra 1 will be more difficult. Fewer students will qualify – Common Core is very challenging.”

This all sounds plausible if you believe that Common Core gets into “deeper learning”. But what it really means is that students will now get a smattering of algebra in eighth grade, and the rest of it in ninth, thus taking two years to do what used to be done in one – and leaving some topics left out. Also, it raises the question that if Common Core algebra is so much deeper than a traditional algebra course, why is the traditional algebra course reserved for an elite corps of eighth grade students?
Why, do you think, certain people want to limit the amount of math a student can take?  A teacher I know once told me, without any trace of irony or joking, that he thinks an advantage of Common Core is that it will give all students a strong base of understanding and hence will help close the so-called achievement gap (this assumes that you believe the "critical thinking" offal that's tilled into soil by CC adherents).  Retarding the achievement of the best math students is not the solution to the achievement gap, and it kind of frightens me that that isn't obvious to absolutely everyone, especially to a math teacher.

The Best of the Best

If you're at the top of your high school class, you have a couple choices for college:
1)  you can challenge yourself at a top-tier university, surrounding yourself with other bright students, and where you might not be at the "top of the top" anymore, or
2)  you can go to a "lesser" university and still be the cream that rises to the top.

We're not all the top of the top, the best of the best.  How we handle that fact speaks to grit and character.
Worrying about the angst of high-achieving students has become a minor industry. “America’s culture of hyperachievement among the affluent” has led to suicides, depression, and anxiety among college students, suggested a July New York Times feature. “These cultural dynamics of perfectionism and overindulgence have now combined to create adolescents who are ultra-focused on success but don’t know how to fail,” wrote Julie Scelfo.  The rhetoric of concern barely conceals contemptuous disapproval.

In this popular narrative, America’s best college students are making themselves miserable trying to please pushy parents and grab lucrative jobs. They’re soulless grinds -- the products of insensitive parenting and a sick culture. This fable leaves no room for intellectual enthusiasm or the pride of seeing oneself as smart and accomplished. It assumes every activity these students pursue is instrumental, undertaken merely to look good on an application for the next stage in their upward climb. Their drive for success, it suggests, cloaks an ignoble lust for fame or money. The moralism of this tale may flatter the tellers, but the story itself largely misses a deeper underlying struggle on elite campuses.

Intrigued by reports that my alma mater had initiated something called the Princeton Perspective Project, which aims to reduce student stress by puncturing a reportedly pervasive ideal of “effortless perfection,” I went to campus last April to investigate. Had Princeton students stopped griping about how much work they had and how little sleep they were getting...

This sample wasn’t random or necessarily representative of the range of student experience. It was heavy on STEM majors and middle-class strivers, light on athletes and wealthy prep school graduates. In these ways, it resembled my own undergraduate circles, although with more children of immigrants and more women, both groups whose numbers have grown significantly in the three decades since I graduated.  But after repeatedly hearing the same themes, I came away with a better sense of why students feel stressed at Princeton and most likely at similar elite institutions.

Every January a great team loses the Super Bowl. Every April three of the Final Four go down. And every September, extraordinary students arrive at highly selective universities only to discover that one out of every two really will wind up in the bottom half of the freshman class --and one out of every five in the bottom quintile...

Surrounded by distinguished peers, freshmen in particular may experience a disorienting loss of identity. “It’s not just that you’re not the biggest fish in the pond anymore. It’s that there are so many other big fish,” said the chemical and biological engineering major, a top science student in high school who found herself near the bottom of the class at Princeton.  Once known as “the smart kid” or “the great musician,” students no longer find themselves so distinctive. “When everyone’s a nerd, you’re like, What am I?” she said...

The pain and struggles that generate so much public fretting are real. But unless elite schools start reserving a quarter of their slots for the unmotivated or unqualified, they’re also unavoidable. Wanting to excel is not a character flaw, and shouldn’t be treated as one in the guise of concern for students’ mental health. Ambitious students deserve the same respect we accord ambitious athletes. 
You can see that I snipped a lot of the article, specifically the parts wherein individual students were quoted.  It was an interesting read.

Whither Bullies

This is certainly an interesting thesis:
Last year, lawmakers in the state of Minnesota imposed a vast new anti-bullying bureaucracy in public schools. The argument for it centered around the experience of gay and transgender students. The new anti-bullying gestapo aspires to eliminate any possibility of such students encountering criticism or the slightest hint of rejection. Of course, in order to do that, those holding opposing viewpoints must be criticized and rejected. Bullying remains. It’s just been institutionalized and directed toward Christians and anyone who fails to fully embrace homosexuality.

During the debate, a case was made that bullying points to a broader systematic failure within public education. The problem, some argued, is coercion. The entire system is based upon force. Students are forced to attend. Taxpayers are forced to fund. Curriculum is imposed. There is thus no way for students or parents to control their experience. You can’t leave a bad school, or leave a school where you’re not being treated well. You can’t create your own alternatives which are free of any associations you find disruptive or undesirable.

The public education system has been designed from the ground up to punish individuality...

The root cause of school bullying and subsequent suicides is the public school system itself. We have turned our children over to an institution of collectivism which punishes people for being different.
I believe the argument to be overstated but still worthy of some consideration.

David Bowie

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're goin' through
--David Bowie, Changes

Story #1, Bowie might be correct:

Freshmen will be required to take a 5-hour course on diversity in their first year, starting this fall at the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa World reported in June.

Now that students are trickling back to campus, some are telling The Oklahoma Daily they think the course is a waste of time....
Story #2, let's hope Bowie is correct:
Not all of us will be mourning 9/11 victims and their families this Friday on the 14th anniversary of the attacks. Hundreds of college kids across the country will instead be taught to sympathize with the terrorists.

That’s because their America-hating leftist professors are systematically indoctrinating them into believing it’s all our fault, that the US deserved punishment for “imperialism” — and the kids are too young to remember or understand what really happened that horrific day.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

I Hope They're Right

The Supreme Court has gotten the Obamacare cases wrong, I hope they rule correctly in Friedrichs v. CTA--and I hope the unions are right to be worried that the Supremes will do so:
Education unions want Gov. Jerry Brown to embrace a late-session measure they hope would shield them from possibly debilitating financial effects of a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision...

Up against the clock in the Legislature, the labor groups are pushing for a bill that could give unions some time – a half-hour – to meet with employees to voice the benefits of union participation. That, some believe, could prevent workers from fully withdrawing from their ranks if the court rules against fair share fees.
I would agree with this if, in the spirit of fairness and equal time, CTEN (or some similar group) was given time to discuss why teachers might consider leaving the union.

The fact that they the unions are doing this, though, shows that they're not representative of their members and that they survive only through the "fair share" compulsion allowed by the state.

Teacher Blogging

The 1st Amendment doesn't keep you from getting fired:
A high school English teacher who claimed she was fired for making derogatory comments about her students on her blog cannot sue her Pennsylvania school district for violating her free speech rights, a divided federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

By a 2-1 vote, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said the Central Bucks School District's interest in educating its students outweighed the First Amendment rights of Natalie Munroe, the fired teacher.

Munroe had disparaged students as "rude, disengaged, lazy whiners," "frightfully dim," "utterly loathsome," "The Queen of Drama" and "A.I.R.H.E.A.D." in her blog, which was meant for a few friends but shared on Facebook by a student who found it. 

"Munroe's various expressions of hostility and disgust against her students would disrupt her duties as a high school teacher and the functioning of the school district," Circuit Judge Robert Cowen wrote for the majority in a 55-page decision. "The speech at issue here was not protected because the disruption diminished any legitimate interest in its expression." 
Some won't believe it, but I absolutely watch what I say here on RotLC.   I don't have a "right" to a teaching job, so I endeavor not to cross the line into unprofessionalism.  I agree that the teacher above crossed the line.

Tea Party vs Black Lives Matter

Some newsrooms are pushing back hard on the notion that the recent spike in police officer deaths is tied somehow to the anti-cop rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter movement.

That's a sharp contrast from the press' more recent habit of tying Tea Party rhetoric to similarly deadly acts.  link
It's almost like they're biased or something.

Border Fence

If you *don’t* want a wall built, *you’re* the one who’s out of touch with ordinary Americans—and by “ordinary Americans” I include Americans who are black, Americans who are Democrats, and Americans who are of Mexican descent.

The file comes from YouGov, and who, exactly, runs that right now?

Friday, September 04, 2015

Just What We Need--NEW (and improved!) Taxes

If California is in such great economic shape--and the governor is always telling us how great things are--why does the state need new taxes to pay for the most basic state responsibilities?
More than two months after calling a special session to address California's transportation funding backlog, Gov. Jerry Brown has begun circulating a list of administration proposals on how to pay for it, including a $65 annual fee for drivers and increases in the diesel and gas taxes tied to inflation.

A one-page "transportation package" released Thursday calls for $3.6 billion a year for repairs to California's crumbling transportation infrastructure. The $65 charge would generate $2 billion a year, while $500 million would come from fees charged to polluters and $100 million from so-called "efficiencies" at Caltrans, which the independent state legislative analyst has said is overstaffed.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Maybe We Needed To Pass The Law To Know It Was Bad Enough To Have To Reverse Part Of It

From here in the Golden State:
Ten months after California voters passed a ballot measure reducing several drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, Gov. Jerry Brown will be asked to consider a bill intended to soften one impact of Proposition 47.

The state Senate on Thursday unanimously approved Senate Bill 333, which would create a new felony for the possession of date-rape drugs with the intent to commit a sexual assault, sending it to Brown’s desk for a signature.

Simple possession of date-rape drugs such as Rohypnol was reduced from a wobbler – a crime that prosecutors can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony – to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47, raising concern among advocates who argued it would weaken sexual assault laws.

Galgiani originally sought to restore simple possession of the drugs to a wobbler, but the version of her bill approved Thursday creates a new felony that prosecutors could use under certain circumstances. The Legislature’s analysis of the bill described one set of circumstances in which prosecutors could use the proposed law: A suspect tells witnesses he intends to drug someone and have sex with them, then administers the drug but is stopped before an assault is attempted.
For whatever reason, the citizens voted for this law.  Why are the legislature and governor overturning the will of the people?  Where's the outcry?

There won't be one.  "The people" got to feel good voting for what they wanted, no one really cares what the final tally is.  They got to feel good, that's why they voted that way.  Mission accomplished.  Same with the $6 billion in stem cell research "the people" approved several years ago.  Finger in the eye of religious conservatives, mission accomplished.  Doesn't matter that I've yet to hear of one positive result from all that money.

Read more here:

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Was Master Yoda a Good Instructor?

Here's a mathematical analysis of Master Yoda's mass and its effect on Luke's handstand:
Using the x-position values from the video along with the mass values from my estimations, I get a Yoda-mass of -43.7 kg. Yes, that is a negative mass...

 No, Luke is not using the Force to hold Yoda up. In fact, even if Luke was doing a handstand without Yoda pulling up, his center of mass would be 12 cm to the right of his hand. He would tip over. Why is it that Yoda using The Force and not Luke? Luke doesn’t know what he is doing. He couldn’t even lift the X-wing (which happens right after this). He’s just a student. Yoda was just helping Luke because he wanted him to feel a small sense of accomplishment after his failure in the cave.
Draw your own conclusions.

Free Speech Wins a Battle

I've said it before, but judging from today's headlines you'd never believe that the free speech movement of the 60's started on university campuses:
Officials at Washington State University have now announced that taxpayer-funded professors on campus cannot proceed with their flagrant attempts to censor politically-incorrect terms or require students with white skin to “defer” to minority students.

The epic smackdown came on Monday in a strongly-worded statement from interim school president Daniel J. Bernardo.

“Over the weekend, we became aware that some faculty members, in the interest of fostering a constructive climate for discussion, included language in class syllabi that has been interpreted as abridging students’ free speech rights,” Bernardo said. “We are working with these faculty members to clarify, and in some cases modify, course policies to ensure that students’ free speech rights are recognized and protected.”
I don't care what their reasons or their intentions were.  They're bullies and fascists, and should be treated as such.  Good for WSU administration for "reminding" them of their responsibilities.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

When you let your lawn go brown ("brown is the new green"), bad things can happen--and not just to your property values:
Under orders to slash water use amid a historic drought, cities and towns across the state saved about 75 billion gallons in July, eclipsing Gov. Jerry Brown's once-daunting order for a 25% reduction.

But, in a paradox of conservation, water agencies say the unprecedented savings — 31% in July over July 2013 — are causing or compounding a slew of problems.

Sanitation districts are yanking tree roots out of manholes and stepping up maintenance on their pipes to prevent corrosion and the spread of odors. And when people use less potable water, officials say, there's less wastewater available to recycle...

"It's unintended consequences," said George Tchobanoglous, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis. "We never thought [conservation] was a bad thing. Every citizen thinks he or she is saving mankind, and I'm sympathetic, but it just so happens that our basic infrastructure was not designed with that in mind."

The Truth About Men and College

If women truly were at such a high risk (1 in 5) for being sexually assaulted in college, one wonders why any of them would ever set foot on a campus.  If the campus kangaroo courts truly are set up against men, one wonders why any man would go to such a school.

But set up against men they are, indeed:
To combat wrongful accusations of sexual assault on college campuses, a pro-due process group is distributing flyers meant to prepare young men for potential expulsion.

The organization, Families Advocating for Campus Equality has already begun distributing the flyers on California campuses, where "yes means yes" consent policies were adopted last year. The policies purport to make clear what is and isn't consent, but make it impossible for accused students to prove their innocence and in fact redefine normal human actions as rape.

"This flyer was created by a small group of California mothers of sons, including some whose sons have been falsely accused, to raise awareness of the propensity of college and university disciplinary panels to find male students guilty of sexual misconduct, often with no evidence except the accuser's claim, and frequently in the presence of tangible evidence to the contrary," said Cynthia Garrett, an attorney and board member of FACE.

The flyer includes a large image of a text conversation between two Occidental College students, identified as John Doe and Jane. Even though texts between the two appeared to prove consent and police found no evidence to the contrary, John Doe was expelled from campus and is now suing the school.
Leave law enforcement to actual law enforcement.  Schools have other things with which to concern themselves.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Renewing My Teaching Credential

This morning I received an email from myself--one that I sent 5 years ago from  I specifically sent it to be delivered today because of a problem I encountered 5 years ago.

See, my school district keeps track of all sorts of things about me, including when I need to get another tuberculosis test (every 4 years) and when I need to renew my teaching credential (every 5 years).  What's interesting is that they tell me when I need to get a TB test but don't tell me when I need to renew my credential.  They have people whose sole job it is to keep track of that, why can't they send me a reminder the way they do for the TB test?  Heck, even the DMV sends me a reminder when it's time to renew my driver's license!

Lots and lots of us were down to just a few days left before our credentials expired when finally someone at the district told us.  Yes, I understand it's my credential, yada yada, but again, the district has people whose sole job it is to track things like this.  Anyway, I had to jump through hoops and get a temporary credential, or an extension, or something, and then get the real thing.  This took a lot of time down at the district office after school and I didn't want to go through that again.

So I sent myself an email, to be delivered on September 1, 2015.  And I received it this morning.  So I just finished answering a bunch of questions online (no, I'm not being investigated for any felonies, and no, I've never been fired from teaching, etc), paid $102.50 with a credit card, and now I'm magically able to continue teaching for the next 5 years.  I'm still curious what that money is actually for....  Five years ago the fee was about $70. Go figure.

Advice for College Freshmen

Read this today and thought it made sense:
As I enter my junior year at the University of Maryland, I'm armed with the experience and confidence that were sorely lacking when I left home to start my college career. After learning valuable lessons about everything from friendship to food in the past few years, I feel qualified to give a little advice. To all of the incoming freshmen who want their college experience to be the best it can be, here's what I wish I had known before heading off for the first time....
Go read the whole thing and, if you're in my generation, take that little stroll down memory lane!