Thursday, December 31, 2015

Old Years and New

50 years ago I was in diapers.
40 years ago I was in 5th grade, and had been to Europe the previous two summers.
30 years ago I was a junior at West Point, having just finished a semester on exchange at the Air Force Academy.
20 years ago I was an expectant father.
10 years ago I was recovering from an emotionally traumatic year.
Tonight I'm confident, content, and growing.

I hope you have a happy new year.

Economics, California-Style

I've been saying this for years.  Anyone with the most basic understanding of economics understands this logical result:

California somehow has managed to have the fourth-highest gas taxes in the nation, yet its roads are rated 44th among the 50 states. Nearly 70 percent of California roads are considered to be in poor or mediocre condition by the state senate. In response, the state legislature naturally wants to raise gas taxes, with one proposal calling for an increase of 12 cents per gallon, which would give California the highest gas taxes in the nation.

Because oil prices have crashed, state bureaucrats apparently believe that the public won’t notice the tax increase in their fill-up costs – even though special California fuel mandates already help make gas prices 25 percent higher than the national average.

Consider California’s upside-down logic.

The state wanted to discourage driving and promote hybrid vehicles by upping taxes on carbon fuels. It worked, though it cost the public dearly. People drove less and bought more fuel-efficient cars. But now, because less gas is burned, fewer taxes are collected. So the state wants to reward motorists for their green sacrifices by raising their taxes even higher to make up for missing revenue. If state motorists drive even less and cram into two-seat commuter cars, will California further reward them with even higher gas taxes? (boldface mine--Darren)

Notice what the state does not consider.

Are highway bureaucracies such as the California Department of Transportation run efficiently? The nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office recently reported waste and inefficiency in Caltrans, citing a staggering 3,500 unnecessary Caltrans employees, and declaring the agency more inefficient than other states’ transportation bureaucracies.

If California motorists are driving far fewer miles, shouldn’t roads wear out more slowly – and additional taxes not need to be raised for repairs? Could state revenues that have been diverted to the high-speed rail boondoggle instead be used for road repairs?

A Must-Read Commentary On So-called Social Justice

Posted at Breitbart:
I can’t help but share this amazing anonymous smackdown of the odious cult of social justice with readers. It’s currently doing the rounds on Twitter and reddit. If anyone knows the author, do get in touch…
Seriously, go read it. A snippet:
Worst of all, you turn the very principles of freedom against us. We tolerate you because we believe in free speech and civil discourse, not bullying and violence. But that means we have to watch you advocate against that very freedom. We don’t believe in ruining a stranger’s professional life over an opinion, but that means that we can’t punish your actions.

We believe that the rightness of our actions should speak for itself. You believe in bullying, even as you claim to love the oppressed.


Who are the real racists--people like me, who believe in Dr. King's and Thurgood Marshall's colorblind society, or those who cry "racism!" at the drop of a hat?
THERE IS NO RACIST LIKE AN ANTIRACIST, writes Theodore Dalrymple. “That is because he is obsessed by race, whose actual existence as often as not he denies. He looks at the world through race-tinted spectacles, interprets every event or social phenomenon as a manifestation of racism either implicit or explicit, and in general has the soul of a born inquisitor.”
And then I saw this article:
In a statistical analysis that controlled for a host of other influences, we found this: Negative racial views about blacks were the single most important predictor of white opposition to paying college athletes.

The more negatively a white respondent felt about blacks, the more they opposed paying college athletes.

To check our findings’ validity, we also conducted an experiment. Before we asked white respondents whether college athletes should be paid, we showed one group pictures of young black men with stereotypical African American first and last names. We showed another group no pictures at all.

As you can see in the figure below, whites who were primed by seeing pictures of young black men were significantly more likely to say they opposed paying college athletes. Support dropped most dramatically among whites who expressed the most resent towards blacks as a group.
Is there no other explanation for this?  Does correlation imply causation?  If you're trying to show racism by whites, wouldn't you show black pictures to some and white pictures to others?

I'm for getting rid of "big athletics" at colleges and having them return to what should be their actual focus, which is education.  Would that disproportionately affect blacks?  Does that make me a racist?  Does it bother me that if our public universities had admissions standards based mostly on academic merit, then even more Asians would attend top-tier universities?  The answers to those questions are "Certainly, at least in high-dollar sports", "no", and "no".

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Minority Majority

As a teacher who is not a union member, I'm a tiny minority in California but a majority in the overall United States:
Teacher union membership is dwindling. In fact, it has dipped below 50 percent nationwide, down from a high of almost 70 percent in 1993. 
The number will drop even further if Friedrichs v. CTA goes our way.

Not "Warts and All", But "Just the Warts"

Why renaming places because the honored person didn't hold today's correct views is silly:
A wide range of properties and portraits were suddenly deemed offensive because students, apparently, hadn’t realized that revered Founding Fathers owned slaves, and that most beloved and wealthy Americans born before the 20th century did not treat women, homosexuals, and people of color with great respect.

At Amherst college in Massachusetts efforts to rename the school’s unofficial mascot Lord Jeff picked up steam.

Students did not want to have a mascot honoring a British general, Lord Jeffery Amherst, who supported spreading smallpox to Native American during the French and Indian War.

There were more than a few objections to the noble fight, not least that removing the names of racist figures cannot rectify their past sins—nor does it help those in the present day understand history’s darker moments and complexities.

Removing admired statesman but horrendously pro-slavery John Calhoun’s name from a college at Yale, or racist but respected president and designer of the League of Nations Woodrow Wilson’s name from his school at Princeton, also do not rectify modern inequalities.

“It’s not doing the hard work of education,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor Alfred L. Brophy told The Daily Beast. “Once you do the renaming, everyone forgets.”

2015 also saw a ridiculous twist in the renaming battles. While there may be a legitimate debate over how to handle monuments and buildings named for people who are clearly racist, sexist, and homophobic by today’s standards, a group of students at a Pennsylvania college wanted a building renamed because the name merely sounded like a racially charged act.

At Lebanon Valley College, some students demanded that the campus building Lynch Memorial Hall be renamed.

The “lynch” in it is not to honor the brutal and often racist mob murders, but to pay tribute to a beloved college president, Clyde A. Lynch. That Lynch not only led the school through the Great Depression and World War II, but spent his last years helping displaced refugees resettle in the U.S.
As I've said before, I'm entirely OK with teaching history "warts and all", but it seems that too many people today focus only on the warts.  As I once saw on the Facebook, "You are more than just your mistakes."

For The Brotherhood, Everything. Outside The Brotherhood, Nothing.

If you still need evidence of the fascist tendencies of unions, look no further:
Local 412 of the United Auto Workers has placed a spotlight on employees who have chosen to exercise their right to not support the union financially under Michigan’s right-to-work law. In a recent newsletter, the local urges co-workers not to share “tools, knowledge or support” with individuals who chose not to pay union dues.

It then lists the names of the employees to be shunned.

“I hope there is one thing we can all take from this,” the newsletter reads. “Please do not share any tools, knowledge or support for any of these employees who choose not to pay their fair share.”

Jeff Hagler, president of the UAW Local 412 Region 1, and Michael Hayes, vice president of the union, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
If they were sure they were right, if they were secure with what they offer their members, they wouldn't need to act like bullies.

While I don't advertise it, plenty of people where I work know that I'm an agency fee payer as opposed to a union member.  I don't think they'd respond well to a suggestion like the UAW's if our local union proposed one.

Cultural Appropriation

Here's one way to combat the idea of "cultural appropriation":
Multicultural diversity succeeded in watering down American culture. We have to accept thug music (rap) alongside Beethoven. Now the left is embracing cultural appropriation, a guilt trip laid on gullible white people.

OK, fair is fair. As a white Christian, I won't eat halal. I won't eat Thai. I'll even give up General Tso, which is something I actually do eat.

Now give me back the polio vaccine. It is part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It was developed by Jews (there are two vaccines).

Also, give back pasteurized milk.

The automobile.

The airplane.

The train.

Electricity, the Internet, skyscrapers, radio, television, and the cellphone -- or any other kind of phone. Transistors, too....
I'm not sure that's the way to go, though, because it validates the very concept of cultural appropriation--among the most racist concepts there is.

Think about it.  Are only certain people, based on how they were raised or where they were born, allowed to wear certain types of clothing?  Are only certain people, based on how they were raised or where they were born, allowed to eat certain types of food?  Are only certain people, based on how they were raised or where they were born, allowed to listen to, or to perform, certain types of music?  Are only certain people, based on how they were raised or where they were born, allowed to wear their hair certain ways?

The answer to all of these questions is--or at least should be, and in an ideal world would be--an emphatic "no!"  But we have people out there arguing each of these even now.  And there are just enough soft-headed lefties, anxious to display their liberal bona fides, who will go along with them since they're part of the tribe.

I'm not saying we should mock people based solely on how they were raised or where they were born, but eating food, wearing clothes or hair styles, and/or listening to music should be open to everyone--and it pains me that such a statement even needs to be said.  I can eat Chinese food if I want to, and I should be able to eat Americanized Chinese food (orange chicken the best!) or Mongolian barbecue without complaints from people claiming that simple act is an affront to them.  You know what's an affront to me?  Your racism and fascism.  Which of us has the better argument?

Is having a "fiesta" themed party truly offensive?  Really?  You can argue it is if you want to, but that answer isn't self-obvious. 

Why should you care if white people want to wear dreadlocks?

There are plenty of other questions I can ask of the "cultural appropriation" crowd, but one wonders if such self-important and hate-filled people can even understand the racism inherent in their beliefs--or if it's the reason for their beliefs.

Republic Under Siege

When you need an underground First Amendment group, the battle really is at our own shores:
At Brown, there is an underground group whose purpose is to allow kids to say what they ought to be free to say above ground.”

So begins Jay Nordlinger’s National Review profile of Reason@Brown. Christopher Robotham, 21, is the group’s founder. He tells FIRE that the by-invitation-only club is a forum where Brown students can engage in free expression in an atmosphere where open and vigorous debate is welcome and valued.

I talked to Robotham, a computer science and math major, about why he started Reason@Brown, what to make of the campus “safe space” crisis, and where we go from here.
And this at an Ivy. The founders fought and thought so much for this?

When What We Know Ain't So

"Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so."  Ronald Reagan

"It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so."  Will Rogers

Blogger and teacher Michael Mazenko send me his latest op-ed today, in which he offered a timeline which included the failed educational "contributions" of people who have  more dollars than sense:
It's been 32 years since a U.S. Department of Education report declared America "A Nation at Risk." It's been 15 years since Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates began his education philanthropy, naively believing his wealth and business acumen could solve the country's supposed "education crisis."

It's been 14 years since No Child Left Behind promised all students would achieve at grade level by 2014. It's been seven years since the launch of the Common Core initiative to standardize education. It's been five years since Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million to "fix schools" in Newark, N.J., and turn that poverty-plagued system into a national model of education.

In all that time, academic achievement has remained roughly the same, with national tests like NAEP and ACT indicating a relatively stable, or stagnant, state of education.

I've said it forever, our problem is not as much in education as it is in culture. Sure, we do some educationally-stupid things, but the bigger problem is a culture that doesn't seem to value education as much as it once did.

Despite claims by reformers like Gates and College Board president David Coleman, the establishment of common standards and yearly standardized tests have not improved education. The root causes of education failure often reside outside the school environment, and these are too often ignored by reformers. Non-school factors are the primary drivers of low achievement, and there is little doubt where these needs are greatest.

There is no crisis in public education, but there are many crises in individual communities. Thus, declaring a crisis in "education" and instituting state and national programs is not helpful because it aims at too big of a target. There is no reason to declare a crisis in the thousands of successful schools. Education is not "in crisis," but 30 percent of schools and neighborhoods are. We already know which schools and students struggle. Thus, reformers and educators and media and legislators must focus directly on them.

It's almost cliche to point out all the so-called reforms and counter-reforms that educators ourselves have put out or latched onto over the years, reforms and counter-reforms backed up by "the research" that is usually found lacking after the reforms and counter-reforms have failed and students have paid the price.  Educational fads are insidious, and the so-called learning styles myth is among the worst:

One such myth is that individuals learn best when they are taught in the way they prefer to learn. A verbal learner, for example, supposedly learns best through oral instructions, whereas a visual learner absorbs information most effectively through graphics and other diagrams.

There are two truths at the core of this myth: many people have a preference for how they receive information, and evidence suggests that teachers achieve the best educational outcomes when they present information in multiple sensory modes. Couple that with people's desire to learn and be considered unique, and conditions are ripe for myth-making.

“Learning styles has got it all going for it: a seed of fact, emotional biases and wishful thinking,” says Howard-Jones. Yet just like sugar, pornography and television, “what you prefer is not always good for you or right for you,” says Paul Kirschner, an educational psychologist at the Open University of the Netherlands.
Learning occurs best when the material is taught in the modality most appropriate for the content.  One would think that would be obvious, but clearly it's not.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Things I Learn

I don't like to admit it, but I've been very naive.

I used to believe that every teacher (except for those couple everyone knows about at every school) generally does what I do--planned out lessons weeks in advance, prepared for them, taught to the best of their ability, assessed fairly, etc.  But then I thought about all the examples I know of where teachers don't do that, and I thought that perhaps I shouldn't write that post!  I'm not interested in having someone drum up accusations of "unprofessional conduct" against me for writing about all the things I know about!

So I'll just write about the one I heard about today, on the Facebook.

A former student of mine posted the following from Tumbler:
I'd never heard of this term "shipping" before, but as you can see, the context makes it pretty clear that it involves teachers' playing matchmaker for students.

Anyway, here's part of our exchange (yes, she gave me permission to post this):
I don't want to know anything about my students' sex lives.  As far as I'm concerned, they don't have any.  I don't see how any good can come from my having such knowledge or being involved in any way.  I want to stay as far away from that as I possibly can.  But others don't, so much so that not only are there different types of involvement, but there is a term, "shipping", to describe this particular type of involvement.

What the heck?!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Points Break

Yesterday I was at Walmart and thought it couldn't hurt to check out the $7.88 blu-ray bin.  In it I found the 1991 Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze movie Point Break.  Knowing that a remake was just released, I bought it.  A friend and I watched it and then headed to the theater to see the new one.

The original was a good action movie, but the action mostly involved surfing (and one scene of parachuting).  Well, if some action was good, more must be better, right?  The new movie gave us not only surfing but dirt biking, freehand cliff climbing, flying squirrel suits, and parachuting.  It gave us exotic locales, sweeping vistas, ADD-inducing action, and a less believable story.  Still, I have to admit it was fun to watch.

The original certainly had a more believable story.  Its biggest flaw, though, was the wooden acting of Keanu Reeves, who at the time had already done Bill and Ted but had not yet starred in Speed.  Reeves' acting was almost Hayden Christensen-worthy, and I don't say that lightly.

I probably enjoyed each of these movies more than I enjoyed Star Wars VII.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Which Degree?

From The Economist:

"Earnest, Unmarried, Middle-aged, White, Liberal, Multiple Cat-owning Teachers"

The anger in this post is justified.  Hyperbolic, yes, but justified.
Merry Christmas, and if you don’t like it you can stuff it in a stocking. This is the time of year when terrified souls offer up the ubiquitously bland “Happy Holidays” in order to avoid pointing out that what we are celebrating are different religious observances. Naturally, we must suppress any such hint of the fact that we are doing so in the name of diversity.

Ah diversity, the last refuge of the fascist. Remember, like everything else leftists yap about, “diversity” is a lie. When they use the word, it means the ruthless imposition of grim, lockstep, staggeringly boring conformity. When we are all the same shade of pale gray, bereft of unique ideas, traditions, and spirituality, it’s much easier to lead us into the socialist Utopia they yearn to rule.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Cuppa

My friends and family know what I like:
Merry Christmas :-)

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Have you heard the term "CEO Christian"?  It means "Christmas and Easter Only."

I have what I refer to as "Christmas relatives".  These are relatives I see only at Christmas, if even then.  Today I have a full day of visiting friends and family; this morning's first stop will be a Christmas Cousin, who's home visiting from Southern California.  I didn't get to see her (and her new baby) last year because I took off to Washington to see my own baby, who had just arrived at his unit a week or so before.  Anyway, it's time now to load up the car and get going--it's going to be a long, enjoyable day.

I hope yours is as well.

Update:  I left around 11 this morning and got home a few minutes short of 9.  It was a long, enjoyable day.

West Point Glee Club Flash Mob

If I were stuck in an airport, this would make my time there that much nicer:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I've heard of these kinds of trips before, and in the back of my mind I've always felt there was something narcissistic about them, but to be honest I haven't devoted a lot of thought to them.  Thanks to this article, I don't have to:
There have been many different articles written about the ineffectiveness of short-term voluntourism trips to developing nations, including here and here by our friends at in-Training. You know the kind of trips I’m talking about: a spring break spent painting an orphanage in Haiti as opposed to drinking all day in Panama City Beach; a 10-day excursion in exotic Peru, with the pics with Machu Picchu to prove it; or, for the overachieving do-gooders, a couple weeks spent touring a slum in Nairobi, Kenya.

However, these types of trips often exploit the people and communities they pretend to help. Worse, these short-term service self-fulfillment trips can end up doing more harm than good.

I’m guilty of this myself. I spent a couple of weeks in a remote Ukrainian village in 2006, where I basically just hung out with a few orphans and occupied space. The following summer, immediately after graduating high school, I spent a few months in Uganda where I did slightly more work until I realized the true uselessness of my unskilled presence there. But the only people less helpful than me were the groups of voluntourists I’d see trickle in and out, wrongfully believing they made a lifelong difference in a child’s life.

Many people have the best intentions, but lack the necessary tools to be effective. Here’s why trips like that are a problem.
Reasons 1, 6, and 7 struck the loudest chords in me.

I've known students who do these trips "to look good on a college application"--and no doubt to satisfy a Messiah-complex in the process.  There's nothing wrong with helping, but the link above discusses better alternatives to volun-tourism.

Obama Is The Reason For Trump

I have nothing to add to this except for a hallelujah and a couple amens:
Many of the same people anxious about the authoritarian overtones of Trump’s appeal were unconcerned about the intense adulation that adoring crowds showered on Obama in 2008, though the spectacle featured similarly troubling signs—the iconography, the messianic messaging, and the implausible promises of government-produced comfort and safety. Just as President Trump fans will judge every person on how nice or mean they are to Trump, so too, those rooting against Obama were immediately branded unpatriotic or racist.
Obama’s inevitable failure to live up to the hype has had many repercussions, and none of them healthy.
One: the hypocrisy of liberalism, which only a few years before was lamenting how W.’s abuses had destroyed the republic, now justify Obama’s numerous executive overreaches because they correspond with liberal political aims. Obama’s argument—and thus, the contention of his fans—seems to pivot on the notion that the president has a moral imperative to “act” on his favored policies because the law-making branch of government refuses to do so. That is weird. This reasoning will almost certainly be modus operandi for presidents unable to push through their own agendas—which, considering where the country is headed, will be every president.
As Victor Davis Hanson noted on Sunday, “What if the reckless Donald Trump were president? Thank Obama for Trump, because long ago the president ended altogether the idea of extreme language in politics. Obama has said anything and everything with implicit media sanction. And we are already harvesting with Trump what Obama and the media have sown.”
Posted at 8:11 am by Ed Driscoll

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas in Public Schools

I get tired of those who try to push Christmas out of public schools because it's Christian.  There are two types of Christmas celebrations, secular and religious, and while I'd agree that the religious component's presence in public schools can be considered tenuous under the First Amendment, the secular celebration is on rock-solid ground.  Unless you can show me where in the Bible there is referenced a fat man with flying reindeer, or a decorated evergreen tree, or even just a snowman, then you've got nothing.

My point of view rests strongly on the First Amendment, it seems many Americans would go further than I would:
Earlier this week a New York City school superintendent ordered Christmas festivities be restored at a Brooklyn elementary school after the principal declared the small campus to be a Santa-free zone.

The nation would likely agree with the decision: A new Rasmussen Reports survey finds that 76 percent of Americans believe Christmas should be celebrated in public schools. Among adults with school-age children at home, 82 percent favor celebrating Christmas in the classroom.

Another 61 percent overall believe there should be more religion in those schools. Another 54 percent say there’s not enough religion in the public schools; 70 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of the parents and 44 percent of Democrats agree. The survey of 1,000 U.S. adults was conducted Dec. 10-13.

Rasmussen Reports notes that the findings are virtually unchanged from similar surveys in recent years.

Off To See Star Wars!

I won't post spoilers, of course, but I'll let you know if I liked it or not.

Update:  Like you've no doubt heard already, visually it was the best Star Wars in 32 years.   The story, though?  Eh.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Whitewashing History Isn't Limited To This Side of the Atlantic

Who, in recorded history, held such "modern" views that we cannot find a reason to expunge them?  Is there anyone who didn't have some belief, or commit some action, that means they cannot be held up for posterity--or even have a statue?
An Oxford college might remove a statue of the 19th Century politician Cecil Rhodes giving in to a student anti-racism campaign.

The students have claimed hat honouring Rhodes is not compatible with an “inclusive culture” at the university...

The college says it doesn’t “condone his racist views or actions”.
I'm quite serious.  Who in history is worthy of a statue?

I'm OK with a "warts and all" approach to learning history, what I don't like is the "only the warts" approach, as if everyone in history is no more than the sum of their mistakes--mistakes by our standards, not by the standards of their day.

Learning 'Bout Cuba, Having Some Food

(If you don't get the reference, scroll to about 1:00 here)

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Rahm Emanuel's scheduled trip to Cuba, and asked why he could go but I cannot.  I still don't see how his trip can be justified, assuming the information here is correct:
So ... American tourism is or isn't legal in Cuba?

Though the U.S. and Cuba have re-established diplomatic relations, the two countries have far from worked everything out. General tourist travel to Cuba is still illegal under U.S. law.

Until Congress decides otherwise, U.S. citizens and permanent residents are prohibited from traveling to Cuba for the sole purpose of basking on a beach and drinking daiquiris.

If the U.S. Department of the Treasury were to discover that an American took part in such illicit activities, he or she could be subject to a hefty fine or even jail time.

How rigorously illegal tourism will be monitored remains to be seen.
I'm sure it won't be monitored very closely for the president's former right-hand man.
As of January 2015, there are 12 broad categories of travel activities that have been granted this permanent pre-approved status (PDF):

• Visiting family

• Humanitarian projects or to provide support to the Cuban people

• Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations

• Journalistic activities

• Professional research

• Educational activities by persons at academic institutions

• People to people travel

• Religious activities

• Public performance, clinics, workshops, athletic or other competitions and exhibitions

• Authorization to provide travel services, carrier services and remittance forwarding services

• Activities of private foundations, research or educational institutes

• Exportation of certain Internet-based services

Traveling to Cuba is indeed easier for many than it's been in decades. It's just not the free-for-all it's been made out to be.
As a blogger for almost 11 years now I most certainly qualify as a journalist.  Since my travel plans for next summer have been unraveling for over a week now, perhaps I should go report on the workers' paradise.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pajama Boy Redux

Remember pajama boy, the onesie-clad twenty-something who urged his fellow lefties to spew Obamacare talking points over Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner a few years ago?  Well, he's being replaced by Harvard students:
Harvard administrators are crimson-faced over a misguided effort to get students ready for the holidays by handing out pointers to help them debate tuition-paying grownups who don’t know a micro-aggression from mistletoe.

The venerable school’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Freshman Dean’s Office printed up and handed out laminated placemats described as "[guides] for holiday discussions on race and justice with loved ones." The table-setting talking points are designed to help SAT-crushing Ivy Leaguers put pesky parents, aunts and uncles in their place on such subjects as race, diversity and even the Syrian refugee crisis.

“Why are black students complaining? Shouldn’t they be happy to be in college?” reads one question anticipated on the “Holiday Placemat for Social Justice.” The proper response, according to the Cambridge braintrust, is to respond by saying, “When I hear students expressing their experiences on campus I don’t hear complaining"...

On Wednesday, Stephen Lassoed, dean of student life, and Thomas Dingman, dean of freshmen, apologized for the placemats.

“We write to acknowledge that the placemat distributed in some of your dining halls this week failed to account for the many viewpoints that exist on our campus on some of the most complex issues we confront as a community and society today,” they said in a letter to students. "Our goal was to provide a framework for you to engage in conversations with peers and family members as you return home for the winter break, however, it was not effectively presented and it ultimately caused confusion in our community.”
I don't think it caused confusion at all.  What it caused was a view into the programming of students at Harvard, a view they'd rather us plebs not see at all.

The Three T's

Today I was given a couple of gifts while in our counseling office.  One of our counselors gave me a selection of tea, while one of the secretaries gave me some Toblerones.  It occurred to me then that I had two of my three favorite T's:  tea, Toblerone, and (Trader Joe's Chocolate Ganache) Torte.

I have plenty of snackies to last awhile!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How To Eliminate Campus Racism

From the Hoover Institute:
Colleges and universities should examine how their own policies and programs encourage racial division...

Whatever privilege students may have before they arrive at college, the reality of American higher education today is that students of color have been privileged by their institutions in ways that invite segregation and differential treatment, whether done in the name of reparations for past discrimination, as affirmative action to overcome societally imposed disadvantages, or in the belief that celebrating and encouraging differences improves education for everyone. There should be no surprise that students of color often self-segregate and are seen as different by their fellow students.

The concept of white privilege is a logical outgrowth of the concept of institutional racism. In reaction to the now quaint notion that intent to discriminate must be proven to establish illegal race discrimination, lawyers and race scholars came up with the concept of institutional racism. The idea is that racism is so deeply rooted in American society that it persists even amongst institutions that have made genuine efforts to correct for any intentional past discrimination. Thus, the theory holds, the University of Missouri and all of its privileged white students are guilty, by definition, of racial discrimination today, albeit in subtle ways.
It's like Chief Justice Roberts said:   The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

West Point To Get Its First Woman Commandant

There are 3 generals at West Point:  the Superintendent, a 3-star general in charge of the entire Academy and post; the Dean, a 1-star general in charge of the academic development of cadets; and the Commandant (pronounced as Col. Klink's title was, and that's kah-men-dahnt), a 1-star general in charge of the military development of cadets.  West Point is about to get its first woman Commandant--and she's younger than I am:
The deputy commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division, Brig. Gen. Diana M. Holland, will become the first female commandant of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The placement was announced Tuesday...

Gen. Holland has served in a wide range of engineering roles following her graduation from the academy in 1990.

Technology And Cheating

It's amazing what smartwatches can do these days:
One of Japan's top educational institutions has banned all watches from entrance exams in an effort to limit options for cheats.

The move by Kyoto University reflects a growing concern that smartwatches could be used by dishonest examinees to access forbidden information, the Wall Street Journal reported. However, the university has decided to issue a blanket ban on all wristwatches as it's not always easy to tell at a glance if someone's watch is old-school or smart.

While the university is thought to be the first in Japan to announce such a ban, several others around the world are known to have made a similar move in recent months as smartwatches show up on an increasing number of wrists.

Is Discrimination Acceptable If It's In Pursuit Of What You Consider A Worthwhile Goal?

I guess it is!  For our leftie friends, though, I'll point out that the CEO in question, the one trying to push personal views here, is from SAM'S CLUB, which is owned by the same company as the evil WALMART!
“Just today we met with a supplier and the entire other side of the table was all Caucasian males,” she told Harlow who asked her what she said to them.

“I decided not to talk about it directly with his folks in the room because there were actually no female, like, levels down,” she said. “I’m gonna place a call to him.”


She also said she uses her position to “nudge,” Sam’s Clubs partners and suppliers to hire more minorities and women for the top spots.

This philosophy is not discrimination how?
The ends justify the means, I guess.  If she were pushing them not to give to Planned Parenthood, though, I'm sure there would be howls of protest from the fever swamp.

Update, 12/17/15:  I'm not the only one who noticed this:
Naturally the left, who would be going out of its mind if a white male suggested an all black female executive team had to be diversified, cannot understand what all the anger is about.

Student Evaluations of College Professors

From NPR, about an experiment in Italy:
Here's what he found. The better the professors were, as measured by their students' grades in later classes, the lower their ratings from students.

"If you make your students do well in their academic career, you get worse evaluations from your students," Pellizzari said. Students, by and large, don't enjoy learning from a taskmaster, even if it does them some good.

There's an intriguing exception to the pattern: Classes full of highly skilled students do give highly skilled teachers high marks. Perhaps the smartest kids do see the benefit of being pushed.
The Air Force Academy found similar results a few years ago
In primary and secondary education, measures of teacher quality are often based on contemporaneous student performance on standardized achievement tests. In the postsecondary environment, scores on student evaluations of professors are typically used to measure teaching quality. We possess unique data that allow us to measure relative student performance in mandatory follow-on classes. We compare metrics that capture these three different notions of instructional quality and present evidence that professors who excel at promoting contemporaneous student achievement teach in ways that improve their student evaluations but harm the follow-on achievement of their students in more advanced classes.
Unless evaluations are overwhelmingly good or bad, I can't see how they're very useful in evaluating instructors--and even in those cases it appears that student evaluations could be of little value.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Star Trek Beyond

If this trailer is any indication, it will be another in the "good movie, bad Star Trek" genre.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

School Officials Beclown Themselves

A Texas 7th grader said he was forced to cover up his T-shirt depicting a wartime soldier holding a gun.

Specifically, that would be a Stormtrooper holding a “rebel blaster” on a "Star Wars" T-shirt.

“It’s political correctness run amok,” the student’s father, Joe Southern, told KTRK. “You’re talking about a "Star Wars" T-shirt, a week before the biggest movie of the year comes out. It has nothing to do with guns or making a stand. It’s just a "Star Wars" shirt.”

Southern said his son, Colton, wore the Stormtrooper shirt to class Thursday at George Junior High School in Rosenberg, just as he had done several times before without incident.

Edie Oats, WI--First-year teacher Susan Potts was placed on unpaid administrative leave pending termination from her position at Forked Tongue Middle School for paying for a lunchtime snack with a Massachusetts state quarter.

"We have a strict zero-tolerance policy regarding firearms, and the Massachusetts quarter has a firearm depicted on it. A teacher, of all people, should know better than to bring such items on campus," said Superintendent Stew Pid.

Pid was referring to the Massachusetts quarter, released in 2000 as part of the US Mint's extremely popular 50 State Quarters Program. The Massachusetts quarter clearly shows a minuteman carrying a firearm.

"I thought all money was acceptable at school," said Potts. "I just wanted a rice cake and gave the cafeteria lady some coins, one of which was the quarter in question. It never occurred to me to 'screen' my money, and I had no idea the cafeteria ladies were trained to look for people spending this particular quarter."
Yes, I made up one of those stories. Hard to tell which one, isn't it?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Throwing Lefties' Own Hypocrisy Back At Them

They're so smug, so superior, they can't even fathom a world in which people disagree with them.  This is partly why their arguments are so easy to shred, because in their own vacuum chambers they've never really had to defend them.

Watching Dinesh D'Souza embarrass this Amherst student is a treat:

To the white student not willing to leave Amherst and thereby give up his so-called white privilege:
"You are willing to have social justice where other people pay but you are not willing to pay.  So that's the problem, that's the problem with progressivism that marches behind social justice while protecting its own privileges."

"But for you, this hypocrisy is fully justified because you are 'militated' on behalf of the poor.  But if you are against privilege, this college is privilege.  So there's a glaring hypocrisy and you will never turn your moral mirror on yourself to say, what am I doing about it... For you, society should act before you do to enforce your moral code."

It's 14:23 long and worth every moment.

And I can't have a leftie-argument-shredding video post without these classics from Milton Friedman:

It's In My Soul. It's Who I Am.

I don't want it to be.  I'm so tired of my alma mater having a losing team, I'm tired of supporting losers.

I left to go to a farmers' market, but when I noticed it was 12pm I couldn't help it.  I turned on the radio, put it on scan.  I knew I'd found the Army-Navy Game when I heard the national anthem being sung.

Navy's ranked 21st in the nation.  It wouldn't surprise me if Army, at 2-9, is ranked 121st.  But here I am, at home on the couch watching the game.  In the car I got to yell my two favorite words, TOUCHDOWN ARMY!

It's in my soul.  It's who I am.

Update:  They didn't play as badly as I thought they would, losing by 4.  The line was 21 1/2.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Somehow It All Came Together

Usually I have tests graded the day after students take them.  I've had plenty of tests, projects, quizzes, and even an extra credit "pop quiz" to grade, so the papers started stacking up.  I was a day behind schedule and feeling overwhelmed.  Somehow, though, by the end of the work day today I had them all graded, input into our grading program, and even handed back to students.  Whew!  No Sword of Damocles hanging over my head this weekend.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Genius That Strikes Right Before Going To Bed

Stay with me if you can.  I'm going to make you privy to the kind of planning that pegs me as an experienced teacher.  Prepare to be impressed.

1.  I don't have anything to take for lunch tomorrow.
2.  There's a rally right before lunch tomorrow.
3.  I don't have to work at the rally.
4.  I can go try our new (this school year) Chinese take-out-type food at the cafeteria for lunch tomorrow.
5.  Go right before the rally ends--no line.


Research Paper Done!

If you're willing to proofread and/or provide constructive criticism on my research paper before I submit it, please email me for a copy!  Contact information is in my Blogger profile.

If It's As Bad As This Article Says, I'm Not At All Surprised

Obamacare Is Now on Life Support:
Democrats gained the political muscle to push the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through Congress on three basic arguments.

First, they argued that the United States had too many uninsured people, with estimates ranging from 30 million to 45 million.

Second, the rise in costs for health care outstripped inflation, and the market required an intervention that would bend the cost curve downward.

Third, Democrats claimed that insurance companies made too much profit and shorted most consumers on care, while those with generous health plans – so-called “Cadillac plans” – drove up utilization rates and costs for everyone else.

The only solution for these ills was a massive government intervention, complete with mandates for all participants in the market, including providers, insurers, and consumers. Once government ran this market, Democrats promised, consumers would see their premiums decrease (by $2,500 a year, according to Barack Obama), insurers would gain access to vast numbers of new consumers who couldn’t get insurance before, and the lifting of cost burdens would spark a job-creation surge that would lift the economy.

Such were the promises of Obamacare five years ago. The reality began looking much different in the fall of 2013, when the first open-enrollment period turned into a disaster. Millions of insurance policies were canceled even though the health care exchanges failed to work properly.

In 2014, premiums spiked, and then in 2015 they exploded again along with deductibles so high that many decided not to be insured at all. Over half of Obamacare’s co-ops collapsed this year, most of them this fall, and now the providers who took their clients may end up stuck with the bills...

Still, as bad as the news has been over the past five years, the remaining illusions were shattered by the CBO and the White House itself this week. Obamacare didn’t make much of a dent in the uninsured rate, it has forced costs to rise faster than before, and it will kill millions of jobs that otherwise would be created.

“The labor force is projected to be about 2 million full-time-equivalent workers smaller in 2025 under the ACA than it would have been otherwise,” the CBO concludes in the latest analysis of Obamacare’s impact on the economy...

So let’s recap. Obamacare has depressed job growth, costs are escalating at a higher rate, barely a dent has been made in the numbers of uninsured, and insurers are either exiting the markets or failing altogether.
Who could possibly have predicted such a failure?

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

What's Missing In This Article

The National Education Association applauds the new Every Student Succeeds Act:
“Today, the U.S. Senate took a bold and historic step to usher in a new era in public education,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a. “This is a deserved victory for public education because the Every Student Succeeds Act will ensure all students have equal opportunity to a high-quality public education regardless of ZIP Code.”

Students and educators have lived with the unintended consequences of the failed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for more than 14 years. NEA members have waged an unprecedented mobilization and advocacy campaign on behalf of the nation’s students in an effort to turn the page on the failed NCLB law and to bring in a new federal education law that provides more opportunity for all students.
As is typical of such union pronouncements, there's no mention of what was wrong with the previous law or what is good about the new law.  (My guess is that the answer to the first part is "President Bush signed it" and the answer to the second is "President Obama will sign it", but that's just me.)

What do you think you can infer from this?  And if you don't like a law drafted by the (Democratic) Lion of the Senate and voted for by all these people, what do you like?  Answer:  probably nothing that's good for kids in particular or education in general.

Why Living In California Is Such A Problem

Check out the headline from the major Sacramento newspaper.  It's a quote from our governor.  The problem is not just that he said it, but that people here in California don't seem to think it's a (fascist) problem:
Jerry Brown: ‘Never underestimate the coercive power of the central state’
“You can be sure California is going to keep innovating, keep regulating,” the Democratic governor said. “And, shall I say, keep taxing.”

Controversially, many green-energy businesses benefit from government subsidies or policies to reduce greenhouse gases.
This is the very definition of crony capitalism, and it's business as usual here in the People's Republic.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Sometimes Mockery Is The Best/Only Response

Today's delicate flowers come to us courtesy of UC Santa Barbara, which means that I'm footing the bill for their education:
UC Santa Barbara has scheduled a meeting for Saturday afternoon meant to allow students distressed by the newly created “UCSB White Student Union” Facebook page “to talk, get support, or express their feelings"...

“Although we respect and uphold First Amendment rights and freedom of expression, we are very concerned by any actions that might be perceived to create a hostile climate at our university,” (vice chancellor of student affairs) Klawunn’s email stated. “It is possible to express different points of view and debate issues without being divisive and causing distress and upset in our community.”

The meeting was scheduled on the heels of a Dec. 1 Facebook post by the “UCSB White Student Union” that uses humorous satire to mock Black Lives Matter student protestors. The post, making the rounds on the Internet, offered its own list of “demands.” Among them, banning Charlie Sheen- and pirate-themed parties and calling for a “Napoleon Bonaparte Resource Center” to combat “oppression against persons of Europe@n descent (PED) on campus"...

It (an email from Klawunn) also reassured the campus community that “there is no such registered [White Student Union] student organization at UCSB, and no UCSB student or affiliate has acknowledged any connection to such an organization.”
If a White Student Union Facebook page offends, scares, threatens, or distresses you--not a White Student Union, mind you, but a satirical Facebook page--then you, delicate flower, and not the people who put up the Facebook page, are the one with the problem.  You belong in a greenhouse, not a university.

Monday, December 07, 2015

My Research Paper

I think I've mentioned before how, for my research paper that's due in a week and a half, how my plan was to take perhaps 25% out of last semester's research paper, insert 25% new material, and thereby make the paper a little "mathier" for the current class (the focus in last semester's class was more of the history and less of the calculations).  A reread of my paper, though, puts the folly to that idea; I wrote the paper pretty tightly, with each paragraph leading to the next.  Take something out and there's an obvious gap.  Clearly that's not going to work.

My plan now is to change the focus of the paper.  I'm now going to focus less on John Napier (creator of logarithms) and more on the development and use of his logarithms.  I'll also add a section on why this knowledge is useful for a math teacher today.

We'll see how it turns out!

Update:  Just checked my email and saw a note from my instructor.  100% on the final exam!  (And no, it wasn't especially easy, not with at least 4 proofs on it.)

Saturday, December 05, 2015

This Is What They Admit To

Notice how much of your dues money goes to activities other than what the union is supposed to be for--collective bargaining of pay, benefits, and working conditions.  A full 2/3 of the money NEA gets is spent on non-related activities.  This is why I'm an agency fee payer of the unions and a full member of the California Teachers Empowerment Network and the Association of American Educators.

I've Wondered This About Taste, Too

Why I'm A Lousy Teacher, And Why Our District's New Evaluation System Will Confirm This

If you think that the most important component of good teaching is the ability to impart knowledge to students, your views are outdated and you don't know what you're talking about.

My views are outdated, and I don't know what I'm talking about.

I've now heard from union cheerleaders and from an administrator about the proposed new evaluation system (which, if voted on, will pass with Soviet-level percentages).  In the few minutes I could tolerate listening to the u-bots, much of it involved bypassing legislative will should the California legislature require student test scores be a part of teacher evaluations; it's important to note, of course, that California now tests high schoolers only in 11th grade, so evaluating teachers on test scores becomes problematic at best, but you can always count on a u-bot not let a good talking point go to waste.

Only a small portion of our evaluation pertains to content knowledge and the ability to impart that knowledge to students.  By all accounts I would do very well on that part of the evaluation--IF I'm evaluated by someone who knows math.  IF, however, I'm evaluated by someone who doesn't know higher math, and that could be a 3rd grade teacher whom the district has trained to be a "peer evaluator", on what would I be evaluated?  On such things as having my students in rows instead of 4-desk pods, on not having a "word wall" or something similar, on spending too much time "teaching" and not enough time letting the students "discover" the learning for themselves, etc.  The usual fuzzy claptrap, in other words.

This is my usual point to these people, who don't address it because their "progressive" religious faith in their doctrine doesn't require them to consider reality:  what say we take four of you, sit you down at a table, and have you "discover" first semester calculus.  I'm not talking about multivariate or anything, just simple first semester calculus of the type developed over 300 years ago.  What's that, you say, you can't do that?  You're freakin' college graduates, and you can't do that?  Then how do you expect teenagers to do it?!

Here's how I would prefer my evaluation be done.  My administrators have a standing invitation to come into my classes on any day and at any time.  Just pop their heads in, stay awhile, take notes, whatever they want.  At any time.  No prior coordination with me so I can ensure I'm doing a dog-and-pony-show, nothing like that.  Just come in randomly and see if good instruction is taking place.  See if kids are paying attention.  See if and how kids are responding to "check for understanding" questions.  See how kids interact with me and with each other when interactions occur.  In other words, see if good teaching and learning are taking place.  If they're not, let's talk about what I need to do to improve, but I'm willing to bet they'll be impressed and decide their time could be better spent with other teachers.

But my views are outdated, and I don't know what I'm talking about.

Update:  I'm not the only one:
By way of background, I went to school in the 50’s and 60’s and am on a second career of teaching math in high school and secondary school after retiring several years ago. I am considered by most to use “traditional” practices rather than the progressive techniques one sees today. A few decades ago there was a mix of opinions on what are considered “best practices” in teaching—some of which included traditional methods. The older generation of teachers, however, has been almost entirely replaced by the new guard.

This has resulted in a prevalent new group-think which holds that traditional teaching is outmoded and ineffective. The participants at Ed Camp were of the new guard; mostly people ranging in age between 20’s and 40’s. A few people were in their 50’s or early 60’s, but were subscribed to the same group-think. From what I could tell, I was the only traditionalist present.
Go read about Barry Garelick's day at Ed Camp here.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Took My Final Exam This Afternoon

Feeling very confident!

Now I have two weeks to do my research paper.  It's on a topic similar to the topic I wrote a paper on last semester, so I have many of the resources already.  Shouldn't be a problem.

Update, 12/7/15:  100% :-)

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Can I Go On Vacation In Cuba?

As I understand the law, I can only (legally) visit Cuba as part of a government-approved "cultural" or "educational" tour--I'll set aside for the moment the fact that a free people shouldn't allow their government to tell them where they can and cannot travel, but since the government has more firepower than I do I guess I'm forced to submit to its will (while the opposite should be true).

Having said all that, how is it, then, that current Chicago mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gets to go on vacation to Cuba?

I guess the rules only apply to us little people.

Update:  Even crazy-liberal New Republic agrees with me that a "vacation" to Cuba is illegal.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Pay Your Bills

A couple of years ago I saw Toad the Wet Sprocket play in Midtown Sacramento, and opening for them was an attractive and talented singer named Jessie Payo.  To ensure we pronounced her name correctly she said, "I'm Jessie Payo, as in pay yo bills!"  That moment came back to me today as I read the following two articles.

The first one is from Joanne's site:
A Missouri high school teacher owes the federal government $410,000 for student loans. Liz Kelley, 48, hasn’t made a single payment, so the interest keeps mounting.
She got a bachelor's degree in English in 1994.  She enrolled in law school, adding to her debt.  She quit law school and took on more debt to get a teaching credential.  Upon becoming a school teacher she went to grad school in order to get a pay raise.  When the 2008/2009 recession hit, she and her husband lost their home and their marriage broke up; this allowed her to defer paying for three more years.  She can't defer any longer and now owes over $400,000.  She currently teaches at a parochial school.
If she found a public school job, she could use income-based repayment, which would link her payments to her income and erase the remaining debt after 10 years. “But that would still mean a decade of what she describes as ‘futile’ payments that won’t even cover her monthly interest expenses, leaving nothing to put away for retirement.” Carey writes.
I don't think I'm hard-hearted for having no sympathy for her--she hasn't paid a cent on her student loans, and interest has been accumulating for 21 years now.  I think she should pay her bills.  That doesn't make me hard-hearted, that makes me an adult.  Her sob story is straight out of this Toad the Wet Sprocket video (from 1:00-1:07).  She probably wants Uncle Sugar to forgive her debts and cleanse her of her bad decisions, to that I say boo-freakin'-hoo and no-freakin'-way.

Our next story, which is slightly more sympathetic, comes from CNN/Money:
For the past 20 years Susanne Walsh has been dreaming of a retirement where she'd travel the world.

Unfortunately, those retirement plans are now on hold -- indefinitely.

That's because Susanne and her husband Bill helped pay for their two sons' college education and even cosigned on some of their student loans. Despite graduating with four-year degrees, neither of them have found stable jobs.

Now Bill and Susanne are shouldering the brunt of roughly $189,000 in combined student loans.
Does it surprise you that one of those sons majored in something ending in "studies"?  And he's having a hard time of it with his career in Hollywood.
To help support their sons, the couple also has a side business providing editing support for a technical engineering journal. 
I just don't understand how college students can be adults--they can vote, they can sign contracts, they can join the military--but they're not held responsible for paying for their own college degrees.  Why, for chrissakes, are parents expected to pay for college?  Why does a parent's income factor into financial aid at all, just because the colleges can get away with it?  That just sounds like a racket to me.  That's bad enough, but Bill and Susanne also cosigned for their sons' student loans, which makes them financially responsible for those loans.

This, boys and girls and parents, is why the only people who should go to college to self-actualize are those who can afford to.  The rest of us should get a degree in something that will allow us to be financially responsible, contributing members of society.

Yes, college costs are too high.  They aren't going to get any lower by forgiving student loans, making college "free", or any other of the wacky ideas that many people, mostly on the political left, are tossing around lately.  If you can't afford Expensive Private University, they you don't go to EPU.  End of story.    By the way, for those who worry about a "quality" education, the two most intelligent people I've ever known both went to state schools here in California.  Both got engineering degrees, and both have been very successful--including financially--in their respective fields.  There's more to it all than the school name listed on the sheepskin.

In closing:  make good decisions.  Pay yo bills.  Be an adult.