Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why I'm Looking Forward To Monday

I need a day to get ahead a little bit.

It seems that I barely have enough time to write, copy, give, and grade a quiz before it's time to give another one (I try to do one formal assessment a week).  Since I have all new books and standards for the courses I teach, everything I'm doing is starting from scratch.

I could use a day to get ahead, even if just a little.  It's tiring staying an hour and a half after school each day--and then coming home to my master's degree class.

Update, 9/1/16:  Ah, the best laid plans... Looks like I'm getting an out of town family member dropping in for the weekend!  Oh well.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Of Course I'd Like To Make More Money

But let's be honest, I'm not destitute:
Well, it’s a new school year and there is much tumult in the world of public education. Common Core battles, testing opt-outs, and litigation about school choice and teacher work rules dot the landscape. But with all the uncertainty, it’s comforting to know that there is one thing we can count on in late summer: a new bogus study showing that public school teachers are woefully underpaid...

But like most similar studies, EPI’s doesn’t do an apples-to-apples comparison. It omits a few things like the simple fact that teachers work 6-7 hour days and 180 days a year, whereas the study’s “comparable workers” put in an 8-9 hour a day and work 240-250 days a year. (Yes, yes, I know teachers take work home, but so do many other professionals who don’t get summers off.) Also, unlike private-sector workers, most teachers have extensive health benefits for which they typically pay very little, if anything. Furthermore, as University of Missouri professor Michael Podgursky points out, the pension benefits for teachers, which they only pay a tiny portion of – the taxpayer getting hosed for the rest – add greatly to a teacher’s total compensation. (The EPI report actually alludes to this, but buries it on page 14; more on this in a bit.)

Perhaps the most honest and well-researched study done on teacher pay, including the time-on-the-job and benefits factors, was done in 2011 by Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Jason Richwine, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. In their report, they destroy the teacher union-perpetuated myth of the under-compensated teacher. Their study, in fact, found that teachers are actually paid more than private-sector workers.  (link)
AEI and the Heritage Foundation aren't exactly unbiased outfits, either.  Where could we go to get a neutral accounting on this topic?  Is there such a thing as "truth" here?

Monday, August 29, 2016

RIP, Joe Hicks

I just read that Joe Hicks has died.  It's been a long time since I've written about him, but not so long that I didn't immediately recognize his name and understand our society's loss in his passing.

I didn't agree with "young Joe"; rather I agreed more with "older Joe".  The 2nd link above shows how Joe and I both feel about Dr. King's dream of a colorblind society.  From the LA Weekly (quoted in that link):
That inner search took Hicks to a serious re-reading of the works of Dr. King. This time, he was "bowled over" by the "race-transcendent message" he saw in the writings of the slain civil rights leader. It was, he says, "another one of those ah-ha moments." He found a King who wasn't arguing for a society cleaved into racial categories, divided by competing ethnic identities, but rather a vision of a colorblind democracy. He found himself asking how activists had come from fighting for equal opportunity and rights for all to divisive identity politics.
May your message continue to inspire others as it did me.

To Put It Bluntly, THIS Is Why I'm A Rock Star Math Teacher

You can only be a great teacher if your students do well; student performance is the only criterion for evaluating teacher effectiveness.  This article explains, in part, why I'm so good at what I do:
How to help students do better in school? Maybe we should try hiring better-looking teachers. Or subsidize gym memberships and makeovers for the teachers we already have.

Those, at least, are the implications of a new study from researchers at the University of Nevada, who designed a simple but revealing experiment using college students to see whether a lecturer’s attractiveness has any impact on how much of the lecture students retain. If you guessed that the answer is yes, go to the head of the class. Extra credit if you intuited that teacher attractiveness had other effects as well...

Overall, the findings are consistent with a mountain of previous research about the effects of physical attractiveness. Earlier studies have found that good-looking people are considered more capable, intelligent, persuasive and socially skilled.
We're not just considered, we are. I'm just sayin'.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Working For The Weekend

Actually, I'm working on the weekend, and that's something I don't usually do.  With new textbooks and new standards for each of the classes I teach, this is the only way I'm going to be able to keep up with my lesson planning.

I just finished a pre-calculus quiz.  My goal this year is to have all of my quizzes in digital format, so I can quickly alter them if necessary before printing.  Presentation is important, and hand-written quizzes with cut-paste graphs on them aren't as impressive (or as indicative of their importance) as a printed quiz with an embedded graph.

Sure, I'm not going full-hi-tech.  I went to an online graphing calculator and took a screen shot of a couple graphs and/or coordinate axes, cropped them, and put them into the MS Word document that eventually became my quiz.  I'm pleased with the way it turned out.  It looks, for lack of a better term, professional.

Friday, August 26, 2016

White People Talking About Race

I'm tired of talking about race.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed before I was born.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed when I was a couple months old.  I've lived my entire life under legal equality of the races, and in many cases race relations have gotten worse instead of better.  And it's always my fault, because I'm white.  I'm tired of it.

Last week I attended a professional development training day which I disparagingly call "hate whitey" training.  I have no doubt that that was not the intent of the training, but as I look across the titles of the training sessions, and as I look at the pictures of the dozens of workshop presenters, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that I, a white male, was to be talked at and not talked to.  Rather than going to racially oriented workshops, I chose to attend some GLBT workshops.  They were overflowing with people.  I honestly believe that part of the reason so many people attended those particular workshops was because straight people don't fear being attacked for being straight at a GLBT workshop, but whites can immediately be under fire in a racially-oriented workshop by being told to "check their privilege" and to "understand and accommodate" socially corrosive behaviors by students whose only reason for such understanding and accommodation is the color of their skin.  The so-called social justice discussed in several of the workshops is not what I would consider justice.

I state categorically that race relations have devolved in the last eight years, and the lion's share of the blame falls on the shoulders of the president.  Oh, he talked a good game during the campaign, but he's been nothing but the divider-in-chief since--from the Cambridge (MA) police department's acting "stupidly" before he was in possession of the facts, to having a son that would look like thug Trayvon Martin, to encouraging the racist Black Lives Matter movement, to refusing to allow his Justice Department to go after the New Black Panthers when they intimidated voters at polling stations, and the list goes on and on.

I'm tired of talking about race because I don't see any benefit to doing so.  Today we're told that trying to live up to Dr. King's colorblind society is a farce because of course you see race--as if seeing race is the same as treating people differently because of race.  It wouldn't be the first time I've been accused of being old fashioned, but I still believe in the opinions of Dr. King and Thurgood Marshall.  We all know Dr. King's quote about judging people by the content of their character, but let's read what Thurgood Marshall said:
"There is no understandable factual basis for classification by race...."
--brief for the NAACP in Sipuel v. Oklahoma State Board of Regents, 332 U.S. 631 (1948)

I have many more quotes by Marshall, and commentary about discussing race in education, in this 2005 post.  As you can see, I myself have been discussing this a very long time.

So what set me off on this topic?  This article and video, with the following headline:
This Funny And Awkward Video Reminds Self-Righteous White Allies To Watch Their Hypocritical Asses

Delve into the story a bit, and you find this nugget:
Hey white people, did you know that many black people aren’t even sure they want you to be an ally? There’s a strong argument for getting white people out of the way to enact real change, especially with Black Lives Matter actually getting attention now.

On the other hand, there’s also the argument in favor of white allies. It’s widely accepted that people are often better convinced of things — like thinking a little deeper about what a racist stereotype actually does — by people who look like them. Black Lives Matter specifically asks “white allies to use their privilege, influence, and wealth to talk about white supremacy and state violence against Black people. We urge them to show deference to Black people when doing so, to support black-led organizing.”
White people can't win for losing, it seems.  And when attitudes like this are as prevalent as they are today, I see no benefit in engaging people on the subject of race.  If you don't like it that I treat you as a person as opposed to a member of a racial group, tough.  I'll claim Dr. King and Justice Marshall as my fellow-travelers and be more than satisfied with the quality of those ideals I espouse.  I refuse to apologize for holding such values so dear.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

At Least One Leftie Has Some Integrity

The Obama Administration is a criminal enterprise, just like the Chicago of old.  Plenty of people on the left are trying to excuse its excesses or pretend they don't exist, but not Laurence Tribe:
One of the leading liberal lights of American law now says the “IRS is engaged in unconstitutional discrimination against conservative groups and must be halted.”

To be clear, Harvard prof Laurence Tribe is a convert: Early in the week, he sent out a tweet dismissing the idea of an IRS scandal as long-debunked.

But, as the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson noted at Overlawyered, for once social media actually shed light on a dispute: Others asked Tribe to read this month’s DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the IRS in the case — and he did.

That unanimous decision, reinstating lawsuits against the IRS for its targeting of righty groups, noted that there’s “little factual dispute” about the targeting and the “unequal treatment” of conservatives. More, it’s “plain . . . the IRS cannot defend its discriminatory conduct on the merits.”

Tribe read that, plus a key Inspector General report, and tweeted, “I confess error [with regard to] IRS ideological targeting. The IG report and the [DC Circuit] decision seems right to me. Inexcusable abuse.” 
At least there are one or two not selling their souls for power.

Not A Trend, But Not A Poke In The Eye With A Sharp Stick, Either

Two days ago I posted about the University of Iowa's decision not to create a so-called bias assessment and response team.  It's unfortunate that it's news when a university makes a correct decision, but these are certainly strange times we live in.

Today I read how the University of Chicago welcomed it's freshman class, and kudos to them for identifying a university's proper climate:
The University of Chicago recently made it clear to its crop of incoming students that academic freedom and inquiry remain pillars at the institution, and that the university does not support "so-called" trigger warnings or offer safe spaces that allow students "to retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own. Here is how the university welcomed its incoming class of 2020:
Welcome and congratulations on your acceptance to the college at the University of Chicago. Earning a place in our community of scholars is no small achievement and we are delighted that you selected Chicago to continue your intellectual journey.
Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression. … Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.
And then, the coup de grace:
Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.
Hear, hear.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

University Speech Codes

Curious where your school stands?  Want to check out the freedom at a university you're considering?  Check out FIRE's speech codes database and look it up.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Common Sense in the Heartland

Dodging the proverbial bullet, Iowa's students won't have to deal with witch hunts and drumheads:
The University of Iowa has scrapped plans to create a Bias Assessment and Response Team after determining that such bodies often become what one administrator called “scolding bodies” that can create as many problems as they are intended to solve.

Iowa’s Chief Diversity Officer, Georgina Dodge, specifically cited the uproar over the University of Northern Colorado’s bias response team, which has been criticized for policing language and violating academic freedom. Details of the UNC bias team’s overreach was first reported by Heat Street in June.

Dodge told the Iowa City Press-Citizen that nationwide, many bias response teams resembled “scolding panels.”
What's sad is how refreshing it is to finally hear someone in higher education admit this.  And let's be honest, it's a rather tepid admission!

What If "The Science Is Settled" In A Way We Don't Like?

From this article I haven't read anything other than the following three paragraphs:
A major new report, published today in the journal The New Atlantis, challenges the leading narratives that the media has pushed regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Co-authored by two of the nation’s leading scholars on mental health and sexuality, the 143-page report discusses over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the biological, psychological, and social sciences, painstakingly documenting what scientific research shows and does not show about sexuality and gender.

The major takeaway, as the editor of the journal explains, is that “some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence.”
That's certainly attention-grabbing.

The authors have impressive credentials, which makes me wonder why they chose this particular venue for publishing their work.  Would no one else take it, out of political correctness?  Or are there obvious flaws that the link above ignores?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Gallup On Voter ID Laws

Poll results from last week:
As partisan-fueled court battles over state voting laws are poised to shape the political landscape in 2016 and beyond, new Gallup research shows four in five Americans support both early voting and voter ID laws. A smaller majority of 63% support automatic voter registration...

Though many of the arguments for early voting and against voter ID laws frequently cite minorities' voting access, nonwhites' views of the two policies don't differ markedly from those of whites. Seventy-seven percent of nonwhites favor both policies, while whites favor each at 81%. Nonwhites are, however, more likely to support automatic voter registration (71%) than are whites (59%).
Just sayin'.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pressure Building

The first full week of school starts tomorrow.  I can't use any lesson plan I've ever created--new standards, new curricula, new textbooks.  My 9th master's class starts tomorrow.  I'm on our "school improvement team", which will meet a full Friday every month to help prepare the school for our WASC visit in the spring (accreditation).  I'll be supervising detention on Monday afternoons.

I'm starting to feel overwhelmed.  This feeling occurs at the beginning of every school year but feels a little more intense now because I've added some new events (above) to my dance card.  Of course I'll get through it as I always do, but that recognition doesn't mean that the anxiety isn't there!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

California Is Not A Free State

This article referencing the Cato Institute's 2016 study on freedom in the states does not look good for Californians.  In fact, we should be completely ashamed of our government:
The top five states are as follows (the number indicates a place change since the last study:
1. New Hampshire +1
2. Alaska +7
3. Oklahoma +2
4. Indiana =
5. South Dakota -4
The bottom five are as follows:
45. Connecticut -1
46. Maryland =
47. New Jersey =
48. Hawaii =
49. California =
50. New York =
We are not in good company.

Among others, California is in the bottom 5 for regulatory policy and gun rights.  Given the bad shape we're in, perhaps it isn't surprising that we're in the top 5 for alcohol policy--if we stay drunk, maybe we won't notice our rights being stripped from us.

Democrats have run our legislature pretty much my entire life.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

First Day Of School

Today was the first day of school for our students.  I like that they only come Thursday and Friday, it allows us to ease them back into school mode.

The world didn't come to an end, so I guess that's something.

Being In Charge

I was reading this post the other day and came across "the stepmother story":
Growing up, my stepmother was every evil cliche imaginable, and then some, but from her I learned how fault can be found with anything, and how things can be easily twisted and spun. I would be told to clean the bathroom, and with her that meant no speck of dirt, nor single hair or smudge could be found anywhere, on anything. I would spend hours cleaning it, and at the end she would ask me if I were done. Upon answering yes, she would hunt for any flaw, and inevitably she would find one. A hair would have settled from the air, or a speck would have been missed.

And she would say “you lied to me, you were not done. You see? You can’t do anything right. Now, are you done?” And, invariably, I would clean the speck and nod and agree that I had missed the spot and was, in fact, not done. The routine of humiliation repeated for every task, and every thing I ever did. I soon learned that it was not about the cleanliness of the bathroom, it was about raw power, about breaking me down so that I would view myself as beneath her. The new nobility does that to Americans every day.

Our government is much like my stepmother in this. Take any freedom you now possess. The possibility exists that some will misuse it. Some will use their freedom to speak to spout ugly, nasty things. They are the speck in the bathroom. Then they are brought out and paraded before the populace as reasons freedom isn’t good. The bathroom is not clean, they will say, for this flaw was found in it. Then laws will be proposed to regulate the speck, and to combat it, and soon all freedom to speak is lost.
Of course this took me immediately to one of my favorites quotes, from Daniel Webster:
Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.
This is why I am a conservative.  This is why I want limited government which operates within enumerated powers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Whatever Happens, Happens

We had a professional development day at school yesterday, and today was our teacher workday.  I had already gotten my classroom set up (there's not much to do besides setting up my desk/computer/equipment) so I took care of some administrative tasks.

I have all new textbooks so I could have started some planning, but I work best under a time constraint!  The other pre-calculus teacher and I will meet tomorrow to plan out our pacing for that course, and since I'm our only statistics teacher, I can figure that out on my own.

By 2:30 I had already gotten more than frustrated trying to log in and access all the online goodies that came with our new textbook adoption--conflicting instructions, incorrect codes, you'd think someone could do a better job than that--and at 3:00 the contractors (see link below) were supposed to shut off all our power, so I just decided to leave for home.

I'm as prepared for tomorrow as I can be.  Whatever happens, happens.

By the way, the concrete is poured around most of the office as of today.  Some things that are supposed to have been done by tomorrow will not be, but I'm honestly surprised they got as far as they did.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Why "Free College For All" Will Mostly Benefit the Middle Class And Above

Reynolds' Law:
The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Professional Development Today

Culturally Responsive Schools.  I wrote about this PD in this post.

Only 3 things I'm going to say about it in addition to the link above:

1.  It was only 7 minutes into the opening talks before there was a jab at Republicans.  Ha ha--it's ok to joke about minorities, but only if they're not on the approved list of minorities.

2.  The keynote speaker said we need to be less "individualist" and more "collectivist" in our schools.  I kid you not.

3.  I went because I got paid to go.

"Unearned Privilege"

I've never liked that phrase.  Something about it has always rubbed me the wrong way but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.  I could get close, but I could never identify exactly what it was that I didn't like about it.

Today a couple thousand of us in my school district attended a "culturally responsive schools" professional development day entitled Getting Ready For The New Dance: Reducing The Predictability Of Who Succeeds And Who Fails.  On its face, that doesn't sound horrible.  But most of the "breakout sessions" involved race, and to be honest, I'm tired of discussing race.  Ardent race hustlers will say that I'm tired of it because it challenges my unearned white privilege, but I'm tired of it because I'm of the Thurgood Marshall/Dr. King mold of race and they're of the newer "I can't raise myself up without bringing down whitey" mold--and I'm tired of talking about that.  We had to choose one presentation for each of three 90 minute breakout sessions, and there were dozens to choose from; I chose two about GLBT students ("homosexual" is an outdated, derogatory word) and one about having a "growth mindset", figuring those were safe.

One of the presentations I attended was conducted by two self-identified lesbian teachers.  One of them told a story about being unable to be on the same rental car agreement as her partner (they couldn't be married at the time) because only a spouse could share a rental car agreement with this particular company.  Then she said, and I'll paraphrase here, "That's an unearned privilege that heterosexuals have."

It was at that moment that I understood why I don't like the phrase "unearned privilege".  When you say something is unearned, you're implying that it's not deserved.  It sounds like this "unearned privilege" is something you should give up since you didn't earn it.  But she didn't want people to give up that privilege--heck no, it's a "privilege" that she wanted, too!  So now that she can marry, is the car rental/spouse thing still "unearned"? 

I've also heard "unearned privilege" described as being able to do things without thinking about them, but others have to think about them--e.g., I'm white, so I'm not assumed to be a thief when I go into a store (these people have never been in Fry's Electronics, obviously), and neither is my interaction with police officers thought to be the same as it might be for a black individual.  The thinking is that since blacks in this country are cognizant of being treated differently, and I don't have to worry about differential treatment, this gives me "unearned privilege".  Again, that makes it sound like something I should feel guilty for, something I don't deserve--yet these others want exactly what I have!  Some will say that's not what they mean by the phrase, that they only want me to "be aware" of it, but if that's true, why the pejorative "unearned"?

As this was going through my mind, I saw a woman sitting in front of me.  We were in a classroom, and she was a "woman of size" who really had to squeeze herself into that desk.  Is it "unearned privilege" that average sized people don't have to think about fitting in or on furniture, but larger people do?  It certainly fits the definitions of "unearned privilege" that I gave above, but I can't imagine any sane person saying that being of average size is some sort of unearned privilege.  Yes, being overweight can suck, no doubt about it, but fitting in a desk isn't a "privilege" that an average sized person should feel bad about.

That's what I got out of the LGBT training--an understanding of why "unearned privilege" is such a pernicious term.

Update, 8/21/16:  Just encountered this post today.  I want to point out:  "If you don't have to think about it, it's a privilege."  Their words, not mine.  Also, privilege is defined as "unearned access", as if people don't deserve whatever it is someone else wants to complain about.

As you can see, this "privilege" talk isn't designed to foster discussion, it's designed to stomp on someone and halt discussion.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Experienced Teachers

Yes, experienced teachers can know a lot.  Sometimes, what they know isn't right.  I know plenty of experienced teachers who went all in for Whole Language and fuzzy math in the 1990s and Common Core more recently.

Public school teachers aren't independent contractors; they're public employees, and need to follow the instructions and curriculum specified by the elected school board--even when they think those decisions are dead wrong.

Having said all that, I'm not quite sure how I feel about this article:
Veteran teachers get no respect from education reformers, writes Paul Karrer in the Californian. The reform movement has rejected teachers’ “vast wealth of experience” for “chants, mantras, beliefs and a bowing before the goddess of data and technology."
Veteran teachers can buy into fads just as easily as a newbie can.

What's the solution?  Heck if I know.  I do what I think is right within the confines of what my bosses tell me to.

Kids, Technology, Distraction, Focus, etc.

I have no idea if this is true or not, but it certainly confirms my preconceived notions:
The ubiquity of digital technology in all realms of life isn’t going away, but if students don’t learn how to concentrate and shut out distractions, research shows they’ll have a much harder time succeeding in almost every area...

“Children I’m particularly worried about because the brain is the last organ of the body to become anatomically mature. It keeps growing until the mid-20s,” Goleman said. If young students don’t build up the neural circuitry that focused attention requires, they could have problems controlling their emotions and being empathetic.
“The circuitry for paying attention is identical for the circuits for managing distressing emotion,” Goleman said. The area of the brain that governs focus and executive functioning is known as the pre-frontal cortex. This is also the part of the brain that allows people to control themselves, to keep emotions in check and to feel empathy for other people.

“The attentional circuitry needs to have the experience of sustained episodes of concentration — reading the text, understanding and listening to what the teacher is saying — in order to build the mental models that create someone who is well educated,” Goleman said. “The pulls away from that mean that we have to become more intentional about teaching kids.” He advocates for a “digital sabbath” everyday, some time when kids aren’t being distracted by devices at all. He’d also like to see schools building exercises that strengthen attention, like mindfulness practices, into the curriculum...

The ability to concentrate was the strongest predictor of success.

“This ability is more important than IQ or the socio economic status of the family you grew up in for determining career success, financial success and health,” Goleman said. That could be a problem for students in the U.S. who often seem addicted to their devices, unable to put them down for even a few moments. Teachers say students are unable to comprehend the same texts that generations of students that came before them could master without problems, said Goleman. These are signs that educators may need to start paying attention to the act of attention itself. Digital natives may need help cultivating what was once an innate part of growing up...

“I don’t think the enemy is digital devices,” Goleman said. “What we need to do is be sure that the current generation of children has the attentional capacities that other generations had naturally before the distractions of digital devices. It’s about using the devices smartly but having the capacity to concentrate as you need to, when you want to.”
We had Pong, Atari, handheld electronic football games, walkie-talkies, etc.  I have been using electronic devices far longer than today's kids have.  In many cases I have more apps on my phone than today's kids do.  However, I don't feel the magnetic draw that they do--or, at least it's an electromagnet, that I can turn off when I need to (like at work). 

Attention spans are a big deal.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Wages of Socialism is Poverty

Margaret Thatcher famously said, "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."  She turned Britain from heavily socialist to moderately socialist, and even that change reaped tremendous rewards for the British economy.

Some people, though, refuse to accept that socialism leads to lines and poverty.  Even here in California, with government getting more heavily involved in anything you can think of, people seem to think that since we haven't crashed yet, we're not going to.  "The Europeans have great socialism", they say, ignoring that we've paid for the defense budget of Western Europe for over 70 years.  Talk about other people's money!  I liken the situation to jumping off a 20-story building:  As you pass the 10th floor and even the 3rd floor, things are still fine--but eventually you'll hit the sidewalk.  Gravity ensures that you will, and economics ensures the analogy holds for socialism.  Honestly, the only question is, how many more floors are there until the bottom?

This was all brought to my mind today as I was reminded of this Salon article from 3 short years ago:
No, Chavez became the bugaboo of American politics because his full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results. Indeed, as shown by some of the most significant indicators, Chavez racked up an economic record that a legacy-obsessed American president could only dream of achieving.
Go read the whole thing, then read about the starving children, the food shortages, the riots, the hyperinflation, the empty stores, the requirement for citizens to work in the fields to harvest food, and recall that the fellatio above was written only three years ago.

To mix metaphors, Venezuela killed the golden goose after running out of other people's money.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Public Transit

Liberals/progressives worship at the altar of public transit; why should we pollute the atmosphere with our cars, their blathering goes, when we could all just take the bus?

My guess is that a large percentage of the people who say such things live in densely populated areas (think San Francisco or New York or Tokyo).  In such conditions it might very well make sense to have public transit, as it can be more economical to move large numbers of people around limited geographic areas.

But I don't want to live in rabbit hutches, stacked one on top of the other.  I don't want to share a wall (or a floor, or a ceiling) with my neighbors.  I don't want to live in artificial canyons.  I like living in the suburbs.

But the 'burbs aren't conducive to public transit.  For starters, the density of people doesn't allow for the large-scale movement of people.  Places I need to go aren't all in one "downtown", either.  The city folk can have their public transit, but the rest of us need our own cars.

Today I had to pick up a 1979 pickup I just purchased.  It was in a shop, getting some final repairs done after sitting for years and then having a new engine installed.  To get from my house to this shop in my own car would have required about 15 minutes. 

But it took a little longer than that to get there via public transit.  First, I had to walk a half mile (8 minutes) to get to the bus stop nearest my house; fortunately for me, the one bus that stops there was going the direction I needed.  I rode the bus to the light rail station, where I bought another $2.75 ticket to take me 4 stops.  A mile walk got me where I needed to go.  Total time:  1 hr, 20 minutes.

As I said:  public transit may make sense in dense urban areas, but not in the suburbs.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Purpose of College

To me, the purpose of college should be "to provide an education".  Some of that education can be utilitarian, designed to prepare people for employment in certain fields.  Some of that education can be of the "self actualization" variety.  My fear is that, for too many colleges and universities, providing an education isn't really the primary goal:
As we’ve noted before, college—at least for many students, and in many areas of study—”functions more and more as a signaling device for employers and a networking tool for the middle and upper classes rather than as a rigorous educational program.” There are a number of interests that would like to see this system sustained—academic bureaucracies, downwardly mobile children of the rich, and investors in student debt chief among them. But employers, students, and the public at large are all better served by a job market that allocates opportunities based on actual skills and knowledge, rather than empty letters on a resume.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Bilingual Education

Click here to do a search on this blog for all posts that reference bilingual education.  As I wrote in December 2013: "I don't support it.  There's no evidence it works.  I've written on this subject since the earliest days of this blog, and even before."  If you want to read about good research on bilingual education, read this post.

There's certainly nothing wrong with being multi-lingual, but the way we've conducted bilingual education in this country has been abysmal, more closely resembling monolingual Spanish instruction than anything else.  California eliminated bilingual education back in the 1990s, about the same time it got rid of fuzzy math and whole language, but it's making a comeback:
Eighteen years later, Lara is leading a push to reverse a law that he said put a “handcuff” on multilingual education in California when a globalizing economy has made knowing two or more languages a valuable asset.

Placed on the Nov. 8 ballot by legislators in 2014, Proposition 58 will ask voters to remove the restrictions of Proposition 227. Supporters want to make it easier for schools to establish bilingual programs for both English learners and native English speakers seeking to gain fluency in a foreign language.

Under the measure, school districts will be required to consult with the community on how English learners should be taught, and provide any program, including the existing English-only classes, that enough families request. After nearly two decades of strict statewide standards with limited alternatives, parents and schools would have an array of options – while the Legislature, freed from Proposition 227’s voter decree, would regain a voice in determining future policy around bilingual education.

If it can cut through the noise of an election season heavy with 17 ballot measures, Proposition 58 may be a moment of political déjà vu, as voters again debate the best method for getting California’s 1.4 million English learners – more than a fifth of all public school students in the state – to proficiency.
Good luck with that.
Supporters of Proposition 227 warn that the new measure is merely an effort to bring back the ineffective bilingual education that Californians already once rejected.

“It really is sort of like a sneaky trick by politicians in Sacramento,” said Ron Unz, the Silicon Valley software entrepreneur who sponsored Proposition 227.

More than 60 percent of voters in 1998 approved Proposition 227, which required that English learners be placed in a year of special, intensive English instruction before moving into regular classrooms, though it allowed parents to apply for a waiver if they believed their children would learn better in a bilingual program.
We'll see how much California has changed in 18 years.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Monday, August 08, 2016

School Discipline

Having a racialized Dept of Justice hasn't helped:
The case against suspensions is unproven, argues Max Eden, a senior fellow of education policy at the Manhattan Institute, who’s guest-blogging for Rick Hess.

The attack on suspensions, writes Eden, rests on three assertions: “Disparate impact of school suspensions is evidence that they are racially motivated; (2) Suspensions do significant harm to students; (3) “Restorative justice” is a viable and more humane alternative, so we can reduce suspensions safely...

But policy changes that assume “racial bias is solely responsible for the disparity” may go too far, breeding “rampant disorder,” writes Eden.
It's been a rough several years in public education, and there's no sign on the horizon that it'll get better any time soon.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Yes Means Yes?

If no vocal or written consent has been given, who, exactly, is the "guilty" party?  (If you say it's the man, you're a sexist.)  How do these silly rules, which apply only to college students and no one else, work in reality?
Those laws and rules badly misunderstand how students actually approach sex, according to research by a self-proclaimed feminist scholar at San Francisco State University’s Center for Research and Education on Gender and Sexuality.

Prof. Jason Laker and his research partner, Santa Clara University’s Erica Boas, have spent the past four years interviewing students about how they initiate and agree to engage in sexual activity – and it’s nothing like affirmative consent requires, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Their first research project focused on heterosexual freshmen at a Bay Area university, and the most common answer to how those students agreed to have sex was “it just happened.”
Well, duh.  So which partner broke the law?

US Traditional vs Integrated Math

The author of this piece didn't use those two terms when describing secondary school US and British math(s) sequences, but they're accurate enough to get you to read the "comic".  The fence-sitting thesis, though, is compelling:
For the most part, neither country’s students are achieving a crisp and unified vision of the subject. We’re comparing our own country’s lofty ideals to the other’s disappointing realities—not exactly a fair fight.

If you’ve guessed that I’m building towards a wishy-washy “They’re both equally good!” conclusion, then you’re almost right. I genuinely prefer the American way, but I suspect that a twin version of me raised in Liverpool would disagree. Even so, I know we’d agree on this:

The problems intrinsic to each system are utterly dwarfed by the problems in their execution.

After bickering with my colleagues about these issues (which I do from time to time), I realize how silly it is. It’s like we’re tasting two burnt cakes and arguing which one has the better recipe.

Who cares? How would we even tell which plan is better, when all we’ve got are these monstrous piles of char?

Saturday, August 06, 2016


Why it was right to nuke Japan video

Tojo's view on surrender (hint: he wasn't going to)

Thank God for the Atomic Bomb pdf (from The New Republic!)

Everything you need in one place to nuke your liberal friends' arguments.

A Long Friday

Yesterday started early for me, I was up at 4:30 in the morning so I could take some family to the airport.  When I got home I decided to look for an old West Point license plate border I knew was in my garage somewhere--I even knew the general vicinity!  When I couldn't find it, though, I decided to go up into the rafters to find it.  It wasn't there.  I just knew, though, that it was in that first area I'd looked, so I looked again--and there it was, hidden under something.  That mission being accomplished, and it not even being 7 am yet yet, I decided to go back to bed.

That was a bad idea, as I couldn't get to sleep.  Up again, I made breakfast and decided to go get my car smogged.  I'd recently purchased a LivingSocial coupon for a place near work, so I went there on my way to go get some stuff done in my classroom.  I couldn't believe it, but because my car is newer than 2000 it only took about 10 minutes to smog.  Seriously!  So off to school I went.

My principal was there, and he assures me that the concrete walkways around the office will be poured before school starts; if he's right, I'll be glad my prediction was wrong.  My room is unaffected by all the construction and the floor is nicely waxed, so I set up my computer and other electronics.  Why is that such a priority?  Because the day we get back to work, immediately after new staff is introduced to everyone, yours truly will be giving a presentation on how to set up our online grading system so that it calculates grades the way we teachers say we're calculating grades!  When what we say isn't consistent with the grades given, our grades aren't justifiable and are subject to be ordered changed by the school board.  Therefore, I'm going to give a lightly-technical talk on how the program calculates grades (given the inputs we teachers tell it) and then give two options/recommendations for how to calculate grading.  The computer does three methods, one being a hybrid of the other two, but since no one in his/her right mind would knowingly calculate a grade that way, I'll warn people away from it.  Hopefully this will help, as no one likes having grades challenged by parents.  At least if your grading method makes sense, and the computer is calculating grades the way you say you're going to calculate student grades, then your grades are defensible and will withstand parental challenge.

Stupid grading policies, though, well, I can't help with that!

After leaving school the rest of the day was enjoyable, including a scooter ride to a Mongolian BBQ restaurant for dinner.  A late-night walk to listen to an audiobook ended the day around midnight.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The War Zone

Construction, or rather destruction, was supposed to start back in March.  Our music classes were moved into double-portables last spring so that our music building,(two classrooms) could be torn down and replaced with a new performing arts auditorium with classrooms.  It'll be great when it's completed, but since work wasn't started until June, the project is already 3 months behind schedule and it's barely begun.

It wasn't just our music classrooms, though.  A full half of our student parking lots has either been torn up or commandeered for the project--that's a big deal at an upper-middle-class school in which the student parking lot usually contains a high percentage of Lexi, Mercedii, and BMW's.  Our Senior Lawn at the front of school, which because of the drought has become Senior Dirt Slab, has been dug up.  Even our office has all the concrete around it torn up such that the only way into the library or the office (same building) is through our finance office, and I'm sure our controller, whose tiny office is now a major thoroughfare, is less than pleased.  Upturned concrete and cyclone fencing is everywhere.

Faculty arrives back to work in a week and a half, students will flood the campus in less than two weeks.  I can't imagine that any of that cyclone fencing will come down before then, meaning that students will be attending school in a major construction zone.  I doubt even the walkways around the office will be poured before then, although I'd love to be wrong about that.

My first thought at seeing all this last week was to panic--what a nightmare!  What are the office people to do?  What about parents who need to find the office?  Where are the kids going to park?  And what about the...

And then I stopped.  Yes, it's going to suck for the people who are affected.  But I'm not really affected.  My classroom is away from the construction, and the route from the staff parking lot to my classroom to the staff lounge I frequent is completely apart from the construction.  My classroom and daily routine aren't directly affected at all.  I can feel sympathy for those who are affected, but I don't need to carry their burden.  I have enough of my own work to do, what with getting entirely new standards and textbooks for the classes I teach.  I need to take care of my business and let others take care of their business.

This is difficult for me.  I'm usually a "team player" and I try to help others and improve the campus environment outside of just my classroom.  However, there's nothing I can do to impact the construction schedule.  There's nothing I can do to help those whose classrooms or offices are affected by the construction.  My stressing about it would do no good for anyone, so I need to just butt out and let people adapt to it.  Of course I'll offer sympathy, but I won't get worked up over how ridiculous it all is.

In other words, I'll have to live the serenity prayer: Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

The campus was painted though, and a fresh coat of paint makes the remaining buildings look nice--nicer, in my opinion, than they did before. So I guess that's something.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Professional Development Today

I despise the Common Core math standards--not necessarily the content, but the way the standards are written.  They're so unclear and open to interpretation; to me, if I have to "interpret" a standard then by definition it's a poorly-written standard.

Our district adopted new textbooks for upper level math courses this year, so I went to a class today to learn how to use all the online goodies for our pre-calculus textbook.  I myself am not going to use most of the instructor goodies, but I do need to know what goodies are available to students (and there are some valuable things accessible to students).  When that was over, there was plenty of time left and I, wanting to get paid the full amount I had anticipated for this particular class (we get paid hourly to attend), suggested that all of us present go through the standards and compare them to what's in the textbook.  Then we'll know what sections of the book we have to teach and what can be left out, and then we can determine which chapters will be taught in the first semester and which in the second semester.

Trying to understand and interpret the standards, and then see where they were covered in the textbook, took more time than would have been needed if the standards were clearly and explicitly written (like California's 1997 math standards were).  We got it accomplished, though, and now have a template of what will be taught each semester.  I was impressed that we could achieve such a consensus in the room, given there were more than half a dozen teachers present!

Monday, August 01, 2016

Those Racist (Union) Teachers

Teachers are a bunch of racists, apparently, since darker colored students have lower educational outcomes and more disciplinary issues than lighter colored students.  Rather than going for the low-hanging fruit of crying racism, though, what if there were an easier, more effective way to go about resolving this dilemma?
Better teaching can improve student behavior and close the racial discipline gap, suggests a new study published in School Psychology Review.  Virginia middle and high school teachers who received coaching in improving instruction referred fewer students for discipline: Blacks were no more likely to be referred than other students.

The “teacher coaching did not explicitly focus on equity or implicit bias, or draw teachers’ attention to their interactions with black students,”  reports Madeline Will in Education Week Teacher. “It was focused on skills in effectively interacting with any student.”
I've always found it entertaining that the CTA goes full bore into the equity/bias/racism sputum, thereby denigrating their own teachers in the process.