Monday, July 31, 2017

This Is Where Socialism Leads

Ignore Bitcoin, buy World of Warcraft tokens--if you live in Venezuela:
Digital gold from Blizzard’s massive multiplayer online game “World of Warcraft” is worth more than actual Venezuelan currency, the bolivar, according to new data.

Venezuelan resident and Twitter user @KalebPrime first made the discovery July 14 and tweeted at the time that on the Venezuela’s black market — now the most-used method of currency exchange within Venezuela according to NPR — you can get $1 for 8493.97 bolivars. Meanwhile, a “WoW” token, which can be bought for $20 from the in-game auction house, is worth 8385 gold per dollar.

According to sites that track the value of both currencies, KalebPrime’s math is outdated, and WoW gold is now worth even more than the bolivar.
I've written before about hyperinflation (here, for example).  This is what hyperinflation looks like at the beginning.

Venezuela is starving. And it was only a few years ago when Chavez and his socialism were being praised by American leftists (here's another).

Update, 8/2/17:  A couple of days behind me is the Los Angeles Times with this op-ed:
Remember all those left-wing pundits who drooled over Venezuela?


Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

Methinks the "white privilege" crowd has jumped the shark with this one:
The University of Iowa’s student newspaper has announced the discovery of a special privilege which intelligent people acquire as an accident of birth. This new privilege — called “cognitive privilege” — functions in essentially the same way as white privilege...

As with skin color and much else, Daily Iowan author Dan Williams argues, people have no control over how smart they are. Life is a huge cosmic lottery full of winners and losers.
I teach in a public school and live in a 1240 sf house.  What has my cognitive privilege gotten for me? That I've avoided two of the faults in the Animal House quote above?  Yeah, hate me for that.

Guest Blogging

My post over at Joanne's today references the exorbitant amount of money the Los Angeles school board pays itself:

How Much Should School Board Trustees Be Paid?


It's not the eating, it's the lack of exercise.

Today's weight:  200.6 lbs.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Guest Blogging

My posts over at Joanne's today:
Doubleplus Ungood Crimethink, and
Elder Abuse?

California Pensions

Funny how it's the "elephant" in the room when it's the donkeys who run this state and have created this problem:
Jerry Brown has been a strong governor and a moderating force on budget issues. But when it comes to pensions, the new state budget projects that California has nearly $206 billion in “unfunded liabilities” for the state’s two public pension funds.

Over the last eight years, we added $100 billion in unfunded retirement liability for these funds. This is the elephant in the room of state finances, and it is time we got serious about it.

You probably haven’t heard much about the looming pension crisis because elected officials don’t like talking about it and it’s easy for them to kick the can down the road: they can make promises to public employees now that won’t come due until they’re out of office.

But the slow creep of pension costs is crowding out investments in other areas, including education, environmental stewardship, social services, and public transportation. In essence, the state is being forced to default on its social obligations to pay for its pension obligations. If you’re a progressive, fixing this problem may be the most important issue facing the state.
I'm not a progressive, I'm a conservative.  You don't have to be a progressive to think that fiscal solvency is good for a government.  In fact, that's a pretty conservative belief!

An Update on My "Christmas In July" Present

You might recall the story of my buying a massage chair at Costco.  What I didn't tell you was that it took days for the salesman to actually be able to complete the sale, and during those days I worried that the deal would fall through.  Perhaps he didn't have the authority to sell me a floor model at the price he did...

But as I said, a few days later he called me and asked me to come in to Costco.  At that point I paid for the chair and felt a lot better about the situation.  It was much more likely now that I'd actually get it!

I was told the chair company would contact me with shipping information in order to schedule a delivery.  A few more days went by and they didn't contact me.  I called them.  Fortunately, on my second attempt at a call I spoke to a real human (who was quite friendly and helpful) and got the shipping company and tracking information.  I looked up the tracking info.

On July 26th my chair left New Hampshire and on the 27th it arrived in Newark.  On the 28th it left Newark and is still listed as "en route".  It should arrive in California on August 1st; it would be nice if I could get it delivered on August 2nd.

I shouldn't have had to wait so long and put so much effort into giving a company 4 digits of money, but that feeling fades as August 1st gets closer and closer.  I'm so looking forward to sitting in that chair!

Update, 7/31/17:  As of 1:30 this morning my chair was at SFO.  Getting closer!

Update, 8/1/17:  I called yesterday and scheduled a delivery between 11 am and 3 pm today.  I just checked and it left SFO at 9:20, so that rules out an 11:00 sharp delivery!

Update, 8/2/17:  It arrived in the early afternoon.  But the delivery driver would only deliver it to my porch, saying he's not allowed inside people's houses.  A friend came over and helped me get the 200+ pound behemoth inside.  It was missing a couple clips to hold the footrest/calf massager onto the chair, so I jerry-rigged it with wire (the clips will arrive in the mail within a week, I was told this morning).  It feels so good!  I probably spent an entire hour or more in it yesterday!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Rescinding Admissions

I'm not sure it's entirely justifiable for UC Irvine to rescind admissions for incoming freshmen because they didn't submit transcripts by a certain date--but for poor senior year grades?  Absolutely.  And yet people are complaining because they think they're entitled to admission.

Probably not the strongest argument for rescinding:
UCI’s stated reason for the rescission, Gonzalez said, was that the campus had not received one of two required transcripts on time — though she and her mother say they mailed out both documents in the same envelope two weeks before the July 1 deadline.
These are the snowflakes who need to suck it up, buttercup:
Yunek said UCI had revoked acceptances only for students who had not met the conditions of their admission contracts. Those conditions include receiving a high school diploma, maintaining a weighted 3.0 senior-year grade-point average with no Ds or Fs in UC-approved courses...

And then there's the overreaction:
A petition stating these demands had been signed by more than 640 students, relatives, alumni and community members as of Thursday afternoon.

“We are so sorry that UCI admin has decided to ruin students lives...."
The drama, the drama.

For those students from whom UCI didn't get the paperwork, just send them a notification that the document hasn't been received and give them one more week.  After one more week send a nastygram letting them know they have 3 more days or their admission will be rescinded.  Or, send out that first warning a week before July 1st reminding students.  Something.

For those students who got senioritis and bombed a class?  You don't belong at a university.  Full stop.  It's not because you couldn't succeed there, it's because you didn't meet the academic admissions requirements.  Your spot went to someone more deserving, someone who met the requirements. Deal with it.  Accept responsibility for your own shortcomings and move on from there.  Apply again next year.

Update, 8/5/17:  Irvine has rescinded some of the rescissions:
On Wednesday afternoon, Gillman announced that Irvine was reinstating the offers to almost 300 students whose acceptances had been rescinded because of a missed deadline (so long as their final high school transcripts don’t show problems, such as an F). Roughly another 200 students, whose senior-year grades fell too steeply or whose transcripts contain inconsistencies, will still have to win an appeal in order to enroll.

“We are a university recognized for advancing the American Dream, not impeding it,” Gillman wrote in a public letter. “This situation is rocking us to our core because it is fundamentally misaligned with our values.” He added: “The students and their families have my personal, sincerest apology. We should not have treated you this way over a missed deadline.”

Screw Up, Move Up

When I was in the army--more than half my life ago--we used to have a saying:  "f*** up, move up."  When someone screwed up they were moved up to a staff position in higher headquarters.  True, they were out of a "line" unit, but they also had more decent working hours and much less field time.

As it was in the army, so it is in higher education:
Linda P.B. Katehi, who resigned last year as UC Davis chancellor after months of controversy, will return as a distinguished professor in September at the same pay rate she received as campus leader, university officials said Friday.

Katehi will be paid $318,000 on a nine-month contract – when annualized, equivalent to the $424,000 salary she received as chancellor. She will teach electrical and computer engineering, as well as women and gender studies, according to a UC Davis bio.

Her salary appears to make her the highest paid faculty member in either department, based on the most recent UC salary data available to the public.
Let's recall why she's no longer in charge at UC Davis:
Katehi, 63, resigned last August as an embattled chancellor who faced questions about her actions and leadership. She initially drew criticism for accepting a board seat from for-profit DeVry Education Group while it was under federal investigation for allegedly misleading students. She later came under fire when The Sacramento Bee reported she spent heavily on image-enhancing firms to boost her reputation after the 2011 pepper-spraying of student protesters by campus police.
Doesn't sound good, right?  Well, check out the wrist-slap she got:
University of California President Janet Napolitano launched a $1 million, four-month investigation that ended with an agreement allowing Katehi to return in 2017 as a member of the faculty. But first, as is the tradition, she was allowed to take a year off at her chancellor’s pay, plus retirement and health benefits.
Does that sound reasonable?
“This is exactly why so many people are so cynical about government,” said Ed Howard, senior counsel for the Center for Public Interest Law.
No feces, detective.

Guest Blogging

My post over at Joanne's today is about Peer Tutoring.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Fool Me Once, Shame On You, Fool Me Twice...

I didn't buy or watch Al's first movie, and now his second is coming out:
Former Vice President Al Gore’s new global warming film debuts in select theaters Friday, just in time to see if his 2006 prediction came true that humanity would face a “true planetary crisis” if nothing was done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It didn’t, but that hasn’t stopped Gore from going on a whirlwind media tour to promote his new film “An Inconvenient Sequel.”
As an educator I did get a free copy of the original movie.  It's in my safe doing a two-fer:
1) no one is watching that copy, and
2) after 20 years I'll show it and let people see for themselves how wrongheaded the current environmental movement is.

It's Almost Like The Civil Rights Movement Never Happened

I thought we decided before I was born that government wasn't supposed to treat people of different races differently.  Yet it does, all the time--but does a government arm have to go this far?  Can this be justified on any legal grounds?
The University of Minnesota is banning white and straight students from a safe space on campus, according to a Thursday report.

The school’s Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life hosts “Tongues Untied,” a space in which people can congregate to discuss the impact of sexuality, race and gender, according to Campus Reform. But not everyone is invited.

“For our allies: we do appreciate your voices and commitment to dismantling racism and homophobia; however, please note that this is a space created for LGBTQIA and/or same-gender-loving people of color,” the space’s description reads.

“If you identify as a queer and/or trans indigenous person or person of color, we welcome you to take part in our discussions,” states the group’s Facebook page.

Guest Blogging

My post over at Joanne's today is
Getting Rid of Algebra, Part 3–The Empire Strikes Back

Update:  Just added another one:
District Admits Asst Principal Acted Illegally

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Guest Blogging

My posts over at Joanne's today are

Getting Rid Of Algebra, Part 2, and
Charter Schools Are Racist? The Answer Isn’t Black and White

"Digital Natives My A**"

Kids today may be "digital natives", may have grown up with electronics in their hands, but most don't know much about them besides how to use a few chosen apps on their phones.  Seriously, I've encountered more than a few students who couldn't save a file to a flash drive on a computer.  Asking them to folders on their phones so they could organize pictures so they don't have to scroll through thousands to find the one picture they want to show me--"You can do that?"

Teachers who use the "digital native" term are merely looking for an excuse not to teach.  Yes, I know I just painted with a pretty broad brush, but the statement is more true than not.  There's a world of difference between teaching and letting kids play with electronics.

It should be obvious to anyone who knows anything about electronics that most students don't know as much about electronics as many in my generation do; after all, we taught ourselves how to program in BASIC on TRS-80's!  We used DOS, ferchrissakes!  We're more familiar with how things operate because we were in at the beginning and, while not having used electronics all our lives, we've used electronics for 30+ years (I bought my first computer in 1981).  Kids know how to use Snapchat and Instagram, but that doesn't mean they know much about anything else electronic.

And it certainly doesn't mean that we should teach them differently:


Current discussions about educational policy and practice are often embedded in a mind-set that considers students who were born in an age of omnipresent digital media to be fundamentally different from previous generations of students. These students have been labelled digital natives and have been ascribed the ability to cognitively process multiple sources of information simultaneously (i.e., they can multitask). As a result of this thinking, they are seen by teachers, educational administrators, politicians/policy makers, and the media to require an educational approach radically different from that of previous generations. This article presents scientific evidence showing that there is no such thing as a digital native who is information-skilled simply because (s)he has never known a world that was not digital. It then proceeds to present evidence that one of the alleged abilities of students in this generation, the ability to multitask, does not exist and that designing education that assumes the presence of this ability hinders rather than helps learning. The article concludes by elaborating on possible implications of this for education/educational policy.
Go read the whole thing. The text itself is only 5 pages, plus title page and references.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Liberal Acknowledges That Liberals Own A Large Portion of the Blame for The Disdain Conservatives Have for Universities

The author shows his own prejudices, to be sure, and probably isn't even aware of them (how many do you find in just the snippet below?).  But despite that, he's headed in the right (like that pun??!!) direction:
And given the endless controversies on college campuses in which conservative speakers get shut out and conservative students feel silenced, the public relations work is being done for the enemies of public education by those within the institutions themselves.

Who’s to blame for the fact that so few Republicans see the value in universities? The conservative media must accept some responsibility for encouraging its audiences to doubt expertise; so must those in the mainstream media who amplify every leftist kerfuffle on campus and make it seem as though trigger warnings are now at the center of college life.

But academics are at fault, too, because we’ve pushed mainstream conservatism out of our institutions. Sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons have found that about half of professors identify as liberal, versus only 14% who identify as Republican. (At the time of their study, in 2006, only a fifth of American adults described themselves as liberal.)

In “What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?” Michael Berube describes and defends a philosophy of non-coercion and intellectual pluralism that isn’t just an intellectual curiosity, but an actual ethos that he and other professors live by. I grew up believing that most professors lived by that ethos. I don’t anymore. And when I suggest it’s a problem that academics are so overwhelmingly liberal, I get astonished reactions. “You actually think conservatives should feel welcome on campus?”

In my network of professional academics, almost no one recognizes that our lopsided liberalism presents a threat to academia itself. Many would reply to the Pew Research Center’s findings with glee. They would tell you that they don’t want the support of Republicans. My fellow academics won’t grapple with the simple, pragmatic realities of political power and how it threatens vulnerable institutions whose funding is in doubt. That’s because there is no professional or social incentive in the academy to think strategically or to engage with the world beyond campus.
The last paragraph shows that his reasoning is based on practical rather than philosophical considerations.  In fact, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch, from what is excerpted above, to conclude that the author wouldn't worry at all if Democrats ran all levels of government and hence universities wouldn't have to worry about funding.  Still, despite his traveling down the wrong road, he arrived at the right destination.

School, District, and University Administration

Much like any agency of government, I want educational administration at any level to be lean and to focus only on certain narrowly-defined tasks.  I want administration to do those tasks, only those tasks, and to do them well.  Yes, it's naive, but it's certainly not a harmful belief.

It seems that administrative bloat is not restricted to the western shores of the Atlantic, as we learn from a British university professor:
Then there’s the administration. Leaving aside the widely pilloried and Sisyphean administrative exercises known as the Research Excellence Framework and now the Teaching Excellence Framework, to put it simply we have in recent times witnessed an administrative coup in UK academia. In an article focussing on Oxford University but painting a picture that will be familiar to most academics, The Spectator wrote that the “university’s central administrative staff is now almost three times what it was 15 years ago. There was no similar increase in full-time academic staff, the people who teach students or do research…”. I won’t speculate here on the many reasons why this might be, rather I’ll merely point out that an increase in administrators—lovely and well-meaning as most of them are as individuals—naturally does not do what you might naively expect, i.e., take care of the administration so that academics can focus on academic work. No, instead it breeds ever more complex administrative mazes that are not just difficult to navigate but are de facto becoming the main part of the job. Kafkaesque would not be pushing it too far by any means.
I'm reminded of the discovery of the element Administratium:

The heaviest element known to science was recently discovered by investigators at a major US research university.  The element, tentatively named administratium, has no protons or electrons and thus has an atomic number of 0.  However, it does have one neutron, 125 assistant neutrons, 75 vice neutrons and 111 assistant vice neutrons, which gives it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by a force that involves the continuous exchange of meson-like particles called morons.  It is also surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
Since it has no electrons, administratium is inert.  However, it can be detected chemically as it impedes every reaction it comes in contact with.  According to the discoverers, a minute amount of administratium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete what would normally have occurred in less than a second. 

Administratium has a normal half-life of approximately three years at which time it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons, vice neutrons and assistant vice neutrons exchange places.  In fact, an administratium sample's mass actually INCREASES over time, since with each reorganization some of the morons inevitably become neutrons, forming new isotopes.  This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to speculate that perhaps administratium is spontaneously formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration.  This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "critical morass".

Guest Blogging

While Joanne Jacobs is off to England, I'll be minding the store over at her blog.  My two posts from over there today:
Male Teachers
Here We Go Again With Algebra

How Much Should High School Graduation Cost?

High school graduation is a big deal, I get it.  But how much should a school spend on it?  This much?
Elk Grove Unified’s graduation bill nearly doubled to $195,293 this year after the school district moved its ceremonies from Sleep Train Arena to the Golden 1 Center.

In April, the school board approved moving commencement for its nine high schools to the new downtown Sacramento arena on May 22-24, although district officials at the time didn’t say what it would cost.

The contract between Golden 1 Center and the district called for a $70,000 license fee and “additional fees.” The district didn’t have an estimate of final costs before the contract was approved, saying the price would come out in the final bill.

The bill issued July 5 included $109,000 for staffing that had not been charged at Sleep Train Arena. The district for several years held its graduation ceremonies at the Natomas arena that closed in December.

Read more here:

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reaping What You Sow

I hope he gets a ton of money from them:
  • Bret Weinstein, the Evergreen State College professor who was driven from campus by a mob of students earlier this year, is preparing to file a $3.8 million claim against the public institution.
  • The claim accuses Evergreen State of "fostering a racially hostile work and retaliatory environment" by encouraging the student protests that forced Weinstein to flee campus for his own safety.
  • The students were upset with Weinstein for objecting to a "Day of Absence" event that called for white students and faculty to leave campus for a day of diversity programming.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Things You Learn Via Uber

I've learned a few things from my recent experience as an Uber driver.  What I've learned is kind of "big picture" stuff.  The author of this article learned some more immediate lessons:
What my Uber driver taught me about college and America

Today's Weight

197.8 lbs.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Memorization and Creativity

I'm tired of hearing that memorizing certain things (multiplication facts, the quadratic formula, the Pythagorean Theorem) impedes "creativity" in students.  If this were true, back in the 90s--when "rote memorization" was expunged from California's math standards--we'd have had the most creative students on the planet!

I'm on an email list populated by people who seem to share a more traditional view of math education.  One of the members of that list is Wayne Bishop of CSU Los Angeles, who gave me permission to repost his words here:

A persuasive indictment of US education, especially STEM preparedness.  It is particularly ironic in that our professional mathematics education community continues to insist that its aversion to memorization of anything stimulates creativity in mathematics as opposed to bringing along far too many children - especially children from low socioeconomic, low education communities - being DOA by algebra if not long before.
Believing that melanin in the skin presents a genetic predisposition to do poorly in math is not doing anyone any favors, either.

Unprepared For Advanced Placement

I don't think unprepared students should take AP classes.

I've said that many times before on this blog, and I'm not changing my mind today.  It just doesn't make sense to.  I guess I've been called worse than "elitist", but whatever.  My position is the logical one, emotional wailing notwithstanding.

The "A" in AP means "advanced".  Why put non-advanced students in such a class?  To "expose" them to material?  We in education aren't supposed to be in the business of "exposing" students to material, we're in the business of teaching students the material.  Putting unprepared students into any class will create the following issues to varying degrees:  the student will struggle unnecessarily and not learn as much as they could in a course more suited to their level, and/or the course content will be watered down (for the student's GPA benefit as well as the teacher's sanity).

This isn't to say that no unprepared student can never succeed in an AP class, let's not make up silly arguments here.  It shouldn't be difficult to understand, though, that a student that is "unprepared" will not, in general, do as well as a student who is "prepared".  That's kind of built into the definitions of the two words.

Yet, the "AP for all" push continues unabated, with expected results:
High school students are flocking to Advanced Placement classes in an attempt to earn credits for college, boost their grade-point average and look good on university applications.

But are all students ready for the college-level coursework?

Students at the eight schools in the Sacramento region that fared worst on AP tests failed to score high enough to earn college credit on at least 75 percent of exams in 2015-16. That includes 3,375 tests taken at Florin, Valley, Highlands, Foothill, Natomas, Rosemont, Inderkum and Grant high schools.

Almost half of the scores at those schools were 1s – the lowest score possible.

Officials speaking for the lowest-performing schools said test results shouldn’t be the only measure of AP success. They said the classes expose students to college-level material and show them what is expected after they graduate.

“You want kids taking advanced classes,” said Jim Sanders, spokesman for Natomas Unified School District, which includes Natomas and Inderkum high schools. “It helps better prepare them for college and career.”

Even if passage rates are low at some campuses, AP courses still allow a handful of high-achievers to obtain college credit, said Lori Grace, an assistant superintendent at Twin Rivers Unified, where three of its four high schools – Highlands, Foothill and Grant – had passage rates of 25 percent or lower. Grace said that schools are enrolling more students in AP courses each year.
The high school I attended is on that list of 8 schools.  When I went there, there were no AP classes.  We had three levels of English for each grade (the top was called "college prep"), and math classes up to trigonometry.  My senior year, six of us were ready to take Calculus.  We had to go to the local community college to take it.

Too many students take AP classes just for the GPA bump.  I don't understand the reasoning, though, as many colleges ask for "unweighted" GPA's.  In fact, our district's transcripts list more than a couple different GPA's, so what's the point?  Colleges and universities aren't fooled by your 4.3 weighted GPA.  They know exactly how many A's and B's you received, and in what courses.

I've kind of rambled away from my thesis, which is this:  the students at the schools listed above weren't done any favors by taking AP courses.  The schools could have used those AP class periods to shore up obvious student math weaknesses instead of offering AP courses for which students clearly weren't prepared.

And we all know why the schools offer such courses, and why there's a push to allow anyone to take AP classes even in schools with a viable AP-capable population--because AP enrollment is seen as a feather in a school or district's cap.  Much like a diploma, though, the value of that feather is degraded by low standards and poor performance.

Read more here:

Saturday, July 22, 2017

She's Got A Lot of Nerve

If I had sex with a 16-year-old student, it's a certainty I'd get more than 180 days in jail:
A former teacher of the year who cheated on her firefighter husband with a 16-year-old student is now suing the teen for defamation -- from behind bars.

Tara Stumph, 36, who taught at Arroyo Grande High School in California is serving 180 days in San Luis Obispo County Jail for having sex with a 16-year-old student, according to The Tribune of San Luis Obispo.

But Stumph is now suing the student, claiming he damaged her reputation. Stumph’s counterclaim said the young man defamed the former teacher “to various classmates, family and other members of the community.”
She doesn't even have to register as a sex offender.  She should be counting her blessings rather than filing a lawsuit.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Being a Union "Free Rider"

The 7th Circuit has an interesting view of this particular union canard:
The US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that Wisconsin’s right-to-work law is constitutional. The court referenced its own 2014 Sweeney decision, which was an unsuccessful challenge to Indiana’s right-to-work law.

There is a paragraph in the Sweeney ruling that deserves your attention, since it addresses union complaints about non-members being “free riders” – that is, receiving benefits from union representation for which they do not pay.
[W]e believe the union is justly compensated by federal law’s grant to the Union the right to bargain exclusively with the employer. The reason the Union must represent all employees is that the Union alone gets a seat at the negotiation table…. It seems disingenuous not to recognize that the Union’s position as a sole representative comes with a set of powers and benefits as well as responsibilities and duties. And no information before us persuades us that the Union is not fully and adequately compensated by its rights as the sole and exclusive member at the negotiating table.
Unions will grudgingly accept free riders if they can maintain exclusivity.

The Right Way To Deal With Protesters Who Disrupt Speakers

Your right to "peaceably assemble" and to protest is not permission to deny speakers their rights to speak, or listeners their rights to hear the speakers.  At least one school not only recognizes this fundamental fact, but is acting on it:
Claremont McKenna College this week announced disciplinary measures, including lengthy suspensions, against seven students who were part of a mob that blocked an audience from hearing a pro-police speech by Heather Mac Donald last April.

The crowd, spurred on by Black Lives Matter, forced Mac Donald to give her speech via livestream, even as protesters tried to drown her out. It was an outrageous infringement of Mac Donald’s right to free speech — and the right of other students to hear her. It was also another despicable example of what passes for acceptable political protest on far too many campuses.

Claremont McKenna hit three students with full-year suspensions, two with one-semester suspensions and two with conduct probation. It gave deans at other Claremont campuses evidence of violations by their students and urged them to act. Four non-students were suspended from on-campus privileges.
Wouldn't it be great if our public universities--I'm talking to you, UC Berkeley--would do the same?

The prominent leader of a militant left-wing group was arrested earlier this week on charges stemming from a violent brawl last year between white nationalist groups and counter-protesters.

Yvette Felarca, 47, was taken into custody in Los Angeles on Tuesday on charges of inciting and participating in a riot, and assault likely to cause great bodily injury, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office said Wednesday. The charges come after an eight-month investigation.

Felarca, whose name in public records appears as Yvonne Capistrano Felarca, has been identified as the leader and spokesperson for the anti-fascist group By Any Means Necessary.

She is among several people arrested this week in connection to the wild skirmish that broke out at the state Capitol in June 2016 when more than 300 counter-protesters confronted about 30 members of the Traditionalist Worker Party, which has been called a white nationalist group.

Felarca, who is a middle school teacher in Berkeley, attended the Capitol protest and gave television interviews after the melee. She was captured on video hitting a member of the TWP and calling a man a Nazi before punching him in the stomach repeatedly while shouting for him to “get the f*** off our streets.”  (Boldface mine--Darren)

25 19th Century Moments That Changed America

Yes, it's from Time, but don't let that distract you from what is otherwise a very interesting article.

A Poster Child For Getting Rid of Remedial Courses at Universities

Remediation belongs at our community colleges.  Allowing unprepared students into universities overburdens the system, places more debt on those most likely to be unable to repay that debt, and helps hide the importance of K-12 education (or the lack thereof):
After graduating from high school in Brooklyn with a 2.6 grade point average, Reynold Essor enrolled at SUNY Adirondack, a public two-year community college in upstate New York with “a comfortable residence hall, leafy grounds, a restaurant run by students, and even a zipline,” writes Pratt.

Failing the placement exam landed Essor in the remedial track. “He spent two semesters taking, and then retaking, three required remedial courses,” writes Pratt. “He used financial aid, including a federal Pell Grant, to cover the costs.” He’s earned no college credit.

Essor blames his high school education. “I passed without learning,” he said.

“Students spend an estimated $7 billion annually on remedial college classes,” writes Pratt. “Yet only half of enrolled students complete remedial courses, and about one in seven completes a credential within six years.”
He blames his high school education?  Nice way to shuffle the blame. Come on, you had a 2.6 GPA, and you thought that made you ready for college?  When you were told you needed three remedial courses, you still didn't realize that you're not ready?

Young Reynold needs to accept the lion's share of the responsibility here.  He didn't work hard, was allowed to cruise (that is the fault of his school, but he didn't have to cruise), and he didn't heed the warning signs.  Reynold is having difficulty passing remediation courses at a community college which, as I've stated, is the correct place for remediation.  He's got two choices: 
  1. buckle down and get to work, or
  2. do something else for awhile and come back to college when he's ready.
Now, having said all this, can anyone explain to me why we should have remedial courses at universities?

Musk's Musky Math Ideas

Elon Musk doesn't think math teachers are teaching correctly:
Speaking at the ISSR&D Conference in Washington D.C. Wednesday, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla (TSLA) was asked about the education system. Musk explained that he believes schools aren't doing enough to help children grasp why they're learning each subject. 

"You just sort of get dumped into math. Why are you learning that? It seems like, 'Why am I being asked to do these strange problems?'" Musk said. "Our brain has evolved to discard information that it thinks has irrelevance." 

Musk suggested learning be focused around solving a specific problem, such as building a satellite or taking apart an engine. Then students will encounter and master subjects such as math and physics on the path to solving their problem. Understanding how to use a wrench or screwdriver will have a clear purpose. 
It would be easy to trash Musk's argument--by, for example, pointing out that there isn't a lot of K-12 math in building (or launching, or tracking, or maneuvering) a satellite--but instead I'll be a little more respectful.

Musk's idea isn't new.  What he's suggesting is called "problem-based learning", an old (Dewey promoted it a hundred years ago) pedagogical style which I describe as "inefficient at best".  Barry Garelick of the Traditional Math blog wrote a brief post about Musk's PBL suggestion, and then wrote a follow-up post highlighting some of the comments from that post.  One of those comments hit the nail on the head--in problem-based learning, so much of the time is spent on the "problem" that the kernel of math that's supposed to be gleaned from the "problem" is lost in the shuffle.  Very little math gets learning in a class period, and that which does get learned is mostly a by-product.  "Exactly!" scream the proponents of problem-based learning.  But no.

Remember when manipulatives were the big thing in math?  Many (many!) moons ago I found one that I really liked--Hands-On Equations.  Used to teach students how to solve algebraic equations, it involved dice, pawns, and the idea of "legal moves" (e.g., it's "legal" to add a pawn to both sides) to provide a physical representation of algebraic operations.  Gradually, through 26 lessons, the program transitions students from solving problems with the manipulatives to solving them using standard algebra.  Sounds great!  My students loved it, I loved it, everyone had fun, the kids were engaged--anyone walking in to my class would think that this, this was a place where learning was taking place.  You could have checked every box on an evaluator's clipboard.

Cut to the end of those 26 lessons, though, and students did no better on a test than had previous classes who did not use Hands-on Equations.  No better at all.  Despite the program's built-in transition from manipulative to algebra.  Students saw that transition as just part of the program, part of the game.  They didn't make the leap from the "game" to the math.  They learned the game well, they didn't learn the math.  They spent a lot of time learning a little math.

And that is what's wrong with Musk's idea.  He made the classic rookie mistake; I won't be hard on him because it's such a common mistake.  But people who are really smart, or very talented in a certain area, can see "connections" between the many things they know.  That excites them, it's so cool!  If they can share those connections, everyone else will be excited about the topic, too, and will learn!  In the post-Sputnik days of "new math", the smart people got together and decided that if everyone learned basic set theory and different bases, our country's "math deficit" would be instantly erased!  Today the silver bullet is matrices.

What they get wrong, though, is the confusion between cause and effect.  Being excited and understanding the material and seeing connections doesn't cause learning, it's the result of learning.  There is no way set theory and bases are going to help someone who doesn't already understand math, and the same goes for matrices.  You have to teach fundamentals.  No one starts playing piano with a Bach concerto; they start with notes, and chords, and Chopsticks.  So it is with math.

Now I hope that some won't (intentionally) misunderstand what I'm saying.  I'm not saying that math should be taught as an abstraction; on the contrary, it's the language of science and the universe, and that's part of the reason we learn it at all.  There's no way I would advocate divorcing math from the sciences, from engineering, from games.  Math is learned best when it is taught with applications and examples.  But the examples are there to highlight the math, not to subsume it.

Additionally, high school math takes us up to what was learned and developed in the 1600's (calculus).  That's why "Train A" and "Train B" problems exist; there's no real-world need to solve such problems, they just subtract a little abstraction to make the problem easier to understand.  Seriously, outside of some statistics (i.e., social science problems), what real-world problems are ordinary K-12 students going to solve using the math we teach them?  Darned few!  But we can help them understand real-world things, often with the help of physics, especially where driving, a real-world activity if ever there was one, is involved--doubling speed quadruples energy, speed going around a curve, how long it takes to stop if you lock up the brakes, how police determine your speed from the skid mark your car left on the road, etc.

So to close, I give Musk credit for having his heart in the right place.  He's just a little off in the time scale--problem-based learning can only occur after the elementary learning has already taken place.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Candle In The Wind

Whatever happened to Black Lives Matter?  or "Occupy" protesters?  Oh, you hear about them once in awhile, or you read a paragraph on p. A13 of the local paper, but that's about it.

I guess they outlived their usefulness to the Left, so the Left has moved on.  Use 'em up, spit 'em out.

Due Process Is A Foundation of Western Law

Do you believe that even accused murderers should have due process?  Do you believe in the legal presumption of "innocent until proven guilty"?  I certainly do.  And even in those instances where our legal system lets the guilty go free, I've always been of the mind that I'd rather a hundred guilty people go free than to deprive one innocent person of his/her freedom.

That isn't a belief that comes naturally, I was taught that belief.  In school.  Because that's what Americans used to believe, and school was one place where societal values were transmitted to the next generation.

It's not that way anymore.  Perhaps too many people think that our system of laws is natural, that they can (be cool and) rebel against it knowing that it will always be there to protect them.  This is not the case.  The rest of the world is evidence enough that our legal system is not the natural order of things.  Force is the natural order of things.

That introduction brings me to lefties and their current view of rapists--in their eyes, every man is a potential rapist, and any man accused of rape is a priori guilty.  Not only is he guilty, but because he's guilty he's not allowed to prove his innocence.  If you think I'm exaggerating, you're not very familiar with the Star Chambers instituted on American campuses in part because of the Obama Administration Department of Education's "Dear Colleague" letter.

Hopefully the current administration will restore some sanity to what is clearly an un-American nightmare:
A good way to tell if the Left currently believes one of their beloved policies will disappear is how viciously they write about the potential change. In this case, they’re trying to smear people who believe those accused of heinous crimes should be able to defend themselves as somehow supporting the heinous crime. That is where we are in society.

On college campuses, students (mostly male, but sometimes female) can be accused of sexual assault and receive no effective due process, no promise of a fair trial in which they are allowed to defend themselves and present evidence to exonerate themselves. This is a basic tenet of a just society. Yet activists who support these policies insist America’s college campuses are more dangerous than war-torn countries in Africa regarding rape and sexual assault. They say this issue is so pervasive, we need to cut down on constitutional protections for those accused of these terrible crimes when the accusation happens on a college campus, because they’re most definitely guilty.
Due process is a foundation of our legal system.  No one will like the results if we toss it aside, especially for partisan political purposes.

No, lefties, I'm not "pro-rape" just because I support due process.  I'm not "pro-rape" just because I don't believe in your characterization of "rape culture".  I'm not "pro-rape" just because I don't believe your fatuous "20% of women will be raped in college" claim.  In fact, I'm so not pro-rape that I want rape accusations dealt with by laws and courts, not by university administrators.  Rapists should be locked up, not expelled--as should those who falsely accuse others of rape.  And I want those who falsely accuse others of rape to have due process as well.

The views I hold used to be such universal beliefs that no American would twice about them.  That they're under such assault, and by other Americans, shows how far we as a society have fallen.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lefties, You're Not Going To Like The New Rules You're Instituting

You want more Donald Trump?  This is how you get more Donald Trump:
Professor Eric Canin will be returning to California State University, Fullerton to teach classes despite allegedly assaulting a College Republican on campus.

The incident took place in February, when members of the College Republicans were peacefully counter-protesting an anti-Trump rally on campus. Canin approached members of the club, calling them “uneducated” based on their political stance before allegedly shoving at least one student in anger.
If conservatives responded in kind there would be less such violence.  The left is making the rules, and when conservatives ditch the high road and start playing by these new rules, the lefties will be most unhappy.

Of course, the faculty union supported the professor, saying he's been "unfairly vilified" by the College Republicans for, what, having the temerity to be assaulted by him???

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

In What Other Industry Would We Tolerate This?

Back in the days before radio, the captain of a ship, while not God, what pretty much His representative here on Earth.  Someone had to make the decisions.  And while the captain is still the boss, and certainly is responsible for safety on a ship, I can't see that his word should be law in every instance.  This is just as true for airline captains.

In emergency situations, you should follow crew instructions--they're best trained to handle such emergencies.  But in every single instance?  We have to follow every instruction someone gives because they work for a business?  In what other industry would we tolerate that?

And in what other industry would we allow employees to treat customers this way, and with complete and total impunity?
Ann Coulter vs. Delta Air Lines is the latest battle over airline customer service to play out on social media.

The conservative pundit began to fire off angry tweets about the carrier this past weekend after she was asked to move from a pre-selected seat with extra leg room on a Delta flight from New York to West Palm Beach, Florida. Delta (DAL) said Sunday it would refund Coulter $30 for the preferred seat she purchased, but criticized her "derogatory and slanderous comments" as "unnecessary and unacceptable."

So, can an airline really just move you out of a seat that you booked and paid for?

Long story short: They sure can.
Contracts of carriage are so biased towards airlines; if they made more use of the power they're granted, people might just rebel enough to get the rules changed.  Maybe.  But why are they given such overarching power anyway?  They're given this power by government--why do we allow it?

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Wrong Starting Point For Discussion

I doubt there's a person involved in education who hasn't heard that "students (or parents) are our customers", and thus we have to satisfy or accommodate their whims.  I'm glad not everyone feels that way!
HARVARD LAW STUDENTS COMPLAIN THAT HARVARD LAW FACULTY HAVE TOO MUCH INFLUENCE ON HARVARD LAW SCHOOL. As one of my lawprofs at Yale said, students aren’t the consumers of legal education, they’re its product — and nobody asks a Buick on the assembly line whether it wants to have AC installed.  link
This is true in K-12 education as well.

Lack of Discipline

This morning's weight:  198.4

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Reward

For years, whenever my son and I would go into a Brookstone store, we'd try out the massage chairs.  I mean, who wouldn't?  And they always felt so good.  And for the last couple years I promised myself one when I finished my graduate degree.

Today, after driving for Uber for a couple hours, I decided to pop into Costco.  And what did I see there?  A display of massage chairs!

They had three different models; I slid into the least expensive one.  After about 5 minutes in it I decided that I didn't want to spend that much money on that particular chair.  It wasn't...awesome.

So I tried out the mid-priced model.  I really liked this one.  The salesman trickled information to me, but that cost.... I asked, "what about the floor model?"  When he said he didn't have one I replied that I was in one!  He couldn't sell me that one, about a brown one (the one I was in was black) that had previously been a model?  Well, brown works better for me, and the price was reasonable.

So I bought it.  It'll be delivered in a couple weeks.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Asserting the Superiority of Western Values

Lefties squealed in mock horror when President Trump asserted the superiority of Western values in Poland.  Here's a(n awesome) defense of such values from 2007:

Friday, July 14, 2017

I Know You Are But What Am I

They are so busy calling everyone else a racist that they don't see that they themselves are the racists:
The Board of Trustees of Evergreen State College met on campus Wednesday and held a listening session for anyone who wanted to come before them and offer their perspective. Speakers were clearly divided between those who supported President George Bridges and those who felt the campus was out of control. Speaking from the latter perspective was a current Evergreen student named MacKenzie.

“If you offer any sort of alternative viewpoint, which I do have, and you’re kind of the enemy,” MacKenzie said. She continued, “I don’t agree with the behavior that has been shown on the campus and unlike what Anne Fischel [a previous speaker] has said, I think it’s important to focus on the way this was handled.”

“This behavior has actually been encouraged and because of this I feel like people are becoming more violent and the campus is becoming more of an unsafe place,” she said. “I have been to several meetings to speak. I’ve been told several times that I’m not allowed to speak because I’m white,” she said.

“This school seems to focus so much on race that it is actually becoming more racist in a different sort of way. And because I say that—because I choose not to focus on race I have actually been labeled a racist and a white supremacist. If anyone took the time to actually know me, it’s not true at all.”
Just in case you missed it above:
This school seems to focus so much on race that it is actually becoming more racist....
I'm reminded of Chief Justice Roberts' words from a Supreme Court case involving assigning students to schools based on race:
"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

It's A Drip Now, May It Turn Into A Flood

More and more lawsuits are being filed, and schools are losing.  The absolutely un-American star chambers that some men have had to endure in college simply because they're men, encouraged by the Obama Education Department and their "Dear Colleague" letter, must burn:
Columbia and Paul Nungesser, CC ’15, have agreed to settle a lawsuit that he filed against the University in 2015.

Nungesser was at the center of a gender-based misconduct investigation after Emma Sulkowicz, CC ’15, accused him of assault in 2012. He was later found not guilty by a University investigation.

Sulkowicz protested that finding in her senior art thesis, “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight),” in which she carried a mattress with her at all times in a critique of the University’s decision not to discipline Nungesser. The thesis made national headlines, and Sulkowicz spearheaded a national student-led push for a reformed gender-based misconduct process.

Nungesser’s suit charged that the University failed to protect him from—and even encouraged—sustained protest by Sulkowicz, which Nungesser initially argued was a violation of Title IX.

The University announced that it had settled the suit—for which Nungesser submitted a new complaint after his initial one was dismissed last year—in a conciliatory statement sent to Spectator Thursday.

The statement reaffirmed that Columbia’s investigation had found Nungesser not responsible and expressed regret that his time after the investigation was “very difficult for him and not what Columbia would want any of its students to experience.”
I hope he got a mattress full of money.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Planning For A New Course

After adopting the California version of the Common Core standards, my district foisted integrated math on us.  Instead of Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and Trig/Pre-calc, we have Integrated Math 1, Integrated Math 2, Integrated Math 3, and Trig/Pre-calc.  (And it's not really integrated, it's hodge-podge, but that's a different complaint.  And it makes as much sense as teaching "integrated science" or "integrated foreign language".)  And since we don't want students to accelerate much--the argument is to ensure they take their time and master the material, as if we don't have students smart and capable enough to master and accelerate--you can see that AP Calculus isn't in the cards.

So what do we do?  We let kids accelerate, but only a little.  We've created IM 2+ and IM 3+ (now Honors Integrated Math 3), and those lead directly to calculus by bypassing Pre-calculus/trig.  And freshmen can start as advanced as IM 2+, so there remains a (narrow) road to AP Calculus BC.

This coming school year is the first at which my school will offer IM 3 and HIM 3, and my department co-chair and I will be teaching HIM3 for this inaugural year.  He's attended at least one district-level planning meeting for the course and had mapped out a pacing guide for the first semester; we met at his house today to do the same for the 2nd semester, as it's been awhile since he's taught that specific material and needed my input on planning.

We looked at the standards.  One thing I despise about the Common Core Math Standards is that they're not clear.  California's 1997 standards were crystal clear, there was no doubt what was expected.  These new standards seems to need other documents to explain what is meant by the standards.  I'll say it for the zillionth time, if you have to "interpret" what the standards mean, then they aren't clear enough to be standard.

So we worked together for a legitimate four hours today, mapping out the second semester.  What I don't like is that we have to not teach some very interesting things in order to cover only what is needed to prepare students for AP Calculus.  That bothers me, as there are many important topics that don't necessarily lead directly to calculus.  Searching for an analogy, I come up with a military one:  we're building a tank, but with very thin armor.  Sure, it has uses, but is it the best tank you can have?

And all of this is caused by our district's refusal to let students accelerate even if they're ready to.  And on top of that, our district is going to add a third year of math to our graduation requirements.

Math education in my district is fast becoming what is known as a disaster.

Update, 7/14/17:  Mine isn't the only school district that doesn't want students to learn too much:
When she completed sixth-grade math in a few months, she went ahead and did seventh-grade math, too. She asked to do the same in science. The school resisted at first, but eventually she was taking ninth-grade science as a sixth grader. She is now five years ahead of her grade in math and three years ahead in science. Her school also let her take an entrepreneurship course full of 11th- and 12th-graders at the district’s Career Institute.

Now, in seventh grade, she has been made to pay for the crime of getting too far ahead of her classmates. Almost everyone in her middle school takes six courses. This school year she was only allowed to take five.

“They refused to allow my daughter to take her second-year Spanish foreign-language class — a subject she adored and a fun break in her day, while we had a joy of speaking this at home — and instead make her sit in the library for one hour doing homework,” Gupta said.
Why don't we want students to learn?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Silver Lining's Dark Cloud

When it comes to smoking, liberals believe in economics--tax it more, you get less of it:
In the fall, California voters approved the biggest increase in cigarette taxes since the state first began levying tobacco in the 1950s. Advocates for Proposition 56, which passed with a fairly overwhelming 64 percent of the vote, argued that a $2 per-pack tax hike would hurt pocketbooks enough to nudge millions of California smokers to quit, or at least to light up less frequently.

When the tax went into effect in April, smokers saw the average cost of a pack of cigarettes soar from under $6 to up to $9, making California one of the most expensive states in which to buy cigarettes. But the question then: Was that enough to force smokers to kick an increasingly expensive habit?

The early data suggests that yes, California cigarette sales have declined significantly since prices went up. In fact, the drop is even sharper than the state anticipated...
For those of us who can't stand smoking, this must be a good thing, right? 

Well, liberals don't really study economics, and they don't think through the policies they propose.  Where do you think all that tax money from cigarettes goes?  Why, it's sold to the public to fund programs that people like!  So what happens to those programs when the tax money dries up? 
But what’s beneficial for public health isn’t necessarily good for the state budget, at least in the near term.

Proposition 56 was supposed to generate an additional $1.3 billion in revenue for the state to shore up Medi-Cal, the state health insurance program for low-income Californians. In the two months since the tax has been in place, the state has raised a total of $182 million, below what Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration was expecting.

“Sales are still more sluggish than had been originally anticipated,” H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance, said via email. ”Given that we only have two months of data, it is too early to predict a trend. If the current trend holds, we would likely make a revision to our expected decline in consumption.”

How the new cigarette tax revenue would be spent became a hot-button issue in state budget negotiations last month. Ultimately, legislators and Brown agreed to divide the new revenue between increased payments to physicians and general Medi-Cal expenses.

Palmer said that if cigarette tax revenues continue to come in lower than anticipated, the administration would need to identify an alternative revenue source or propose cutbacks to Medi-Cal. 
Translation:  we'll just tax someone else to pay for Medi-Cal (socialism).

In earlier days this was called "killing the goose that laid the golden eggs."

After Milo and Ann, How Will UC Berkeley Respond?

From the SF Chronicle:
Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro — whose pro-Israel musings have pleased the right and angered the left has accepted an invitation to speak at UC Berkeley on Sept. 14, student groups announced Tuesday.
The key part of the article:
The Berkeley College Republicans and the conservative Young America’s Foundation — whose efforts to promote conservative speakers on campuses have accelerated since last year’s election of President Trump — have sued the University of California in federal court over Coulter’s canceled speech...

Shapiro and the Young America’s Foundation sued Cal State Los Angeles in 2016 when campus officials barred Shapiro from speaking on that campus. Shapiro and the group dropped the suit this year after California State University changed its policies to welcome a broader range of speakers.
It's pretty bad when you have to sue public universities in order to be allowed to speak at them.

Update, 7/20/17:  I say this for them, at least they're consistent:
On Wednesday, Young America’s Foundation and the Berkeley College Republicans were told by the University of California, Berkeley administration that Berkeley would not facilitate an event by Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro on September 14 on campus. Instead, administrators have informed YAF and BCR that they are “unable to identify an available campus venue.” They have not provided a list of other events taking place on campus on that time and date that would prevent Shapiro from speaking.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Is There Any Room On That Coffin For One More Nail?

‘This is shameful’! The ACLU just destroyed ALL its remaining ‘civil liberties’ cred

As far as I'm concerned they lost credibility years ago, but in case there was some shred of resurrection....

When They Tell You By Not Telling You Because They Don't Want To Tell You What You Probably Don't Need To Be Told

I received permission to screenshot this and post it here:

 click to enlarge

I'm reminded of a great line (which I'll paraphrase) from every math teacher's favorite movie, Stand and Deliver: "There are two kinds of racism, Mr. Escalante--singling people out because of their race, and not singling people out because of their race."  The line was spoken by Pearson, played by Rif Hutton.

Politically-driven Suppression of News

Just a reminder from 2014:
In unprecedented criticism of the White House, 38 journalism groups have assailed the president's team for censoring media coverage, limiting access to top officials and overall “politically-driven suppression of the news.”

In a letter to President Obama, the 38, led by the Society of Professional Journalists, said efforts by government officials to stifle or block coverage has grown for years and reached a high-point under his administration despite Obama's 2008 campaign promise to provide transparency.

Worse, they said: As access for reporters has been cut off, the administration has opened the door to lobbyists, special interests and “people with money.”
This was also an administration that spied on journalists (e.g., James Rosen, Sharyl Attkisson, and 20 reporters from the Associated Press).  Just sayin'.

Watering Down

International baccalaureate programs are supposed to be a gold standard:
One of the most unusual courses in high school these days is TOK, the initialism for Theory of Knowledge, part of the International Baccalaureate program. Most Americans have never heard of it.

It is a course on critical thinking and how we know what we claim to know. It demands a lot of writing and thus, by the standard teenager definition, is not easy. But most of the IB teachers I have encountered, and many of their students, call it special and deep, a distinctive element of a program now offered in nearly 900 U.S. high schools.

Jeremy Noonan felt that way when he was a science teacher in Douglas County, Ga. He taught Theory of Knowledge for four years, with increasingly good results.

But his is a story of TOK going wrong, something I had not encountered before. When many students began to complain that it was too difficult, Noonan said his principal asked him to make it easier.

Noonan said he learned later this was so that enrollment in IB — a major selling point for the school — would not decline...

Even a sophisticated course such as TOK can be damaged if a school does not guard against softening demands. Noonan said he did not expect TOK to take much time outside of class compared with the main IB courses, but to “get an A in the course, students had to be making progress and perform at an excellent level"...

When he resisted diluting the course, Noonan said, he was reassigned in 2015 to non-IB science courses. His replacement in Theory of Knowledge, according to Noonan, had no IB teaching experience. Noonan said some students told him that TOK had become “the course where you go to catch up on work from your other classes.”

Noonan had assigned several graded essays each year. He said the new teacher assigned none. Noonan said his principal told him that at a regional meeting of IB principals, it was agreed that TOK should be easy and not treated as a serious course.
I have my own stories about watered down courses.  Perhaps I'll share them some time.