Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Back At Work

What a fun day yesterday was.  No, it wasn't as thrilling as Monday's events at the Supreme Court, but it was fun nonetheless.

The day started with a few of us being interviewed by education writers from a variety of print and digital media.  When that was over, we were done and I made my way to Dulles Airport.

While there I was on the phone with a (pilot) friend who reminded me of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum "annex" there at Dulles.  I hopped on a bus ($2 each way) and got to spend about an hour there.  Eventually I'll post pictures but I still need to catch up on sleep.

Then I got on a 777 to SFO and had 3 seats all to myself!  It was almost luxury.  Got home about 1am.

My classroom looked in good shape today, everything was in its place.  It's so nice to have a substitute teacher who doesn't just read the newspaper and allow bedlam.

So much to catch up on starting tomorrow....

What's Good For The Goose....

Lefties like compulsion so much, see if they like this example:
In a New York Times article published last fall, philosophy professor John Corvino pooh-poohed the notion that refusing to provide a service for an event was different from refusing service to an individual. Corvino then concluded, "Freedom of speech and freedom of religion do not exempt business owners from public accommodations laws, which require them to serve customers equally."

In other words, if someone wanted a Muslim baker to bake a cake with the intended purpose of helping to celebrate a Koran burning service, then based on Corvino's conclusion, the Muslim baker should be forced to bake the cake.

I'm adamantly opposed to forcing the Muslim baker to bake a cake in that scenario. Likewise, I'm adamantly opposed to forcing a homosexual baker to bake a cake for an anti-gay marriage party. But, as a conservative Christian, I'm not allowed to write the rules. So let's play by the progressives' rules.

Playing by their rules brings into sharp relief the hypocrisy of businesses refusing to do business with the NRA...

I normally shy away from this kind of activism, but at some point conservatives need to begin pushing back. To that end, here's what I encourage:

An NRA member needs to find the most progressive bakery he can, and then request an AR-15-shaped cake for a Second Amendment celebration. Walk into the store wearing an NRA shirt and hat. Openly carry a gun if you're legally allowed. Ask for the top of the cake to be decorated with words like "In celebration of the NRA."

When the mortified SJW baker refuses, sue her.

In doing so, you may run up against the argument that being a gun owner isn't an identity. Hogwash! If you feel like being a gun owner and an NRA member is central to your identity, no one has the right to deny you that identity.

Instead of trying to fight progressives' absurdities with logic and common sense, maybe it's time to start turning the absurdity back onto progressives.
Live by Alinsky, die by Alinsky.

Monday, February 26, 2018

What An Exciting Day!

I arrived in DC Saturday night, direct from Iceland, and attended a meet-up and organizational meeting last night.  Today I was up bright and early--the Supreme Court was to hear the Janus case today!

Our first stop was the Heritage Foundation for some breakfast and last minute details:

Then it was off to the steps of the Supreme Court building!  The "forced unionism" crowd was there in force, but I was impressed at our own numbers.  Mostly I took video, in a format that I can't post here, but the entire area in front of the Supreme Court steps was covered with the two competing rallies regarding Mark Janus' case.

I'm going to attempt to be very honest here, very objective, but the union supporters won't believe me.  On our side, we were having fun--yes, there was some chanting, but there was also music playing and singing and dancing on the sidewalk!  Our side was very upbeat, positive, uplifting!  I didn't see the same thing from the other side; sadly, they tried to interrupt our speeches with their chanting and yelling, there were many instances of extremely vulgar language hurled at us (and yes, there were children around), and they were for the most part angry.

Honestly, that's how I saw it.  At our briefing we were told to smile and be "happy warriors", and I think we accomplished just that.  And there was a lot of pro-teacher talk, too, as many of us there are teachers.

Several of us got up and gave short speeches.  Here's a picture of yours truly.  (Yes, the speech had been written in advance and gone over with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it stayed "on message".)

I had a couple chats with some on the other side, people who didn't seem too Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.  I carried a sign that said "My Job, My Choice", and wore a beanie that said "Stand With Workers".  I had a second sign that said "Stand With Mark."  Mark Janus' case is all about giving workers the choice of whether they want to be in, and pay, a union; it has nothing to do with union "busting" or trying to eliminate unions.  Our signs emphasized that message.  Some on the other side had signs that read "It's about freedom" and "unrig the system":
(I asked the people if I could take this picture.  They said it was OK but they absolutely didn't want their faces in the picture.)  The man on the left said to me, "On any other day, I'd be carrying your sign."  I replied, "On any other day, I'd be carrying yours."  We both found that kind of funny.

I think our side had the better arguments, though.  How is "forced unionism" about freedom, unless I live in Orwell's worst nightmare?  And isn't it currently the unions that rig the system?  *sigh*

We cheered, they booed, when Mark Janus emerged from the Courthouse with his attorneys:
They gave a small press conference, and several of us served as a backdrop.  The Supreme Court Police would not let us take any signs, pins, or other "First Amendment paraphernalia" with us.

Standing about a yard behind Mark, I took this picture of NPR's Nina Totenberg asking Mark some questions.  What, what's that you say?  You don't think I took that picture?  Well, check out this screenshot, sent to me by a friend in California:

Just who do you think that handsome devil is at the end of the red arrow, standing next to Rebecca Friedrichs??!!

This one is better:

And just like that, it was over.  Off to lunch.

I had the rest of the day to my own devices, and since it's been awhile since I was in DC, I played tourist a little.  I went into the National Archives and saw the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  If you haven't ever done that, I recommend it--it's a spiritual experience.

From there it was to the White House, where I let President Trump know just what I think of his job performance as President thus far:

I hadn't yet seen the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Monument, so that was my next destination.  It was moving.  Very moving.

 Impressive in scale as well:

After that I decided that it was time to get back to the hotel.  To be honest, I'd been on my feet for most of the day and was ready to relax a bit.

But what an exciting, uplifting, hopeful day!

Tomorrow some of us are scheduled for interviews with education reporters, and then it's back home to California for me.  I land close to midnight on Tuesday--and I have work on Wednesday :-)

Update, 3/1/18:  Added the 2nd screenshot of me behind Mark Janus.

The Florida Shooting

I'm just going to cut and paste from the Instapundit himself:
MY USA TODAY COLUMN IS ON OUR PERVASIVE INSTITUTIONAL ROT: Florida shooting yet another government failure to keep us safe: From the FBI to local law enforcement to the schools, every institution failed. We have more government than ever, but it isn’t working. “People are being asked to trust the government to keep them safe, when the government is patently unable to do so. And then, when the government fails, it engages in blame-shifting deflection. Why should people listen? Increasingly, they won’t.”
There was also this:
DON SURBER: Why We Had The Parkland Massacre. “Stop suspending kids and stop arresting kids, and guess what? The percent of students suspended or arrested drops. Brilliant. Thus, law enforcement officials visited the shooter 30 times, knew the shooter was trouble, but did nothing because the statistic was all important.”
What more do I need to add?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Superintendent Who Acts Like An Adult (How Seemingly Rare!)

Kids need to be in class, not "emoting" all over the place:
A Texas school district is threatening to suspend students who protest gun violence during school hours as “walkouts” among young activists take place nationwide.

Curtis Rhodes, Superintendent of Needville Independent School District, stated in a letter posted to Facebook and reportedly sent home to students on Tuesday that while the school district “is very sensitive to violence in schools including the recent incident in Florida,” the district “will not allow a student demonstration during school hours for any type of protest or awareness!!”

If students do choose to protest, the school district said they'll suspend them for three days, and they’ll “face all the consequences that come along with an out of school suspension.”
Kids, protest on your own time, when the taxpayer isn't paying for your education.

Friday, February 23, 2018

NO-rthern Lights

Last night, for the 3rd night in a row, our Northern Lights tour was cancelled due to bad weather.  Oh well.  At least I saw them from the airplane!

Went to the Blue Lagoon yesterday.  It's everything good that you've ever heard about it!  I didn't find it overly crowded at all, nor did I find the employees bossy--2 complaints I'd read.  The *indoor* space is pretty small, but the lagoon itself was fairly large for the few hundred people that were there.  I spent 2 hrs in the lagoon itself.  It was so cold outside, the back of my head *hurt* because of the cold.  I kept having to dunk myself just so as not to freeze!

In that 2 hrs the sky started clear, then it snowed, then it was clear again (and by clear I mean there was some blue sky visible), then it snowed again.  It stayed overcast and intermittently snowing the remainder of the time we were there, including when out and taking pictures of the moonscape around the lagoon.

And it is a moonscape.  Nothing but volcanic rock covered by a little moss.  Nothing nearby.  Out in the middle of nowhere.  Which is probably why the geothermal power plant, the runoff of which feeds the lagoon, was built out there.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Class Move

Regarding my alma mater:
The U.S. Army West Point academy (sic) has posthumously appointed fallen Parkland JRTOC (sic) student Peter Wang to its class of 2025, Brittany Wallman of the Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

Wang, a member of the JRTOC (sic) program at the high school, was shot while trying to hold the door of his classroom closed to protect his fellow students. He was killed along with 16 of his peers.
It's the US Military Academy (located at West Point, New York), and JROTC, but I'm not really scouring news sites while I'm on vacation.  Just saw this one article and thought it worth a post.

Events Of The Last Couple Days

The weather's been crappy :-)  The Northern Lights Tour was cancelled both last night (when the lights themselves were supposed to be fairly good, given the solar wind) and tonight (when they're supposed to be just OK) because of rain.  There's been a little snow but mostly just rain.  Which freezes at night.  Which makes slippery walking throughout the day.  Ugh.

Yesterday we did the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour.  I've done it before but it's been almost 3 years.  Picked it up at the big church on the hill, Hallgrimmskirkja, where I modeled for the statue of Leif Erikson:

Then we went to Perlan,

where I got some nice pictures overlooking Reykjavik.  (If you look closely above you can see the observation deck on top of the water tanks.)

We ended up back at the church last night after a light snow:

Today we took a tour to the Lava Cave, perhaps a 45 min drive away.  The entrance wasn't much to look at, just a hole in the snow:
Inside was pretty cool, especially the "snow cones" from the "skylights"
as well as all the ice formations both above and below:

It was quite different from the lava cave I saw near Hilo, Hawaii!

And if you think that I'm not truly in Iceland, that I'm stealing someone else's pictures, well...

Monday, February 19, 2018


Cold.  Dark.  Sleet. Those were the weather conditions upon arrival today.  Except for the darkness, it didn't change much throughout the day.  Rain wasn't continuous but it was ever a threat; there's a strong wind and some rain out right now (8:06pm local time--the blog stays on Pacific Time).

Unlike last year's, this year's hotel gave a room right away even though we were hours before check-in time.  We both needed a couple hours of rest.

Here are a few pictures from the last couple days' events:

Not a nice place, it was full of dicks!  :-)

Saw the aurora on the flight over.  It wasn't very bright but it was extensive!  I thought the plane would tip over when everyone started moving to the left side to take a look!

Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour of the city tomorrow.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Blogging May Be Light For Several Days

Instead of getting off a Monday or two for presidential birthdays, our district gets an entire week off.  Before you start attacking, though, note that we started school in early August this year, and that is what justifies this week off.

I'll be "out and about" so blogging may be light, perhaps until the end of the month.  Please check back periodically!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The New Laptop

I've written before about how my district not only wants to replace my perfectly functional desktop computer with a laptop, but also wants me to
  • perform the backup of all the files on my computer,
  • disconnect all the peripherals from my computer,
  • schedule a time to take my computer to the district office (it would have to be on my own time, wouldn't it?),
  • pick up the new laptop,
  • connect the new laptop to everything, and 
  • reload all my data files, as well as any software I'd loaded on the last computer.
My response was to ignore them.  There's no way I'm going to do that.  It's not only not my job, it's not even my area of expertise.  I'm no Luddite or technophobe, but there are plenty of things (especially given the lack of permissions they give me on the computer) that I just cannot do.

Before deciding to ignore them, months ago I talked to one of Tech Services people about some software on my computer.  We'd bought a license for me to use the software, how could we move the software without having to buy another license?  She said they could load the software for me, I thought that was great, and asked that she do so.  That was months ago.

Several weeks ago we got word that, because our school has so many technical issues, a Tech Services rep would be onsite each Thursday.  There's a clipboard in the office on which we can write our technical issues, and the rep would come by and address those issues.  I wrote on the clipboard that perhaps the rep could bring me that laptop that I absolutely don't want.

Today he showed up with the laptop.  I had no clue he was coming, I was in the middle of teaching, and he was there to swap out my computer.  He was flexible enough to come back maybe 40 min later when I could be ready and available.

Remember that software with the license I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago?  Of course it wasn't loaded.  You know what else was funky?  After connecting everything the rep said, "This computer isn't configured to get on the internet (via our district network).  I've got to change some settings."  Can you imagine if I had gone to pick up that computer, connected it all up, and couldn't get it to connect to the network--because some setting was wrong?  How long would I struggle before I'd call, and before they'd want me to bring the computer back to them?!  What a waste of time that all would have been if someone in the know hadn't been onsite to fix that problem pronto.

The tech rep got as much done as he could, at least got me up and running.  There are some things that still need to be addressed, but I can function as a teacher in the interim.

So now, instead of Windows 7, I'm running Windows 10.  That's quite interesting given that I'm still running Vista at home (and am reasonably happy with it!).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

UVA/Rolling Stone Rape Story Is Legally Over

Yes, sometimes women do lie about rape.  Duh, they're human, not angels:
More than three years after Rolling Stone published the most significant false accusation of rape since the Duke Lacrosse hoax, the saga is officially over for the magazine.

That’s right, Rolling Stone is only now able to put this travesty behind them — at least legally. The magazine reached a final settlement in late December with the members of the fraternity that were falsely maligned in the story. The details have not been disclosed, but at least two members of the fraternity will be the beneficiary of the settlement.

You Couldn't Write Fiction Like This If You Tried

Given the history of domestic abuse in the NFL, this was bound to happen sooner or later:
NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem had a lot of people upset this past season. Even the discussion of politics that took over sports was enough to put some fans off the game. Yet players and their supporters insisted they had a right to be heard.

Of course, we're hearing now that San Francisco 49er Reuben Foster, one of that team's "kneelers" who wanted to protest police brutality, has been arrested for domestic violence....

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lefties Are, In General, Cowards

I read this and thought, "Yep, 100% true":
Our own Sarah Hoyt wonders if there isn’t a cosplay aspect as well:
The thing is that children – and LARPers [Live Action Role Players] – don’t play at things that are real to them. I’m fairly sure children in the frontier, during the long war between Amerindians and settlers didn’t play cowboys and Indians.  It was far too real to them. And part of what made Robin Hood and the Sheriff enjoyable was, of course, that I (okay, sue me, I was always Robin Hood. Look, it was an all girl’s school) could be caught, beaten, thrown in “jail” (it was actually a space behind the oak on the playground) and then when the bell rang, we’d dust ourselves off and go back to sums and spelling.

It’s the same thing. The left is playing at being oppressed and being brave resisters because they know they aren’t. They know they’re not in any way threatened, even if they’d probably rather die than admit it to themselves.  They know they can go around sloganeering and screaming and calling a freely elected president a tyrant and the equivalent of Hitler, and no one will do anything. People won’t even be rude to them. They certainly won’t be as rude to them as they’d be to anyone who so much as dares to express a conservative opinion in liberal circles.
Of course — when covering Trump, the media get to pretend they’re the equivalent of the plucky, brave WWII French RĂ©sistance, which goes in large part to explain why they’re quite sanguine over doxxing otherwise anonymous Trump supporters and with lunatics shooting up GOP congressional softball games.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Writing Well--It Comes From Good Teaching

In part, I attribute my writing ability to my high school teachers.  The English department at my school required us to write, and write, and write.  They also taught us grammar and punctuation--dry, even for them, but so critical.  Teachers do a disservice to students when they insist that "they should already know grammar before they get here" to high school, and then sit in amazement when articles such as this appear:
In the global workplace, good writing is crucial for professional success in any career. Today, employers want to hire college graduates who can write coherently and many of them ask for writing skills in their job advertisements. But the problem is that many students enter colleges with poor writing skills and graduate without making much improvement.

A lot of today’s students fail to write decently and even have to contact a professional paper writing service for ordering well-written academic papers. College professors complain that students struggle to write even at a basic level and experts in education are worried that even after years of instruction, many students show no significant improvement in complex reasoning, critical thinking, and writing. Students arrive and leave college without skill(s) they will need in the real world.

There are multiple causes of the decline of writing abilities in students. One of them is that colleges admit students who can’t write well because of inadequate writing instruction in their high school courses. Many educators believe that the root of the problem is that many teachers are unconfident (sic) writers themselves and lack training in how to teach writing. Many experts also point out that high schools mostly focus on improving skills that are tested in state exams such as reading, science, and math and don’t provide enough writing instructions...

Most students admit they don’t read books except those assigned for class and you can become a good writer only if you are exposed to good writing which can be found in works of literature and traditional media that modern students try to avoid.
Ah, yes. My teachers required us to read, and read, and read, as well.

My high school wasn't in the best part of town--not a bad part of town, but nowhere near the best part--but the education I received there was stellar.  I am truly thankful for that education and for the teachers who provided it.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What Does This Say About Us As A People?

Among the last things I judge a person on is their phone:
He’s just not that into your Android.

Good news for anyone who is thinking of splurging on the new iPhone. Americans are picky when it comes to dating, particularly those who have iPhones, according to a recent survey of more than 5,500 singletons aged 18 and over by dating site The survey, which was released ahead of the 10th anniversary of Apple’s iPhone this week, found that iPhone owners are 21 times more likely to judge others negatively for having an Android, while those who have an Android are 15 times more likely to judge others negatively for having an iPhone. And those who have older models of either smartphone are 56% less likely to get a date.

“We look for so many other ways in which we’re compatible with potential partners, why shouldn’t phones be on the list?” says Abby Rodman, a psychotherapist in Boston.
Because, Abby, it's a stupid reason. Duh.

We Like Science--Unless It Hurts Feelings Or Goes Against Our Prejudices

Let's not pretend that a high school science project that relies on an internet IQ quiz is rigorous science, but neither is a lot of what you see at a high school science fair.  What's the real reason this project was pulled?  The answer is pretty clear:
A science fair project at a California high school faced criticism earlier this week after it compared race and IQ levels in connection to participation in an elite program at the school, The Sacramento Bee reported Saturday.

The project, titled “Race and IQ,” was put together by a C.K. McClatchy High School student who is part of the school’s elite Humanities and International Studies Program. It was displayed in the fair on Monday, the outlet said.

In comparing intelligence levels, the project reportedly questioned whether particular races were smart enough for the school’s magnet program and whether a racial disparity was justified.

“If the average IQs of blacks, Southeast Asians, and Hispanics are lower than the average IQs of non-Hispanic whites and Northeast Asians, then the racial disproportionality in (HISP) is justified,” the hypothesis said, according to the outlet...

The project’s final conclusion reportedly found that “the lower average IQs of blacks, Southeast Asians, and nonwhite Hispanics means that they are not as likely as non-Hispanic whites and Northeast Asians to be accepted into a more academically rigorous program such as HISP,” the report said. “Therefore the racial disproportionality of HISP is justified.”
The clutching of pearls demonstrated in the linked article shows that some people aren't very smart, that's for sure.

Why not let the project stand or fall on its merits? This is what I identify as the important part of the story:
In a Thursday email to parents, the school’s principal Peter Lambert said they were taking the “incident very seriously” and noted that the school strived to “promote and embrace an inclusive environment and way of thinking which excludes any form of discrimination.”
No discussion of data, no discussion of the scientific method, no possibility that there might be some evidence to support the student's thesis.  We must have "an inclusive...way of thinking which excludes any form of discrimination."

Doctor Orwell, please call your office.  Doctor Orwell....

"My Body, My Choice"--Unless Feelings and Compulsion Are Involved...

...Then lefties throw their mantra right out the window:
WEST HAVEN, Utah -- When Natalie Richard’s sixth-grade daughter told her she couldn’t say “no” if a boy asked her to dance at Kanesville Elementary’s Valentine’s Day dance, she didn’t believe it at first.

“Oh no, no honey," Richard said of her reply. "You guys are misunderstanding again. That’s not how it is."

However, after speaking to her daughter’s teacher, she realized the statement was accurate.

“The teacher said she can’t. She has to say yes. She has to accept and I said, 'Excuse me,” Richard tells Fox 13.

Richard took her concerns to the school principal.

“He basically just said they’ve had this dance set up this way for a long time and they’ve never had any concern before,” she said of his response.

Lane Findlay with the Weber School District confirms it’s a rule, but he said it’s meant to teach students how to be inclusive.
That school system has some sickos running it.

Not Thinking Things Through

But who will they call when they want someone arrested, when they're in trouble, when a conservative dares speak outside the university's free speech zone, or when someone uses the wrong pronoun?
A socialist student group at California State University, Fullerton held a protest Wednesday against a memorial to fallen police officers hosted by the College Republicans for Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

CR members expressed disappointment that the socialist group would seek to politicize the event, which was also designed to give students the opportunity to interact with campus police officers in a non-confrontational setting.

Thursday, February 08, 2018


We were told at our staff meeting today that if we want to continue using our school web sites (which is encouraged as an effective way to keep students and parents informed about homework, test dates, etc., as well as having files that can be downloaded for student use), then we'll have to undergo training on how to make our web sites accessible to everyone.  They mentioned colors and font sizes and the like, so that the disabled can more easily see what we post--how are the blind going to be able to read the homework listed on my web site?  If that is necessary, then it's above my pay grade, and the district needs to do more than have us watch a training video on the subject.  And can't people with seeing difficulties just enlarge the view on their screens, as I do so often with my not-so-young eyes?

If I don't complete the training, I won't be allowed to use my school web site.  I won't be allowed to keep students and parents informed about homework and tests and project due dates and the like.

Part of me says screw 'em.  Thank you, ACLU, which apparently has been filing suit up and down the state on this issue.

We all know that I won't screw 'em.  But I should.

You know what would solve this problem?  Give us a web site template with defaults that will satisfy the ACLU.  Then I don't have to do anything more, I don't have to waste school time I could better spend any number of ways, and everyone gets what they want.  Perhaps that's too reasonable a solution.

What's Good For The Goose Is Only Good For The Gander If It's A Female Goose

You're either for equality or you believe one sex (or race, or religion, or whatever) should get preferential treatment over others.  And if you believe in the latter, the left would call you some "-ist".

Unless you're a woman.  Then all bets are off:
College progressives these days are obsessed with gender parity: they say there aren't enough women seeking STEM degrees, for example.

But they do say they want "parity." So it must be progressive to criticize a lack of gender parity when men are underrepresented, right?

A Dartmouth op-ed recently criticized the school's hiring of primarily women to fill roles on the student life executive board at the school. Student Ryan Spencer made a bid to be part of the board, a bid that ultimately failed. Of the 19 current members, only four are male. In other words, 80 percent of those hired for the board are female.

Spencer took to the pages of The Dartmouth to take issue with the disparity. He stated his disbelief in claims that merit was the deciding factor, not gender.

Spencer has a valid point, of course. If the numbers were flipped, wouldn't feminists be outraged? Wouldn't people be demanding a change? Of course they would. They'd launch protests over the exclusion of so many women -- and maybe with good cause.

However, there are no protests planned in Spencer's defense. Instead, the outrage is all directed at him.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Exactly The Wrong Direction To Go

Not every person needs to go to college.

Let me restate that, with emphasis:  not every person needs to go to college.


Not only isn't college for everyone, it shouldn't be for everyone.  The only people who think everyone should go to college are people who have been to college.  Not every person wants or needs to go to college, not every job requires a college education, not every interest can be sated at college.

Yet, some refuse to accept anything other than "college for all".  New Mexico legislators are considering moving the state in exactly the wrong direction:
State lawmakers in New Mexico recently proposed a bill that would force high school students to apply for college unless they provide the government with alternative post-graduation plan.

House Bill 23, sponsored by Republican state representative Nate Gentry and Democratic state senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, would require high school juniors to “file an application with a college or show that the student has committed to an internship or apprenticeship or military service.”

Additionally, the bill mandates that local school boards must ensure that all students are “reasonably informed” about “the financial benefits of graduating a college and the availability of financial aid.”
We do such a disservice when we insist that high school students focus on college.  The message we send to those who don't go to college is that the very first adult decision they make is wrong, and that they've somehow failed.  What a terrible thing to tell the majority of students!  And what, they don't graduate if they don't file a college application (I'm sure the admissions officers will be happy with all the bogus apps they'll be getting), or commit to an internship, apprenticeship, or military service?  There's nothing else of value out in the world?

Those legislators are idiots, as is anyone who votes for that bill.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Who Should Change, Students or Professors?

A friend sent this article to me about the teaching of calculus:
Math departments fail too many calculus students and do not adequately prepare those they pass...

That is the message heard from engineering colleges across the country. Calculus has often been viewed as a tool for screening who should be allowed into engineering programs. But it appears to be failing in that regard, too. That is, it is preventing students who should be proceeding from going on, and it is letting students through who do not have the mathematical preparation that they need...

We now know that much of the problem rests with an outdated mode of instruction, a lecture format in which students are reduced to scribes. This may have worked in an earlier age when calculus was for a small elite group that excelled in mathematics. Today, professions that require calculus make up 5 percent of the workforce, a proportion that is growing at a rate that is 50 percent higher than overall job growth. We can no longer afford to ignore what we know about how to improve the student experience, both inside and outside the classroom...

Another example is to require students to read the relevant section of their textbook or watch a video before class, answer questions about the material to ensure they have done the assignment, and then describe their own questions and uncertainties. These can be great launch points for classroom interaction.

At West Point we were required to read the material *and* complete the assignment before actually coming to class.  Then the instructor would amplify the key points and respond to our questions.  It's not a bad way of teaching and learning, but it requires a significant time investment on the part of the student.  And if students won't put in the time *now* to figure out the material *after* it's been taught to them, why would they spend even *more* time *before* being taught the material?

I think too many students expect everything to be given to them, they're not willing to work for anything.

Active learning does not mean ban all lectures. A lecture is still the most effective means for conveying a great deal of information in a short amount of time. But the most useful lectures come in short bursts when students are primed with a need and desire to know the information. A lecture is a poor substitute for giving students the time they need to discover the answers themselves.
Time.  Three hours a week, for what, 15 weeks, tops?  Time is the commodity we're talking.  Well, time, and motivation.

I believe in the power of "and".  But if you had to choose one, given the time constraint, which do you think should change more, teaching methods or average student effort?

The Future of California?

Keep in mind that, especially in Northern California, we don't really have reservoirs to save water, we have dams and reservoirs to prevent flooding in our cities.  Is this where we're heading?
Welcome to Cape Town 2018, where the dams that feed the city are at an all-time low after three successive years of far below-average rainfall. Cape Town is a winter rainfall area, and the earliest we can expect heavy rain is late April -- assuming, and this is a big assumption, that normal rainfall returns after several years without.

Not surprisingly, everywhere you go in the city, there is just one topic of conversation: water. With authorities estimating that Cape Town could be just 75 days away from becoming the first major city in the world to run out of water, websites and Facebook pages like this one have mushroomed. A common theme is tips and hints on saving water and posts by MacGyver-types with innovative ideas and inventions...

The how is littered with missed chances and a failure to address warnings of a future crisis going back many years. As far back as 1990, South Africa's Water Research Commission cautioned Cape Town could run out of water within 17 years. And yet, no concrete steps were taken to prepare for this eventuality.

The crisis has been complicated by politicians playing the blame game about who's at fault.
Update, 2/11/18Rain:
When it finally came, restaurant diners rushed outside mid-meal to see the deluge for themselves. Others grabbed buckets to collect precious water from gutters to be used for washing clothes.

The rain that fell on Cape Town Friday evening was cause for celebration in a drought-stricken city headed for "Day Zero" -- the day when taps are expected to run dry.
Though whether the brief downpour was enough to delay "Day Zero" -- set now for May 11 -- remains to be seen.

How Stupid Can One Teacher Be?

This stupid:
A white New York City teacher is under fire after she reportedly singled out black students and told them to lie on the floor during a lesson on U.S. slavery.

The teacher, identified as Patricia Cummings from Middle School 118 in the Bronx, then allegedly stepped on the back of at least one black student to show her what slavery felt like.

Cummings pulled the stunt during multiple seventh-grade social studies classes about two weeks ago, the New York Daily News reported.

“It was a lesson about slavery and the Triangle Trade,” the newspaper was told by one of Cummings' students, who said the teacher instructed three black students to lay on the floor in front of the class. “She said, ‘You see how it was to be a slave?’ She said, ‘How does it feel?’”

When one of the students said she felt fine, Cummings stepped on her.

“She put her foot on her back and said ‘How does it feel?’” the student said. “‘See how it feels to be a slave?’”

Another student said the “lesson” followed a showing of a video of slaves being beaten, tortured and thrown over the side of a ship.
My initial reaction was that this teacher is an idiot.  However, a colleague of mine who teaches US history, and who taught it in junior high, said that this a "TCI lesson" (I didn't ask what that means) and that the teacher was following the lesson--except for stepping on the student, of course.  He said you're supposed to get the classroom dark, have the kids packed in and lying on the floor, to simulate a slave ship.  He also said he never had students lie on the floor, but that it is part of the lesson.

What a stupid lesson, as if lying close to your friends on a classroom floor in any way simulates conditions on a slave ship.  Can't a few minutes of watching Roots or Amistad provide enough context?

And to add to it, a teacher stepping on a student constitutes feeling like a slave?

Despite the additional information about the teacher's following a known lesson plan, my first impression was right.  The teacher is an idiot.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Just What Mathematics Doesn't Need

It's perfectly reasonable to use statistics to explore social justice topics.  The converse?  Not so much:
This spring semester, the general Introduction to Statistics course at Pomona College has a new addition to its curriculum—the exploration of social justice issues. Taught by visiting assistant professor Omayra Ortega, a Pomona alumna, the class uses “examples from social justice literature [to] help explain the statistics.”

This course is the only general introductory statistics class offered at Pomona. Other introductory classes have a specific applied focus, like Biostatistics, Economic Statistics, or Statistics for Politics and International Relations...

Given the limited time available in a semester, Introduction to Statistics’s emphasis on social justice contrasts with courses like Economic Statistics, or Statistics for Politics and International Relations, which focus on statistical concepts and tools. The syllabus for Statistics for Politics shows no mandatory reading on issues unrelated to statistics, with political reading only listed as “recommended reading.”

In contrast, according to the course syllabus obtained by The Independent, social justice is central to Ortega’s class, noting that “the main goal of this course [Math 058] is to enhance your analytical and statistical skills while exploring topics in social justice.”

A component of the class also includes mandatory journals submitted every week that “should contain reflections on both the statistical and social justice topics covered.”
Can you imagine the outcry if a "Family Values Statistics" course were offered?  Can you imagine if abortion were studied statistically?  Or how about "Racial Studies Statistics", where the probabilities of black and white males' being shot by police officers is studied?  There are some very politically uncomfortable topics that could be studied if higher education conservatives were as crazy as the liberals are.

My "Math For Social Justice" posts from years ago again become apropos.  Here and here.

12 Rules To Live By

At 52 I'm closer to McArdle's age than Oprah's, and I agree that these are pretty good rules to live by:
Yesterday was Jan. 29, meaning that Oprah Winfrey and I are each a year older: 64 and 45.

Forty-five is somehow a very definite year; there is no question that you are middle aged.

At 45 one takes stock. The building years of your life are over, and what you are now is pretty much what you are going to be. Soon it will be what you were.

You can no longer tell yourself that you might move to Lisbon, learn Portuguese, and take up the guitar. You cannot learn Portuguese at your age. You can’t remember new words anymore; you can’t even remember where you have left your keys.

So it seems a good opportunity to do two things. First, to wish Oprah Winfrey a happy belated birthday. And second, to address this “12 Rules for Life” meme that you young whippersnappers have got up to on the social medias. I am probably more than halfway through my life now; I ought to have some rules.
The first one: Be kind. Not a bad rule to start with.  The most interesting one:  Don't try to resolve fundamental conflicts with your spouse or roommates.

Read the whole thing.