Saturday, December 07, 2019

Paying For College Degrees

I'm of the opinion that if government were to get out of the student loan business, and banks--whose business it is to determine the viability of getting loans paid back--were to be restored to their rightful role of lending money, you'd get a lot less Medieval Uzbeki Film Studies majors and a few more math, science, and engineering majors.  And there'd be a lot less ridiculous talk about forgiving student loan debt, too:
Americans have long suspected that, for many, a college degree simply isn’t worth the price. 

American taxpayers – two-thirds of whom do not have a college degree – are likewise increasingly skeptical of the notion that they should pay off loans that someone else made the decision to take out...

According to The Wall Street Journal, 15 percent of programs graduate students who carry more federal student loan debt than their annual income. 

Interestingly, graduate programs – which are generally perceived to be good investments – are some of the worst offenders. 

Students who graduate from the University of Miami Law School, for example, hold a median total debt of $150,896, but earn a starting salary of just $52,100. Even more problematic, students who obtain a master’s degree from New York University in film/video and photographic arts graduate with a median total debt of a whopping $168,568, but earn a median starting salary of $29,600. 

Those findings are particularly concerning, considering that there is virtually no cap on how much students can borrow for graduate school under the PLUS loan program. 

There is simply no reason that American taxpayers should be footing the entire cost of the bill upfront for degrees with such a low return on investment. 
There are more specifics in the article.

Parents, teach your children well.  Teach them how to make good financial decisions.

Petty Unions

As I wrote a couple weeks ago:
My local union wants the authority and power that comes with being the sole representative, but doesn't want to provide the representation.  They've taken a sharp turn for the worse.
As the Supreme Court ruled in Janus:
These benefits greatly outweigh any extra burden im­posed by the duty of providing fair representation for nonmembers. What this duty entails, in simple terms, is an obligation not to “act solely in the interests of [the union’s] own members.”
I hope these instructors win their case:
The National Right to Work (NRTW) Legal Defense Foundation has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of four Massachusetts teachers who are asking the high Court to review a state law that allows a union to block non-members from having a voice in workplace conditions.

More information about the case brought by four Massachusetts educators can be found here:https://t.co/86mFOHUTko

The #SCOTUS docket is here: https://t.co/KCozzqsD1a

— Right To Work (@RightToWork) December 5, 2019

Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board involves lead plaintiff Dr. Ben Branch, a finance professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and three other educators. According to NRTW, the teachers are “challenging the application of the state’s monopoly bargaining law for its educational system as a violation of their Constitutional rights.”

The foundation states:
The educators argue that the state law, which is manipulated by union bosses to block teachers who are not union members from voting or otherwise voicing their opinions in the determination of their own working conditions, results in depriving nonmember teachers of their First Amendment rights.
The four plaintiffs have all turned down membership in the National Education Association (NEA) – the nation’s largest teachers’ union – and its local affiliates.
Power corrupts, etc.

Retirement

They already have a gleaming glass tower overlooking the river and Old Sacramento.  Now my retirement system needs another building?  How many people, how much real estate, is actually required to manage the California State Teachers Retirement System?
California’s teacher pension fund wants to pay for a $300 million office tower on the Sacramento River with green bonds, a type of investment used to finance projects that meet environmental sustainability standards.

CalSTRS is issuing $281 million worth of the bonds to finance the expansion of its West Sacramento headquarters, according to bond documents.

The $246 billion California State Teachers’ Retirement System is adding a 10-story tower next to its 17-story headquarters on Fourth Street. The fund’s board approved spending up to $300 million on the project in November 2018 to accommodate future growth in its workforce.
I'm sure CalSTRS has plenty of extra money lying around for new buildings. That must be why I'm having to pay more and more for the same benefits I've been promised for 20+ years.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Another Chicken Little Claim

The next massive teacher shortage is always just around the corner, but somehow it never materializes:
Julia Alvarez, a 21-year-old senior at Michigan State University, is part of a disappearing demographic: those pursuing a career as an educator.

"Why I really want to become a teacher is because I want to go back and make my community better," says Alvarez, who grew up just east of Los Angeles. "But I was afraid of going into it because there were so many reasons not to."

Teacher preparation programs have experienced sharp enrollment declines over the last eight years in nearly every state across the country, a new analysis shows.
Sure, math, science, and special education teachers are often in short supply, but they're in short supply because of the difficulty of the subject matter. When there's an actual shortage of elementary, English, or social science teachers, let me know.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Chicken Little Has Cried Wolf Too Many Times

Why don’t I believe all the scary hype about global warming? Because I’ve heard it all before:
FLASHBACK: ABC's ’08 Prediction: NYC Under Water from Climate Change By June 2015
I'm sure we can believe them this time around, though.

Dreams

This is not a post about the Fleetwood Mac song.  Neither is it a post about aspirations and goals.  No, this is about sleeping dreams.

I have recurring dreams.  Four, actually, and two of them pertain to West Point.  I've had some of them so often, or variations of them, that I sometimes recognize that I'm dreaming and sometimes wake up suddenly.

Here are the dreams:
  • It's shortly before graduation at West Point, and I realize I haven't attended a class all semester and thus will fail.  It's almost always an English class, which is weird because I didn't even take English as a senior.  I understand that so far this isn't an uncommon dream, but here's where it takes its Alma Mater turn:  in the dream I wonder how I'm going to graduate, what lies I'll have to tell so I don't fail, but at West Point we don't lie, so I get very stressed--and I usually wake up with my heart pounding.
  • I try to yell at or to someone, but no sound comes out of my mouth.
I haven't had these next two in awhile, and hope not to ever again:
  • There are "neighborhood" people who hate me and like to mess with me.  In my dream I know who these people are, but they're no one I know in real life.  They might break into my house and steal some of my stuff--I know they somehow have a key to my house.  Or they steal my car and return it a few days later, just to let me know they can.
  • I'm a plebe again at West Point.  I don't know how to set up my uniform, what classes I'm supposed to attend, things like that.  Sometimes I realize that I've already graduated and cannot figure out what I'm doing back there as a plebe; sometimes I realize that I'm a 50+ year old man who graduated 30+ years before, and then try to understand why I'm back there as a plebe.
I had a variant of the yelling one last night.  I was in some sort of altercation with someone--in a barn?--that was close to getting physical.  I tried to yell to make whatever point I needed to make, but no sound came out.  It's not always a fight in these dreams, but last night it was.

I thought about that dream today, and tonight I thought it would be interesting to see what the dream interpreters say it means.  They all say the same thing:  I feel like no one is listening to me, or I feel ignored, or I don't have control over my life.  I once shared the "breaking in my house and stealing my car" dream with a friend, who said that one means that I don't feel like I have control over my life.

Hmm, two dreams telling me the same thing.

What's odd is that, at least consciously, I don't feel like my life is out of my control.  Sure, there are things I don't like, but certainly no more so than anyone else in America.  I mean, my parents are getting older, and all that entails, but I don't feel like that's bothering me any more that it justifiably should.  I have another family member going through an extremely rough patch in life that I can't do much to alleviate, but I don't feel like that's any more of a drain on me that it justifiably should be.

So why do I, more often than I should, feel like my life is out of my control, if you believe the dream interpreters?  No idea.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

This Is Free Speech (Says Spock In A Beard)

In what bizarro world mirror universe is this free speech?
San Diego State University launched a new bias reporting system, but packaged it as part of a larger community communication effort, including a website dedicated to "free speech."

In addition to being launched alongside a tool that encourages the reporting of "incidents of bias," the "free speech" website focuses in large part on reserving the rights of the university to restrict the "time, place, and manner" of speech. The site for the university's new "inclusive reporting system" encourages students to report "instances that promote our campus commitment, as well as those that fall short."
War is peace.  Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.

You Get No Argument From Me

Yes.  A thousand times yes:
Abolish the TSA: Column

Monday, December 02, 2019

Disruptive Students

If you think stories like this are anecdotal, you're mistaken:
Last month, NBC Nightly News aired a segment on the latest classroom-management technique to sweep America’s schools: “room clears”: When a child throws a tantrum that could physically endanger his peers, teachers evacuate all of the other students from the classroom until the troublemaker has vented his rage upon empty desks, tables and chairs. The technique was virtually unheard of five years ago. But 56 percent of surveyed teachers and parents in Oregon now report having experienced a room clear in their or their child’s classroom over the last year.

Surrendering the classroom to a single student: The average reader might well ask why anyone thinks this would be a good idea. Yet the policies that make this approach inevitable have been applauded by a wide range of authorities, from the Southern Poverty Law Center to the Trump-administration’s Department of Education.

The emergence of room clears is a product of several fashionable education-policy trends designed to protect the rights of troubled students, often with little regard for the rights of their classmates. These include the provisions contained in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which mandates that special-education students be subject to the “least restrictive environment” possible. When it comes to students who are hard of hearing, dyslexic or developmentally delayed, this policy likely has done a great deal of good. But many schools also label disruptive or violent students as having an “Emotional and Behavioral Disability” (EBD). Rather than provide these students specialized attention in separate settings, schools often funnel them into traditional classrooms.
Discipline is a huge problem in schools today--and not just with students with serious behavioral disabilities, either.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Can You Believe It's December Already?

As a teacher, once Halloween hits, time starts flying. Veteran's Day.  Thanksgiving.  12 days of teaching, 3 days of finals, then Christmas.  Dr. King's birthday holiday.  Ski Week (officially Presidents' Week in my district).  Lots of time off!

Spring Break comes late this year, so it's kind of a slog from Ski Week to Spring Break.  Somehow I think I'll survive!

So it's already December.  Wow.

Grumpy Greta Tells The Truth

As I've said so many times, every so-called crisis I've seen in my lifetime (the population bomb, peak oil, acid rain, bird flu, nuclear winter, Y2K, global warming, et al.) has had the same "solutions" offered by our friends on the left--less freedom and choice for individuals, more control for governments and those who run them.  Grumpy Greta blew a gasket and finally admitted the truth:
Far-left climate extremist Greta Thunberg unloaded on the world in an op-ed published on Friday, claiming that fossil fuels “are literally” killing mankind, and that they are a threat to “our very existence” as she said that her “climate crisis” agenda is not just about the environment, but about fighting the “colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression.”

In an op-ed published in Project Syndicate, Thunberg and two other far-left climate activists attacked world leaders over their pro-capitalist policies, writing that “the politicians let the profiteers continue to exploit our planet’s resources and destroy its ecosystems in a quest for quick cash that threatens our very existence.”
As noted on Instapundit:
And just like that, it never actually was about climate. It’s always about changing society into a Marxist utopia and every one of these movements prove it,” the Daily Wire’s Jeremy Frankel tweets

Minorities Are Some of the Biggest Supporters of Charter Schools in the US

The Democrats risk losing minorities, and shafting children in the process, when they march in lockstep with self-serving teachers union views on charters:
The night before Democratic presidential candidates took to a debate stage here last week, black and Latino charter school parents and supporters gathered in a bland hotel conference room nearby to make signs they hoped would get the politicians’ attention.

“Charter schools = self-determination,” one sign read. “Black Democrats want charters!” another blared.

At issue is the delicate politics of race and education. For more than two decades, Democrats have largely backed public charter schools as part of a compromise to deliver black and Latino families a way out of failing district schools. Charters were embraced as an alternative to the taxpayer-funded vouchers for private-school tuition supported by Republicans, who were using the issue to woo minority voters.

But this year, in a major shift, the leading Democratic candidates are backing away from charter schools, and siding with the teachers’ unions that oppose their expansion. And that has left some black and Latino families feeling betrayed.

“As a single mom with two jobs and five hustles, I’m just feeling kind of desperate,” said Sonia Tyler, who plans to enroll her children in a charter school slated to open next fall in a suburb of Atlanta. “They’re brilliant; they’re curious. It’s not fair. Why shouldn’t I have a choice"...

Since Bill Clinton’s presidency, the charter school movement has had Democratic backing. It was central to President Barack Obama’s education legacy. But this campaign season, charter schools present a challenging issue for the four Democratic frontrunners for the nomination, all of whom are white, in a nominating contest that will be heavily influenced by black voters...

Richard Buery, chief of policy at KIPP, the nation’s largest charter network, called the Democratic shift “a reflection more broadly of the lack of respect for black voters in the party.”

“These are folks that should be champions of black children and allies of black educators,” said Buery, a Democrat.

This Is Exactly Why We Need A First Amendment

And a Second Amendment, for those who try to abridge the First:
A Quebec judge rejected part of comedian Mike Ward’s appeal regarding a joke about a disabled boy.

Ward was ordered to pay $35,000 to Jeremy Gabriel, who suffers from a genetic disorder that causes facial deformity and affects his hearing, due to a joke the comedian told at shows between 2010 and 2013.

Two of three judges ruled Mike Ward’s comments regarding Gabriel were not justifiable in a society where freedom of expression is valued.

Ward was originally ordered to pay an additional $7,000 to Gabriel’s mother—a fine which the courts overturned due to the indirect relationship between the joke and the boy’s mother.

The joke in question was regarding Gabriel’s disability. In 2005, Gabriel sang to Pope Benedict and Celine Dion to flesh out his dream of becoming an international singer.

Ward’s jokes called Gabriel a bad singer, stating that he was “terminally ill” and that Gabriel not passing away meant that his “Make a Wish” was invalid. Gabriel was not actually terminally ill, as Gabriel’s genetic disease—Treacher Collins syndrome—does not generally have an effect on lifespan. He was also not a Make-a-Wish kid, as Ward was embellishing the story for the sake of the joke.

Ward added that he tried to drown Gabriel, but he wouldn’t die...

Ward will appeal the case to the Supreme Court, Grey said on Thursday.

While the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of expression, the Appeals Court ruled that Ward had gone too far, passing what’s permissible by law.
His so-called joke isn't funny and is in horrible taste.  I guess people laughed, and I don't know any more of the context beyond what's excerpted above, but I can't imagine living in a country where telling jokes, even offensive jokes, is "passing what's permissible by law."

Lefties, imagine a world in which I get to determine what speech is "permissible by law".  (You'd probably be wrong, but let your fear inform you about government controls on speech.)

I love visiting Canada, and will do so again next summer, but let's not pretend our Northern Neighbor is a lot like us.  Most of us speak the same language, but beyond that, their culture is very different from ours.  I was reminded of that several times during my visit to British Columbia this past summer.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Retiring Overseas

I seriously considered giving up my job and getting a teaching job in an international school overseas, as a friend of mine did.  She could afford the hit to her California teacher retirement, I cannot--so I gave up on that dream. 

There's still the possibility of moving overseas *after* I retire.  I've looked into that for a couple years and the five cities mentioned in this article come up time after time in my readings:  Quito, Ecuador; Panama City, Panama; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Lisbon, Portugal.  I stopped in Lisbon on a cruise about a year and a half ago--nice place!

Friday, November 29, 2019

I've Done So Little This Week

It's been so nice!  It surprises people, especially those who know me in person, to learn that I'm an introvert.  I need lots of alone time in order to recharge my batteries, and that's just what I've been able to do this week.  Put up my tree and some inside decorations yesterday evening, I'm all in the Christmas spirit!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Now that the left completely controls academia, they have become what they claimed to be against:
December’s Notices of the American Mathematical Society contains a surprising column on Page 4, given that mathematicians have not been on the front lines of debates about diversity and campus speech.

The column, by Abigail Thompson, chair of math at the University of California, Davis, and one of the society’s vice presidents, says that today’s diversity statements are like the political litmus tests of the McCarthy era.

“In 1950 the Regents of the University of California required all UC faculty to sign a statement asserting that ‘I am not a member of, nor do I support any party or organization that believes in, advocates, or teaches the overthrow of the United States Government, by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional means, that I am not a member of the Communist Party,’” Thompson says. Those who refused to sign were fired.

Now, “Faculty at universities across the country are facing an echo of the loyalty oath, a mandatory ‘Diversity Statement’ for job applicants.”
The author identifies such statements as obvious litmus tests.  Notice that the column was written by a mathematician, not someone in the social sciences. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

No, It Doesn't Add Up

Rather than teaching math (which is haaaaaard), there are some on the left who think we should abandon math and teach social justice instead.  After all, if everything in education is political, we should infuse politics into every corner of our curriculum.  A contributor to Forbes certainly sees it that way:
According to math scores in the 2019 nation’s report card, only 41% of 4th graders are proficient in math, and only 34% of 8th graders are. These numbers, which have not moved much since 2009 are dismal on their surface. Digging deeper, when these results are broken out by race and ethnicity, only 20% of Black and 26% of Hispanic students are proficient. These damning results show that something is clearly something wrong with math education in the United States.

Fortunately, initiatives like Seattle Public Schools’ ethnic studies framework for math might very well be part of the solution. As Daniel T. Willingham recently noted in his piece, Math scares your child’s elementary school teacher – and that should frighten you, math competence has three important components: memorizing math facts, knowing algorithms to solve problems, and knowing why these algorithms work. Teachers must possess deep conceptual understanding of math topics to transfer this depth of understanding to students. But our students’ inherent sense of justice and fairness can be a powerful motivator to set this deeper learning into action. 
If elementary school teachers are not good math teachers, swapping math for so-called social justice isn't going to make anyone any better at math.  It might make some incompetents feel better about themselves, because teaching racial hatred is certainly easier than teaching multiplication, fractions, decimals, and percents, but it's not going to do any good for students.
The fairness and justice aspect of so-called “woke math” is not about indoctrination. It’s about tapping into the same inherent sense of human curiosity that compels us to binge-watch shows like Law and Order, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and whatever dark murder mystery is trending on Netflix nowadays. I can learn about the radius of a circle and do typical classroom activities where I’m finding the circumference of a jar. Or, my teachers can use the concept of a radius to have me think about my proximity to a grocery store where healthy food options are available to help me understand the concept of food deserts.  
Anyone who thinks that such instruction isn't about indoctrination is either a liar or a fool.  There is no middle ground there.  If you think there wouldn't be an extreme bias to the left in such "instruction", imagine the howls and shrieks if I were to imbue my own instruction with slightly right-leaning data.  No, we can't have any "inherent sense of justice and fairness" if it doesn't comport with left-wing dogma, can me?  And the author even provides an example:
Even the student who is not a “math person” can be compelled to care very deeply about underlying conceptual foundations of ratio and proportions when we apply it to the equity questions regarding the electoral college and the Founding Fathers’ grand compromise of giving every state equal representation in the United States Senate. 
I'm not convinced that elementary school students are truly capable of the critical thinking that is inherent in the concept of "food deserts", the Connecticut Compromise, or the electoral college.  If they are, they seem to lose that capacity by the time they get to high school, as I can attest from experience with my own students.  This plan is absolutely intended to be left-wing indoctrination and nothing else.

Math instruction should be about learning math.  If you have to ponder the existence of food deserts, representation in the Senate, etc., in school, social studies classes are the appropriate venue.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Union Mentality Is The Mindset of Children

I resigned my union membership in 2005.  They didn't have to, but the local union did the right thing and allowed me to participate in contract votes.  There was one hiccup, but it was resolved quickly and amicably.

Times have changed.  Yesterday I was told that I had been allowed to vote on contracts because I had been an agency fee payer.  In the post-Janus world, though, I don't pay a fee, so I don't get to vote on my contract.  Here's the email exchange that took place.  I'm tentatively removing identifying information:
Mr. Miller,

Thank you for your phone call inquiry yesterday regarding not being able to vote on the contract.

Our records indicate that you are currently a non-member of this association. As you may or may not be aware, Section IV (MEMBERSHIP) Sub-section 2(b) (RIGHTS, PRIVILEGES AND OBLIGATIONS) of the xxx by-laws states that only “active members” are able to vote. We would be happy to enroll you today and provide you the opportunity to vote on the contract.

If you would like to become a member, I would be happy to bring out a form so that you can sign-up to become a member. I can get the form to you anytime today, but if you would like to vote, it would need to be prior to 4pm. Once you have signed-up as a member, we will get you a temporary password so that you can vote on the contract. If you prefer, I can also bring you a paper ballot that you can place in a sealed envelope and I can provide that sealed envelope to the Elections Chair, xxx. He will include all paper votes into the final numbers.

Dr. xxx

Associate Executive Director, (local union)




xxx,

Thank you for your reply.

This is clearly a change, as I have always been able to vote on contractual matters since the days of (long-since former union president), when I left (local union). Clearly I don’t vote on strictly union matters, e.g. union reps and officers, but this change on contract voting is disconcerting.

When did the Executive Board make the change?

Darren





Darren,

I spoke with President xxx and the previous email expresses the view of the elected officers of (local union).

I would like to note that we have made no changes to the by-laws. However, the recent Supreme Court ruling has impacted bargaining unit members’ rights related to dues paying status.

As I mentioned in my earlier email, our by-laws contain guidelines on membership and voting. For your own edification the section reads:

2. RIGHTS, PRIVILEGES AND OBLIGATIONS (pg2):

a. Membership may be granted upon payment of annual (local union)/CTA/NEA dues through payroll deduction or cash appropriate to the class of membership and completion of a membership application.

b. The right to vote and to hold elective office or appointive position shall be limited to Active members.

Because of the loss of Agency Fee, some who had previously been granted voting rights as a result of their dues contribution, no longer qualify for those voting rights if they no longer pay dues.

As you may be aware, the Supreme Court ruled that membership can only be established through a voluntary process and cannot be compelled of any person not wishing to be a member.

I will reiterate my offer to come out to (your school) and bring you a membership form if you would like to sign-up. If we do that prior to 4pm, we will make sure that you have the opportunity to vote.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need clarification.




I’d be happy to join (local union).

I will not, however, be happy to join CTA and NEA. At all. They are the reason I canceled my membership. Please let me know when the unified dues structure is abolished so I can become a member of (local union) again.

Darren
It's unjust that they're allowed to negotiate my contract and I have no say in it at all.  The unionistas will say, Just join the union if you want to vote!  To which I reply, why should I have to?  Unions get special privileges--for example, getting to negotiate my contract!  In the Janus case the Supreme Court ruled that such privileges necessitate fair representation:
Exclusive representation of all the employees in a unit and the exaction of agency fees are not inextricably linked...

[A]voiding “the risk of ‘free riders,’ ” Abood, supra, at 224, is not a compelling state interest. Free-rider “arguments . . . are generally insufficient to overcome First Amendment objections,” Knox, su-pra, at 311, and the statutory requirement that unions represent members and nonmembers alike does not justify different treatment.As is evident in non-agency-fee jurisdictions, unions are quite willing to represent nonmembers in the absence of agency fees. And their duty of fair representation is a necessary concomitant of the authority that a union seeks when it chooses to be the exclusive representative.  (Boldface mine--Darren)
How can they represent me if they don't allow me to vote?

The above quote is from the syllabus, the following comes from the opinion of the Court:
First, it is simply not true that unions will refuse to serve as the exclusive representative of all employees in the unit if they are not given agency fees. As noted, un­ions represent millions of public employees in jurisdictions that do not permit agency fees. No union is ever com­pelled to seek that designation. On the contrary, designa­tion as exclusive representative is avidly sought.5 Why is this so?  

Even without agency fees, designation as the exclusive representative confers many benefits. As noted, that status gives the union a privileged place in negotiations over wages, benefits, and working conditions. See §315/6(c). Not only is the union given the exclusive right to speak for all the employees in collective bargaining, but the employer is required by state law to listen to and to bargain in good faith with only that union. §315/7. Des­ignation as exclusive representative thus “results in a tremendous increase in the power” of the union. American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 U. S. 382, 401 (1950).

 In addition, a union designated as exclusive representa­tive is often granted special privileges, such as obtaining information about employees, see §315/6(c), and having dues and fees deducted directly from employee wages, §§315/6(e)–(f). The collective-bargaining agreement in this case guarantees a long list of additional privileges. See App. 138–143. 

These benefits greatly outweigh any extra burden im­posed by the duty of providing fair representation for nonmembers. What this duty entails, in simple terms, is an obligation not to “act solely in the interests of [the union’s] own members.”
My local union wants the authority and power that comes with being the sole representative, but doesn't want to provide the representation.  They've taken a sharp turn for the worse.

Update, 11/24/19:  I've written about union privileges and responsibilities before.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

An Abuse Of Office

Why shouldn't Gruesome Newsom have filed this case, right, lefties?  It's not like he had to spend his own money on it, only to be shot down 7-0 in the state Supreme Court:
President Donald Trump won’t have to release his tax returns to get on California’s 2020 primary ballot following a unanimous ruling from the state Supreme Court on Thursday that invalidated a new state law.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 27 into law in July to compel presidential and gubernatorial candidates to release five years of tax returns to get on California’s primary ballot. Jessica Patterson, chairwoman of the Republican Party then sued the state.
The law was unconstitutional on its face, but why not waste the taxpayers' money on his own little vanity project?
Jesse Melgar, a spokesman for Newsom, said in a statement that the governor will “continue to fight against the self-dealing, conflicts of interest and blatant corruption that have pervaded the Trump presidency"...
Newsom should look in the mirror.
“We’ve searched the record to determine whether or not the California Legislature even considered the California constitution in the drafting of SB 27. We didn’t find anything. Did you?” asked Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye.

The justices also highlighted arguments former Gov. Jerry Brown articulated when he vetoed a similar bill in 2017, saying such a proposal could set a “slippery slope precedent.”
When Jerry Brown is your voice of reason, you're in very bad shape indeed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Financial Literacy

This is my first year teaching "financial math", and this semester we've focused on "financial literacy".  Over the past couple days my students have learned the differences between stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, and today we talked about stock market indices (DJIA, S&P 500) and index funds.  The previous couple weeks we spent talking about credit (including credit cards) and debt.

Financial Math is one of the most practical courses we teach at school.  I'm not saying it should be a graduation requirement, but I'm trying to make the course into one that students want to sign up for rather than the low-level dumping ground it's been for students who need one more math course in order to graduate.

My principal recognizes how important such knowledge is, and a couple years ago he brought in a guest speaker to address the senior class about such things.  This guy did not know how to talk to teenagers, did not know how to tailor his talk to his audience, did not know how to make his talk interesting.  I'm an adult, and listening to this talk was difficult for me.

A couple days ago at lunch I was talking about what I'm teaching in class, and someone brought up that assembly from two years ago.  One of our social science teachers said, "You and I should give that talk.  We'd be so much better at it."  And we would.

I'm thinking of proposing that to our principal.  Two speakers, playing off one another, addressing such things as budgeting, credit, and debt.  Sure, it would only be an hour or two, but I have no doubt we could make it engaging.

My guess is it would be more useful, and more interesting, than some of the other talks that are given to our seniors.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

College Entrance Exams

In general I support objective tests, but the devil is in the details.  I don't really like AP, for example, because I believe AP content is too narrow in the classes about which I know.  If this article is right about the ACT and SAT, I'll support their use even less, too:
Since college preparedness exams became standard, education has become woefully uninspired. Students graduate with the basics of reading and writing under their belt but have engaged little with some of the most crucial aspects of education. Students read too little of the conversations and works that have informed some of the most impactful intellectual and social developments in history.

That’s because most states now abide by Common Core, a set of K-12 educational standards in math and English incentivized by federal grants. It’s a boxed-in method of teaching that requires teachers, by 8th grade, to prioritize functional texts in exposition over works of literature. By the twelfth grade, 70 percent of texts read in English classes must be informational in nature. So, then, the literary works that require deep reading and the development of abstract thought fall to the wayside in favor of the simplistic and mundane. This is just one example of Common Core’s overall emphasis of skills training over meaningful content—a system that discourages creativity and hampers student desire to be a life-long learner.

The SAT and Common Core standards have the same pedigree: David Coleman, president of the College Board, re-vamped the SAT in an effort to align the test with Common Core, telling the Institute for Learning that “teachers will teach towards the test. There is no force strong enough on this earth to prevent that.” Of course, these tests, like the curriculum they reflect, facilitate neither genuine academic growth nor the understanding of human virtue. The organization behind the ACT also publicly supported Common Core standards when the initiative began. But this testing/standards relationship really only stunts student learning.
Read the whole thing. What do you think?

Monday, November 18, 2019

If We Judged Govt Programs By Their Actual Outcomes Rather Than Their Wish-For Outcomes....

Why does no one seem to care?  Is it because Common Core was pushed by Saint Barack's administration?  Had any Republican been so instrumental in this, people would (justifiably) be marching with pitchforks:
At the topline, we have seen a story of decline ever since 2013. My fear is that this is not a coincidence. From 2013 onward, the Common Core took firm root in most states and we saw a sea change in school discipline and an apparent explosion of tablets and laptops in the classroom. I’ve grown increasingly concerned that the education reform movement has hurt the students it is trying to help, especially students of color.

Of course, NAEP can’t confirm this hypothesis. It can tell us what is happening but not why.

But I wanted to know more about what was happening, focusing on African American achievement in districts and states from 2013–2019, and what I found, as displayed in table 1, seems well worth ringing an alarm about...

At the state level, the larger sample sizes allowed me to look into African American achievement by gender. I found that, at the national level and in many states, African American males saw greater losses than African American females. Given this alarming pattern—and that, as Fordham’s Erika Sanzi has lamented, boys are often left out of public policy conversations—I decided to display the data in table 2 for African American males from 2013 to 2019...

Folks who claimed that the Common Core, discipline reform, and more tablets and laptops would lead to significant gains for African American students have, at this point, seen their hypotheses fairly well falsified...  (boldface mine--Darren)

The ghastly data on African American achievement should have raised major alarm bells. But in a movement ostensibly dedicated to racial equity, it seems to have gone mostly unnoticed.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

A New Discovery About Matrices

The first time I studied linear algebra was when I was an exchange cadet at the Air Force Academy.  That was the only course in all of my college education in which everyone in the course failed.  Well, I earned a low 60-something percent, but since mine was the highest grade in the class, I got an A.  Yay me.

Not having learned anything in that course, and being petrified of linear algebra because of it (and perhaps because over 25 years had since passed), I convinced my advisor to let me retake the course in my master's program.  It was in that course that I learned a little bit about eigenvalues and eigenvectors, interesting components in the study of matrices.  It was when meeting a former student a few years ago, and telling him about what little we teach about matrices in pre-calculus class, that I learned from him about a YouTube video that explained eigenvalues.  That was when all those calculations I'd done made actual sense!

Physicists have now added to our understanding eigenvalues and eigenvectors:
The physicists — Stephen Parke of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Xining Zhang of the University of Chicago and Peter Denton of Brookhaven National Laboratory — had arrived at the mathematical identity about two months earlier while grappling with the strange behavior of particles called neutrinos.

They’d noticed that hard-to-compute terms called “eigenvectors,” describing, in this case, the ways that neutrinos propagate through matter, were equal to combinations of terms called “eigenvalues,” which are far easier to compute. Moreover, they realized that the relationship between eigenvectors and eigenvalues — ubiquitous objects in math, physics and engineering that have been studied since the 18th century — seemed to hold more generally.

Although the physicists could hardly believe they’d discovered a new fact about such bedrock math, they couldn’t find the relationship in any books or papers. So they took a chance and contacted Tao, despite a note on his website warning against such entreaties.

“To our surprise, he replied in under two hours saying he’d never seen this before,” Parke said. Tao’s reply also included three independent proofs of the identity.

A week and a half later, the physicists and Tao, whom Parke called “a fire hose of mathematics,” posted a paper online reporting the new formula. Their paper is now under review by Communications in Mathematical Physics. In a separate paper submitted to the Journal of High Energy Physics, Denton, Parke and Zhang used the formula to streamline the equations governing neutrinos.

Experts say that more applications might arise, since so many problems involve calculating eigenvectors and eigenvalues. “This is of really broad applicability,” said John Beacom, a particle physicist at Ohio State University. “Who knows what doors it will open"...

Matrices do this by changing an object’s “vectors” — mathematical arrows that point to each physical location in an object. A matrix’s eigenvectors — “own vectors” in German — are those vectors that stay aligned in the same direction when the matrix is applied. Take, for example, the matrix that rotates things by 90 degrees around the x-axis: The eigenvectors lie along the x-axis itself, since points falling along this line don’t rotate, even as everything rotates around them.

A related matrix might rotate objects around the x-axis and also shrink them in half. How much a matrix stretches or squeezes its eigenvectors is given by the corresponding eigenvalue — in this case, ½. (If an eigenvector doesn’t change at all, the eigenvalue is 1.)

Eigenvectors and eigenvalues are independent, and normally they must be calculated separately starting from the rows and columns of the matrix itself. College students learn how to do this for simple matrices. But the new formula differs from existing methods. “What is remarkable about this identity is that at no point do you ever actually need to know any of the entries of the matrix to work out anything,” said Tao.
So cool.

Wind Turbines--Landfill Disaster

What good is wind power here in California?  When the wind blows, they shut the power off.

But what about the rest of the country?  Isn't wind the cleanest, least polluting form of energy generation there is, free of adverse effects?  Uh, no:
But the upgrades for Iowa’s growing wind industry, which is already among the nation’s largest, are creating some unexpected challenges.

MidAmerican’s retired blades, destined for the Butler County Landfill near David City, Nebraska, about 130 miles away, are among hundreds that will land in dumps across Iowa and the nation. Critics of wind energy say the blades’ march to a landfill weakens the industry’s claim it’s an environmentally friendly source of energy.

“This clean, green energy is not so clean and not so green,” says Julie Kuntz, who opposes a Worth County wind project. “It’s just more waste going in our landfills"...

He acknowledges, though, that disposing of the blades is a challenge. Wind energy generation, now topping 100 gigawatts nationally, will create 1 million tons of fiberglass and other composite waste, said Laird, director of the National Wind Technology Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

“The scale of the issue is quite large,” said Laird, whose group is working to develop new blade materials that will enable reuse. “It’s quite a bit of material. And it’s a larger sustainability issue. We would like everything that’s manufactured to be reusable or recyclable"...

Landfill operators thought the composite blades, cut in 40-foot or larger sections, could be readily crushed and compacted. “But blades are so strong — because they need to be strong to do their job — they just don’t break,” said Amie Davidson, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources solid waste supervisor.

“Sometimes pieces fly off and damage equipment” in the compacting process, she said. “Landfills are really struggling to manage them, and they just decide they can’t accept them.”

So far, only one facility in north Iowa is taking the blades, while other landfills are assessing whether they will.

Bill Rowland, president of the Iowa Society of Solid Waste Operations, said he’s unsure “we as a society” considered what would happen to the blades as older turbines are repowered.

“There wasn’t a plan in place to say, ‘How are we going to recycle these?’ ‘How are we going to reduce the impact on landfills?’” said Rowland, director of the Landfill of North Iowa near Clear Lake...

The difficulty in reusing blades adds to the complaints opponents make against wind energy. Some who live near the turbines complain that low-frequency noise and light flickering from the blades make them ill. And the spinning blades can kill migrating birds and bats.

Blade disposal is “just one of many factors we’re concerned about,” said Kuntz, the Worth County wind farm opponent.
Expensive boondoggles designed solely to line someone's pockets.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Buying The Rope That Will Hang Them

When newspeople don't value the 1st Amendment...:
Suppose you’re the editorial-page editor of a college newspaper, contemplating the big news on campus: protesters have silenced an invited speaker and gone on a violent rampage. Should you, as a journalist whose profession depends on the First Amendment, write an editorial reaffirming the right to free speech?

If that seems like a no-brainer, you’re behind the times. The question stumped the staff of the Middlebury Campus after protesters silenced conservative social thinker Charles Murray and injured the professor who’d invited him. The prospect of taking a stand on the First Amendment was so daunting that the paper dispensed with its usual weekly editorial, devoting the space instead to a range of opinions from others—most of whom defended the protesters. When a larger and more violent mob at the University of California at Berkeley prevented Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus, students at the Daily Californian did write a forceful editorial—but not in favor of his right to speak. Instead, they reviled Yiannopoulos and denounced those who “invited chaos” by offering a platform to “someone who never belonged here.”

Free speech is no longer sacred among young journalists who have absorbed the campus lessons about “hate speech”—defined more and more broadly—and they’re breaking long-standing taboos as they bring “cancel culture” into professional newsrooms. They’re not yet in charge, but many of their editors are reacting like beleaguered college presidents, terrified of seeming insufficiently “woke.” Most professional journalists, young and old, still pay lip service to the First Amendment, and they certainly believe that it protects their work, but they’re increasingly eager for others to be “de-platformed” or “no-platformed,” as today’s censors like to put it—effectively silenced.

These mostly younger progressive journalists lead campaigns to get conservative journalists fired, banned from Twitter, and “de-monetized” on YouTube. They don’t burn books, but they’ve successfully pressured Amazon to stop selling titles that they deem offensive. They encourage advertising boycotts designed to put ideological rivals out of business. They’re loath to report forthrightly on left-wing censorship and violence, even when fellow journalists get attacked. They equate conservatives’ speech with violence and rationalize leftists’ actual violence as . . . speech.

It’s a strange new world for those who remember liberal journalists like Nat Hentoff, the Village Voice writer who stood with the ACLU in defending the free-speech rights of Nazis, Klansmen, and others whose views he deplored—or who recall the days when the Columbia Journalism Review stood as an unswerving advocate for press freedom. 
Read the whole thing.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The 4th Amendment

I agree with this ruling:
A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Border Patrol agents need “reasonable suspicion” before they can search international travelers’ electronic devices at airports or other U.S. ports of entry, delivering a big win to civil rights activists.

Federal Judge Denise Casper of the District Court of Massachusetts ruled that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials must have a specific reason for searching an individual’s smartphone, laptop, or other electronic devices, according to a 48-page decision...

The two agencies, which operate under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, argued that such searches were necessary as they can lead to successful “fishing” expeditions — leading to apprehensions of child pornography or other illicit material from those attempting to enter the U.S.
Fishing expeditions cannot pass constitutional muster, and Judge Casper ruled correctly.

Having said that, I'm left to wonder under what constitutional authority Customs can search suitcases at airports--or my travel trailer at ports of entry.  From a 4th Amendment standpoint, why can my suitcase (or trailer) be rummaged through but not my phone?

Thursday, November 14, 2019

I Care About As Much As My District Seems To

I received the following as an attachment to an email today:
Ignore for a moment the robotic tone of the message and the email it came with.  Does anyone in their right mind think that saying it's mandatory that I read all those policies (each year) is going to get me to read them?  Does this reading look like a great Thursday night at home? 

You can argue that I should know some of the contents of, or even just about the existence of, some of them, but really, Guidelines For Hazardous Ozone Episodes?  Does anyone really read these, except when they need to?

This is one of the things that frustrates me about my current employer.  My time, my competence, these are of no value to them.  Darren, take your time and read all these policies!  Oh, and let's not forget all the "important" trainings that I have to find time for--they're all online trainings.  They must be really important!  The 45 minutes I spent on the sexual harassment training online was oh so valuable (not).  At least I scored 100% on the sexual harassment training, so I am an expert in sexual harassment.  I know how to do it perfectly!

What frustrates me is they say something is important, but they don't treat it as important.  I'm supposed to treat it as important, but for the suits, these emails and trainings are just checking off a box.  Want to train me in something?  Pay me for the training.  My time is valuable.  Don't just tell me to find time in my work day to fit this in, I don't sit around on Facebook all day while students crank out worksheets.  I teach, often bell-to-bell.  And I conduct at least one formal assessment in each class each week.  And I grade those papers and get them back to students with a quickness so they can take advantage of the feedback I offer.  Colleagues and students both know I'm anything but a slacker in the classroom.

Our district had planned a (voluntary) training day this week.  It was canceled.  I'm not complaining about a 4-day weekend for Veteran's Day, but they could have gotten a lot of this training out of the way on that day and paid me for my time rather than expect me to stuff 10 more pounds of crap into a 5 pound bag.  Such training would have been better than whatever "social justice" or "equity" training they were considering.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Rejecting Diversity and Equity

This article is exceedingly logical--which is why lefties will never even hear of it.

Here is the argument against so-called diversity:
The theory driving diversity pursuits encourages us to value certain immutable characteristics over others. This is troubling for the following reasons:
  1. Benefiting an individual at the non-consensual expense of another individual is inherently immoral.
  2. Valuing one individual over another on the basis of race, gender or other immutable characteristics is inherently immoral.
  3. Valuing diversity of immutable characteristics means valuing some individuals over others on that basis.
  4. Crafting selection criteria that ensure diversity of immutable characteristics necessitates harming one group of individuals at the expense of another group on that basis.
Points one and two are basic moral principles. Points three and four are the logical conclusions of pursuing diversity as a value in itself.
Here is the argument against so-called equity:
If selection criteria are designed to promote equity, some individuals must benefit at the expense of others, on the basis of their immutable characteristics. Given a finite number of positions, this is a mathematically necessary and indefensible consequence.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day

It started as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I--which until that time had been the bloodiest war in human history.  Thus we get this video from the British Army:



Coincidentally enough, I recently purchased this movie--only $15 at Target.  The "Making Of" featurette was as interesting as the movie itself.

Two wars later, President Eisenhower signed a law changing Armistice Day to Veteran's Day.  The holiday is to honor all veterans, Memorial Day in May is to honor those who died.

I recently read about the 1946 movie The Best Years of Our Lives, about 3 World War 2 servicemen who return home and have some difficulties adjusting.  Watched it Saturday night.  It was much more realistic than other movies of the time and addressed themes of alienation, of trying to reintegrate into society, of PTSD, of burying problems in alcohol.  It should be shown every Veterans Day.

For years my mother, a retired Army Reserve Sergeant Major, and I have gone to Applebee's on Veteran's Day.  This year she's in Cancun.  Not sure if I'll go to Applebee's or somewhere else, or if I'll go anywhere at all--but here's a list of restaurants offering free and discounted meals to veterans today.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

You Are To Be Silent

Much like "OK Boomer" is nothing more than a comment designed to shut down discussion, so is mention of "privilege":
In an effort to encourage dialogue, the president of Skidmore recently invited a scholar named Fred Lawrence to give a lunchtime lecture to faculty and staff. As author of a book called Punishing Hate and the secretary of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest honor society, Lawrence seemed suited to offer advice about the troubles we’d been going through on campus. How could we better differentiate between offenses serious enough to warrant concern, and the more minor slips or unintentional derogations sometimes called “microaggressions”?

“To be unable to tell the difference between kicking a dog and accidentally tripping over one is to have little hope of successfully navigating life on a college campus,” Lawrence said, in a talk that was mild and notably free of polemic.

The first faculty member to raise a hand after the lecture asked Lawrence whether he was aware of the privilege he had exercised in addressing us. She spoke with conviction, and suggested that Lawrence had taken advantage of his august position by daring to offer his advice. Lawrence replied with courtesy, conceding that, like everyone else assembled, he was of course the beneficiary of several kinds of “privilege”, and would try to be alert to them.

Though nothing further came of this exchange, it seemed clear that “privilege” had been invoked as a noise word to distract from the substance of Lawrence’s remarks and from his suggestion that some of us had failed to make the elementary distinction he had called to our attention. More, the “privilege” charge had been leveled with the expectation that he was guilty – not because of anything particular he had said, but because he was a white male.
Yep.
Of course there really is such a thing as “privilege”, and of course it is distributed unequally in any society. You’d have to be a fool to deny that whiteness has long been an advantage, however little some white people believe that their own whiteness has given them what others lack. Can anyone doubt that privilege is a real and legitimate issue when certain groups in a society enjoy ready access to good healthcare and schooling when others do not? There was a time, not so long ago, when to speak of privilege was to identify forms of injustice that decent people wished to do something about.

But you’d also have to be a fool to deny that the idea of privilege has been weaponized in contemporary discourse, often by people attempting to seize rhetorical advantage. The privilege call-outs increasingly common in the culture entail a readiness to rebuke people simply because their gender, ethnicity or rank makes them an apt target for shaming and condemnation. The charge of “privilege” is usually directed at its targets not with the prospect of enlisting them in some plausible action to combat injustice but instead to signal the accuser’s membership in the party of the virtuous. Accusations of “privilege” have become a form of oneupsmanship, and a charge against which there is no real defense.
Read the whole thing.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

The Day The Wall Came Down

Thirty years ago today the Berlin Wall came down.  Do you remember that night?  I do.

In this post I talk about what it was like to grow up and live in the Cold War, and how I ended up with a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Have you ever seen The Lives of Others?  It's about a Stasi agent who surveilled a playwright in East Germany.  Parts of it are dry, but from what I've read I have no doubt that it accurately describes life in a real police state.  It's sickening.

This morning I read this:
Thirty years later, Germany is reunified, a powerhouse country once again, but the story is not over. East Germans are still seeking answers for some of the bad things that happened to them. The Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic — commonly called the Stasi Archives — is open to the public. But in the frantic final days of the regime, the secret police began tearing up files. The public moved on them, blocking further sabotage but the Stasi managed to fill 17,000 bags with shreds of paper.

The Germans are putting them all back together. They want all who lived in former East Germany to be able to find out exactly what had been done to them.
Do you want more government?  That's what happens when you get more government.

Ukraine-gate


Friday, November 08, 2019

I'm Surprised It Took This Long

President Reagan gets some well-deserved recognition:
(AP) — The U.S. Embassy in Berlin unveiled a statue of Ronald Reagan on Friday at a site overlooking the location of the former president’s iconic speech imploring the Soviet Union to remove the Berlin Wall.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the inauguration of the work a “monumental moment” before helping remove the cover from the larger-than-life statue on the Embassy’s terrace, at eye-level with the top of the landmark Brandenburg Gate.

Saturday marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall....
Too bad it's only at our embassy and not at the actual site, especially since the current German Chancellor is from the former East Germany.

I loved President Reagan for his conservative ideals.  President Trump, no Reagan he, is succeeding at conservative actions.  I'm privileged to have lived in such times.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Try Mine

Our school is built in a typically Californian "ranch style", which means it's several one-story buildings spread out over a couple acres.  It's spread out enough that we have 3 different staff lounges.

Today in the staff lounge that I have frequented for the past 16+ years, we had a "try mine" at lunch.  Anyone else would call it a potluck, but in that lounge it's been a "try mine" since long before I got there.

Chow mein.  Ziti.  Chinese Chicken Salad.  Cornbread with corn kernels.  Potato soup.  Hot apple cider.  And my homemade apple sauce, made with some of the super sweet apples I picked up at Apple Hill this past weekend (even if I can't remember what the super sweet ones are called).  And so many desserts.

Talk about a feast!

My Favorite Topic To Teach

In pre-calculus?  Easy.  Matrices, including Gauss-Jordan Elimination as an algorithm for solving systems of linear equations.  Started that topic today.

If students' ability to learn were proportional to my excitement in teaching the material, they'd all be matrix gurus.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

OK, Boomer

Much like "racist" was before it was overused to the point that it's lost its power to shock and awe, "OK, Boomer" is a retort that's sole purpose is merely to shut down the recipient.  I'm reminded of a comment mentioned by Jonathan Haidt:  That's a slur, not an argument.


(3:56-4:26)

The older I get, the more I find this to be true:  The reason the left celebrates a cult of youth is that young people tend to be ignorant and gullible, and that’s the kind of people who tend to buy the left’s bullshit.

Update, 11/20/19:

Update, 12/3/19This too:
The remark doesn’t bother me in the least; indeed, it gives me a good chuckle since it typically comes from someone who’s never paid a bill, raised a family, or planned and made sacrifices for retirement...

You want boomers and Gen Xers to take you seriously? You forget yours is the generation of grade inflation. Of minimal discipline, in and out of school. Of being carted around to sports and social functions by helicopter parents who cater to your every whim. In college, you run and cry to “bias response teams” when the slightest little thing offends you. Then you demand “safe spaces” and other measures to make you feel “welcome” and “wanted” …  like therapy animals, etc.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Impeachment

I thought this was pretty spot on so I'll quite the entirety of the Instapundit post.  It's all about the election--nullifying the last one or spoiling the next one.
ANALYSIS: TRUE. Bureaucrats’ Hurt Feelings On Foreign Policy Don’t Justify Impeachment.
You see, it’s perfectly fine for Hillary Clinton to use her campaign funds to hire foreign national Christopher Steele to investigate Trump using (probably made-up) Russian sources. And there’s nothing wrong with the FBI using those partisan Steele smears to investigate the Obama administration’s political opponent.
Crossfire Hurricane, the official operational title for the investigation, employed assistance from the British government and an Australian diplomat. So the left believes there’s nothing wrong with asking a foreign government for help to investigate a domestic political opponent — so long as that opponent is Trump. After all, “Nobody is above the law, not even Donald Trump.” But if the shoe ends up on the other foot and Trump is the one investigating, it’s a constitutional crisis!
If you listen for more than a few minutes, you realize what’s really going on here is that Trump failed to prostrate himself before the “dedicated career professionals” who possess the “experience and expertise” that Trump supposedly lacks in foreign policy. Read your Constitution. Article II vests the power of foreign policy in the elected president. These “dedicated career professionals” aren’t even mentioned in the Constitution.
Maybe the framers made a drafting error in the Constitution? Or maybe we shouldn’t have a national impeachment circus over the hurt feelings of bureaucrats.
To me, the fuss indicates that this is over much more than “hurt feelings,” but actual criminal activity at risk of exposure.
UPDATE (FROM GLENN): Flashback, March 2017: “Hypothesis: The spying-on-Trump thing is worse than we even imagine, and once it was clear Hillary had lost and it would inevitably come out, the Trump/Russia collusion talking point was created as a distraction.”

$2 Bills

A lady at work was going through her mother's stuff and came across 45 $2 bills from the 50s and 60s.  Honestly, they aren't worth much more than face value, and she didn't know what to do with them, so I bought them from her for face value today.  I'm telling others at school they make great stocking stuffers for their kids, and cheap, too!

These notes have a red seal as opposed to today's green seal.

Apple Hill

Yesterday I made my annual fall pilgrimage up to Apple Hill, an area with several apple orchards.  October and November are the months to go, and I was able to pick up 10 pounds of Arkansas Black apples for me, as well as some Mutsu apples for my dad's wife.  Sure, I like Red Delicious and Honeycrisp as much as the next guy, but I can get those at the grocery store.  That I like the Arkansas Blacks is surprising, given that they're considered quite tart, but like them I do.

I also picked up an apple pie and some apple turnovers.  They maintain well in the freezer, and the turnovers are a treat throughout the year.

Tri-tip sammich lunch up there, life is good!

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Two-fer

Not only do I get an extra hour of sleep tonight, but I've swapped the warm-weather Egyptian cotton bed sheets for the fleece.

Life is good :-)

Current Meme


Goliath Backs Down

Three months ago I wrote about a math curriculum company who sued a North Carolina parent for defamation for commenting negatively about the company's product:
I admit to knowing no specifics at all, but on its face this seems like Goliath trying to stomp David.

In an email Tuesday, Dillard said MVP's lawsuit "is an attempt at intimidation and bullying to silence my and other parents' free speech advocating for our children's education." Dillard's supporters have created a GoFundMe page to raise money for his defense against MVP.
I've long believed that we should have sort of a "loser pays" system in our courts.  If you sue someone and lose, and the judge/jury finds your case so weak that the most logical conclusion is that you attempted to use your lawsuit and the court's time as merely a means to harass the respondent, then the judge/jury would have the option of requiring you to pay the respondent's legal fees.  I have to believe that such a Sword of Damocles would stop many unnecessary lawsuits.  I don't know if this is one of those lawsuits or not--I hope to learn the outcome of this case. 
Case dropped:
This summer, a math curriculum provider made a surprising move against one of its most vocal parent critics—the company sued him for defamation and interference with business relations.

Now, after three months, the company has dropped its lawsuit.

Mathematics Vision Project, a Utah-based provider of open-source math curricula, and the parent, Blain Dillard, released a joint statement about the lawsuit's dismissal this week. Dillard also dismissed his countersuit against the company, which was for lawyers' fees and damages. 
After 3 years of using this program, the school district is going to evaluate its effectiveness:
Wake County schools is in its third year using Mathematics Vision Project. In response to formal parent complaints, the district has hired an external third party to conduct a review of the curriculum, which includes conducting parent experience surveys, the Raleigh News & Observer reports
Not a bad ending.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Misunderstanding of the Problem

Yesterday I wrote about the drop in both NAEP and ACT scores, and I dinged teachers for inflating student grades and GPA's while objective performance slips.  Grades are entirely within the purview of the teacher.

The drop in performance, though, isn't entirely the responsibility of teachers:
Johnny can't read, or write, do math, or think. But teachers are demanding more and more money and resources that strapped school districts around the country can't pay.

The question is why. Recent standardized test scores not only don't show any improvement, they show kids are regressing. And with recent strikes in Denver, West Virginia, and the ongoing strike in Chicago, that question takes on a new urgency.

Why should teachers get more money with scores like this?
I assert that very little of that drop in student performance is the responsibility of the teachers.  Yes, some teachers do some very dumb things, and yes, some teachers learn some very dumb things in ed school (and hopefully unlearn some of them when reality hits them in the classroom).  However--and some of you aren't going to like this--the largest reason student performance is dropping is because of parents.

Teachers are people, too.  We respond both to incentives and disincentives.  There are some very bad disincentives out in the world, and while I like to choose the harder right over the easier wrong, not everyone does.  Teachers who give out lots of high grades are popular with both students and parents.  If Tough Teacher holds the line, it's the parents who try to get their children into Easy Teacher's class.  It's the parents who harangue the principal.  It's the parents who want to penalize Tough Teacher for holding high standards.  It's the parents who try to lay a guilt trip that Baby will no longer be able to get into Stanford--all because of Tough Teacher!  It's the parents who try to convince the school board to order Baby's grade changed because Tough Teacher is just a meanie and doesn't have children's best interests at heart and probably isn't competent anyway and...well, you get the idea.  It's the parents who bring their attorneys to conferences to intimidate, and threaten lawsuits when they don't get their way--when a teacher insists on rigorous and defensible standards.

It's the parents who buy their kids smart phones instead of simple communication devices.  It's the parents who don't ensure their children get enough sleep--and in bed with the phone within reach doesn't count.  It's the parents who overschedule their children, or, as the children get older, allow the children to overschedule themselves.  It's the parents who put athletics and other extracurricular activities higher in the pecking order than academics--and expect teachers to accommodate that by making the courses easier.  It's the parents who seek out 504 Plans specifically so their children can get extra time on college entrance exams.  It's the parents who ratchet up this academic arms race.

I'll agree that, with very few exceptions, if Baby can't multiply by the time he/she gets to high school, there is a systemic issue involved--and teachers are a part of that problematic system.  But that isn't the majority of the drop in student performance.  Honestly, that drop in student performance comes from a lack of emphasis.  How long do students spend on assignments?  What fraction of assignments are never completed or turned in?  What excuses are offered?

It's the parents (and the rest of the community) that elect the school board that tells teachers what they're supposed to do.  Yes, school boards adopt horrible curricula and require teachers to do some things that are blatantly insane (Seattle's recent "math is racist" framework comes to mind).  I'd swear that each textbook adoption we go through in my district, both the process and the textbooks get worse and worse.  That's definitely a part of the issue.  But once the (crappy) curriculum is decided upon, teachers should teach and students should learn.  Grades and GPA's aren't going up because teachers think students are better and better prepared as the years go by, they go up because of the pressure parents put on schools--pressure to make Baby look better, not be better. 

And don't even get me started on Special Education, wherein teachers are required to give passing grades to students in some classes.  It's not because teachers want to give out grades like candy.

Sometimes the problems are bigger than the teacher, bigger than the parents, bigger than the school, bigger than the district:
For the third time in a row since Common Core was fully phased in nationwide, U.S. student test scores on the nation’s broadest and most respected test have dropped, a reversal of an upward trend between 1990 and 2015. Further, the class of 2019, the first to experience all four high school years under Common Core, is the worst-prepared for college in 15 years, according to a new report.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is a federally mandated test given every other year in reading and mathematics to students in grades four and eight. (Periodically it also tests other subjects and grade levels.) In the latest results, released Wednesday, American students slid yet again on nearly every measure.
The author of the first linked article suggests teachers don't deserve pay raises because student performance on standardized tests is dropping.  I'd suggest that the author is misunderstanding the problem, BIG TIME.

(P.S.  No, nothing happened today at school to set me off on this rant.  I merely saw the comment about pay and student performance and it hit a raw nerve.  Nothing more.)
(P.P.S.  If you're a parent and this post doesn't describe you, then don't take it personally--it's not directed to you.  If you see yourself in this post, though, perhaps you'll be open-minded enough to consider what I've said.)


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Dumbing Down

While GPA's go up, performance goes down:
The nation’s high school students continue to struggle in the subject areas that are deemed essential for later success, according to the latest ACT results, which show another decline in performance across the four subjects tested, as well as a shrinking proportion of test-takers demonstrating they are prepared for college-level coursework.

The national average scores on the subject area sections of the ACT—math, English, reading, and science—as well as the composite score, all dropped slightly, along with the percentage of students hitting college- and career-ready benchmarks.
It's not just the ACT:
The latest results of the tests known as the Nation's Report Card offer a mostly grim view of academic progress in U.S. schools.

"Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest-performing students are doing worse," said Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the NAEP. "In fact, over the long term in reading, the lowest-performing students—those readers who struggle the most—have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago."
Scores are going down, but universities will still admit unqualified candidates and programs will be impacted.  And some Democrats want to make college free.

Go figure.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Is This Really Bullying?

So many times on this blog I've blasted schools and districts for what is, IMNSHO, inappropriate disciplinary action against students.  Some of those stories involved conduct that was off-campus, others involved conduct that was either on-campus or at a school-sanctioned event.

This story involves on-campus behavior and unproven allegations of sexual assault:
Aela Mansmann was careful not to name any names. "There's a rapist in our school and you know who it is," she wrote on yellow sticky notes, leaving them on bathroom walls at her coastal Maine high school. The 15-year-old felt that administrators hadn't been doing enough to respond to allegations of sexual assault, and she hoped her small act of protest would start a conversation.

Instead, her school suspended her, saying that the anonymous notes amounted to bullying...

Though school officials say they are merely abiding by their own anti-bullying policies, Mansmann and her parents have argued that the suspension is a violation of the teenager's right to free speech. The students who gathered outside the high school on Monday agreed, questioning how a note that didn't include any names or identifying details could be considered bullying. Holding signs that read "I choose to believe survivors" and "Rape culture has got to go," they said they wanted Mansmann and two other students who were suspended for helping to post the sticky notes to have their records expunged.
There's no such thing as "rape culture" in the United States; if you want to know what a true rape culture is, ask the Swedes. As for believing "survivors", how does one know if the person in question is, in fact, a survivor, and not a liar? The difference is quite important.

But I expect teenagers to carry stupid signs.  They hear one side of an issue, are told it's the only side, and their penchant for drama kicks into overdrive.  Hopefully they grow out of it.

I'm not convinced that Mansmann's conduct rises to the level of bullying.  One could argue that her conduct is akin to littering, but we don't usually suspend students for littering (in California we don't suspend students for anything short of murder).
The public high school, which has roughly 600 students and is located just south of Portland, Maine, conducted seven investigations into allegations of sexual harassment or assault during the previous school year, the paper reported. In four of those cases, officials concluded that it was "more likely than not" that a violation of Title IX occurred, and took action. But in recent months, some students have said that they feel administrators brushed their concerns under the rug.

On Sept. 16, she and several other students decorated two girls' bathrooms with handwritten sticky notes, warning of a rapist on campus. Mansmann has said that the intention was to draw attention to several different incidents where students were allegedly sexual assaulted, though it's not clear if the notes were intended to call out one specific perpetrator. (Officials deny that there is a rapist enrolled at the school.)
Maybe the school officials know more than the girl does?  It's possible.
Cape Elizabeth Schools define bullying broadly, noting that it can include a range of behaviors such as "creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment" and "interfering with the student's academic performance." A Friday statement from the school district said that officials "have never disciplined a student for advocating for their peers or their views on cultural, social and political matters," but are legally obligated to take action "when a student's speech bullies another student [ ...] even if that same student has also spoken out on a matter of public concern."

Though barred from commenting on Mansmann's case due to privacy laws, school officials "are confident that the matter was exhaustively investigated and that we took the action that law and policy required," the statement concluded.
This is a very interesting situation.  I haven't yet made up my mind which side, if either, is in the right.  It's entirely possible they've both screwed up.

Update, 10/16/19:  Since "everyone" knows who the girl is accusing, I'm leaning more towards the bullying angle. After all, what if the boy in question is innocent?  He's being slandered.  The ACLU doesn't see it that way, though:
The Maine chapter of the ACLU filed a motion in federal court Sunday asking for a temporary restraining order against the district.

The high school has agreed to delay Mansmann's suspension until a hearing on Oct. 21.
For those who don't agree, what if the sticky notes were referring to a particular slut.

Again, interesting legalities here.

Update, 10/29/19:  The story continues :
A Maine school district ran into skepticism from a federal judge about its decision to suspend a female student who posted a note about an unidentified “rapist” at her high school.

Aela Mansmann “has shown a fair likelihood of success on the merits” of her First Amendment lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker wrote in an order last week, issuing a preliminary injunction...

That means the Cape Elizabeth School District can’t suspend the 15-year-old, identified in the suit as “A.M.,” for the duration of her lawsuit against the district, superintendent and Cape Elizabeth High School leaders.

The school charged Mansmann (above) with “bullying” because it construed her message, posted in a girls’ bathroom, as an attack on a specific student who was a subject of “rapist” rumors. His family said he missed eight days of school out of fear of the rumors.

This post was originally published on October 8th but I've bumped it to today because of the updates.