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.

The 1st Amendment Is First For A Reason

A small 1st Amendment win today:
The University of Michigan settled a free speech lawsuit filed by First Amendment watchdog Speech First. The settlement ends a near 18-month legal battle over the school’s Bias Response Team and its definitions of “bullying” and “harassment” in the student code of conduct.

Per the settlement, UMich will keep its new definitions of “bullying” and “harassment,” which Speech First and UMich agree are acceptable. UMich will also replace its Bias Response Team with Campus Climate Support (CCS). The Bias Response Team will not be reinstated, and the CCS “cannot impose discipline” on students.

The Department of Justice also filed a Statement of Interest in the case, specifically criticizing the Bias Response Team.

How Can This Be?

Universities are so involved with government, and many of them are run by governments.  How can tuition possibly be rising so fast, lefties?

Monday, October 28, 2019

Return of the Jedi

After the (Washington Post) Empire struck back, Lord Vader had a change of heart (and hopefully will throw the Emperor down a deep shaft):
THIS JUST IN: U.S. Judge William Bertelsman today reversed course and ruled that attorneys for Nick Sandmann could start discovery for a portion of their lawsuit against the Washington Post over its coverage of the so-called Cov Cath incident. It turns out that on reconsideration, the Court found that at least three of the sued-upon statements were both defamatory and the complaint was plausible enough to warrant discovery...

Seems to me the Post has three options: 1) continue to publicly slime the teen; 2) admit they were in a rush to publish and took the word of a less-than trustworthy source (shades of Rolling Stone’s “Jackie”!) or 3) fight in court till the last dog is hanged and try to grind them down to settlement by attrition and financial exhaustion.
I'm rooting for Sandmann on this one.

Least-worst Decision

Joanne has a post about a school district that is using "virtual teachers" via video conference, with the classroom supervised by an "educational assistant", because the district cannot recruit and retain enough teachers to fill their classrooms.  Long-term substitutes fill in but often aren't much more than babysitters.  I'm a big fan of remote teaching under certain circumstances, but this seems like a band-aid for a gaping chest wound. 

Here's the crux of the matter:  "Who’s likely to be more effective: An American sub, who may not know the subject, or a Filipino teacher, who knows the subject not American culture, or a qualified American who’s not actually there?"

Joanne goes on to point out how states are lowering standards in order to qualify more teachers.  Because that's what kids deserve, lower quality teachers, right?

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Another study about so-called implicit bias bites the dust:
One of the best-known scientific studies to posit that implicit bias—the idea that all people are unconsciously racist, sexist, etc.—can be counteracted via strategic effort is taking a well-deserved beating. It now appears that the findings were significantly overstated...

My point is that the in an area of research fraught with replicability problems, the orchestra study was supposed to be one of the good ones.

Well, so much for that. In May, Columbia University statistician Andrew Gelman took a deep dive into the study. He described them as "not very impressive at all," and had great difficulty trying to locate the 50 percent statistic within the modest findings...

Blind interviews and auditions may be preferable for other reasons. They may even reduce implicit bias in some situations. But as is so often the case, the sweeping claims of social scientists do not seem to survive scrutiny.
Lefties and their fake "science".

Grading and Literacy

Does anyone really believe this, or do they say such things only for attention?
Ball State University recently hosted a presentation to “engage with the question of how English language practices in college classrooms contribute to white supremacy"...

“This is because white supremacist systems like all systems reproduce themselves as a matter of course,” he said. “This includes reproduction of dominant, white, middle-class, monolingual standards for literacy and communication.”
President Bush talked about the "soft bigotry of low expectations."  Schools and universities should promote academic excellence and self-reliance, not excuses and self-pity.

It's the same view I hold regarding Seattle's proposed ethnic math standards.

Update, 10/28/19It's not always about your so-called social justice:
BUT OF COURSE: Social Justice Activist Gets Kicked Out Of Fellowship For Constant Complaints, Claims Racism. “The student, Julia Feliz, uses the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them,’ and, according to other students in the program, would constantly tie every classroom issue to social justice issues. This took time away from science, and frustrated other fellows.”

I think she should have been booted for anti-immigrant prejudice:
A student from Nigeria said “the fellowship was an inappropriate forum for Feliz to make comments on social justice.” A student from Kenya said Feliz “was an activist in sessions” and that the activism “came out in every single session that we had.”

Feliz called these statements “NeoColonialism in real time.”
What an annoying twit.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Water Is Wet, and the Sky Is Blue

Only someone in higher education would need a study to convince themselves of this truth:
Students of color are suspended at disproportionately higher rates than white students and, on average, perform more poorly on standardized tests. But no peer-reviewed nationwide research has documented a link between the two disparities—until now.

A new Stanford-led study finds that an increase in either the discipline gap or the academic achievement gap between black and white students in the United States predicts a jump in the other. Similarly, as one gap narrows, so does the other.

“Prior research has suggested that achievement gaps and discipline gaps may be two sides of the same coin,” said Francis Pearman, an assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education and lead author of the study. “This is the first study to document this relationship at the national level.”
So, as the achievement gap narrows, teachers get less raaaaaaacist? Is that how I should interpret this?

Here's another stake in the heart of the "racist teachers" argument:
The researchers also saw a significant association between the Hispanic-white achievement and discipline gaps. But they were surprised to discover that other factors—such as local poverty and education levels—accounted for the relationship. Once they controlled for these differences at the community level, the relationship between the two gaps disappeared. 
Hm.  You don't say.

Then the authors go off the rails:
For instance, educators might adopt ethnic studies programs and culturally relevant teaching to alleviate achievement disparities—efforts that could address the racial discipline gap as well. Using non-punitive discipline practices such as positive behavior interventions and supports, instead of practices that exclude students from school, could also help raise the academic achievement of racial and ethnic minority students.
Whenever I read something like this, I always ask, "why does this help only ethnic minority students?"  Do white students not benefit from non-punitive discipline practices?  (Next question:  does the school as a whole benefit from non-punitive discipline practices?  Ask teachers and well-behaving students if they want undisciplined students in the classroom.  Ask them if having them there adversely affects the learning of everyone else in the class.)

Anyway, I'm not at all surprised there's a relationship between the two areas.  No matter what ethnicities or races are involved, you'll always have fewer and less severe discipline problems in a calculus class than in a high school elementary arithmetic class.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

An Army of Straw Man

Seattle's schools are looking at infusing anti-white racism into their math curriculum.  Doing so doesn't make any sense, and neither do some of their justifications:
If a student got the right answer, we should celebrate that ingenuity and intelligence instead of telling them there is only one way to get to that right answer.
Anyone who teaches that there is only one way to get a correct answer is probably either hidebound or incompetent, neither of which has anything to do with mathematics.
When too many black and Latino students see no place for themselves in math and science, Castro-Gill said, it’s important to be explicit about how their own cultures contribute to math and how they can use it to make their communities, and the world, better.
Modern black and Latino culture doesn't contribute to today's math.  Neither does modern white and/or American culture.  Castro-Gill, "Seattle’s ethnic studies director", is an idiot.
“What they’re doing follows the line of work we hope we can move forward as we think about the history of math and who contributes to that, and also about deepening students’ connection with identity and agency.”
What say that, instead, we work on deepening students' understanding of mathematics?  That's what you'd do if you really wanted to help them, truly wanted to give them a better-than-average chance in the adult world.  "Agency"?  I do not think that means what you think it means.
Ethnomathematics, which studies the intersection of math and culture, took shape in the late 1970s, introduced by Brazilian math professor Ubiratàn D’Ambrosio. Leading thinkers in the field now include Linda Furuto at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and Filiberto Barajas-López at the University of Washington’s school of education in Seattle.

More recently, some scholars, most prominently Rochelle Gutiérrez at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, have begun advocating for a “rehumanizing” of mathematics, which places dynamics such as race and oppression at the center of conversations about math and culture.
I've argued many times against so-called ethnomathematics, especially the views of Paolo Friere.  (What is it with those Brazilians, anyway?)   The argument is always the same--math is a tool.  It's neither good nor bad.  It can be put to use for good or for evil.  If you're not good at using that tool, it's not the tool's fault.  There's no race and oppression going on here except in the feeble minds of people who look for it where it doesn't exist.  Orwell taught us that 2+2=4, and from that all other freedoms flow.  Such a view is oppressive only to those who choose to believe it so.
“Math education has been very focused on access and closing the achievement gap, around grit and growth mindset. Those ideas are centered around individuals, and ways of thinking they need to adopt. We haven’t focused enough on identity or systems of power,” Gutiérrez said. 
It should be focused on adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, fractions, decimals, and percents.  Those who master those simple topics will have the world at their door.  Those who don't will complain that people aren't knocking on their door--why, because everyone else is racist, or something?
Starting the conversation with a sigh, he said it’s too bad that Seattle blended important ideas with highly controversial ones.

“We all want students of color to be included, believe they can learn math, and see themselves as mathematicians,” he said. “It’s important for them to learn about great contributions to mathematics from all cultures—Indian and Chinese and Babylonian.

“But you don’t need to talk about liberation and oppression and how Western mathematics has somehow taken over. It just turns people off and makes the goal of being inclusive that much tougher.”
Very little of our mathematics focuses on where on the planet our current conceptions derive from.  I'm not interested in teaching social studies, although some of the history is very interesting.  I'm interested in teaching mathematics, not social studies, not social justice, not politics and oppression.  Save that stuff for the race hustlers.

By the way, I'll bet today's Indians and Chinese--not to mention the Koreans and the Singaporeans and even the vaunted (in the education world) Finns--are shaking their heads at such silliness coming out of the United States.

Monday, October 21, 2019


Family issues. *sigh*

I'm going to take a few days off blogging. Please check back this upcoming weekend.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Third World For Another Decade

Electricity delivery in much of Northern California will have third-world-reliability for the foreseeable future:
The CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. told California energy regulators that the state will likely see blackouts for another 10 years like the one imposed last week that left as many as 800,000 customers without power.

The revelation by corporation CEO Bill Johnson came Friday at a California Public Utilities Commission meeting at which he said his company is trying to reduce the chances of wildfires by trimming more trees and using technology to target smaller areas of the grid when fire dangers require power outages.

But Johnson said it could take 10 years before such outages are "really ratcheted down significantly."

I'm Old Enough To Remember When Paper Grocery Bags Were Bad, And Plastic Bags Were The Improvement

This video from BBC is very elucidating.  If you consider the entire life cycle of paper, cotton, and plastic bags, how many times would you have to use paper or cotton bags before the environmental impact (water, electricity, etc) is the same as that of a plastic bag?  I find the information exceedingly interesting.

Instead of banning plastic bags, why not just promote recycling them?  Is it because liberals always resort to compulsion to achieve their means?  (Ans:  yes.)

Camping in National Parks

Now that I'm older and like (and can afford) a few more amenities, I wouldn't mind this at all:
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Food trucks. Wi-Fi. Hot showers.

Those campground upgrades could be coming to a national park near you.

The Interior Department is reviewing recommendations to modernize campgrounds at national parks. The recommendations posted online this week come from an advisory committee created under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that has been looking at ways for private businesses to operate on public lands.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

If It Weren't For Double Standards...

If it weren't for double standards, the left (and their press toadies) would have no standards at all:
Brewer was photographed poking her finger in President Barack Obama’s face when he visited Arizona in January 2012. She claimed that after giving him a written invitation to inspect the crisis on the Arizona border, the two engaged in a heated discussion about a passage in her book, Scorpions for Breakfast, which depicted Obama as condescending and dismissive.

Brewer took flak for her finger-pointing from both the media and the public, who accused her of disrespecting the presidency. More than 12,000 letters flooded her office in the ensuing days, most of which condemned her, calling her “trashy” and “tasteless.” Likening the act to belching at the president, a writer for the Washington Post scolded her, “If a thing is frowned upon in general, it’s even worse to do it to the president in particular.”

By contrast, Pelosi has met with adulation and gratitude from liberals after President Trump tweeted an image of her standing up during a meeting and wagging her finger at him.
Just think of the media as Democratic Party operatives with bylines (and DNC talking points) and it all makes sense.

Shamelessly lifted in its entirety from Instapundit.

I Can't Believe It's Been 20 Years

Galaxy Quest came out 20 years ago.  I'm not convinced it was the best Star Trek movie ever made, but it was certainly up there! 

And if you've never seen Free Enterprise, in which Shatner stars as himself, do yourself a favor.  It would help if you were familiar with some classic Sci Fi movies, especially Logan's Run, or you'll miss half the jokes.

Never give up, never surrender!

30 Years Ago Tonight

I was a lieutenant in the army, stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. I was the executive officer, the 2nd in command, of my Air Defense Artillery battery. We had a good commander, good officers, good NCOs, and good soldiers. I was enjoying life then.

My commander and I were working late. Officer stuff. Planning and organizing. Coordinating. Whatever it was, it must've been important--he had a beautiful wife and two kids he could have been home with, but instead he was working with me. Late at the office. It was dark when we left the S&A (supply and admin building, what anyone anywhere else would call our Battery HQ).

The BC (battery commander) and I, along with the First Sergeant, had identified parking spots directly in front of our S&A. He backed out first, then I did, then we both headed down the one-way parking lot towards the street. He stopped and came running back to my pickup.

He knew I was from Northern California. "There was an earthquake. San Francisco has been destroyed!" There was still a song playing on my radio station, but I found news soon enough. I lived only 5-10 minutes away, in an apartment just outside of post. I turned on the tv as soon as I got home.  It was continuous coverage, we were watching feeds from the local San Francisco stations. Which streets were blocked, and what detours were available, were of no use to me, but they kept showing the worst of the pictures--Candlestick Park rocking during the Battle of the Bay World Series, the Marina District, the Bay Bridge.

I had relatives in San Jose, in the South Bay. Knowing that I shouldn't call them, that I shouldn't tie up even one phone line during such an emergency, I called my mother in the Sacramento area. We feel earthquakes in Sacramento sometimes, but they're always far away. Sacramento doesn't get earthquakes, I knew it would be OK to call there. I did, and learned my family had already called from San Jose and they were fine.

I watched the news for awhile, and when I didn't learn anything new, I went to bed. That was 30 years ago tonight.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Debt, For-Profit Schools, and Black Students

Is it impossible anymore for people to look logically and objectively at issues, rather than ideologically?
For-profit colleges take the blame for a lot of bad trends in our higher-education system. Sometimes it’s deserved. But too frequently the blame is driven by ideology and not objective analysis. And lest we assume that the blue-chip think tanks, the ones full of top-notch academics, are above this for-profit college-bashing, that is not what was on display last week at the Brookings Institution.

At an event titled “Student Loans: A Look at the Evidence,” one panelist blamed high debt burdens among black students on — you guessed it — for-profit colleges. This is not the first time we’ve seen this argument. The same claim appeared as the title of a Hechinger Institute article earlier this year. The reasoning behind the claim is that black students are more likely to attend for-profit colleges than their peers (true), and student debt is higher at for-profits than at other colleges (often true).

The problem with this argument is that it is based on reasoning alone. It tells us nothing of the magnitude of the effect of for-profit colleges on debt burdens among black students. What is needed for that task are data. And in this case the data do not show that for-profit college enrollment is a meaningful factor in explaining relatively high debt among black students.
I wonder what does.
In short, the claim that for-profit colleges are a noteworthy factor for explaining high debt among black students doesn’t stand up even to simple scrutiny. There is a pattern here.

None of this is to say that the relatively high debt burdens among black students is not a serious problem. On the contrary. The issue demands serious solutions. Blaming for-profit colleges is not one of them.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Lefties and Race

Leftists are the Most Racist People In America
Read the whole thing. 

Why Would Anyone Vote For These People?

This guy nails it:
This scenario, while hilarious, begs an obvious question. How did the coyote think this was going to help him catch the road runner?

And that’s where the Democrats are now.

They are so obsessed with their pursuit of Trump that their methods no longer look rational.

Their overconfidence is another near-perfect metaphor for Wile E. Coyote.

In an equally famous Warner Brothers show titled “Operation: Rabbit,” the coyote is paired against Bugs Bunny, who outwits him at every turn.

The coyote tells Bugs that it is pointless for him to resist his desire to catch and eat him because he is a genius. He suggests that he is smarter, faster, and stronger. His victory is so assured that there is no point in even objecting.

Does that sound familiar?

Democrats and their many allies in media pushed a conspiracy on the American public for three years, claiming that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. When that was revealed as untrue, they moved on to another ridiculous claim, not unlike Wile E. Coyote buying a large rubber band from ACME that he could strap around a large cactus, only to launch himself face-first into the ground.

These are not serious people, and they should not be taken seriously.
Wile E. Coyote, Genius.

More Insane Laws

Illegal immigrants can now serve on state boards:
In California, seems it's not enough that foreign nationals who've just spilled over the U.S. border from the south can get free education, free health care, free housing, and all that — now it looks as though locals may just find themselves lorded over by foreign nationals with zero loyalty to the United States making policy, now that Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed SB225, a bill to allow illegals to "serve" (and be paid) on state boards that make policy in California. If your interests conflict with theirs, too bad about yours....

Taxpayer-funded abortions for college students:
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed a bill requiring all University of California and California State University campuses to offer chemical abortion to students for free. 
I guess that's one way to help solve the problem of impacted programs in state universities; at least, it can solve the problem 18 years from now.   But wait, the world will end in 12 years...

Bottom line:  Newsom, and the people who elected him, are insane.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Columbus Day

I've read that 5 years before Columbus arrived, the Aztecs sacrificed about 80,000 for the rebuilding of the pyramid at Tenochtitlan.  We all know that many native peoples massacred or enslaved others, what's the moral difference when Columbus did it?  From an intellectual standpoint, that question interests me.

I was reading an article about Columbus Day today and found this part reasonable:
The Americas owe most of our culture — our politics, our freedoms, our languages, our civilization — to Europe and its greatest thinkers and traditions. Christopher Columbus wasn’t the first European to set foot on these shores, but he is as handy a historical spokesman as any for our historic roots in the Old World.

Sure, celebrate indigenous cultures if you like, but it’s preposterous to argue there is nothing worth celebrating about what Columbus represents.
Read the whole thing.

Another Crazy Cali-Unicornia Law

It's not like local school boards are better able to make these decisions than a one-size-fits-all law from Sacramento.  It's not like rural and urban kids, for example, might have different needs.  It's not like students in other countries are able to get up and go to school.  It's not like our kids, rather than getting more sleep, will just stay up later.  It's not like my students overwhelmingly vote, each year I ask them, to start school earlier in the day rather than later because they like their free time in the afternoons.  It's not like this will cause students to miss more school due to athletics (baseball, tennis, and water polo will be hit the most in 6th period).

No, none of this is the issue.  Some legislator knows better than everyone else, and our idiot governor agrees:
A new law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Sunday forbids California middle schools from ringing the opening bell before 8 a.m., and prohibits high schools from starting class before 8:30 a.m.

Schools must adopt the law before July 1, 2022, or sooner if they have collective bargaining units that allow negotiation before the deadline.
This is one of a long string of laws Gruesome Newsom has signed in the past week or so.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Crazy California Laws

This is what you get when the lefties go unchecked. Governor Gruesome Newsom is signing crazy laws like, well, a crazy man.  Here's a brief list of some laws signed in the last week or so.

Hotels can't provide bottles of shampoo:
When you stay in a hotel, do you like to take home those little bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel from the bathroom? Better get them while you can, because they're going to become real collector's items in California.

This week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that bans hotels from giving out toiletries in individual-sized plastic bottles. It won't take effect until 2023 and 2024, depending on the size of the hotel, but it's symptomatic of a much broader trend in the travel industry to eliminate the use of plastics at hotels, airlines and cruise lines.
Private property owners required to give access to beach:
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Wednesday that would open Hollister Ranch, a 14,400-acre piece of private property in Santa Barbara County that includes about 8.5 miles of shoreline, to the public.
New fur sales and circus animals banned:
California will be the first state to ban the sale and manufacture of new fur products and the third to bar most animals from circus performances under a pair of bills signed Saturday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The fur law bars residents from selling or making clothing, shoes or handbags with fur starting in 2023.
Flouting federal law, so-called medical marijuana allowed in K-12 schools:
California schools will get to decide if parents can administer medical marijuana to their children on school campuses. 

Legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom reverses a current prohibition on cannabis within 1,000 feet of K-12 campuses. School districts will have the final say on whether they will allow it.

The law that will take effect Jan. 1. Newsom announced Wednesday that he signed it.

Firearms laws:  only one firearm purchase a month, just about anyone and his brother can file a "red flag" concern and have a person's legal firearms confiscated by the state, etc.:
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Friday signed 15 gun control bills into law, which expands the Golden State's already stringent gun laws, the Los Angeles Times reported. Newsom has made a name for himself because of his calls for stricter gun laws, specifically surrounding an assault weapons ban, high capacity magazine ban and the implementation of Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), commonly referred to as red flag laws. He said the state decided to take up these bills because of Washington's inaction, a clear reference to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) refusal to take up bills he knows President Donald Trump refuses to sign into law.
Smoking and vaping will not be allowed in state parks and beaches:
California will ban smoking on state parks and beaches starting next year under legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The law also bans disposing cigar and cigarette waste at parks and beaches. Violations of the law will be punishable by a fine of up to $25. Newsom, a Democrat, announced Friday he had signed the bill into law.

It covers smoking traditional cigarettes as well as using electric smoking devices. Smoking will still be allowed in parking lots at beaches and parks. Film and television productions can still allow people to smoke on state property with the proper permits.
Statewide rent control:
In a move aimed at stemming the tide of skyrocketing rents that have helped spur a statewide housing crisis, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a sweeping rent cap bill into law Tuesday.

Beginning in January, landlords in California will face limits on how high they can raise rents...

Proponents have hailed the new law, which will be retroactive to March 2019 in an attempt to aid tenants whose landlords recently boosted rents ahead of the bill signing, as an important step toward addressing the state’s housing crisis, which is particularly acute in the Bay Area.
These are just the ones I've heard about recently.  Don't forget that plastic straws and complimentary grocery bags have already been banned. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Pack It Up, It's All Over

How are we supposed to run schools under such conditions?
Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that paves the way for parents in some California school districts to bring medical cannabis to their students at K-12 campuses, breaking with former Gov. Jerry Brown, who had vetoed similar legislation last year.

The measure, signed late Wednesday, allows medical cannabis that is not in smoking or vaping form to be administered to students by parents on campus if their school board has approved a policy providing the access.

Newsom, the leading proponent of the 2016 recreational pot legalization initiative, Proposition 64, overruled the objections of law enforcement groups and signed the measure without comment.

Brown had said in a veto message that he was “concerned about the exposure of marijuana on youth” and “dubious of its use for youth for all ailments.”
When Jerry Brown is the voice of reason, you know you're in trouble.

The Absurdity of Life in Northern California Right Now

My electricity is provided by a municipal utility, not PG&E.  My power is not off.  I know of at least one teacher at school, though, who lives in PG&E-land and whose power is off.  My principal is living on a hair--10 houses away from his, the power is off.

Yes, PG&E's equipment was responsible for starting last year's big ole fire, but was PG&E solely to blame?
Politicians blame PG&E for the recent fires that have ravaged the state, but some of the blame redounds to the politicians. Wildfires in recent years have grown more deadly because timber harvesting and brush clearing were greatly curtailed due to myriad environmental restrictions. In the meantime, crucial infrastructure investment targeted at improving the reliability and safety of powerlines has taken the backseat to the state’s demands for a huge increase in renewable energy—some of which, ironically, has necessitated the need for more powerlines to connect remote wind farms with the urban centers.
Ah, that pesky uber-environmentalism in California. How bad is it?  Truly Kafka-esque.  Imagine these four intersecting issues:

1.  California likes electric cars.  When the wind blows and over a million people are without electricity, where are they supposed to charge their electric cars?
2.  California requires all new houses to have solar power starting next year.  Solar power that's produced feeds back into the grid, "running their electric meters backward" and lowering the homeowner's electric bill.  However, when the power is off, the meter isn't running.  The power isn't fed into the grid because the power is off.  Thus, no useful electricity is being generated!
3.  It gets worse.  Unless people choose to live off the grid, and have their solar system charge a bank of expensive batteries in their house, the system is specifically set up to send the produced electricity back into the grid.  But as I said, when the power's off, no electricity is fed into the grid.  However, since most people aren't set up to run their own house off the electricity they're producing, they paid tens of thousands of dollars for a solar system and still won't have any electricity at their own house when the grid is down!
4.  The wind is blowing--you'd think wind power would be a silver lining in this dark fiasco, but think again!  First off, electricity created by wind power is no different from electricity created by fossil fuels--it can spark and start a fire just as easily.  Thus, wind power is of no use to people in the affected areas (of course, neither is nuclear power, but that's a different blog post altogether).  Besides, if the wind is too strong, the wind turbines can't handle the load and they have to be shut down!  Think about that for a minute; if the wind is too strong, we cannot generate electricity from the wind, whether the electric grid is working or not.  The upper safety limit is 55 mph, and I myself have seen wind farms left entirely idle when winds are significantly below that limit.

You'd think these days-long blackouts would cause California's environmental house of cards to crumble, but no, not yet.  Perhaps the prevailing philosophy is, "It's not really a problem until it happens to me."

Nothing I've written here is hyperbole.  It's verifiable fact.  When you hear how awesome and advanced and "progressive" California is, remember this:
Northern California’s electric company turned the power off for hundreds of thousands of customers Wednesday – and then back on for some – during a dramatic day that caused confusion and angry reactions from both the public and public officials.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. shut down power to more than 500,000 homes and businesses, an estimated 2-million-plus Northern California residents, creating the largest blackout in state history.
Two million people are without electricity because the wind is blowing.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Teacher Evaluations

Last spring I wrote about my latest teacher evaluation.  A year before that I wrote about how silly the evaluation process (is it even truly an evaluation?) is.  I wonder how long my district is going to keep this ridiculous, cumbersome process around, given the cost of implementing it.

While California will no doubt dig its heels in, other states are admitting defeat:
Historically, many teacher and principal evaluation systems have failed to yield meaningful, actionable data, leading most states (as well as school districts) to reform their educator evaluation systems over the past decade.  These reforms, including increasing the number of possible ratings teachers and principals could earn, supplementing the measures on which educators are evaluated, and increasing the frequency and impact of evaluations, were all designed to make evaluation systems more accurately reflect individual educators' strengths and weaknesses. They also aimed to better distinguish the full range of educator talent...

Additionally, most historical teacher evaluation systems relied exclusively on subjective data, primarily based on principal observations of their teachers. In 2009, only 15 states required objective measures of student growth in teacher evaluations; by 2015 this number increased nearly threefold to 43 states.

However, as swiftly as states moved to make these changes, many of them have made a hasty retreat. 
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Upping the Ante

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how Pacific Gas and Electric, whose equipment was deemed responsible for last year's horrific fires, shut off power to over 60,000 people in Northern California because the wind was blowing.  That apparently didn't leave a strong enough impression on regulators so PG&E is turning it up to 11 this week:
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has announced it could turn off power for nearly 650,000 customers starting Wednesday morning, a public safety shutoff event being considered as Northern California braces for critical fire weather conditions amid significant wind.

The utility on Monday night released a list of 30 counties – throughout the Sacramento Valley, the Bay Area, the North Bay and parts of the northern Sierra Nevada and foothills – that could each see anywhere from dozens to tens of thousands of customers lose power starting at about 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Michael Lewis, senior vice president of PG&E’s electric operations, said in a prepared statement that it could take “several days to fully restore power after the weather passes and safety inspections are completed.” Windy conditions are expected to last through midday Thursday.
A full order of magnitude, and they're going to hit some of the uber-liberals in the SF Bay Area.  PG&E is playing hardball.

Keep in mind that this is happening in California, what used to be known as the Golden State in the most prosperous country on the planet.  Just sayin'.

Update, 10/9/19It happened:
The largest blackout in California history, which left more than 500,000 without power after midnight Wednesday, began to take its toll on morning routines in Placer and El Dorado counties.

Home Depot locations in Roseville, which was not part of the massive interruption of power, and Placerville sold out of power generators Tuesday night. Priced between $400 to $700, some customers purchased two generators to help run their households and larger properties.
Some districts announced yesterday that schools would be closed today because of the lack of electricity.

This is California, USA--apparently the only place in the country where winds require the electricity to be turned off.   Even the Bangladeshis are probably laughing at us right now.

Blame Me

California isn't on track to meet its environmental goals, and the blame falls solely on the shoulders of owners of pickups and SUVs:
California is not on track to meet its greenhouse gas emission goals, in part because Californians just aren’t ready to give up their trucks and SUVs.

A new study by nonprofit group Next 10 and Beacon Economics found Californians in late 2018 owned more gas-guzzling [boldface mine--Darren] pickups, mini-vans and SUVs than they did five years ago. Those vehicles made up 57.3 percent of new vehicle registrations in 2018, compared to 39.3 percent in 2013.

The wildfires that scorched California in 2017 and 2018 were another setback, pumping tens of millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and offsetting the state’s efforts to curtail man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The new report from Next 10 and Beacon Economics shows that the Golden State is unlikely to reach its carbon reduction goals for 2030 and 2050 at the current rate of progression. A law signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016 sets a target of cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

“Assuming the same rate of reduction from 2016 to 2017, California will reach its 2030 and 2050 goals in 2061 and 2157, respectively — representing a 31-year and a 107-year delay,” according to the report.

The report comes as California is locked in a dispute with President Donald Trump about the state’s legal authority to impose stricter air pollution standards on vehicles. The California Air Resources Board has used that power to negotiate pacts with carmakers committing them to producing fuel-efficient vehicles that average 50 miles per gallon of gas.
I haven't looked up the political leanings of Next 10 or Beacon Economics, does anyone want to take a guess before doing so?

Anyway, here's my view on their findings:

To paraphrase Justin Bieber, Next 10 and Beacon Economics can suck it.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Long Weekend

In 1975, my aunt and I returned from visiting my mother in Germany.  We landed on August 27th, my aunt's birthday (her geburtstag, as it were).  When I got home there was still time to go school shopping for new clothes for the upcoming school year, and to adjust to the time zone.

Now school starts in mid-August and still gets out around the same time as it did when I was a child.  Yes, we get more vacation days during school, and the school year is a few days longer.  I'm sure everyone enjoys getting the entire Thanksgiving week off rather than, as it was in my day, going to school on Monday and Tuesday of that week.  Additionally, I like getting a whole week off in February for "Ski Week" (officially, Presidents Week).  Two weeks at Christmas and a week for Spring Break haven't changed.

A few years ago, someone in my district administration noticed that, since school started in mid-August, both teachers and students started taking days off in October.  Thus was born the idea of giving a 4-day weekend in early October; we get a chance to recharge the batteries, so the theory goes, and should be able to make it until the next holiday, Veterans Day.  By giving teachers the days off we eliminate a spate of days of not having enough substitute teachers, and by giving students the days off we cut down on unexcused absences and avoid losing state funding, which depends on attendance.  What can go wrong?  Any economist could have predicted that there would be a number of teachers out last Thursday, and those economists would have been correct!

I don't like to miss work days, though, so my camping trip didn't start until Friday.  A friend from work and her family, as well as some of her extended family and friends, and I all took our trailers to Coloma for a weekend of serious eating.  I'm still stuffed!  And it was nice to get away for a couple days.
click to enlarge

Mine is the 3rd trailer from the left.

Friday, October 04, 2019

An Appropriate Response

I never dreamed I'd be writing a blog post in support of Justin Bieber, but when he's right, he's right:
Justin Bieber is responding to PETA after the animal rights organization slammed the singer over his decision to buy two part-exotic kittens that cost a total of $35,000.

In a statement to PEOPLE on Thursday, PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange spoke out against Bieber’s recent decision to purchase the expensive Savannah kittens, whom he named Sushi and Tuna, claiming that the singer does not “care” about helping animals.

Posting a screenshot of the PEOPLE story to his Instagram Story later on Thursday night, Bieber wrote, “PETA can suck it.”
That's the best response there is when countering all the wokescolds in the world today.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019


On my last visit to Italy, over 7 years ago now, I had limoncello.  My traveling friend and I arrived in Venice, cleaned up and rested briefly in our hotel room, then went out in search of lunch.  When we finally got off the tourist track (train station to Rialto to St. Mark's Square) we found a small restaurant with tables and umbrellas set up along side a quiet canal.  We were among the only restaurant guests at that time of the afternoon, and our waiter was very gracious and helpful to us.  Knowing it was our first meal in the city, at the end of lunch he brought each of us a shot of limoncello:  "Welcome to Venice", he said.

Since then I've made limoncello 3 times.  The first two batches, Uno and Due, were made with 151 proof Everclear, the resulting libation being about 100 proof.  The third batch, Tre, was made with 190 proof Everclear (sent from a long-time friend in Texas), and ended up being about 126 proof.

Last night I started zesting the lemons for Quattro, and I finished tonight.  This batch will also be made with 190 proof Everclear from Texas.  The lemon zest is now soaking in the Everclear, and will do so for 45 days, at which time I'll add a significant quantity of simple syrup.  I might add a little more simple syrup to this batch than I did in Tre in order to bring the potency down to about 100 proof. The mixture will mature for another 45 days, being ready to drink just in time for my Burning The Mortgage Party the first weekend of January. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Legalized Racism

I eagerly await the left's concerns about this particular brand of racism:
Harvard University does not discriminate against Asian American students through its use of race-conscious admissions, a federal judge ruled in a decision released on Tuesday. Writing that the university's system "passes constitutional muster," Allison D. Burroughs, a U.S. district judge, added that the court "will not dismantle a very fine admissions program … solely because it could do better."

The verdict closes the first chapter in a case that was filed against Harvard in 2014. The university was sued by Students for Fair Admissions, a membership organization that says Harvard’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian American applicants. The organization’s founder is Edward Blum, the same activist who was behind the case that claimed the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions policy discriminated against a white student.

That case made it up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where UT-Austin’s policy was upheld in 2016. Legal scholars say the case against Harvard could wind up there as well, and if it does, it will be decided by a much more conservative bench. A new ruling could have serious implications for how and whether colleges can consider a student’s race when making decisions about whom to admit.

Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions made their cases before Judge Burroughs, of the Federal District Court, in Boston last year. It’s that three-week trial that was decided today. SFFA says that Harvard admissions officers penalize Asian American students when they award points based on applicants’ personalities; Asian Americans consistently ranked lower on that metric and were therefore were denied admission, the group alleged, despite their higher test scores and grades.
In any other context, the so-called disparate impact alone would have decided the issue.
Much of the testimony during the trial came from two expert economists — one for each side — who produced statistical analyses of Harvard’s admissions data. Burroughs, who decided the case rather than a jury, asked pointed questions during the trial about how the economists were interpreting the data and was not afraid to admit that it could, at times, be confusing.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics?

Anyway, it's always interesting how Asians are considered a minority except in the education arena, where they're lumped in with white people.