Thursday, March 31, 2022

Gibsons Win Again

Oberlin College doesn't have a leg to stand on--and if there's any justice in the world, the Gibson family will take their wheelchair.

You might recall the case.  Some students of Oberlin College attempted to shoplift in Gibson's Bakery.  Bakery employees stopped them, and the case was somehow turned into a "Gibson's is racist" situation.  The college itself entered the fray, on the side of the shoplifting students!  The Gibsons sued the college and won a huge settlement; Oberlin, which seems unable to pay the settlement, appealed, and lost big time:

“The Gibson family appreciates the Court of Appeals’ thorough and thoughtful analysis which rightly rejected all of Oberlin College’s and Dean Raimondo’s challenges on appeal.”

It was a devastating opinion.  Here are the appropriate sections in the ruling pertaining to libeling the Gibsons as racists:

{¶31} Oberlin has argued that the flyer and Senate Resolution contained only opinions, but it has focused its arguments throughout this case on statements alleging merely that the Gibsons were racists. Despite Oberlin’s arguments to the contrary, the potentially libelous statements in this case include much more than calling the Gibsons “racists.”

{¶32} The trial court determined, as a matter of law, that both the flyer and the Senate Resolution were not statements of constitutionally protected opinion but were defamatory per se. The trial court focused on the statements about the Gibsons and their bakery having a history of racial profiling and discrimination toward students and residents and the statements about an “assault[]” of a student by an owner or owners of the bakery.

* * *

{¶37} Given the public’s lack of knowledge of what had happened at the bakery and the ongoing tension on campus about racial injustice, these statements would convey to a reasonable reader that the arrest and alleged assault at the bakery were racially motivated, that the Gibsons had a verifiable history of racially profiling shoplifters on that basis for years, and that those facts were a reason to boycott the bakery. The trial court did not err in concluding, as a matter of law, that these were actionable statements of fact, not constitutionally protected opinion. Consequently, it did not err in denying Oberlin’s motion for JNOV on this basis.

How much longer will this college last as an entity?  Hopefully not much longer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

In cultural affairs, California often leads the nation--what happens here will eventually make it over the Sierra and into the rest of the country.  In education, however, California often lags the rest of the country, whether the ideas be good or bad.

A couple days ago I wrote a post that referenced the fact that CSU and UC campuses are eliminating the SAT and ACT in admissions decisions, making the entire process a subjective free-for-all.  MIT already tried that and is switching back:

After careful consideration, we have decided to reinstate our SAT/ACT requirement for future admissions cycles. Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT. We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy. In the post below —  and in a separate conversation with MIT News today —  I explain more about how we think this decision helps us advance our mission.
How long will it be before California's taxpayer-funded universities realize the obvious?

Every Teacher Has Had This Parent Conference

It's an oldie but a goodie:

Monday, March 28, 2022

Good News

Under California Education Code, if a district is going to "pink slip" a teacher, the district must notify that teacher by March 15th (presumably to give that teacher adequate time to prepare to find a new job).  Many districts, my own included, aren't sure yet what staffing levels will be required next year and thus notify newbie teachers in March "just in case".  A couple weeks ago, all our 1st- and 2nd-year teachers received such a notification.

That was a fairly devastating day for one of our rookie teachers, who spent most of the day either crying or trying not to cry.  Of course, we veterans could tell her it's preliminary, that we're not going to be getting rid of any math teachers, that our district plans poorly and this is just what they do, etc. etc. etc., but as someone who's been in that position, I can tell you that such wisdom doesn't amount to a hill of beans because it's not you who's getting the layoff notice.

So here we are, two weeks later, and she came rushing into my room this afternoon, jumping up and down--"Guess who got their layoff notice rescinded?!" she exclaimed.

As someone who got several such notices in my first years of teaching, and who was even laid off for one summer, I am very happy for her that she doesn't have to go through what I went through--at least this year, she doesn't.

Kaplan Test Prep

The major Sacramento newspaper published an opinion piece about CSU/UC's ditching of the SAT/ACT for admissions, focusing on SAT test prep:

I’m 60, and anyone my age or so who was once college-bound probably recognizes the name Stanley H. Kaplan. He founded Kaplan Inc. to help students prepare for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, known as the SAT...

Kaplan thought that if there were some objective metrics for students seeking college admission, the process would be less influenced by the ancestry or wealth of prospective students. 

The SAT and other tests like it became essential for college admissions thereafter...

As the decades dragged on, the SAT, along with Kaplan Inc., became the preserve of kids who went to solid public and private schools, and who also had wealthy, educated parents who could afford Kaplan’s steep prep course pricing.

I agree that test prep favors those with money.  After all, what's the point of being wealthy if you can't use that wealth to make life better for your family?  But let's not disadvantage the disadvantaged any more than they're already disadvantaged, right?  So what to do?  The author's choice seems to be to support getting rid of the SAT/ACT in university admissions decisions, and to me that's a bridge too far:

Kaplan deserved accolades for his original intentions, which went terribly wrong. Poor kids like he was in 1938 are now better served, judged by more than just surviving a gut-wrenching testing process that doesn’t take the full measure of a student’s potential. 

A biased testing metric just keeps people out, which is counter to the mission of a state university.

That's a lie that refuses to die.  There is no evidence that the SAT is biased, racist, etc.  That some students don't perform as well as others doesn't mean that the test is biased, when the fact that some are better prepared than others is a far more reasonable conclusion.  And yes, preparation should play a very large part in college admissions!

We need objective standards by which to judge who should enter our (taxpayer-funded) universities.  Sure, keep some of the subjective standards, but let's not rule out academic preparation just because we find what it tells about our students to be unsavory.


The teachers in a nearby school district are on strike.

A teacher in that district with the same education and years of service that I have makes 2.1% more money than I do, works 2 fewer days a year, and has already been offered a raise higher my district’s teachers union will settle for after negotiations (if the last 10+ years are any indication). I say this not to denigrate the Sac City teachers—I honestly don’t know which side in their dispute is asking too much—but to show why I don’t think so highly of the union in my own district. That’s partly why I’m not a member.

Update, 4/4/22:  Sac City teachers went back to work today after agreeing to the following with their district:

The tentative agreement with the teachers union includes ongoing 4% salary increases starting with the current school year; 3% one-time stipends for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years; one-time payments of $1,250 in the current school year; 25% rate increases for substitutes who filled in for absent teachers this year; and 14 more sick days for subs who test positive for or have symptoms of COVID-19. 

The deal also addresses teacher health benefits, which have been a point of contention for years between the district and union. 

“The district will continue to provide 100% paid health coverage through Kaiser and a mutually agreed upon alternative plan or plans. The current alternative plan is HealthNet,” the district said. 

The teachers union will also “withdraw a grievance and all of its pending unfair practice charges filed with the Public Employment Relations Board.”

My local union would settle for a 1% one-time bonus, and a majority of the teachers (if you trust the union's vote-counting) would approve it.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

My Newest Toy

Over a year ago I decided to dip my toe into the smart watch waters to see if such a watch would add some value to my life, so I bought an inexpensive smart watch off Amazon.  The watch itself wasn't of much use without the accompanying (free) app, which I downloaded and used.  I found that I liked keeping track of my steps, seeing how much time I spent in different modes of sleep, and monitoring my heart rate.  That watch told me that I was ready to jump in, that I needed something more substantial.

So I bought a Fitbit Blaze from someone off the NextDoor app.  I genuinely enjoyed that watch and its accompanying app.  Turns out the watch was a little more independent of the app than my first one was, but you still could only set the watch time by synching it with a phone running the app.  In genuinely enjoyed the Fitbit Blaze and its robust app, but the battery worked less and less well over time.  Eventually it would hold a charge for only a day or so.

Yesterday I found someone on NextDoor selling a brand new Samsung Galaxy Fit.  She'd received it for Christmas but didn't like or want it.  We agreed on a price and I picked it up last night.  This is probably the last such smart watch I'll need for quite some time, as it holds a charge for days and has apps that are reasonably user friendly.

This morning I put the first watch and the Fitbit Blaze on NextDoor, offering each of them for $20.  Within an hour I was getting messages asking about the Blaze, and within a couple hours I'd already sold it.  Yes, I was upfront about its inability to hold a charge for more than a day, but the buyer needs the watch only temporarily and liked the size, look, and functionality of the Blaze.  And of course, the price was right.

No one is asking about the other watch.  It's a no-name import from China, but it works fine and is waterproof.  Its app isn't as "professional looking" as the Fitbit and Samsung apps are, but it is quite functionable.  And I still have the user manual for this watch, making setup quite easy.

Fortunately, I am selling it because I no longer need it rather than because I need the money, so I can afford to keep it for sale for as long as it takes to find a buyer.  This is the ideal watch for someone!

The Galaxy Fit I now have is like that first watch in that pretty much all setup is done via an app, which is certainly not a problem.  It's small, lightweight, does everything I need it to, looks good--in other words, it's the ideal watch for me.  I hope to enjoy it for many years.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Changing Ideas of Cool

When I was in high school, this would have been so cool in a way I could not even describe.  Today it's merely an intellectual curiosity to me:

Groundbreaking data collected by NASA’s Perseverance rover is able to replicate how people would sound on Mars compared to Earth.

The space agency even boasts an online tool that allows Earthlings to simulate how they’d sound on the red planet from inside our homes.

That’s right: You can drop your own Mars bars in a round of interstellar karaoke.

To use it, simply go to the Sounds of Mars section on NASA’s website, navigate to the “You on Mars” tab, then “click and hold the button to record your greeting,” per the site.

Finally, download the audio file to hear how your voice sounds on Mars. After testing the function ourselves, The Post can safely say that those tin cans we spoke into as a kid to replicate “Martian speak” weren’t too far off.

A Good Problem To Have

I've mentioned before how, when I weighed myself early this year, the number was not only higher than I had ever weighed before, it was higher than I guessed it might be.  Muy mal.  I decided I had to lose some weight.

At the beginning of the school year, a few teachers and I started wearing kilts on Fridays.  I had my kilts sized for my body at the time.  Lately, though, I've noticed that I have to keep pulling my kilt up.  It keeps sliding down a bit, and it would be easy to pants me if someone so desired.

It seems like that would indicate that my waist size has decreased since the start of the school year, although, oddly, my pants don't seem any looser.  Strange.

Absent further information, I'm going with the "smaller waist size" theory.  A friend at work suggested her wife could "take in" the kilts for me--I may take some pizza over to their house soon and take her up on that offer!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

No Ducks To Give

Today our collaboration time was spent in focus groups for our accreditation visit by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges next year.

I don't know how we were assigned to these focus groups, but mine involved school culture and "equity".  Seriously, do you think I am going to contribute to anything that WASC (or our school administration) is looking for regarding equity?

They could have put me in a focus group regarding testing and assessment, or something else academic.  But I assure you, the vast majority of my colleagues--all California educators, remember--not only do not agree with my views on culture and "equity", they have no interest in even hearing such views.  That meeting today was an hour of my life I'll never get back, and there are plenty more such meetings planned over the next year.

I have officially moved into the "old curmudgeon" column, sitting out my time until retirement.  I'm not going to throw any wrenches into the pipes, but since I have nothing to offer in the field of culture and "equity", I am not going to assist in a process that I think is severely wrongheaded.  I will be neutral, doing no more than is absolutely required of me, and letting the true believers do the heavy lifting.  In 25 years of teaching I've done plenty of the heavy lifting for those things I thought were important, now I guess it's someone else's turn.

Let those who care do the work in this focus group.  I don't give a duck.

Update, 4/9/22:  Just prior to this past week's meetings I was moved from the Culture Club to the testing/assessment group.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Not Much Time Left

Are you a fan of 80s science fiction?  Then you might want to pick this up, pronto--this "limited-time offer ends March 27th."

This Doesn't Surprise Me At All

I myself never fell for the "medical marijuana" con, but plenty did:

Medical marijuana has been legalized in 37 states, but a new study released Friday found that the drug had no benefit for those treating pain, depression, or anxiety. Moreover, a significant number of people in the study who used marijuana for medical purposes developed cannabis use disorder, also known as marijuana addiction, the study found. The study was conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital.

“People with pain, anxiety or depression symptoms failed to report any improvements, though those with insomnia experienced improved sleep,” said the study’s lead author, Jodi Gilman, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Depression and anxiety are some of the conditions most commonly treated with marijuana...

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law and is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse or dependence and little to no medical benefit.

These Are The People Who Think They're Smart Enough To Tell Us What And How To Think

What else does this reporter know that isn't correct?

Sen. Bob Casey announced he has contracted COVID-19, becoming the latest U.S. congressman to fall sick to the pandemic.
He must have slept through Civics class.

It's been this way for hours, but in case someone ever fixes the story, here's a screenshot:

Tuesday, March 22, 2022


In past years, I've not been one to crawl across the finish line.  I don't barely make it to Thanksgiving break, to Christmas break, to Spring Break, or to the end of the year, I finish with plenty of energy.  I could keep going, if I truly had to.

No so, this year.  The only thing I have going for me is that I have a relatively small number of students relative to other teachers at my school, and thus it doesn't take me so long to grade projects, quizzes, or tests.  If I had my usual load of students--the equivalent of an additional full class--I'd be dragging.

I'm not quite sure what the issue is--maybe I'm just getting old, maybe the 80 degree temps in March are sapping me, maybe it's the dumb stuff coming from higher up, maybe it's some combination of all of them--but I notice the exhaustion creeping up on me.

We just had a 4-day weekend, and I feel fine, but I don't feel like going outside for a walk and getting sweaty!  I wonder about making it another 5 years, though.

Monday, March 21, 2022

The Press Outright Lied. And So Did Intelligence Officials.

It was clearly a legitimate story, but the "democratic operatives with bylines" had to trash it to get Dementia Joe elected:

The New York Times last week confirmed the authenticity of Hunter Biden’s missing laptop, a story which was originally dismissed as Russian disinformation by many liberal media outlets leading up to the 2020 presidential election. 

Television hosts, guests and journalists quickly took to the airwaves in October 2020, reassuring viewers that the laptop was "unverifiable," likely tied to the Kremlin, and the product of a smear campaign orchestrated by former President Trump and his allies...

Politico also ran an October 2020 headlined, "Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say," which highlighted a letter signed by "more than 50 former senior intelligence officials" who asserted that the emails from the laptop had "all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation." 

The letter, which was parroted by much of the media, suggested, without evidence, that the emails were hacked and could have been tampered with by the Kremlin in order to make its contents look incriminating. Signatories of that letter included former high-ranking intelligence officials and outspoken Trump critics like former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta, and Jeremy Bash, many of whom work as analysts on MSNBC and CNN and supported Biden's candidacy.

Information on the laptop implicated Hunter Biden and his father in criminal dealings, including dealings with the Russians.  Notice how the Democrats always blame the Republicans for the very "Russian collusion" that they themselves engage in?  I notice it, too. 

Update, 3/22/22 

IT’S NOT JUST HUNTER’S LAPTOP AT ISSUE: Now that the New York Times got around to “verifying” it’s authenticity, according to Margot Cleveland in The Federalist, the controversy over the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop is mainly about the eight scandals indicated therein that directly involve the senior citizen occupying the Oval Office:

“Merely admitting the laptop is legitimate is not enough. Rather, by concurring in the authenticity of the laptop and the emails, the supposed standard-bearers of journalism have also implicitly acknowledged the validity of the scandals spawn by the porn-filled MacBook.

“And notwithstanding the salacious source of the documentary evidence of the scandals, the scandals are not about Hunter Biden: They are about now-President Biden,” Cleveland writes. Another Cleveland must-read.  link

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Went Camping

Our district gave us a random 4-day weekend, so on Friday morning I headed up Highway 50 to Pollock Pines to a members-only campground.  I'm not yet a member, but I did listen to their presentation.  I'm still considering it.

It was a very relaxing couple days, except for this moment of heart-pounding action:

Friday, March 18, 2022

From The Department of "Duh"

I wonder how much money was spent to figure this out:

Children who spend more time on using handheld devices and computers or watching television are more likely to exhibit behavior problems such as aggression, difficulties with attention, anxiety and depression, an analysis published Wednesday by JAMA Psychiatry found.

In the review of data from 87 studies with nearly 160,000 participants age 12 years and younger, more screen time during the day was associated with an up to 20% higher risk for behavior problems, the data showed.

The behavior problems exhibited by children with increased screen time included aggression and "inattention," the researchers said.

Children who spent more time using devices with screens, including phones, tablets, computers and televisions also were more likely to display symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to the researchers. 

I'm shocked, shocked I say.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Ben Shapiro Talks To Bill Maher

I've mentioned before how much I used to enjoy Phil Donahue, a rabid leftie talk-show host who had a great show because he and his guests, rather than yelling at each other, would discuss their differences rationally.  I really enjoyed Phil Donahue and Milton Friedman:

In the following video, Ben Shapiro and Bill Maher have a similar type of mature conversation:

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

One Professor Speaks Up

We used to expect Ivy League students to be "a cut above"; nowadays, we expect them to be left-wing whiners:

Yale Law School students were upset that an accomplished conservative attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom came to campus recently.

But Professor Kate Stith gave them some advice according to the Yale Daily News: “Grow up.”

The March 10 protest, which included walking out of a speech by ADF attorney Kristen Waggoner, also included a question from a student who asked about “the price of a dead trans kid.”

Waggoner successfully represented Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker targeted by homosexual activists, in front of the Supreme Court. She is general counsel to ADF, which regularly wins in front of the Supreme Court.

Professor Stith demonstrated a view of free speech that was common during my formative years but is sorely lacking in academia today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

I Don't Care What Time Zone We Use, Let's Just Pick One And Stick To It

I'm so tired of changing the darned clocks twice a year.  There's no legitimate reason for it.  It's not 1917 anymore:

Holy cow: Is Congress about to make Daylight Saving Time permanent?

I'll admit I'd be surprised, but it would be a pleasant surprise.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Whose Children Are They?

The movie is in theaters today.

I have a long history on this blog of saying that children are not ours as teachers, they're their parents'.   If there's a conflict about some moral/ethical/philosophical belief that I think students should have and what belief their parents think they should have, there's no conflict--the parents win.  The kids are my students, they're not my children.

Not all teachers/administrators think that way:

Teachers at a school district in Wisconsin are being instructed to hide their students’ changing gender identities from parents on the grounds that “parents are not entitled to know,” and that it is “knowledge that must be earned,” according to leaked training documents.

The instruction was part of several recent staff development sessions for teachers in the Eau Claire Area School District in central Wisconsin that focused on safe spaces, gender identity, microaggressions, and oppression. According to one of the trainers, parents who disagree with their kids about gender identity issues are guilty of a form of “abuse.” The trainers also encouraged the teachers to be activists: “to vote, to demonstrate, to protest.”

I don't know about all of California, but this has been my district's policy for some time.  And it's a sick policy.

A Very Strange Experience

Today was our first day back at school without a mask requirement.  While the state, as well as our district, "strongly recommend" masks, such adornments are now an option and not a requirement.

Very few of my students wore them today--and what a strange experience!  I don't know how this works in my brain, but since August I've seen only my students' eyes and the tops of their heads.  I guess that somehow my brain "interpolated" or "guessed" what they looked like, and in many cases it was wrong--I saw many students' faces for the first time today, and for most of them the thought that came to mind was, "That's what you look like?"  There was one girl who, I kid you not, I would not have thought was someone in my class had she not been sitting in her assigned seat--that's how much she didn't look like I subconsciously assumed she would.


Sunday, March 13, 2022


Tomorrow we will no longer be required to wear masks (aka face diapers, aka submission muzzles) at school, and such political apparel will only be "strongly encouraged".

We have had at least one teacher send out an email about how he/she will segregate in the back of the classroom those students who choose not to wear masks, will not allow unmasked students to approach him/her to ask questions, etc.  It was a fairly militant email.  I have seen no emails, and heard no conversations, from us normal people about how any of us plan to harass students who still choose to wear masks.  At most, I might ask a quiet masked student to temporarily pull his/her mask down while speaking so I can read his/her lips, but that's far different from segregation and harassment.

We're being asked to "respect other people's choices", but where was that respect for the past 2 years?  Heck, even the White House, less than 3 months ago, joined in on the attack:

“For the unvaccinated,” he said, “you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.”

But now that the political science has changed, we have to be warned not to harass students who choose to wear masks.  Who would do that anyway?  I move in politically conservative circles at my school, and none of us are rude, or stupid, or angry enough to harass people for wearing masks.  You do you, as they say.

It would be nice if my school district administration were consistent and unbiased, but then again, I'm not one who believes in unicorns.

The following encapsulates my feelings on the subject:

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Fifty Years

In January/February of 1st Grade, I switched from living with one parent to the other.  I moved to a tiny house in North Highlands, California, in which a family of 6 of us eventually lived until moving when I was in 6th grade.

There was a boy who lived next door.  His parents are gone now, and he's since moved back into his childhood home.

As of a few weeks ago, he and I have known each other for 50 years now.

What Is The Proper Role of Government?

I go with the US Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

That's it.  The role of government is to secure your natural rights.

Lefties don't quite see it that way, according to the former US Attorney General:

“Under liberal democracy,” he writes, “it is not the role of the state to use its coercive power to remake man and society according to some abstract conception of perfection.” 

The modern left, the former attorney general concludes, has an “incipient totalitarian style” that is “poisoning America’s political life.” The left has adopted “the same kind of revolutionary and totalitarian ideas that propelled the French Revolution, the Communists of the Russian Revolution, and the Fascists of twentieth-century Europe.”

He's right on both points.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

One More Day

One more day of wearing face diapers in my district.  One nearby district is keeping their people in masks until Spring Break, and another nearby district disregarded the governor's suggestion/order and went masks-optional a couple weeks ago.

Everybody is no doubt following "the science".

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Move Over, Univision

There will soon be a Spanish-language conservative channel on SiriusXM, and will expand to streaming TV later this summer.  You can tell the lefties are afraid of its influence by the language they use to describe it:

First U.S. Spanish-language conservative network launches, opening a new front in the political information wars targeting Latinos.

As one commenter says:

Notice the language NBC chooses here. Conservatives are opening a “front” that is part of a “war” that “targets” Latinos. You won’t find this type of verbal hostility when the outreach is done by Progressives. Guaranteed.


Monday, March 07, 2022

Star Trek

Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard are bad.  They're bad Star Trek, and they're just plain bad tv.  I gave Discovery a chance, watching 2 seasons of it, but having a starship powered by magic mushrooms was just too ridiculous.  I haven't watched a single season of Picard; what I've read about it is bad enough.

We Star Trek fans are big on "canon", what "history" and events took place within the Star Trek universe.  These two latest shows, as well as the new cartoon Star Trek, should not be considered canon, they should be considered trash--and I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Sunday, March 06, 2022

One More Week of Coronavirus Theater...

...and then I'll be able to breathe real air instead of my recycled breath at work.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Flying Around The Moon

Part of me says "this is cool", another part says "big whoop":

NASA will let you send your name on a flight around the Moon – for FREE.

It’s the perfect treat for space fans who long to go to space…even if only in name.

The offer is to have your name saved on a flash drive as part of the upcoming Artemis I mission...

If you sign up, you’ll get access to a virtual boarding pass.

It will feature your name and the details of the flight.

And you’ll get a QR code that lets you join NASA launches as a virtual guest.  link

It doesn't do any harm, so there's that. 

Update:  OK, yeah, I did it:


Yes, this:

Thursday, March 03, 2022

It's Coming To Your School, Sooner Than You Think

Situations like this are only going to get more frequent for teachers:

The Virginia Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear a case brought by a Virginia high school teacher fired for refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns.

A lower court had dismissed Peter Vlaming’s complaint that his termination from West Point High School violated his constitutional rights.

Mr. Vlaming, who had taught French for seven years in the public school district east of Richmond, said he couldn’t in good conscience follow the superintendent’s order to call one of his transgender student by masculine pronouns. He agreed to refer to the student by a different name — as requested by the student — and he avoided using any pronouns while in the student’s presence...

Mr. Vlaming was placed on administrative leave in 2018 and fired in 2019 by the West Point School Board for not fully accommodating the teen.

The story did not go into detail about how the teacher did not fully accommodate the student, but I'd be most interested in those details. 

UpdateHere's some information from a 2019 CNN story about the teacher:

French teacher Peter Vlaming said he couldn’t “in good conscience” comply, citing his religious beliefs, according to the complaint. He consistently used the student’s preferred male name and attempted to avoid the use of any pronouns at all, his lawsuit says.

The school, according to the lawsuit, gave the teacher an ultimatum: Use the student’s preferred pronouns or lose your job. 

School officials suspended the teacher for insubordination. Vlaming was ultimately fired after he refused to use the male pronouns and for repeatedly ignoring orders from his bosses...

The decision to fire the teacher came after a virtual reality exercise in the classroom, where Vlaming called out, “Don’t let her hit the wall!” as the transgender student walked in that direction, the lawsuit states.

The student waited for all the students to leave class that day before approaching the teacher, the lawsuit says. 

“Mr. Vlaming, you may have your religion,” the student said, according to the suit, “but you need to respect who I am!”

Vlaming said it was an unintentional slip of the tongue.

School officials said the educator was insubordinate and failed to follow directives from administrators. And, officials said, the teacher could not be allowed to treat the transgender student differently.

“That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that,” Superintendent Laura Abel told the Richmond Times-Dispatch late last year. “The parent had expressed that. They felt disrespected.”

That is insubordination?  Sounds like a weak justification for firing to me.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Major Sacramento Newspaper Editorial Board Members Clutch Pearls About Ending Mask Mandates In Schools

It doesn't matter that the vast majority of the country has ended mask mandates.  It doesn't matter that most (all?) of California has ended mask mandates.  No, the major Sacramento newspaper editorial board thinks California's students should continue to breathe their exhaled breath for months to come:

Despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s insistence that “the latest data and science” continue to guide his COVID policy, his administration’s abandonment of school mask requirements this week amounted to a bare-faced concession to strident voices and shortsighted politics. In the name of defusing the governor’s loudest critics and appeasing those insisting on convenience over caution, the decision will leave teachers and schools vulnerable to the vagaries of the virus and students susceptible to still more educational deprivation...

Two weeks after the state’s broader indoor mask mandate expired, Newsom nevertheless announced this week that he would drop the requirement for schools and child care centers as of March 12. The administration’s position is a departure from that of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which advises Americans to wear masks in schools and other indoor locations in places with high coronavirus transmission, including a majority of California counties.

Despite the vocal minority disrupting school board meetings across the state, the administration is also at odds with most Californians. According to a recent poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, nearly two-thirds of the state’s voters support requiring masks in schools, with even greater support among Black and Latino Californians, who have been disproportionately sickened and killed by the virus.

Even the governor appeared to be having an argument with his own policy. Although the administration will no longer require masks in classrooms, it continues to “strongly recommend” them — a regrettable attempt to have it both ways and let others sort out the mess.

I can think of 3 times the governor has been known to flout his own mask mandates, the first being the French Laundry episode.  He clearly doesn't fear the 'rona, and neither do I, and I resent having to wear a face diaper just so that he can demonstrate his authority and others can demonstrate their ideological purity.

Too many Americans have been misled into mistaking minor public health precautions for an affront to their liberty and misconstruing selfishness as a fight for freedom. Our leaders should resist the urge to pander to such impulses and summon the courage to stand up for the well-being of the public and particularly the most vulnerable among us.

When freedom is a problem, that is a problem.  There are two types of people in the world:  those who want to tell others what to do, and those of us who just want to be left alone to live our lives.  We clearly see what type of people sit on this particular editorial board.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Eventually Getting Rid Of The Masks

California's governor, Gavin Newsollini, has said that March 12th is the date that schools can ditch face masks.  Not March 11th, not March 1st, but March 12th.  You know, because it's science.  Actually it's not science, it's science!, but whatever.

Yesterday my district put out this email, in which I redacted only the name of the district:

Good afternoon,

Today, state officials announced that face coverings will move from being required when indoors on school campuses to being strongly recommended after March 11. 

In alignment with this announcement, [district] will lift its current indoor face covering requirements at all [district] schools, offices and facilities on March 12, for all individuals regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings will still be strongly recommended for individuals on school campuses. 

Until March 12, all individuals will continue to be required to wear face coverings indoors on our campuses, regardless of vaccination status.

We recognize that there are a variety of very strong feelings regarding face coverings. For some individuals, relaxing these requirements will cause anxiety and stress while others will advocate for a more rapid move to only recommending masks. Throughout the pandemic, [district] has followed the guidance and advice of our public health and epidemiology experts and that is what we continue to do as we implement this change. The health and safety of our students, staff and community remains our priority and our investments in COVID-19 testing, mental health supports and availability of PPE will remain in place. 

We need your support as we make this transition. Please have patience with the situation and with each other during this transition period. We are all excited to help our students continue connecting and engaging while following evolving health and safety requirements.

Thank you for the flexibility you have demonstrated over the past two years in supporting our students and school communities.

We've already had teachers send out panicked emails, saying they're going to segregate masked vs unmasked students, saying that they might not be able to come to work, etc.  Insanity.

Important Symbols on Mexican Money

For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of travel is using another country's currency.  You can often learn what's important to a country by what they put on their money.

Outside of the Europeans, who put bridges and windows that don't even exist on their money, most countries put depictions on their money of objects or ideas they consider important.  Look at US money, both coins and currency--the people and objects on those coins (except for the back of the $1 bill and the dime) are fairly important to our history and culture.  Sure, I'd prefer to go back to the days when a representation of Liberty, rather than dead presidents, is on the face of our coins, but what is on our money mostly represents what is good in America.

In a few recent posts I've shown pictures of some of the monuments and history of Mexico.  They must be pretty important, because they've shown up on Mexican money over the years.

The most important of all Mexican symbols is the eagle, on a cactus, eating a snake.  This symbol dates back to the Aztecs!  It's the central image on the Mexican flag.  Here it is on a 20 peso note from 1914, during the Mexican Revolution:

 Here's a statue of it in the National History Museum, a statue that predates the note above:

And here's a modern 10-peso coin.  This image is on all current Mexican coins:

As I said, the symbol of the eagle on a cactus eating a snake comes from Aztec mythology surrounding the founding of their capital city at Tenochtitlan, today's Mexico City.  Also from Aztec lore was Cuauhtemoc, the final leader of the Aztecs who took over after Montezuma was killed by the Spanish.  Here's a monument to him in the Zocalo, the main square in the city:

My guess is that no one has any idea what he looked, because every representation of him looks different, but he made an appearance in 1950 on the 50-centavo coin:

Even though no one knows who built the pyramids at Teotihuacan (they're pre-Aztec), they still represent a strong national tie to the country's heritage.  Here's a picture I took of the Pyramid of the Sun last Tuesday:

And here's that same pyramid on a 20-centavo coin from 1970:


Here is a picture I took last week of the Monument to Independence:


The angel on top is just beautiful.

That monument appeared on a 1985 200-peso coin:

The monument also appeared on the reverse of the 1970 1-peso bill:

Lastly, the so-called Aztec Calendar.  No other object encapsulates "Aztec" more than the huge round stone, which we today know was not a calendar but was more of a "fighting arena" akin to a boxing ring.  It's proper name is the Stone of the Sun.  Here are two pictures of it that I took in the National Anthropology Museum:

It appeared on the 1970 1-peso bill:

The center part of the stone appears on today's 10-peso coin:

The Mexican people enjoy strong ties to their past, both pre-Columbian and post-independence.  Their pride as a people is both abundant and clear, as demonstrated over the years even on their money.