Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Do Shareholders Have Grounds To Sue?

You've no doubt heard about the recent problems Anheuser Busch, Target, Kohl's, and the LA Dodgers are having because of some biased and unpopular marketing decisions made recently.  Given the severe drops in value of the first 3 of those, I wondered today if the shareholders have grounds to sue the Boards of Directors for financial malfeasance.  Wouldn't life be a lot easier if this were the way things worked?

Imagine a beer company that just wanted to make good beer and sell it to you. Imagine if that company wanted to sell beer to everyone but didn’t feel that its job was to make you more accepting of transgender individuals, any more than it felt its job was to warn you about the national debt or teach you the value of standardized testing in public schools or warn you about North Korea’s intercontinental-missile program. Imagine a beer company that liked its existing customer base and didn’t feel a need to reeducate those customers and get them to give up their “fratty, kind of out-of-touch humor.”

Imagine an everything store like Target that wanted everyone to shop there, but that had the good sense to realize that partnering with a brand that had “Satanist-inspired merchandise” was not the way to win over shoppers in a country that is still roughly two-thirds Christian. (Also note that almost every faith has a devil figure, so there’s no reason to think non-Christian religious customers are big fans of Satanic branding, either.) You want to put rainbows and “PRIDE” on your merchandise, go right ahead. It’s a free country. But if you partner up with a “Satan Respects Pronouns”* designer, don’t be shocked when lots of people choose to shop elsewhere.

Imagine a sports team that declared everyone was welcome but didn’t formally and publicly roll out the welcome mat for the quasi-pornographic Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. (Is the promotion worth it if you’re alienating your team’s star pitcher?) Last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers led Major League Baseball in attendance; with the exception of 2020, the Dodgers have led MLB in attendance for the past nine seasons. Marketing the Dodgers in Los Angeles is like marketing water in the desert. The Dodgers don’t need to reach out to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence fanbase; they’re choosing to reach out, because someone in the organization likes that message. The irony is that a significant chunk of the attending fans, as well as the players, are Christian.

Hey, does any gay-rights group want to dress up as Muslim imams? Nah? Okay. We know the score. It’s safe to pick on Catholics, because Catholics are going to turn the other cheek and ignore you or offer mild protest. Dress up in drag to mock Muslims and there’s a good chance you’ll get firebombed. We saw this with the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, we saw this with the Muhammad cartoons, we saw this with Charlie Hebdo magazine over in France, and we see it now. What those who enjoy mocking Christianity ought to fear is the day that certain Christians look at the Muslims and realize intimidation, threats, and violence are an effective way to make their faith un-mockable. American society is perfectly okay with threats of violence in response to blasphemous speech, but we only tolerate it for certain faiths. There are good reasons to doubt that double standard is sustainable.

As Michael Jordan probably didn't really say but the quote still gets attributed to him, "Even Republicans buy shoes."  Just sell your product and make money.

Update, 6/21/23Did I call it?

Corporations that wrecked their images in woke marketing campaigns could pay a price for decisions that cost shareholders money.

On May 30, America First Legal took to Twitter on a fishing expedition looking for disgruntled shareholders who have seen their investments flow down the drain faster than a barrel of Bud Light since the beer’s embrace of transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney led to a weeks-long boycott that shows no sign of stopping.

“ATTENTION: Are you a shareholder of @Target @Kohls @abinbev, or other companies that are promoting transgender, LGBTQ and PRIDE products and diminishing shareholder value? We want to hear from you,” the law firm posted...

Newsweek wrote that the strategy appears to be to sue the companies over decisions that led to massive stock declines.

Now I Understand The Appeal

I've seen lots of articles about "Such and such a study proves conservatives are horrible people" or whatever nutjob belief the study or article's author wants to spread about conservatives, as if we're all something besides mostly correct.  So imagine my surprise when I read about a study showing lefties are horrible people...not that you need a study for that, of course, just look at the results of their policies.  But I digress:

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Psychology reports that liberals are as nutty as a porta potty on the last day of a peanut convention...

Leftists aren’t frothing from the mouth crazy, but when you put it all together, leftists are self-absorbed liars who direct and move opinions to match their own. They are also heartless, without a conscience. They make knee-jerk opinions and never look at the long-term effects of the policies they support and are misanthropic.

I've long said that "We conservatives think lefties are wrong, lefties think we conservatives are evil."  What if I've been wrong all along, and lefties are more than just wrong, but are in fact evil?  This study seems to support that!

I never bought into the "conservatives are evil" so-called studies, and I'm not going to buy into this "lefties are evil" study, either (although their policies are patently evil).  But I can see the draw of such studies for people incapable of thinking for themselves:  they have the imprimatur of science! behind them, and they can give people a brief sense of superiority over "the other".  Fun times.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Seniors Are Gone

Today was Senior Checkout Day at school, and my 6th period class had only 2 remaining students.  What shall I do with them?

A couple weeks ago one of them asked if we were going to learn anything about investing in the stock market.  I spent a week on that last semester, but these 2 students weren't in the class last semester.  

Today we started with the basics:  what is a stock, what is a broker, how does one purchase stocks, how does one read financial information about stock performance, and what is a mutual fund.  With just the 3 of us it was a very involved conversation, and at the end of the period one of them said, "that time feels like it went by in 5 minutes."  I'll call that a victory.

What are we going to do tomorrow?  We'll cover the different "sectors" of stocks, and then I'll let them play at finding companies in each sector.

What will we do on "final exam day", given that they already took the final with all the seniors?  I assume they'll get sick *cough* *cough* and call mommy to go home.  If not, I'll come up with something.

Monday, May 29, 2023

When Taxpayers Pay For Unions

Unions are private organizations and should not be subsidized by taxpayers:

California is a hotbed of toxic policy ideas, yet Michigan and Delaware seem to think it sets an example: Both states recently proposed California-like tax credits for union dues, which, in effect, force taxpayers to subsidize Democratic candidates and policies.

Last fall, the Golden State’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill forcing California taxpayers to pay up to $400 million of public and private employees’ union dues via tax-credit subsidies...

Edward Capodanno, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors Delaware, blasts the legislation as unfair because it favors a specific group.

His association is lobbying against it, correctly arguing that employees at many companies pay membership dues to business organizations and trade associations but don’t get a similar tax credit.

How can you convince a leftie this is wrong, and simultaneously show that Democrats are bad and that Republicans don't do the same thing when they have power?  Point out that no Republican-controlled state requires payment to the NRA.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Import/Export

California already imports a significant amount of its energy and exports a significant amount of its waste and pollution, but how long can it remain solvent when it exports its jobs?

If there is a similar list of companies that have packed up and moved to California, I'd genuinely like to see it.

Update, 5/31/23Here's another one.

Can Spoken Language Make Math Easier Or More Difficult?

While I have an affinity for the belief that the way a language expresses numbers can make mathematics either easier or harder, the logical part of my brain cautions skepticism.

Examples:  in English we say "twenty-one", the German number translates to "one and twenty", and Chinese translates to "two-ten-one".  Sure, the concept of place value is most obvious in the Chinese expression, but absent strong evidence I have to believe that any benefit is short-lived.

Welsh numbers are presented in the same way as Chinese numbers, and a researcher found the following:

Dowker's findings were nuanced. She found, for instance, that six-year-olds who spoke Welsh at home and school made fewer errors when reading aloud pairs of two-digit numbers. They were also better able to point out which was the bigger of the two, compared to those who spoke English. "There was a significant advantage," she says.

However, these benefits didn't seem to translate to advantages in other measures of general mathematical ability. For this reason, Dowker concludes that the effects of language on numerical ability are subtle and specific rather than large and "pervasive". She certainly doesn't believe that linguistic transparence, alone, could explain why East Asian countries tend to be placed higher in educational league tables.

Cross-country comparisons within Europe support this position. Consider German, which shares many of the irregularities seen in English, including the inversion of certain numbers. Forty-five, for example is f├╝nfundvierzig in German (five-and-forty). Some studies suggest that inversion confuses German children as they learn to write numbers as digits. (Hearing f├╝nfundvierzig they might write 54, for example.) But that doesn't seem to hold them back for long. "Germany does rather well in international comparisons," says Dowker.

"Nuanced" seems to be an apt description for advantages that are short-lived.

Then there are fractions:

Even if the influence of language does not extend to the whole of mathematics, emerging evidence suggests it might extend to a handful of skills beyond counting. So far, there is some evidence that language may affect how quickly children learn to use fractions. "When thinking about fractions, we have to look at the big part first and then see how much of that is in the numerator," explains Jimin Park at the University of Minnesota, whose PhD thesis concerns the linguistic representation of fractions.  (Who says the bigger part is in the denominator?--Darren)

In Korean, this relationship is explicitly spelled out. The term for 1/3 is sam bun ui il, which translates as "of three parts, one", and 3/7 is chil bun-ul sam, which translates as "of seven parts, three" – where the English terms "one third" or "three sevenths" do not make this so immediately obvious. And this seems to give young Korean children a slight advantage in matching named fractions to diagrams illustrating the quantity, before they have even been taught formal lessons in the idea. "When they have to verbally understand fractions, the Korean children definitely benefit," says Park. Intriguingly, when English children are taught to describe fractions with the Korean style of phrasing, it does seem to improve their intuitive understanding of the quantities.

Does the Korean method help understand fractions like 5/4?  I wonder.

I understand that teaching children to read Finnish is easier, and hence takes less time, than does teaching children to read English.  It might take less time, but no one is suggesting we all switch to Finnish, and those of us adults who can read English are at no disadvantage relative to those who read Finnish.  Thus, the Finns had a small, temporary advantage that disappears over time, which I assert is probably the same as math issues described above.

There Should Be A Reckoning

Even if it's nothing more than a South Africa-type "Truth and Reconciliation Commission", the purpose of which was to expose the injustices of apartheid for all to see, we deserve more than we're likely to get:

A global consensus has emerged that governmental responses to covid-19, which mainly involved shutdowns, limitations on mobility and other aspects of freedom, mask mandates, and vaccination requirements, did an enormous amount of harm. The issue is sometimes posed in terms of whether governments’ responses did more damage than the epidemic did. But that isn’t actually the right question. The epidemic happened. The question is whether the epidemic + government restrictions on freedom was better or worse than the epidemic alone would have been. And the answer is, worse. The net effect of government responses was catastrophically bad...

The analysis synthesizes 600 publications with a focus on meta-analyses, systematic reviews, global reports and multi-country studies. This cumulative academic research shows that the collateral damage of the pandemic response was substantial, wide-ranging and will leave behind a legacy of harm for hundreds of millions of people in the years ahead. Many original predictions are broadly supported by the research data including: a rise in non-Covid excess mortality, mental health deterioration, child abuse and domestic violence, widening global inequality, food insecurity, lost educational opportunities, unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, social polarization, soaring debt, democratic backsliding and declining human rights. Young people, individuals and countries with lower socioeconomic status, women and those with pre-existing vulnerabilities were hit hardest.

Some have called for Fauci and others to be criminally prosecuted, but I am not aware of any basis for such action. I do think, however, that we need a political accounting. Those who used covid as an excuse to exercise essentially fascistic powers, like Newsom, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, and Minnesota’s Tim Walz, should be humiliated and driven from office. But so far, that isn’t happening.

Update, 5/29/23:  Yes, a Truth and Reconciliation-type commission is certainly called for:

The petty tyrants and their lies have been so thoroughly exposed that they are now in full consequence avoidance mode. The first thing that leftists like to do when ducking responsibility is to rewrite history and pretend that none of it happened. Tyrannical garden gnome and alleged physician Anthony Fauci repeatedly insists that he didn’t want anything shut down. Randi Weingarten — the most evil woman in America — swears that she and the cauldron-stirring teachers’ union she runs never tried to keep schools closed.

Update, 5/31/23More:

So all of that unpleasantness is simply disappearing from medical journals and research archives. And the media would like us all to pretend that it never happened. But it did happen. And if we don’t learn anything from all of this, it will happen again when the next pandemic inevitably comes along. The need for speed must be moderated by adhering to proven practices from the past. And if you’re trusting the government to deal with you honestly and fairly based on the best available science rather than “The Science,” I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in purchasing.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Well, There Goes My Retirement

As long as the crazy lefties in California pay for the retirement they've promised me, I guess I shouldn't care what silliness they do--but they won't be able to pay me if they keep up silliness like this:

The California State Senate has passed legislation that would require the state’s two powerful public employee pension funds to stop investing in fossil fuel companies. It would also force them to liquidate close to $15 billion in holdings to aid the nation’s transition to clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas production.

The bill, SB 252, would prohibit the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS, and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, or CalSTRS, from making or renewing investments in the 200 largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies beginning Jan. 1.

By July 1, 2031, both funds would have to liquidate investments in those 200 companies, which are defined by the carbon content in their proven oil, gas and coal reserves. Because of underground reserves, companies on the list of 200 are deemed to have the most potential for future emissions if enabled by investment capital.

The bill next must be approved by the state Assembly and then signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Supporters say they are confident both will happen.

Friday, May 26, 2023

The Annual Post About Graduation Ceremony Attire

I doubt Native Americans held high school graduations, so no, this isn’t going against their culture.  They can wear whatever they want when they have their own celebrations. 

Why don’t they complain when football players don’t wear a feather in their uniforms?  Because football is important.

I’m against turning graduation ceremonies into free-for-alls and costume parties:

She won. Her graduating senior son can wear representative tribal wear at his Elk Grove high school ceremony Tuesday, but she objects to what she views as an unnecessary fight to allow him to do so. 

So her fight goes on. 

Jessica Lopez objected to school officials initially rejecting her son Louie’s desire to represent his Maidu culture at his Pleasant Grove High School ceremony at Golden 1 Center because school policy barred the adornment of graduation garb with other items. After legal threats, the school has reversed course, and her son will wear an eagle feather representing his Maidu heritage. 

Lopez, a past Maidu tribal chairwoman, said despite that outcome, she and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California are demanding the district end its graduation dress policy and allow its indigenous students to wear tribal regalia without schools’ pre-approvals, calling the rule “flagrantly unlawful.”

It's for reasons like this that I haven't attended or volunteered to work at my school's graduation exercises in many, many years.  They've become parties that I'm not interested in attending.

Update:  She could wear the feather in this Colorado district, but cannot wear a sash:

According to the order, Garfield County School District 16, in the western part of the state, had indicated that sashes or cords worn during graduation typically represent membership in a nationally recognized organization; other distinctions such as class honors; future military service; or “regalia that is part of a Native American or Pacific Islander tribe.” Additionally, the school district’s policy says “(i)t is appropriate” to decorate a cap with the “flag of a country as recognized by the United Nations,” the order said. 

In her ruling, Wang said that a student wearing regalia at graduation sends a message that the school approves, so it “qualifies as school-sponsored speech, at least for the duration of the ceremony.” The district insisted that standardized attire was required to create a message of unity, a concern that the judge deemed legitimate.

The judge also pointed out that the district’s policy would have permitted Villasano to reproduce the design of the sash on her graduation cap, and would have allowed her to wear the sash before and after the ceremony.

“While Naomi may prefer to wear the sash during the graduation ceremony, the Court respectfully agrees with the School District and concludes that Naomi will not suffer irreparable injury by having to express her culture in a form other than the sash,” Wang wrote.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

NAACP and Florida

So the NAACP has warned black Americans not to travel to Florida because the state is hostile to them.  Two points in opposition can be made.

First, the head of the NAACP lives in Tampa:

NAACP board of directors chairman Leon W. Russell pushed back against criticism for his organization's travel advisory for Black people in the state of Florida while he himself lives in the Tampa Bay area...

Florida Republican Party chairman Christian Ziegler pointed out that Russell’s Twitter account shows that he currently lives in the Tampa Bay area.

Ziegler commented on the apparent hypocrisy and offered to pay for Russell to leave the state:

"The CHAIRMAN of the @NAACP lives in Tampa, FLORIDA! True leadership is being willing to do what you ask others to do… time to step up and MOVE. If you think our state is so bad, the @FloridaGOP will help with moving costs."

I like the cut of this Ziegler fellow's jib.

Second, Florida has the 2nd highest number of black-owned businesses in the country:

Despite Florida being one of the best states for black business owners, the NAACP has decided the state is irredeemably racist, and has issued a travel advisory against it.

The NAACP points to several of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s policies — including recent legislation to prohibit colleges from spending public funds on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts — and the state’s “seeming quest to silence African-American voices” as examples of “the hostility towards African Americans in Florida.”

Donna Jackson, the director of membership development for the Project 21 black leadership network, is having none of this.  She says:

While the NAACP claims to represent the interest of black and brown people, it certainly doesn’t consider the financial interest of these same Americans.

The NAACP issued a travel advisory claiming the new DeSantis law is racist and harms black Americans. However, it failed to mention in its statement that Florida ranks number two for black-owned businesses.

That being the case, I think the NAACP is more concerned with its elite white liberal donors than it is with the financial prosperity of African Americans who will be negatively impacted the most by its travel ban.

According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, there are more than 250,000 black-owned businesses in Florida which collectively employ 77,136 Floridians and represent an annual payroll of $2.63 billion. That ranks it as the state with the second-most black-owned businesses in the country.

Follow the money.  Ms. Jackson could not be more correct.

And there's plenty of other commentary at the link.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

In Honor of Tina Turner's Passing

This is my favorite video of Tina Turner, performing It's Only Love with Bryan Adams.  There's so much energy and raw sexual tension on that stage....

(Note: I seem at least temporarily unable to embed YouTube videos here, hence the link.)

Update, 5/26/23:  Here's the video.


 

Cell Phones and Kids

Too many parents were (and some still are) willing to mask their kids for years for a minimal threat but completely ignore the science telling them about the threat from cell phones:

“The younger the age of getting the first smartphone, the worse the mental health the young adult reports today,” writes Jon Haidt, citing a survey of 28,000 young adults around the world. 

Reingold talked to Nicholas Kardaras, who authored a book on tech addiction. He treats young adults with screen addictions at the Omega Recovery center in Austin, Texas. Often "influencers" have persuaded them they have Tourette syndrome, borderline personality disorder or gender dysphoria. When they go offline, escaping the “social contagion,” their symptoms disappear.

 Update:  More here.

The ACLU Has Lost Its Way

In reading a post about California's losing another legal case, there was this dig about the ACLU:

Though the first amendment of the Bill of Rights is quite clear, that government cannot restrict the religious rights of citizens or churches, DMHC, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU teamed up to write regulations to do exactly that, and they did it outside the legislative process. Brianna Pittman, Planned Parenthood’s legislative advocate, repeatedly suggested DMHC come up with “an administrative solution, in lieu of legislation,” and DMHC officials immediately agreed, arranging a meeting with both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU in order to create the mandate.

That the ACLU was part of this process only illustrates once again how corrupted with politics that so-called free speech non-profit legal firm has become. Once, it stood firmly defending the first amendment in all cases. Now it conspires with others to nullify that first amendment, if it disagrees with the politics of those targeted.

Maybe they agreed with those Nazis in Skokie.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Stop Asian Hate

I have nothing to add to what Instapundit has already said:

LIFE IN THE BLUE ZONES: No prison time for black man who set Asian Berkeley students on fire with homemade blowtorch: Prosecutor funded by George Soros gets criminal sent to ‘diversion program.’

Remember all the “Stop Asian Hate” posturing? That went away when people started pointing out where the violence was coming from.

If A 9th Grader Can Take A College Course

Are there not enough community college students?

California’s incoming community colleges chancellor, Sonya Christians, doesn’t officially step into her new role until June 1, but she has an urgent agenda: enrolling every ninth grader in a college course.

Right now, just 6% of California students take a college course through dual enrollment in their first year of high school. The time is now, Christian said, to make sure that all 436,192 of the state’s eighth graders will be automatically enrolled in a college course next fall.

“Can we do this? We must. We must,” Christian said. “We can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Christian made this urgent call to action earlier this month at the first Dual Enrollment Equity Conference, an event that brought 450 dual enrollment advocates and educators from California’s K-12 and college systems to Bakersfield. What she calls her “ninth grade strategy” is emblematic of the type of work she expects to push during her tenure as the next chancellor.

If a 9th grader can take and pass a college course, the course is probably too easy to be considered a college-level course.  Of course, those who preach equity equity equity don't think black and brown skinned kids can compete academically with white and Asian kids, which is why they want standards lowered.

Textbook Standards

California governor Gavin Newsollini is such a petty little man:

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom is demanding records from textbook publishers to determine if they have changed any content used in California’s schools to comply with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education laws.

The DeSantis’ administration has enacted several laws in the past year prohibiting Critical Race Theory (CRT) and certain lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation from K-12 classrooms. In addition to the textbook companies records, Newsom’s office sent a public records request Saturday to DeSantis’ office and the Florida Department of Education (DOE) asking for all communications between the governor’s administration and the textbook publishers relating to revisions made to content to ensure compliance with the Florida education laws.

If the books don't comply with California's standards, they shouldn't be purchased in California.  If they do comply with California's standards, what is Newsollini trying to accomplish?

Monday, May 22, 2023

Grading By Race

To be honest, I've been expecting this for quite some time:

The ongoing efforts to implement diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in higher education might soon include naming and shaming professors who tend to give lower grades to minority students, one scholar warned.

Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at University of Queensland and professor emeritus at Florida State University, published an op-ed titled “Fighting Systemic Racism on Campus” on May 10 in Psychology Today.

“Make sure your current grading practices are consistent with prevailing social justice expectations at your institution. Once a university algorithm labels you a racist, it will be difficult to shed that label,” Baumeister wrote.

Baumeister argued grade disparities between black students and their peers could be the result of racial bias on the part of professors, or simply be construed as such; with that, should grading data be made public, black students may “avoid” professors who give lower grades to minorities and scholars may be labeled racists.

“Supremely valuable to them would be information about how to avoid the worst traps and pitfalls, such as apparently racist professors who may mark them down based simply on their race,” Baumeister wrote.

Baumeister also asserted it appears “hypocritical” for professors to claim that disparities in outcome between races are the result of discrimination, while issuing disparate grades to racial groups.

All this would do is condemn an entire race of students to academic, and perhaps career, mediocrity.  If you wanted to convince people that black and brown people aren't smart enough to compete against Asians and whites, you could do no better than to advocate for such a policy as this.

And if you think that this isn't coming to K-12 in the very near future, you're being somewhat struthious.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

I Don't Support Vandalism, But...

...this was a stupid decision.  Any lefties want to claim that people without any voice in the decision are just lashing out in order to be heard?

Boys don't menstruate, so it's silly and ridiculous to put tampons and other female products in their bathrooms. Transgender activists have been pushing for this for years, though, because it helps spread the gender ideology cult, particularly among young people.

But the boys at Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, Oregon, want you to know that they are not going to put up with it:

Saturday, May 20, 2023

150 Years

About a week ago I was putting on some jeans, and on the Levi's "patch" is a date.  Turns out that on May 20, 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patented the first blue jeans with copper rivets.

Happy 150th anniversary, Levi's.

How Dare You.

Grumpy Greta explains hyperbole as "metaphor" and admits there's no scientific study she read to justify her claims.  Just sayin'.

Friday, May 19, 2023

History

Makes sense to me:

 

"History is not there for you to like or dislike.  It is there for you to learn from it.  And if it offends you, even better.  Because then you are less likely to repeat it.  It's not yours to erase.  It belongs to all of us."

Moral Rot In Canada

I've written before (1, 2, 3, 4) about doctor-assisted suicide in Canada, and how those eligible have gone from "people with a terminal illness" to "people it's not convenient to keep around":

Canada’s National Post on Tuesday published the results of a poll that show nearly a third of Canadians believe assisted suicide should be offered to homeless people who are weary of their lives.

A fifth of the respondents said Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) should be offered as an option to anyone, regardless of medical or psychological condition.

The poll, conducted by a public opinion firm called Research Co. founded by noted Canadian pollster Mario Canseco, looks like the rapidly approaching bottom of a slippery slope that began when Canada became one of the few countries to legalize assisted suicide for non-medical reasons in 2021.

What has happened to that once-proud people?

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Felonies

There's a push under way to "ban the box", to prohibit employers, and now colleges, from asking if an applicant has committed a felony:

In an April 28 post on "Homeroom," the official blog of the Department of Education (ED), ED called on schools to remove the criminal background question from admissions.

"This Second Chance Month ... ED calls upon institutions across the country to re-examine their admissions and student service policies and holistically determine how they can better serve and support current and formerly incarcerated students. We call on you to ban the box," ED urged.

The “ban the box" slogan alluded to a campaign started by the civil rights group All of Us or None in 2004 which aims to remove questions asking about prior criminal convictions from employment application materials.

I understand the sentiment, but let's not be simpleminded about this.  Employers and schools would be negligent if they didn't prevent certain types of people from being on site.  Should a financial firm hire a white collar criminal?  Should universities have violent sex offenders on campus?  Should grand theft not be a consideration for certain types of jobs?  Drug trafficking offenses?

The people pushing this silliness would not deign to work around convicted felons, but they expect us to.  They're the worst type of hypocrites.

Update, 5/20/23Another view:

Asking college applicants about their criminal history can have mixed results for colleges looking to reduce racial bias, experts say.

Though higher education experts recommend colleges refrain from asking applicants about their criminal history to avoid bias, some scholars suggest the policy may backfire because admissions officials might falsely assume applicants of color have a criminal record.

What?  All those DIE-loving university administrators might assume dark-skinned students are bad?  Perish the thought! 

Economists Jennifer Doleac of Texas A&M University and Benjamin Hansen of the University of Oregon made similar point in a July 2016 paper titled “The Unintended Consequences of ‘Ban the Box’: Statistical Discrimination and Employment Outcomes When Criminal Histories Are Hidden.”

“Their goal is to improve employment outcomes for those with criminal records, with a secondary goal of reducing racial disparities in employment,” the paper argued. “However, removing criminal history information could increase statistical discrimination against demographic groups that include more ex-offenders.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

A Reminder About California's Math Framework

I'd like to pretend that that disaster has disappeared, but it still hangs over math education like the Sword of Damocles:

California’s proposed math curriculum framework has ignited a ferocious debate, touching off a revival of the 1990s math wars and attracting national media attention. Early drafts of the new framework faced a firestorm of criticism, with opponents charging that the guidelines sacrificed accelerated learning for high achievers in a misconceived attempt to promote equity.

The new framework, first released for public comment in 2021, called for all students to take the same math courses through 10th grade, a “detracking” policy that would effectively end the option of 8th graders taking algebra. A petition signed by nearly 6,000 STEM leaders argued that the framework “will have a significant adverse effect on gifted and advanced learners.” Rejecting the framework’s notions of social justice, an open letter with over 1,200 signatories, organized by the Independent Institute, accused the framework of “politicizing K–12 math in a potentially disastrous way” by trying “to build a mathless Brave New World on a foundation of unsound ideology.”

About once every eight years, the state of California convenes a group of math educators to revisit the framework that recommends how math will be taught in the public schools. The current proposal calls for a more conceptual approach toward math instruction, deemphasizing memorization and stressing problem solving and collaboration. After several delays, the framework is undergoing additional edits by the state department of education and is scheduled for consideration by the state board of education for approval sometime in 2023.

It's a lengthy article, heavy on details.  Subsections are entitled Historical Context, Addition and Multiplication Facts, Standard Algorithms, Research Cited By The Framework, Research Omitted By The Framework, and Bumpy Road Ahead.  Great information.

I want to comment here on just one point, the memorization of addition and multiplication facts.  I've long believed this, but now there's research to back up what has always been obvious to me:

Fluency in mathematics usually refers to students’ ability to perform calculations quickly and accurately. The Common Core mathematics standards call for students to know addition and multiplication facts “from memory,” and the California math standards expect the same. The task of knowing basic facts in subtraction and division is made easier by those operations being the inverse, respectively, of addition and multiplication. If one knows that 5 + 6 = 11, then it logically follows that 11 – 6 = 5; and if 8 × 9 = 72, then surely 72 ÷ 9 = 8.

Cognitive psychologists have long pointed out the value of automaticity with number facts—the ability to retrieve facts immediately from long-term memory without even thinking about them. Working memory is limited; long-term memory is vast. In that way, math facts are to math as phonics is to reading. If these facts are learned and stored in long-term memory, they can be retrieved effortlessly when the student is tackling more-complex cognitive tasks. In a recent interview, Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, observed, “I visited a school in the Bronx a few months ago, and they were working on exponent properties like: two cubed, to the seventh power. So, you multiply the exponents, and it would be two to [the] 21st power. But the kids would get out the calculator to find out three times seven.” Even though they knew how to solve the exponent exercise itself, “the fluency gap was adding to the cognitive load, taking more time, and making things much more complex.”

So what's the problem?

California’s proposed framework mentions the words “memorize” and “memorization” 27 times, but all in a negative or downplaying way. For example, the framework states: “In the past, fluency has sometimes been equated with speed, which may account for the common, but counterproductive, use of timed tests for practicing facts. . . . Fluency is more than the memorization of facts or procedures, and more than understanding and having the ability to use one procedure for a given situation.” (All framework quotations here are from the most recent public version, a draft presented for the second field review, a 60-day public-comment period in 2022.)

The bottom line for cognitive load is, if you're spending all your brainpower on simple arithmetic calculations, you're not going to have any brainpower left over for using the results of those calculations.  Why not just let a calculator do those arithmetic calculations, then?  Because if you don't understand that 3*4=12, then you won't understand why 4*3=12, or why 1/4 of 12 is 3, or why 1/3 of 12 is 4.  The addition and multiplication facts have to be memorized, or anything after that will be so much tougher.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

A Teachable Moment That Slipped Away

Neither the students nor the teacher acted appropriately in this situation:

A Grafton, Wisconsin, middle school teacher allegedly made terroristic threats to his students after he discovered students had drawn swastikas on a notebook found in his class, according to reports.

On May 12, police were dispatched to John Long Middle School after a report of a teacher making threats about guns and harming students, Fox 6 in Milwaukee reported.

When police arrived, they spoke with the school principal who said David Schroeder reported finding a notebook with a swastika on it in the classroom. Then, two days later, the teacher saw two students in possession of a drawing with swastikas on it.

A student claimed Schroeder confronted the class about the drawing and said it was inappropriate before telling them, "I wish pain on all of you and your families."

The student also said the teacher threatened to have his daughter visit the pupils’ homes with a baseball bat, adding that "all Jews have guns." Schroeder also allegedly told the student he had 17 guns in his basement.

Honestly, I don't know that middle schoolers today truly understand the depravity of the Nazis.  Sure, they know calling someone a "nazi" is a bad term, but they probably don't understand much about what the Nazis did to earn having their identification turned into one of the worst pejoratives around.

I'm told that, for a variety of reasons, kids don't learn today what I learned in elementary school.  I was in 5th grade only 30 years after that war--for a sense of relative time, today we're further away from Gulf War I (Iraq/Kuwait) than my 5th grade class was from World War 2.  I remember watching WW2 movies in 5th grade, I remember the bulldozers' pushing nameless heaps of naked Jewish bodies into mass graves.  And 5th grade wasn't the first time I saw such movies.  Think about it, when I was in 5th grade the people who served in WW2 were younger than I am today--and I'm quite the spry fellow.  They wanted us to know, it was important to them that we understood.

I also remember learning about Jet magazine's coverage of Emmett Till.

In my little suburban elementary school in the poor part of town, built on grounds that had previously been a temporary detention center for Japanese-Americans during World War 2, we learned the ugly truths of history.  There was no white-washing, there was no cover-up, but neither was there guilt for something we hadn't done.  We were taught the evils that had preceded us as a way to ensure they could never happen again.

Has today's extreme sensitivity, no doubt in the name of protecting students from "trauma", caused students not to be able to learn the past's lessons as my generation did?  I wonder.

So perhaps the middle school boys in the story above just weren't as educated as they could have been.  Or perhaps they were just middle school boys being middle school boys--a thought that doesn't conjure up images of intelligence, maturity, or empathy.  Either way, and neither option is ideal, the teacher lost the opportunity of a "teachable moment" and completely lost his cool.

And no one is better off because of it.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Am I What's Wrong With Education In California?

One of the complaints lodged against me this year is that I don't inflate grades enough.  Seriously.  The parent actually said that if I don't artificially inflate grades like everyone else does, I'm doing a disservice to my students.  That parent's words, not mine.  It doesn't matter that, over time, I'm sure the standards of my courses have eroded somewhat; no, I have to do that and ensure that the most common grade given in a class is a B.  

Seriously, that's what the parent said.  Several times.  To me and to school and district administrators.

There's a lot that's wrong with education in California, but somehow I doubt I'm the problem:

No issue is more pressing in California than education. In late October, the state released scores for the first post-Covid-shutdown state standardized test, conducted earlier last year. The results were horrendous. Less than half of all students who took the Smarter Balanced test—47.1 percent—met the state standard in English language arts, down 4 percentage points from 2018–19. One-third of students met the standard in math, down 6.5 percentage points. Only 16 percent of black students and 9.7 percent of English learners met standards in math.

Not only did test scores plummet; the state’s chronic absenteeism rate has also skyrocketed. The no-show rate leapt from 14.3 percent in 2020–21 to 30 percent in 2021–22. (California defines chronic absenteeism as students missing 10 percent of the days they were enrolled for any reason.) But amazingly, during the 2021–22 school year, data showed that the state’s four-year high school graduation rate climbed to 87 percent, up from 83.6 percent in 2020–21.

How is this possible?

No, I don't think test scores are plummeting because I refuse to lower standards at an even faster rate than those around me. 

According to World Population Review, California now leads the country in illiteracy. In fact, 23.1 percent of Californians over age 15 cannot read this sentence. While some of this poor showing is due to a huge influx of migrants from California’s porous southern border, much of the blame falls on the state’s failing public schools.

California seems in no rush to correct these educational shortcomings.

No, too many in California have far more important issues to address: 

What if I offered you a retroactive 10% pay raise covering this year, a $5,000 signing bonus, and a 22% pay raise starting next year?

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

It’s not enough for the Oakland Education Association, the teachers union in Oakland, California, however. In addition to extremely generous financial concessions, the OEA is also demanding “common good” goals be included in the union contract, including measures on climate change, shared governance with the school board, and reparations for black students. 

Yeah, pretty sure my attempts to teach, and to hold students accountable to learn, are not the big problems in California education. 

(Full disclosure:  I serve with Larry Sand, the author of the first linked article, on the board of directors of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.)

Sunday, May 14, 2023

I Can't Imagine How Anyone Thought Any Differently

Yet they did.  You can think some pretty stupid things when your thinking is tribal, and the 'rona nazis were the most tribal of them all:

Evidence continues to mount that mask mandates were perhaps the worst public-health intervention in modern American history. While concluding that wearing masks “probably makes little or no difference” in preventing the spread of viruses, a recent Cochrane review also emphasized that “more attention should be paid to describing and quantifying the harms” that may come from wearing masks. A new study from Germany does just that, and it suggests that the excess carbon dioxide breathed in by mask-wearers may have substantial ill-effects on their health—and, in the case of pregnant women, their unborn children’s.

Mask-wearers breathe in greater amounts of air that should have been expelled from their bodies and released out into the open. “[A] significant rise in carbon dioxide occurring while wearing a mask is scientifically proven in many studies,” write the German authors. “Fresh air has around 0.04% CO2,” they observe, while chronic exposure at CO2 levels of 0.3 percent is “toxic.” How much CO2 do mask-wearers breathe in? The authors write that “masks bear a possible chronic exposure to low level carbon dioxide of 1.41–3.2% CO2 of the inhaled air in reliable human experiments.”

In other words, while eight times the normal level of carbon dioxide is toxic, research suggests that mask-wearers (specifically those who wear masks for more than 5 minutes at a time) are breathing in 35 to 80 times normal levels.

Yeah, and they said I was the one who wanted to kill grandma.

Of All The Reasons For A Strike...

If you're going to go on strike, it should be over pay, benefits, and/or working conditions.  Anything else is just foolish:

Furious parents marched their children across picket lines of striking teachers in Oakland, California, on Friday on the seventh day of a strike in which teachers are demanding reparations for slavery, among other demands.

Even Governor Newsollini is backing away from slavery reparations:

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declined to endorse the cash payments — which could reach as high as $1.2 million for a single recipient — recommended by his reparations task force, telling Fox News Digital that dealing with the legacy of slavery "is about much more than cash payments." 

"The Reparations Task Force’s independent findings and recommendations are a milestone in our bipartisan effort to advance justice and promote healing. This has been an important process, and we should continue to work as a nation to reconcile our original sin of slavery and understand how that history has shaped our country," Newsom said in a statement to Fox News Digital. 

It'll be quite "healing" when people who were never slaves are told they're "entitled" to $1.2 million from a state that never allowed slavery, and then they don't get the money.

Race hustling should have no place in American politics, but it has a home--no, a palace--in the Democrat Party.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Should Teachers "Look Like" Their Students?

Do students perform better academically with teachers of their own race?  Some people think so, but on the other hand there's evidence:

A recent study has disproved the widespread belief that teachers of the same race as their students will result in better instructional effectiveness due to shared cultural understanding, role modeling, and mentoring on behalf of the teacher. Published in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly, the study concluded that were “null effects of student-teacher racial or ethnic matching on academic achievement, social-emotional behavior, or executive functioning.”

In an article for USA Today, the authors of the study also conclude that “preliminary work finds that matching’s effects may be specific to whether teachers attended historically black colleges and universities, regardless of their ethnicity.” The effects of matching are also seen more on “subjective measures like classroom behavior than on objective measures of academic achievement,” a pointed response to widespread fixation on those subjective measures.

The study should not come as a surprise — verified teaching methods are what should be used to improve student outcomes, not race.

The article then mentioned two examples of school which considered laying off teachers by race rather than experience.

Unfortunately, these appeals to “representation” are self-sabotaging: Studies show that teacher experience can decrease student absenteeism, provide mentorship for less- experienced teachers, and, yes, standardized test scores.

A new progressive narrative that teachers need to look like their students to better understand and help them sounds appealing at first, but identity politics sacrifices students and their futures.

It amazes me that anyone could think anything different, but obviously plenty of people do.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Next School Year's Schedule

We got Version 1.0 of next year's course schedule today.  A few weeks ago we got to put in our wish lists for what classes to teach, what planning period we'd like, and how many different courses we'd like to teach, and in the math department at least, it seems like most of us got most of what we asked for.

The schedule will no doubt go through many iterations between today and the beginning of school, which is now the 2nd week of August, but for myself at least, I like this rough draft and hope my part of it doesn't change.  For the first time in a lot of years, I'll be teaching all "upper level" courses, at least for the first semester.  It's likely that one of my upper classes will switch to a lower level course in the 2nd semester but I don't know that for sure.

I have 4 more years.  I'd like a nice schedule for my last 4 years.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

West Point's Graduation Speaker

When I graduated from West Point 36 years ago, our graduation speaker was the retiring Chief of Staff of the Army, General Wickham.  I'm sure I'm not alone in failing to remember a single word of the wisdom he shared with us.

This year's graduation speaker will be Kamala Harris.  Given her demonstrated public speaking abilities, I'm sure every graduating cadet, as well as every family member in the audience, will have their phones out while she speaks in order to have their very own, personalized copy of whatever she says that will become that day's meme and set YouTube on fire.

Congratulations, Class of 2023!

I have to believe that the superintendent, a 3-star general, was demonstrating that discretion is the better part of valor when he published this sentiment:

"We are honored to have the Vice President as our commencement speaker," West Point's superintendent, Lt. Gen. Steven W. Gilland, said in a statement provided by the White House. "As an accomplished leader who has achieved significant milestones throughout her career, we look forward to her inspiring remarks to our cadets."

President Reagan was slated to be our class' speaker, but then some scheduling conflict arose.  If I remember correctly, we were actually surveyed to find out if we'd be ok with graduating a day or two earlier or later (probably later), but given all the travel plans and hotel reservations that would have to have been changed by our families, our graduation day was kept as scheduled and General Wickham spoke.

Monday, May 08, 2023

Made Me Look Good

For some silly reason, certain probability and statistics topics are included in our integrated math standards.  It's like including a couple topics in cell biology in a physics course, it just doesn't make sense.  And for that reason our math teachers have usually skipped those standards in the past.

In order to raise test scores, though, since these standards are identified as super-dooper-important standards, our integrated math teachers have decided that they need to teach these standards.  Today during my Financial Math class, one of those teachers popped his head into my class and asked, "What's the probability of getting a royal flush?  I answered, "Being dealt one?  One in 649,740."  He paused a moment and then asked, "Is that the same as 4 out of 52-C-5?"  (52C5 is a shorthand for the number of unique groups of 52 objects taken 5 at a time.)  I answered, "Yes, and it simplifies to 1 out of 649,740."  He said thanks and closed the door.

My students were looking at me, seemingly flabbergasted.  How could I know that, they asked, off the top of my head?

They don't need to know the actual reason.  It's enough that impressed them with my math knowledge.

Saturday, May 06, 2023

The Coronation (part 2)

I did in fact get up at 2 a.m. to watch King Charles' coronation, and as expected, the British didn't disappoint with ceremony and pageantry.  I was struck by 3 words that were repeated throughout the service:  law, justice, and mercy.

Those few times Charles himself spoke, I noticed that he pronounced "serve" as "sehrve", just as Mrs. Hughes did on Downton Abbey.  :-)

After the coronation itself there was a large parade of UK and commonwealth soldiers, sailors, and airmen.  The news people kept repeating the phrase "4000 troops" as if to emphasize how big this parade was.  Clearly they've never been to West Point, where a parade of the Corps of Cadets has about 4000 troops and happens all the time!

Speaking of news people, perhaps for the next coronation they'll shut up for a bit.  Gawd, they just kept talking and talking, let us watch the ceremony and hear what the participants are doing.  I don't need to know each piece of trivia.  When one would start talking I'd switch to a different network, and would stay there until their talking heads started talking, at which time I'd switch to another.  I was tuned in to watch the ceremony, not to listen to them.

One of the things I enjoy about the pageantry is the uniforms.  Being a former soldier I love the uniforms, and there were so many different types on display today!  But the best-dressed person there wasn't wearing a uniform.  OK, I just have to say it.  I don't usually care what types of suits and dresses people wear, but the Princess of Wales looked awesome in her Britannia-themed attire.  Sure, Princes William and Andrew and Princess Anne looked resplendent in their robes and uniforms, but that red, white, and blue outfit of Princess Catherine's was darned impressive.

OK, it's almost 7 a.m. and I've been up for 5 hours.  I'm going to go get a couple hours more sleep now....

Friday, May 05, 2023

Why Is This The School's Business At All?

Schools have enough work to do during the school day and should not be getting involved in what students do outside of school:

A teenager claims a member of the Rocklin High School football team secretly recorded them while they were engaged in sexual activity. The teen's father at Wednesday night's board meeting accused the school district of not doing enough to address what happened.

Rocklin Unified said its administration team found out about what happened on Jan. 26, 2023. It said because this happened off-campus during Thanksgiving break, it brought in a school resource officer to open an investigation.

Would the district be involved at all if one of the students were not a football player?

Thursday, May 04, 2023

California Teacher Pay, Working and Retired

Let's start with working:

There’s a bill with bipartisan support to increase teacher pay by 50% by 2030.

The author of the bill, California Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, says teachers are paid significantly less than college graduates in other fields. It’s getting more difficult to convince people to enter into teaching if they can’t afford to live on it. 

Pay is only part of the problem.  You couldn't pay me enough to work another year past 2027.

The state is facing a projected $22.5 billion deficit. So even if this does have strong bipartisan support, there are going to have to be some tough decisions made in the capitol.

This article is dated yesterday.  I have been given to believe that the bill has been amended from completing the pay raise by 2030 to starting in 2030.  To be determined...

Now let's go to retired, which I hope to be in 49 months and a few days:

If you think that CalSTRS, the behemoth pension system that supports California’s retired teachers, is focused on pensions, you are wrong. The largest teacher-focused pension system in the country is abandoning its core fiduciary role to chase left-wing political goals. Its mission creep will hurt teachers, taxpayers and students alike.

In April, CalSTRS issued an extraordinary press release stating their priorities for the companies they invest in, including corporate greenhouse gas disclosures. CalSTRS is interested in achieving a “net zero” emissions portfolio. Of course, CalSTRS is also interested in corporate diversity, and states: “CalSTRS will vote against an entire board of directors that does not include at least one woman and against a board’s nominating and governance committee if at least 30 percent of its board members are not women. Furthermore, CalSTRS will vote against the nominating and governance committees of Russell 3000 companies that do not disclose their board members’ diversity characteristics"...

[T]he problem with CalSTRS lifting its leftist political banner above all others is that the organization has an actual role, which is fiduciary. Its job isn’t to be in the political vanguard but to caretake and grow its investments to meet its payout obligations.

CalSTRS pension payments are funded by payments from the state, from teachers and school districts. If investment gains fall short, contributions need to increase.

It would be just my luck that CalSTRS won't be able to meet it's obligations to me just when I need them to.  And soon enough they'll have to come up with 50% more....

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

King Charles' Coronation

My grandmother was an English subject when she met my grandfather during WWII.  Before that war ended they had gotten married and my dad had been born.

I don't remember when nana became a naturalized US citizen, but whenever she talked about returning to England to visit family she always used the phrase "going home".  She lived in the same house in suburban Sacramento for many more years than she ever lived in England, but part of her heart remained English.  She loved the Sacramento Solons and the San Francisco Giants, but part of her remained English.

Grandpa was in the Air Force, and enlisted men didn't make a lot of money in those days (not that they're getting rich today).  Even still, grandpa got nana a television so she could watch Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953; they were the first people on their block to have a tv.

Partly as an homage to my grandmother, and partly because I like a certain amount of pomp and circumstance, I plan to get up at 2 a.m. this Saturday to watch coverage of King Charles' coronation.

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Almost Done

I reached one of those school-year milestones today--all assignments for the rest of the year are in my electronic grade book as well as on Google Classroom.  The last day of school for students is 5 weeks from today.

Monday, May 01, 2023

Victims of Communism Remembrance Day

Did you forget?  I didn't.

I'm still an ardent believer in "better dead than Red" and "kill a commie for your mommy".

What's the practical difference between a Nazi/fascist and a communist?  Communists had better PR.  One was national socialism, the other was international socialism--no difference.  As Darth Sidious said:

2023 Thayer Award Winner

From Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge and wisdom:

The Sylvanus Thayer Award is an honor given annually by the United States Military Academy at West Point to an individual whose character and accomplishments exemplifies the motto of West Point. The award is named after the 'Father of the Military Academy,' Colonel Sylvanus Thayer. The awardee is selected by, and the award is endowed by, a committee formed from the West Point Association of Graduates. It has been awarded annually since 1958 and is the closest recognition West Point has to granting an honorary degree

That leads us to an announcement in the most recent issue of the alumni magazine:

WPAOG is pleased to announce that the Honorable Elizabeth Dole, who has spent nearly six decades of her life serving the public in both the executive and legislative branches at the federal level as well as leading both national and international non-profit organizations, will receive the 2023 Sylvanus Thayer Award.  The award will be presented on September 21, 2023, during ceremonies hosted by Lieutenant General Steven W. Gilland, Class of 1990, 61st Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.