Thursday, October 19, 2017

Another Disgrace to the Profession

Sometimes I think that teachers get so used to being in charge in their classrooms, that some of them forget that they also have rules to follow:
“Just like you can’t wear swastikas to school, you cannot wear ‘Make America Great Again.’”

That’s what Cherokee, Ga., math teacher Lyn Orletsky told two students in a video posted to Turning Point News when she asked them to leave her classroom in early September, the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger reported.

The two River Ridge High School students were wearing shirts with President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” She asked the students to “please go,” or at least turn their shirts inside-out if they were to remain in her class...

Cherokee County Schools spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the instructor was wrong to ask the students to leave and that the shirts did not violate the dress code in any way...

Although the school board never did fire Orletsky, she announced her resignation Tuesday, saying she had received death threats and was afraid for her safety, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
On a daily basis I see students who have written messages (book covers, clothing, notebooks, patches on backpacks, stickers on water bottles) with which I disagree. Oh well.  Not freaking out over such things is part of that whole "celebrating diversity" thing which I do so well :-)


Yes, this is only one person, and I certainly am not making a blanket statement that all transgendered people have this as a goal. My purpose in posting it is to have a reply the next time I hear, "this has never happened":
A transgender Wyoming woman was convicted Thursday of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl inside a bathroom.

Michelle Martinez, who was known as Miguel Martinez before identifying as female, was found guilty of first-degree and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and could face up to 70 years in prison.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

If You Want To Know What Democrats Actually Do Or Believe, Take Note of What They Accuse Republicans Of

Democrats accuse Republicans of being racist.  Then they support Black Lives Matter.

Democrats accuse Republicans of being Nazis.  Then they support Antifa.

Democrats accuse Republicans (2nd Amendment supporters) of being murderers.  But it's always Democrats who are in the news for shooting others, whether it be in Las Vegas or Orlando or San Bernardino or Sandy Hook or...

So this doesn't surprise me in the least.  What does surprise me is that it's finally becoming an issue, a year after Breitbart first wrote about it:
The tables have turned and what was once the media’s favorite message — President Donald Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election — has now grown silent.
Apparently, it’s Bill and Hillary Clinton who’ve been doing the behind-scenes and suspicious dealings with Russia all along. Oh, and perhaps others in the Barack Obama administration, too.
When even The Hill is reporting this as a big deal, it's clearly a big deal.

And, if this isn't Exhibit #8,000,000 that we dodged a bullet in not electing Felonia von Pantsuit, I don't know what is.

Can Teachers Afford To Buy Houses?

From a press release from the National Council on Teacher Quality:
The findings show that while renting a one-bedroom apartment is within reach for new teachers working in most districts, in about a quarter of the districts, it is not. Home ownership is even more difficult. In some districts, saving up for the recommended down payment of 20 percent or meeting mortgage obligations is beyond a teacher’s means, even for a teacher who is at the higher end of the salary schedule. That problem is particularly acute in school districts located in the West and Northeast...

Key findings of the Trendline analysis include:
  • In one out of four of the largest school districts in the U.S., a starting teacher cannot afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment.
  • While the average length of time needed to accumulate a down payment of 20 percent towards a median-price home is ten years, assuming a 10 percent savings rate, there is tremendous variation. Texas is notably affordable with seven of its large districts--San Antonio, Aldine, Brownsville, Fort Worth, Pasadena, Dallas, and Arlington--enabling a teacher to achieve a down payment on a median-priced home in five years or less.
  • At the other end of the spectrum are teachers in San Francisco, Capistrano (CA), Oakland, Fairfax County (VA), and Hawaii, where it would take teachers over 20 years to save a comparable down payment.
  • Only in a minority of districts are monthly housing payments affordable, with San Antonio, Baltimore City, and Philadelphia being the most affordable for teachers.
  • A number of districts, such as Oklahoma City, Polk County (FL), El Paso, and Omaha, are in the lowest quartile for monthly housing costs but have kept teacher salaries so low that homeownership is still a struggle for their teachers.
  • There are eight districts--West Ada (ID), Jordan (UT), Loudoun County (VA), Hawaii, San Francisco, Oakland, Capistrano (CA), and Los Angeles--where a single teacher will never be able to dedicate the recommended 30 percent or less of a salary to monthly housing payments, even when earning the maximum possible teacher salary.
Until I'd read this press release I don't think I'd ever heard of West Ada, Idaho.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Congresspeople Who Don't Understand The 2nd Amendment

The following comes from an article about the desires of certain congresspeople to limit high-capacity magazines for weapons:
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said the bill banning high-capacity magazines would benefit U.S. national security as well as the country’s public health, adding that Congress has refused to act on gun-violence prevention for too long.

“High-capacity magazines are not needed for hunting. They are not needed for self-defense. They aren’t designed to be a useful tool for the millions of smart and safe and responsible gun owners in America,” he said. “Their only use and the way they have been used time and time again is to kill on a mass scale – dozens of people on one go.”
The 2nd Amendment doesn't exist so Americans can hunt. The 2nd Amendment doesn't exist so Americans can defend themselves from robbers and rapists.  The 2nd Amendment exists as a bulwark against the tyranny of government.  It's the final check on governmental power.  

That shouldn't be just a conservative view, that should be an American view.  Alas, it's pretty much just a conservative view anymore.

Don't Let The Lefties' Keening About The EPA Worry You At All

The river's not going to catch fire, the sky isn't going to rain down particulate matter (except from the Northern California fires), and the earth isn't going to overheat:
Even now, after Scott Pruitt’s EPA move to unravel President Obama’s marquee domestic green initiative, the Clean Power Plan, American energy-related emissions are projected to drop in 2017, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). So what’s at work here? If the Trump Administration is so skeptical of climate policy, why aren’t the projections matching the doomsday rhetoric?

In large part, what’s happened to U.S. emissions since their recent peak in 2007 has occurred despite—not because—of federal policy. The Clean Power Plan was never put into place, as it was still working its way through legal challenges before Pruitt announced his intention to dismantle it. Therefore, we can’t give President Obama’s green aspirations credit for this recent drop in emissions.
Instead, the drop occurred due to market forces, specifically the displacement of coal-fired power generation by cheap, plentiful natural gas provided by the shale boom. Fracking’s flourishing has made our dirtiest form of electricity production less economical, and because natural gas plants emits half as much carbon as their coal counterparts, this shift has also made our energy mix more climate friendly.

It's Officially Cold Out

The last few mornings, when I've left the house at 7:00 the temperature outside has been in the 40's.  Sure, it gets into the 80's in the afternoons, but that doesn't make the mornings any more comfortable.

It's officially cold out.  The "summer" sheets are off the bed and the fleece (not flannel!) sheets are on.  I wear my light "driving gloves" in the mornings because the steering wheel is cold, as well as a warmer jacket.  Even program the heater to warm the house up before I get out of bed in the mornings, as I darn near refuse to get out of bed when it's cold.

A trip to the foothills, specifically Apple Hill, is in the offing!

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Peek Into The Future...From The Past

Ten years ago today, the Freakonomics blog posted predictions about what air travel would be like 10 years hence.  It's now 10 years hence, how well do you think they did?

I give most of them "eh".

College Majors With The Highest Unemployment Rates

I admit, #2 surprised me:
According to career site Zippia, which used US Census data to estimate the unemployment rate for people 22 to 25 years old in various fields, there are several areas of study that make job-finding harder...

Here are the majors that produce the highest unemployment rates:
1. Composition and Rhetoric — 17.54%
2. Environmental Science — 11.79%
3. Anthropology and Archaeology — 11.76%
4. Drama And Theater Arts — 11.42%
5. Film, Video, and Photographic Arts — 11.24%
6. Mass Media — 10.92%
7. Fine Arts — 10.90%
8. Area Ethnic and Civilization Studies — 10.84%
9. Intercultural and International Studies — 9.93%
10. Communication Technologies — 9.40%
11. Biology — 8.76%
Considering that all those numbers except #1 are in descending order, do you think they meant 18.54%?

Credit Where It's Due

I don't often have something positive to say about California governor Jerry Brown, but when he does something right I'll absolutely praise him for doing so.  And in this instance, he's doing the right thing for the right reason:
Jerry Brown Sides with Betsy DeVos on Title IX. In his message vetoing a state law: “Since this law was enacted, however, thoughtful legal minds have increasingly questioned whether federal and state actions to prevent and redress sexual harassment and assault—well-intentioned as they are—have also unintentionally resulted in some colleges’ failure to uphold due process for accused students. Depriving any student of higher education opportunities should not be done lightly, or out of fear of losing state or federal funding.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Why Are Millenials Wary of Freedom?

This column makes so much sense that I'm surprised it was published in the NYT.
Fear, in all its forms, is at the heart of these issues — fear of failure, ridicule, discomfort, ostracism, uncertainty. Of course, these fears haunt all of us, regardless of demographics. But that is precisely the point: Our culture isn’t preparing young people to grapple with what are ultimately unavoidable threats. Indeed, despite growing up in a physically safer and kinder society than past generations did, young Americans today report higher levels of anxiety.
My generation sure screwed up as parents.

The Purpose of School

A colleague of mine came up with a pithy but entirely accurate saying this past week:  "Secondary education--where education is secondary."  A teacher who long ago left our school used to say that "our job is to babysit the kids until someone more important needs them."

I'm really starting to not enjoy teaching, and part of the reason is all the non-teaching things I'm expected to do.  And these non-teaching tasks are getting greater and greater in number and taking more and more time.  Let's look at just this past week, starting with the students.

  • Sophomores and juniors were administered the PSAT during school.  Freshmen and seniors didn't have to come to school until 11:15.
  • Immediately after the PSAT, when classes were to be in session, seniors had a mandatory "sexual assault at college" briefing that took 2 class periods.
  • On another day there was a mandatory senior class meeting that took half of a period.
  • There is at least one mandatory briefing this next week, I think it's about drinking and driving.

Now let's look at what I was tasked with just this past week:
  • I administered the PSAT.
  • Mandatory online survey about my attitudes regarding AP classes and the students who should take those classes.  This survey takes approximately 30 minutes.
  • Mandatory online video training regarding suicide prevention; this survey also takes approximately 30 minutes.
  • My district is requiring me to give up my desktop computer and accept a new laptop computer that I don't want.  I must backup all the data, bookmarks, settings, etc., on my computer, disconnect it, take it to the district office, pick up the new computer that I don't want or need, and restore all my backed up data to this new computer.  The instruction sheet on how to backup/restore the data takes two pages.
Secondary education--where education is secondary.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Limiting Press Freedoms?

It was a stupid (and probably unconstitutional) idea when Alabama lawmakers wanted to do it, and it’s still stupid now that someone in Indiana wants to do it. And in both cases, the lawmaker who proposed it was a Republican—and Republicans should know better.
An Indiana state lawmaker has drafted a bill that would require journalists in the state to get a license, in an apparent bid to point out “hypocrisy” in the debate over gun rights.

The bill, drafted by Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas, would require professional journalists to submit an application for a license to the state police. If approved, the license would cost $75 and last for life, while subject to suspension, as first reported by the Indianapolis Star.
I know it's "just to prove a point", but still.  Someone, probably on the other side, will pick up on this idea and provide a winnable justification for it--and you know which side of the political debate would be on the losing side.

Higher Education Spirals Down To Ground

If you have no standards, you can’t fall short of meeting them:
This fall, nearly 40 percent of incoming freshmen at California State University were placed in developmental math or English courses. In the state’s sprawling community college system, three-quarters of any given incoming group is deemed unprepared for college-level work when they arrive.

It will be semesters or even years – and thousands of dollars in additional tuition costs – until these students can begin the general education classes that advance them toward a degree. Frustrated or discouraged, many will drop out before they ever reach that point.

So California policymakers, eyeing educational experiments across the country that improved student achievement, are now pushing for sweeping changes to the traditional way colleges have helped students catch up. By next year, the high-stakes placement tests and non-credit courses could be largely eliminated.

Is It A School, Or A One-Shop Socialism Stop?

In an effort to keep poor students attending class during their periods, California schools will provide free tampons and pads.
I’m at a loss for words on this one.

California Pensions

It’s not CalSTRS, the state teachers retirement system, but I find it hard to believe that STRS is in any better shape than PERS, the public employees retirement system:
The Sacramento region’s largest local governments will see pension costs go up by an estimated 14 percent next fiscal year, starting a series of annual increases that many city officials say are “unsustainable” and will force service cuts or tax hikes.

The increases come after CalPERS in December reduced the expected rate of return from investments, forcing local governments and other participants in the state’s retirement plan to pay more to cover the cost of pensions.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Calling A Liar A Liar

A Republican representative from Virginia, Dave Brat, is brutally honest about his fellow Republicans in the Congress:
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) told PJM that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has violated the law of Moses by not following through on the Republican Party’s promise to totally repeal Obamacare.

Reflecting on President Trump’s time in office, the conservative lawmaker was asked if the president had “excessive expectations” as a candidate, as McConnell has suggested.

"Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before," McConnell told a Rotary meeting in his home state in August. "I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process."

Brat replied that Trump “had the exact expectations that Mitch McConnell and everyone in the Senate promised, that they are going to repeal Obamacare – that’s the expectation we all had.”

“Don’t lie, right? The reason we had those expectations is because you all voted on it 50 times on total repeal, not a skinny bill, so that’s a bunch of bull, having the ‘wrong expectations,’ that’s a bunch of bull. The American people had the exact correct expectations if you live in Judeo-Christianity land and you expect people to basically tell the truth, right? It’s in the big 10. Go check Moses,” Brat said during an interview on Capitol Hill.
That's what liberals might call "an inconvenient truth".

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Running Out of STEAM

Not far from where I live, signs for a middle school tout the school's STEAM program.  Everyone who pays attention to education knows that STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math--in other words, a strong math/science-based curriculum.  So what is this STEAM, what does the A stand for?  Why, Arts, of course!

There's a fear that our educational system is falling behind the rest of the world in STEM topics.  That's why we created the nifty acronym, that's why some schools place a focus on the area.  Some worry that women are underrepresented in STEM fields, so there's an emphasis on getting women to enter the fields.

Why put the A in there?  How does A fit in with the rest of STEM, except to make a newer, even niftier acronym?

The answer seems pretty clear to me.  Someone was worried that an emphasis on STEM would diminish the A.  Put A into the acronym, and voila!--the arts are saved!

But throwing everything but the kitchen sink into your acronym kinda defeats the purpose of the acronym.  You know what I call science, technology, engineering, arts, and math?  I call it the curriculum!  That school I mentioned, they're going to focus on the entire curriculum.  Well, good for them!  If everything is your priority, though...

Over at her own blog, Joanne discusses a different interpretation of what STEAM represents:
Integrating art into science and math teaching — turning STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) into STEAM — is “counterproductive” and “pedagogically unsound,” writes Jay Greene in Ed Week‘s arts education package.

“By trying to put the arts almost everywhere, integration is likely to result in arts education almost nowhere,” Greene writes. Separate arts classes taught by specialists will be dropped.
These crazy educational fads.

Northern California Fires

Northern California is a big place.  I'm quite a distance from the fires you might have heard about on the news, most of which are about an hour or more away by car.  Still, though, I could smell smoke in the air at school this morning, and before 10:00 we received the following email from our principal:

The district has requested we suspend all outdoor activities because of the air quality. We are also looking for teachers that are willing to open up their classroom during lunch for students to sit inside and eat. If you are willing to do that and eat lunch with the students please let (the school secretary) know. The office will be open as well.
Life in the Sacramento area.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Rule #1: Don't Abuse Your Power

This sheriff abused his, and I hope it costs him plenty--and not just in dollars:
Earlier this year, the Worth County (GA) Sheriff's Department enraged an entire nation by subjecting the entire student body of a local high school to invasive pat downs. The reason for these searches? Sheriff Jeff Hobby believed drugs would be found on campus...

The sheriff brought in drug-sniffing dogs and had his deputies frisk every single attending student. The sheriff claimed the searches were legal. And not just legal, but "necessary." The end result of the multiple invasions of personal privacy? Zero drugs, zero arrests...

According to school policies, students may be searched if there's reasonable suspicion the student is in possession of an illegal item. The same rules apply to law enforcement, but they were ignored here. Sheriff Hobby claimed he could search any student he wanted to (in this case, all of them) simply because he was accompanied by a school administrator.

Hobby was wrong and is now facing some serious legal problems. First off, Hobby has been sued by several of the students frisked by his officers...

This lawsuit is a problem for Sheriff Hobby, especially as it will be much more difficult for the sheriff and his deputies to avail themselves of immunity. Indictments have that sort of effect on immunity claims. [via Greg Doucette]  ...

Somewhat ironically, the indicted sheriff's attorney is bemoaning the same grand jury system law enforcement loves when it's indicting civilians
It's not your authority.  The authority belongs to the government, it only acts through you.  When you misuse that authority, you're misusing what isn't rightly yours in the first place.

This sheriff...chose poorly.  And I hope it costs him--perhaps as much as his freedom, but certainly his job.

Monday, October 09, 2017

It's Sad This Is News, But It *Is* A Victory Of Sorts

Good on them:  University of Wisconsin to crack down on disruptions of free speech. “University of Wisconsin System leaders approved a policy Friday that calls for suspending and expelling students who disrupt campus speeches and presentations, saying students need to listen to all sides of issues and arguments.”

Universities need to understand that students are their product, not their client.  You turn out a bad product long enough, no one will want that product, and no one will want to go to your school.  Most recent Exhibit A:  Missouri.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Idiot Teachers

A long time ago I wrote a post called Idiots Who Would Be Teachers, in which I took prospective teachers to task if they failed any part of the entirely-too-simple California Basic Educational Skills Test.  I regret calling those who failed the CBEST "idiots".  They were unprepared, and while I stand by my belief that college graduates who can't pass the CBEST shouldn't be teachers, calling them idiots was inappropriate.

This teacher is an idiot:
Parents in a Wyoming school district are outraged that an answer on a multiple choice test included this option: "Shooting at Trump."

Friday, October 06, 2017

For Lefties, Someone Who Thinks For Him/herself Is Worthy of Anthropological Study

You have to wonder how anyone could genuinely honestly truly be so oblivious to the beam in their own eye while commenting on the mote in someone else's:
Amherst College is offering a course this semester exploring why “some women become right-wing leaders” while others “fight for the rights of women.”

According to the course description, the seminar will explore “the consequences of neoliberalism, cultural conservatism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiments for women of different social and economic strata as well as women’s divergent political responses.”

The description then elaborates on the nature of the divergence, saying that some women gravitate toward the “right-wing”—about which it provides no additional context—whereas others join “progressive forces,” whose activities it charitably describes as “anti-racist” and focused on defending the rights of others.
The left truly doesn't understand how and why people think for themselves instead of marching in lockstep.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

A Needed Shot In The Arm

I've not been happy teaching the last couple months--and yes, this school year started a couple days shy of two months ago in my district--but today I got a couple of kudos that helped make the day a little bit brighter.

A couple of days ago a former student came to me and told me that she referenced me in her college entrance essay, and asked if I'd like to read it.  That ball can bounce in any direction, there's no telling what she wrote, but I told her sure, please email it to me.  I received and read it this morning.

She wrote about how some traumatic event in middle school caused her to have tremendous, almost debilitating, anxiety.  She wrote about how she broke down crying the first week of school during both her freshman and sophomore years, not because of any test but just because of general anxiety.  But her sophomore year pre-calculus teacher "didn't believe in anxiety", and told her that if he were to give her a test on the alphabet she wouldn't be anxious at all because she knew the alphabet cold.  Her anxiety was caused by not being confident that she knew the material being tested.  The solution, then, was to know the material so well that there could be no fear of failure--and he was available to help her do that.  That teacher, she said, was the first person to tell her that her anxiety was conquerable, that it wasn't something she had to live with, surrender to, or accommodate.

You can imagine where the story goes from there, but there's more.  She grew to recognize that she could learn from mistakes and not just fear them.  And I believe she's sincere in that belief, not just writing it to get into a university.  I've seen a tremendous change in her confidence--and happiness--over the last couple years.  She's grown a lot.

The second minor anecdote requires some background knowledge.  When conducting hypothesis tests in statistics, one calculates what's known as a p-value.  If the p-value is small, if it's unlikely you'd get the results you did given some initial hypothesis, then you reject your initial (null) hypothesis.  The null hypothesis is abbreviated H-sub-0, or H-naught.  When you see it written, it looks like "Ho".

The first year I taught statistics, a former student of mine--who has since become a math teacher!--told me a pithy rhyme that his stats professor in college used to help students remember how the p-value and null hypothesis interact.

I received a text message from another former student today:
Thank god i was in your class because my business stats professor just used a complicated way to explain "if p is low, reject the ho".
Sometimes they listen.  Sometimes they remember.  Sometimes they learn.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Racist Hatemongers

If you think it's ok to steal someone's property, and to threaten their physical safety, because that person has a different political ideology than you do--then you must be a leftist:
UC Riverside student Matthew Vitale, who had his Make America Great Again hat taken from him by a fellow student, has decided to press criminal theft charges against her, he told The College Fix in an interview Monday.

Meanwhile, peers of the young Latina woman who swiped the hat, Edith Macias, have rallied to her defense, demanding the university protect her from any charges and even pay her rent in a “solidarity” document released Oct. 1.

At issue is an incident last week in which Macias took the bright red MAGA hat right off Vitale’s head during a campus event, an incident that was recorded.

That video was posted on Facebook by Macias, who states in her post: “‘Make America Great Again’ coded ‘Continue the Genocide of POC’. You feel safe cuz you got the cops and politicians on your side. Youre not safe… just saying. We need to make racists scared.”
If you think it's OK to defend someone who does those things, and to defend such actions in the name of racial solidarity, then you must be a leftist--and a racist. 

It must take a lot of energy to harbor that much hatred against people.  Young Edith, I hope you learn a lesson in civility as well as what kind of behavior is acceptable in a diverse society--otherwise, your life will be miserable indeed. 

The Role of Education in Social Mobility

It might not be as important as we currently think:
Geography plays a big role in whether a child born to low-income parents will rise to the top of the economic ladder, concluded a 2014 study led by Stanford’s Raj Chetty.

The economists found that “a poor child raised in San Jose, or Salt Lake City, has a much greater chance of reaching the top than a poor child raised in Baltimore, or Charlotte,” writes Cohen. “They concluded that five correlated factors — segregation, family structure, income inequality, local school quality, and social capital — were likely to make a difference.”

In a new working paper, Berkeley economist Jesse Rothstein found that school quality makes less of a difference than local labor markets (clear career pathways, union jobs, higher wages) and marriage patterns (concentrations of married or single-parent households).

“We can’t educate people out of this problem,” Rothstein concludes.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tom Petty

Tom Petty's is the first "famous person" death since Ronald Reagan's that's truly affected me.  And yes, that includes Leonard Nimoy's death.

I was a big Tom Petty fan in high school.  In fact, his was the first concert I ever went to, in September of 1981 at Cal Expo.  They threw a tarp over the race track and called it "festival seating".  It got to around 100 degrees that day, and since no one had yet thought to sell plastic bottles of stuff that fell for free from the sky, we just stood outside the race track all day and dehydrated.  It was pretty bad.

When Petty finally came on, he opened with American Girl.  He dedicated his song The Waiting to those of us in Sacramento since we'd waited in the burning sun all day.  Surprise (not really, but that's how they billed it) special guest Stevie Nicks came out and did two songs with Petty, Insider from his recent album and Stop Draggin My Heart Around from her recent album.  I was enthralled.  I took my mother's 110 camera (remember those tiny pictures?!) to the concert, no telephoto lens, here's the postage-stamp-sized section of one picture I got of Tom and Stevie:
I have all of Petty's albums from the 1976 debut self-titled album up through 1987's Let Me Up (I've Had Enough).  I was given a couple of his later albums but by then his style had changed enough that I didn't listen near as much as I used to.  There were some good songs, but they were more like Dylan than the Petty I remembered.  (BTW, I loved The Traveling Wilburys, which included Dylan and Petty.)  I very much enjoyed when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was the Super Bowl halftime show a few years ago.

In honor of his passing, I'm going to list those first seven albums as well as one of my favorite songs from each of them.  Since not all of these songs are available on Tom Petty's VEVO page on YouTube, I'll just list the songs here and let you find a current link on YouTube (if I provided a link, there's no guarantee that link would still work a month from now).  I hope you enjoy the music.

1976's Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers self-titled album:  American Girl
1978's You're Gonna Get It!:  I Need To Know
1979's Damn The Torpedoes:  Here Comes My Girl
1981's Hard Promises:  The Waiting
1982's Long After Dark:  Change of Heart
1985's Southern Accents:  Dogs on the Run
1987's Let Me Up (I've Had Enough):  Jammin' Me

There are a few great songs on 1989's Full Moon Fever, but my favorite on that one was I Won't Back Down.

Petty's music brought me a lot of joy in life, and did so over several decades.  I'm sorry to see him go.

The Impetus Behind Common Core--One Man's View

Jim Milgram, the Stanford professor who was the primary author of California's 1997 math standards, sent the following email to a list of which I am a member, and gave me permission to quote it here with attribution:
I wish you were right, but here in California, Ze'ev Wurman's work shows that the 12 years of reasonable standards and state enforcement actually did reduce the achievement gap and in the right way. Scores for "minority" groups went up significantly, while scores for others were roughly unchanged.

As you know, I was on the Common Core Validation Committee, so I had a first row seat to what was happening. You should have seen the sudden increase among the math educators involved -- when Ze'ev's results first appeared -- in their desire to get rid of the CA standards.

I had a long argument with the most well known among them. I focused on explaining our results in eighth grade algebra which had shown a very high percentage of those minority kids passing the course and scoring pretty well on the state exam.

The more they understood what was going on, the more determined they became. I recall that when I mentioned that fully 2/3 of the CA students were taking eighth grade algebra, one of them said that's horrible, and the others agreed. That's when I realized I wasn't speaking the same language they were, I had to get out, and I finally felt I had to report to Governor Schwarzenegger's office that CA should not get involved with Common Core. Unfortunately, the Race to the Top money had already been announced, and CA was desperate for funds. So it was too late. He tried to keep eighth grade algebra, but it only took Jerry Brown and Mike Kirst one or two years to get rid of it.

He has had more direct experience in this than I have, and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.

Joanne Is On A Roll Today

Two consecutive posts today are right on:
50 is the new 0
Is 50 is the new 0?, writes Kate Stoltzfus on Education Week Teacher. Schools in Maryland and Virginia are implementing “no zero” policies to make it harder for students to fail, reports the Washington Post. Often, the minimum grade is 50...

Making 50 the minimum grade lowers the drop-out rate  and keeps struggling students from giving up, argue advocates. Students are evaluated on learning, rather than behavior.

However, some teachers hate the idea. Say “no” to no-zero grading, argued teacher Gina Caneva in Catalyst Chicago.

When her high school made 50 the minimum grade, attendance at tutoring sessions plummeted. The F students had become D students. “Since few students were truly failing, hardly anyone thought they needed to work hard to improve,” wrote Caneva. The school’s rating rose because more students were on track for graduation, but students’ test scores remained low.

When homework goes wrong

When homework goes wrong, parents should remember three rules, writes K.J. Dell’Antonia in Medium.
1. It’s not yours.
2. What kids learn from homework is rarely on the worksheet.
3. You don’t want to make tonight’s homework better. You want to make ALL the homework better.
If it seems like an unreasonable assignment, consider the possibility “that the reading assignment was given last week, not last night, or that the project was discussed in the first week of class,” writes Dell’Antonia. Or your kid got it wrong.
Double yep. 

Monday, October 02, 2017


There are many types of sociopaths in the world.  Some of them we recognize right away, and others we just shake our heads at; it's only later, when we've thought about it for awhile, that we recognize that there's more than a little that's "not quite right" with some people, that they're actually sick in the head.

The first type of sociopath is the shooter in Las Vegas.  I don't care what his reason was, he was a sociopath.  The second type of sociopath is demonstrated by these people:
CBS has parted ways with one of the company’s top lawyers after she said she was “not even sympathetic” to victims of the Las Vegas shooting because “country music fans often are Republican,” when discussing the mass shooting that unfolded in Las Vegas late Sunday night.   link
I'm impressed CBS fired her.  Then again, who would want someone that unstable working for them?

How about this one--from a teacher, no less?  Giving that Felarca woman a run for the crazy title, and making all of us look bad in the process:
Lots of white trump supporters in Las Vegas at route 21 watching Jason aldean.  Pray only trumptards dies! link
One of the signs of sociopathy is a lack of empathy for other people.  The people above possess that warning sign.

This next fellow isn't a sociopath, just a dimwit:
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said Monday that he won’t participate in a moment of silence on the House floor for victims of Sunday night's deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas.

“As after #Orlando, I will NOT be joining my colleagues in a moment of silence on the House Floor that just becomes an excuse for inaction,” Moulton tweeted Monday. link
His idea of action is gun control.  Incidentally, I wonder if he approves of the "excuse for inaction" currently in vogue in the NFL.  Just sayin'.

Update:  From Sarah Hoyt:
[T]he carrion crows viewing this as a chance to advance their agenda, should get down on their knees and beg whatever God they believe in to forgive them and turn them into real humans, with real human feelings.

And that’s not counting the people saying it’s okay because those people were likely Trump Voters. Those people have willfully cut themselves from the human race and made themselves a species of hyena far more repulsive than real hyenas — who are after all only animals who can’t help their behavior.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

A Little Media Bias With My Mid-morning Tea

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
I know why some conservative speakers, white supremacists and the president’s supporters flock to Berkeley, and it has nothing to do with free speech. What they want to do is normalize hate and spread it on college campuses. 
This is not an op-ed, this was written by one of the paper's columnists.  If you don't believe that's media bias, then we have no common ground on which to have a constructive conversation.

You want more?  Here's more:
But Taylor, who identifies as a communist revolutionary and has some radical views and ideas that I don’t support, such as revolution that completely disrupts government, certainly isn’t wrong about what Berkeley represents: a battleground for political messaging.

And I believe she’s here for the right reasons.
I give this columnist credit for being honest with his illiberal, intolerant bias.

You know why "white supremacists" are the new bugaboo of the left?  Because no one listens to accusations of "racist" anymore, because in true Peter and the Wolf fashion, they've cried "racist!" so many times that no one believes them anymore.  What's the next epithet they'll hurl, once they figure out that "white supremacist!" doesn't work anymore?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Water Troubles

Earlier this week, the problem was with my waterbed.  Even after draining the mattress, the fibrous "lumbar support" retains enough water such that maneuvering the mattress around (to get the heater out) was no easy task.  I was sore by the time I got that repair done.

And then yesterday my sink stopped draining.  Rather abruptly.  What could it be?  I'm the only one here, and it's not like lots of hair is going down my drain (see here for evidence).  I removed the trap--nothing in there.  I looked down the drain--nothing in there.  Dang, the stoppage is in the pipe in the wall.  That required a few hours' work today as well as two trips to Home Depot.  A snake got the stoppage--goop of some kind--cleaned out, and I replaced all the plumbing from the sink to the wall.  Sore from crawling under the sink so much.

Then I started work on the toilet.  Sometimes you have to jiggle the handle before the flapper settles; should be an easy fix, right?  Wrong.  I have some unique system in there, one that doesn't even use a "universal" flapper valve.  I figured out quickly why the thing sticks and needs to be jiggled, but fixing that dislodged what appears to be a jerry-rigged fix to keep the toilet from running.  Ugh!  To fix this, it looks like I'd have to--wait for it--remove the tank.  I'm gonna try to restore the jerry-rigged fix.  If that doesn't work, I might have to remove the tank to replace all the guts inside.

I'm tired of all these repairs!  I guess that's part of the cost of living in a house that's older than I am.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Problem From the 70's Rears Its Ugly Head

What was the biggest problem of the 70's?

Angel's Flight pants?  The American Embassy in Tehran?  Fondue?  Polyester plaid?  The AMC Pacer?  The Tenerife crash?  Terrorism in Europe and Central America?  Three Mile Island? 

None of these.  I'm living the problem.  My waterbed heater has gone out.

I've had a waterbed since 8th grade.  Obviously I didn't get to sleep in it at West Point, and for about 11 years I had a standard mattress in the frame.  But just over a year and a half ago I went back to the waterbed, and life was good.  I couldn't believe how after the first morning, I woke up and didn't feel any aches?

But I was penny wise and pound foolish.  I bought a new mattress but not a new heater.  How could a waterbed heater go out, I thought?  It had lasted for so long, how could it not last forever?  But it didn't.

So last night I had to drain the bed--not the easiest task, especially when you're doing this solo. And I had to sleep in the guest room!  After work today I was able to remove the old heater pad from under the almost empty mattress and replace it with the new heater.  Then I maneuvered the kinda-empty-but-still-very-heavy mattress into place and started refilling it.  That's not as easy as you might think, especially when I had to go outside to shut off the water, come back inside, make some adjustments, go outside to start the water again, etc. 

After a significant amount of time, and a significant amount of sweat (it's quite warm out today), I got the bed filled.  It should be adequately heated by tomorrow night.

And then I'll be able to enjoy a good night's rest again.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Another Black Mark Against My Alma Mater

On my first day at West Point, over 1400 of us New Cadets were brought into the Eisenhower Hall auditorium.  The only thing I remember from that speech was, “Look to your left.  Look to your right.  One of the three of you won’t be here 4 years from now.”  An attrition rate of 1/3 was expected.  Almost 4 years later, just over 1000 of us graduated.  Graduating over 70%, we beat the estimate.  Our 47 months at West Point was considered to be a winnowing process.  Sure, a couple bad eggs made it through, but overall, it was a good idea.

Some time between then and now, though, what some of us call “Harvard Syndrome” took over at West Point.  Rather than weeding out those who shouldn’t be officers, the view became “if they’re good enough to get into West Point, they’re good enough to graduate.”  Standards dropped.  Honor violations no longer necessarily merited expulsion, they merited “discretion” and another chance.  In so many cases, cadets got another chance.  And another.  Cadets weren’t kicked out, they were “helped” or “rehabilitated”.  The justification for such changes ranged from money (it costs so much to train cadets, only to boot them after a year or more) to moral (everyone deserves a second chance) to racial (you can imagine).

In such an environment, this is the kind of person who’s allowed to graduate.

What a disgrace.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"Showing Vulnerability" After A Disaster

About an hour ago I got home from a meeting with other mentor teachers of student teachers from UC Davis.  I'm teaming up with another teacher at my school to mentor a UC Davis student; the other's teacher's two classes are the "primary placement", while my one class is the "secondary placement".  "Secondary placement" means that my student teacher will not take over actually teaching my one class until next semester, but will observe and assist until then.

The class in question is the class I've been writing about on this blog, most recently here.  We gave a test in there on Monday.  The results were disastrous.  Of the students present to take the test, a full 25% of them failed.  More than a couple had scores in the 30s and 40s--yes, percent.  Yes, there were several high grades as well, but that doesn't make those F's disappear.

At this meeting of mentor teachers this evening, the supervising teachers from UC Davis stated that a recent study of "what makes a good mentor teacher" showed that while good and bad teachers shared many commonalities, one difference stuck out:  good teachers showed "vulnerability" to their student teachers.  They, for lack of a better way to put it, let student teachers see the mentor teacher struggle and even fail, and didn't try to cover this up.  This shows the student teacher that things don't always go swimmingly, and that a "growth mindset" applies to teachers as well as to students.  A failed lesson isn't the end of the world.

I think those test results above qualify as "struggling" and "failing" to teach my students as well as I should have.

Because of a quirk in scheduling peculiar to my school, I have a 2-hr prep period tomorrow.  From 8 to 9 am, my student teacher and I are going to meet.  Since she's been observing my teaching, I'm going to solicit her thoughts on my instruction.  I'm going to listen to her observations of the class, and see if she has any suggestions for things we might work together on to improve student performance.  She'll be teaching the class herself in a few months, I'm sure she'll want them appropriately prepared, so it's in both our best interests to have a frank discussion about what we can do to provide better instruction.

I'm thinking that this constitutes "showing vulnerability".

Update, 9/27/17:  We had a good, productive discussion today.  We'll try a couple different things, most notably avoiding the textbook (awful) and me lecturing.  When practicing problems, we'll utilize the old stand-by of "I do, we do, you do"--which I always try to do, but time constraints in this course are bad, so I don't always get to.  Now I have to be more explicit in my personal expectations.

There are a couple other things we'll try as well.

Also, this class is full of students who haven't really had to work at math before.  It was easy, so they didn't develop study habits for math class.  Been there, done that!  I recognized that in the faces of some of my students today, and was able to address it with them.  Those things they've never had to do before--coming in before and after school, actually studying for tests and quizzes--they have to do them now, and they're not used to it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

If It's Raining On Tuesday...

...the "nn" combination makes the "fz" sound:
I'm starting to practice a little Icelandic so I can be a better visitor in February, one that doesn't automatically assume that everyone speaks English (even though everyone there does).  Like some more difficult languages (*cough* English! *cough*), Icelandic has many seemingly strange pronunciation rules--such as the one above.

By February I should be fine.  For right now, though, I sometimes exclaim in exasperation, "How can anyone remember all this crap?!  What kind of crazy language is this?!"  I'm sure no one ever says such things when learning English.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Makes You Wonder What She Was Thinking

From Fox News:
A veteran Vermont teacher was axed after she was caught instructing a class of third graders on how to give the Nazi salute.

The substitute teacher had the children perform the stiff-arm gesture as they were walking to the cafeteria Thursday at Georgia Elementary School, accoriding (sic) to a report.

"The children were standing with their arm out in front of them and the teacher was modeling the position," District Superintendent Ned Kirsch told parents, according to the Vermont publication Seven Days. "She then raised her arm slightly and said, 'And now we say, Heil Hitler.'"

I Give Them Credit For Being Honest

Now if they'll just ask people to stop throwing around that bogus 77-cents-on-a-dollar statistic:
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has finally admitted that the “gender pay gap” is caused by women’s choices.

In a recent article on the gender pay gap, AAUW Senior Researcher Kevin Miller concedes that the pay disparity between women and men isn’t caused primarily by discrimination, but rather by the personal and professional choices that women make.

These choices include the tendency of women to work fewer hours to focus on “domestic work” and accept “reduced job tenure resulting from breaks in labor-force participation to raise children.”

Miller even notes that women tend to choose lower-paying jobs than do men, pointing out that dangerous jobs such as “construction, manufacturing, and transport” are predominantly done by men, while “most workers in health care and education occupations are women"...

Citing data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, though, he also confirms that not only are women more likely to work part-time, but also that “among full-time workers, men work longer hours on average than do women"...

The AAUW, which celebrates seven different equal pay days, has campaigned relentlessly over the past few years to argue that the gender pay gap is due to discrimination, but this appears to be the first article in which the organization takes a more nuanced approach to the issue...

“The gender pay gap is an estimate of the actual gap in pay between men and women, not an estimate of the effect of discrimination,” he explains....    link

Why I Support School Choice

This author likes school choice because it helps black kids, I like it because it helps all kids:
Here’s what I need to say to them, to the people of this nation, to people of color — I am involved in the school choice movement because the future of my life and your life depends upon it. Starting the state’s first charter school was one of the most significant accomplishments of my life. Because of our willingness to look beyond traditional divisions and leave beyond our tendency to only work with those with whom we are comfortable, our children of color are closing the achievement gap. African-American students in charter schools are scoring 4% higher on reading tests than those in traditional public schools and Florida charter school students are more likely to attend college. Hispanic students do 12% better than their peers at traditional public schools. These are but two of the many indicators that point to increased success for students of color because their families were empowered to find schools that better met the needs of their children.

Far too many people and organizations, like the NAACP, refuse to acknowledge this. Their recent recommendations to curb charter schools, reduce their numbers and their independence, are wrong, and they expect falsely that all people of color should follow their lead because the color of your skin should dictate who you believe. I have worked a lifetime to change this misperception, to help people see that good policies for our kids do not have a color. 
The author is the president of the Urban League of Greater Miami.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sticking With It

All that weight I lost in 2010--I've gained it all back, with interest.

I'm going to lose it again.  Just has to be done.

I'm grossly out of shape.  I had no cardiovascular fitness at all last month.  So I set a goal for myself--each morning before work I'm going to get on my elliptical trainer and run.  That first week of school I did 12 min each morning.  I increased it 1 minute each week, so that this week I'm up to 18 min each morning.  I notice that already I'm not only "running" farther than I did when I started, but faster as well.  My goal is to get up to 20 min each morning, and from then on just work on speed and stamina.

I haven't missed a work morning yet!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

And Here In The 21st Century People's Paradise...

...our governor pushes a 19th Century mode of transportation.  Not all of us support this:
California's high speed rail line was sold to voters on the bold promise that it will someday whisk passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in under three hours. Nine years later, the project has turned into such a disaster that its biggest political champion is now suing to stop it.

An icon of California politics known as the "Great Dissenter," Quentin L. Kopp introduced the legislation that established the rail line, and became chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority. He helped convince voters in 2008 to hand over $9 billion in bonds to the Rail Authority to get the project going. Since he left, Kopp says the agency mangled his plans.

"It is foolish, and it is almost a crime to sell bonds and encumber the taxpayers of California at a time when this is no longer high-speed rail," says Kopp. "And the litigation, which is pending, will result, I am confident, in the termination of the High-Speed Rail Authority's deceiving plan."
As Instapundit often opines, there are too many opportunities for graft here for this train to go away.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Starting School Later

Don't get me wrong--when I'm elected World Dictator, high school will go from 10am-5pm.  If, and it's a big if, there's still school sports, practices will be held before school.  Competitions will be held on the weekends. 

But that's just me.

I don't understand this push to start schools later.  I'm told that studies show that a later start time is better for teenagers, but I have questions that remain unanswered:

1)  Kids on farms get up early.
2)  Kids throughout history have gotten up early. 
3)  Do kids in other countries have this "late start time" issue, or is this strictly a US phenomenon?
4)  Has the problem gotten significantly worse in the age of handheld electronics?  In other words, is this partly a self-inflicted problem?

Is the problem such a major issue that it requires the intervention of the state legislature?
California lawmakers have rejected a bill to delay school start times, but the measure will likely resurface in January.
Here's an argument for local control:
The California School Boards Association, the leading opponent of the bill, argues that local school boards should be in control of start times and that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work for all 3,000 secondary schools in the state. The association says the bill will increase the need for supervision before school, create hardships for working families and wreak havoc on schools that purposely stagger start times to meet student demand for bus transportation. Rural districts could apply for a waiver to postpone implementation. 
Sacramento knows best.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Who's Number One?

Is it Berkeley?
Sacramento-area residents looking for a top public university to attend don’t have to go far, according to a national report.

University of California, Davis, ranks 12th on U.S. News & World Report’s recent survey of top public schools. It’s tied with University of Wisconsin-Madison on a list of 132 schools.

The top 10 public schools list includes five other UC campuses, including Berkeley at No. 1. 
Or is it West Point?
United States Military Academy is ranked #12 in National Liberal Arts Colleges. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.
Inquiring minds want to know.

Things Aren't Perfect In Socialist Medicine Paradise? Huh. Go Figure.

For whatever reason, the Brits love their National Health Service.  They know the horror stories, they know and experience the long waits for treatment, but still they love it.  Stockholm Syndrome never had a finer example.

How can medical paradise need more doctors?
American physician assistants are being enticed over to the United Kingdom amid staffing shortages - with promises of long vacations in Europe.
What, no mention of pay?  How are those working conditions?
The National Health Service (NHS) is offering £1,000 ($1,350) to cover their relocation, 41 days paid vacation a year, and free flights home during holidays.

Ultimately, officials say the plan is to recruit up to 3,200 PAs to perform minor operations and monitor wards.
3200?  Why such a shortage? 

A couple paragraphs down we get to the pay:
According to recruitment materials, foreign PAs would earn £30,000 ($40,460) a year.
That doesn't strike me as much for someone who can cut into you, but I'm not really up on the pay of medical professionals.

The article never mentioned why there's such a shortage....

Monday, September 18, 2017

An Idiot With A Degree

A university professor who doesn't believe in free speech?  Color me shocked.

I admit that the concept isn't flawless, but I defy anyone to come up with a better one.  It's like democracy and capitalism--they're bad, except for everything else.

Anyway, you need to read the whole thing in order to plumb the depths of this particular professor's insanity.  Seriously, go read it.
The lecture, given by Prof. Carolyn Rouse, Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Director of the Program in African Studies, was entitled “F%*# Free Speech: An Anthropologist’s Take on Campus Speech Debates.”
Oh, a "studies" person.  Nice.

And here's where we learn that Professor Rouse doesn't know much history:
Towards the beginning of the lecture, Rouse noted that JMP (the James Madison Project) “censored” the lecture title by listing it by a different name on its website—omitting the vulgarity used in other publicity materials. Rouse made a point to “rub it in” that JMP made the edit “to be politically correct,” clarifying that “I use the term ‘politically correct’ deliberately, because ‘politically correct’ simply means ‘appropriate.’”
The origin of the phrase "politically correct" is Stalinist, and what might be "appropriate" if you want to stay alive in Stalin's Soviet Union doesn't quite approach anything that might be considered even marginally related to "truth", if Professor Rouse even believes in any "truth" other than what the marble that rolls around in her skull causes her to believe in at any given moment.

Propagating a Bad Statistic

No one truly believes that 1/5 of women will experience a sexual assault in college.  Such a rate would be worse than some of the most unsafe countries on the planet.  If anyone believed that 1-in-5 number, they wouldn't go to college, or send their daughters to college.

Yet here we have The Economist spreading the lie:
ANY sentence containing the phrases “Donald Trump” and “campus sexual assault” could reasonably be expected to conclude with the word “outrage”. Yet when Mr Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, announced her intention to “revoke or rescind” directives to universities on handling sexual assault issued by the Obama administration, the move was quietly welcomed by plenty of colleges. The Obama administration’s determination to discourage campus sexual assault—which is suffered by as many as a fifth of women attending college—was well-intentioned, but poorly thought out.
One could argue that technically, The Economist is correct--they did say "as many as a fifth".  They'd be just as correct had they said "as many as 99%", too, so I don't accept the quibble.

The 1-in-5 number is a bad statistic that traveled around the world before the truth even got out of bed.

According to the Washington Post:
In the Winter of 2006, researchers used a Web-based survey to interview undergraduates at two large public universities, one in the Midwest and one in the South. A total of 5,446 undergraduate women, between the ages of 18-25, participated as part of a random sample. The survey was anonymous and took about 15 minutes to complete. (Participants received a $10 certificate for participating.)
My introductory statistics students can pick apart the problems presented in this paragraph; toss in a low response rate, and anyone who uses that information deserves to be mocked.

Politifact tells the same story, with this tidbit tossed in:
"This ‘one in five’ statistic shouldn’t just be taken with a grain of salt but the entire shaker," said James Fox, professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University.
The author of the Economist article should be ashamed of him/herself.   The Economist should do better.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

You'd Think This Would Be Max Male-hatred, But I'm Sure There's More (and sillier) To Come

There's no indication that this article is meant to be anything other than sober and sincere:
Some of you will think we’re daft. Some will wonder what kind of jobs we have if we have enough time on our hands to dream this kind of thing up. Some of you may even think we’re having you on. Our intentions, however, are honourable.

Playful urination practices – from seeing how high you can pee to games such as Peeball (where men compete using their urine to destroy a ball placed in a urinal) – may give boys an advantage over girls when it comes to physics. And we believe there’s something we can do about it.

No doubt you have some questions, the first is probably: what could possibly lead us to believe this?
Daft? That's the nicest I'll think of them.

I was expecting their solution to this "gender gap" to be that boys should be required to sit down when taking a pee.  Fortunately, their solution is slightly less foolish:
However, we can make a change: it’s not necessary for physics curricula to begin with projectile motion. Other topics, such as energy conservation, which is more central to physics, could be taught first instead...

Girls are already at a cultural disadvantage in a traditionally male-dominated subject: let’s not add an embodied disadvantage by unthinkingly sticking with traditional curriculum sequencing.
Serious question:  why does no one freak out about not enough men in women-dominated fields?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Rebuttal to Ta-Nehisi Coates

If you want to be a victim, you will be successful at it.  If you don't want to be one, you'll sound like this:
Dear Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I read your book Between the World and Me, an elegant and poetic elegy written to your son on “the question,” as you put it, “of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the [American] Dream.” In the book, you reflect on your revelatory experiences, from the fears you felt growing up in your neighborhood in Baltimore to attending Howard University to visiting the South Side of Chicago to your relentless study of African history to your reckoning with the meaning of the Civil War. Many of your readers will come to know the often lonely and exilic world in which you, as an individual black man, have lived for many years. But your book, while moving, reads primarily like an American horror story and, I’m sorry to say, a declaration of war against my adopted country.

My fear is that Between the World and Me aims to reach far beyond the scope of the reader’s moral imagination and into the actual lives of Americans, black or white, who share this thing you refer to as the Dream. My concern is that you and your book function as deputized stand-ins for the black male and the black experience in America, respectively. And I believe that as stand-ins, both fail.

Because I write as a black immigrant who chose to live in the United States, whose biggest hope as a child was to become an American citizen, and who chose to embrace the American Dream you condemn, please consider these words my Declaration of Independence—an independence that only my beloved America could have given to me.
America is still a beacon of freedom and opportunity in the world, and I want to keep it that way.

Diversity Hasn't Always Been Considered An Asset

A historical perspective can shed a little light on why nirvana has not been reached in our culturally-diverse society.  I've shamelessly lifted the following from Instapundit:
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Diversity Can Spell Trouble.

America is experiencing a diversity and inclusion conundrum—which, in historical terms, has not necessarily been a good thing. Communities are tearing themselves apart over the statues of long-dead Confederate generals. Controversy rages over which slogan—“Black Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter”—is truly racist. Antifa street thugs clash with white supremacists in a major American city. Americans argue over whether the USC equine mascot “Traveler” is racist, given the resemblance of the horse’s name to Robert E. Lee’s mount “Traveller.” Amid all this turmoil, we forget that diversity was always considered a liability in the history of nations—not an asset.

Ancient Greece’s numerous enemies eventually overran the 1,500 city-states because the Greeks were never able to sublimate their parochial, tribal, and ethnic differences to unify under a common Hellenism. The Balkans were always a lethal powder keg due to the region’s vastly different religions and ethnicities where East and West traditionally collided—from Roman and Byzantine times through the Ottoman imperial period to the bloody twentieth century. Such diversity often caused destructive conflicts of ethnic and religious hatred. Europe for centuries did not celebrate the religiously diverse mosaic of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, but instead tore itself apart in a half-millennium of killing and warring that continued into the late twentieth century in places like Northern Ireland.

In multiracial, multiethnic, and multi-religious societies—such as contemporary India or the Middle East—violence is the rule in the absence of unity.

Well, luckily we have Social Justice types to remind everyone that they’re not supposed to get along.
Yes, lucky us.

Schools That Work

The philosophy behind Success Academy charter schools is what used to guide public schools, before bleeding hearts and litigious hustlers removed any sense of discipline:
In 2006, she founded Harlem Success Academy, which grew into the Success Academy charter-school network that today includes 46 schools across the city.

Success Academy breeds success: Its inner-city students outperformed every other school district in the state in the 2017 exams. And one big secret to that success has been the application of the kinds of tactics and strategies that helped bring the city back from the brink more than once — this time, applied to education.

Both “broken windows” policing and Success Academy schooling target minor infractions that create a culture of chaos.

Writing about dealing with disruptive students in 2006-07, Success Academy’s first year, Moskowitz notes that when teachers are unable to stop even one student’s incessant misbehavior, it “can have a domino effect . . . and soon the teacher is playing whack-a-mole rather than teaching.”
Almost every teacher in the country will tell you this is so. Many will also tell you that their hands are tied in the realm of discipline.  Suspension is seen as a bad thing--and even racist!  Standards of discipline are different for different racial groups or for special education students.  Student displays of open defiance or disrespect are not considered troublesome by administration; in fact, they're seen as indicative of a failing on the part of the teacher!  And schools didn't do this on their own--no, lawsuits and investigations by state and federal departments/offices of civil rights did this, assuming that problems and disparities lie with biased adults instead of with misbehaving children.

And while we're teaching students that they can disregard rules with impunity, how is their academic performance coming along?  Anyone think America's schools are the best in the world, or are even improving?

Moskowitz isn't onto some magical secret.  Her philosophy is one based in common sense, one that recognizes reality and rejects unicorn farts and fairy dust.

Update:  School safety is more important than racial balance in suspensions.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

I Figured Out Why One Of My Classes Has Me Down

My district switched to so-called integrated math a few years ago, and at my school we've added a new course each year.  We started with Integrated Math 1 two years ago, added Integrated Math 2 and 2+ last year (2+ is a fast track to calculus), and this year we added Integrated Math 3 and 3+ (students in 3+ will take calculus next year, by passing pre-calculus). 

Would I rather have stuck with Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2?  Heck yes!  And so would the vast majority of my district's math teachers.  That wasn't the input the district suits wanted, though....

Anyway, my department co-chair and I are teaching the two 3+ classes.  We've already planned out which lessons are to be covered each day for the entire school year so that we can cover the material needed to prepare students for calculus.  Not only is there no time for reteaching, there's not enough time for teaching in the first place.

I've been somewhat stressed lately, feeling like I'm not a very good teacher in that course.  These are exceptionally capable students, and I'm just shoveling information at them as fast as they can take it.  If they can take it, what's the matter, right?  Aren't I usually the person who says we should let students accelerate as fast as they can handle?  Yet here I am, in a super-accelerated class, and I feel like I'm not really teaching. Since I pride myself on my teaching, this class has me down.

Something's not right, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it--until yesterday.

As I said, I'm shoveling those students the information as fast as I can. The problem is that I'm not teaching.  I'm showing students how to solve problems, teaching them what they need to know how to do, but I'm not teaching them why what I'm teaching them works.  I'm not giving them the background information that explains an algorithm or amplifies a concept.  Here's the task, learn it, move on.

All that deep understanding, all the Common Core stuff?  That's what I'm not doing.  Believe me when I tell you that there isn't time to do so.  I've stated that I have these kids drinking from a fire hose, and that analogy isn't so extreme.  There isn't time in a 60 minute class to teach more.

That's what's been bothering me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

We're #1! We're #1!

The major Sacramento newspaper tells the truth about the 6th (or 7th or 8th, depending on who you listen to) largest economy in the world:
One in five Californians lives in poverty, the highest rate in the country, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The “Supplemental Poverty Measure,” factors in cost of living and shows a stubbornly high share of Golden State residents in poverty even as the national rate has dropped slightly.

Read more here:

If It's Such A Great Idea....

Gotta give credit to this person for his creativity:
Republicans worry about vote fraud. Democrats claim that Republicans are just imagining things. But in testimony Tuesday before the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, I will suggest a simple solution that could make both parties happy: Apply the background check system for gun purchases to voting.

Democrats have long lauded background checks on gun purchases as simple, accurate and in complete harmony with the Second Amendment right to own guns. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has bragged that the checks “make our communities and neighborhoods safer without in any way abridging rights or threatening a legitimate part of the American heritage.”

If Democrats really believe that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System doesn’t interfere “in any way” with people’s constitutional rights to own a gun, doesn't it follow that the same system would not constitute an infringement on people’s right to vote? This would give Republicans a system for stopping vote fraud and Democrats a system that they have already vigorously endorsed.
Voting and owning firearms are both constitutional rights....

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Another Good Showing

My alma mater looks good in the US News rankings:
United States Military Academy is ranked #12 in National Liberal Arts Colleges. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.
There's more detail:

Undergraduate data are based on the 2016 school year.