Tuesday, February 09, 2016

It's My Job, Not My Calling

I don't know if I've had a "calling" since I got out of the army half my life ago.  I've done things I'm good at, but I never felt any mysterious "this is what I'm meant to do" feeling for them, and that includes being a teacher.  Turns out I'm not the only one:
Teachers are skilled professionals — not missionaries, writes Amanda Ripley in The Washingtonian. Talking about teaching as a low-status career for the selfless drives away the smart, ambitious people the profession needs.

Snacks On Student Birthdays

I've (jokingly) told students that on their birthdays, they should bring me a cupcake or donut or something similar in celebration.

Today a girl, let's call her Susan, brought in a pink box.  It contained about a half-dozen donuts, and I thought she was offering me one.  No, she gave me the whole thing for her birthday!  In fact, on top of the box she had written "Happy Susan's Birthday!" 

I ate the chocolate one, and then received her permission to share the remaining ones in the staff lounge.

Someone had given her funfetti cupcakes.  And balloons.  And that was just 1st period....

Monday, February 08, 2016


In my current master's class, History of Educational Thought, we're reading about different educators and education philosophers, and one of our most recent ones was Rousseau.

I don't like Rousseau.

He completely made crap up, wrote it down in his book Emile, and people fawn over him/it and proclaim what a brilliant thinker he was.  Maybe, but this is a guy who left his own kids at an orphanage and was a total failure the only time he ever tried being a personal tutor.  I'm not much interested in what he has to say about children, their development, or their education.

This post at Joanne's site reminded me of Rousseau:
The classroom is outdoors at The Alaska Forest School, reports Erin Kirkland in the Alaska Dispatch News.

Lia Keller asked preschoolers if they could “find the tunnel from last time” and they led the way to a downed cottonwood, where they could play “foxes and bears” in a pit under the root ball...

The forest school idea started in Europe, but has spread around the world. It seems like a perfect fit for Alaska, says Beka Land, whose daughters are five and three. “The natural consequences of exploring the outdoors and talking through choices is so valuable,” Land said. “As a family, we like the idea of an outdoors-centered program that lets kids pick their own path.”
I'm not saying that this Forest School idea is bad, I think that kids should spend more time outdoors--especially young children.  Rousseau carried it to an extreme, though.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Should Teachers Make Men Out Of Boys?

China tries some more social engineering--because, you know, that one-child policy has worked so well for them:
Lin Wei, 27, one of a handful of male sixth-grade teachers at a primary school here, has made a habit of telling stories about warlords who threw witches into rivers and soldiers who outsmarted Japanese troops. “Men have special duties,” he said. “They have to be brave, protect women and take responsibility for wrongdoing.”

Worried that a shortage of male teachers has produced a generation of timid, self-centered and effeminate boys, Chinese educators are working to reinforce traditional gender roles and values in the classroom.

In Zhengzhou, a city on the Yellow River, schools have asked boys to sign pledges to act like “real men.” In Shanghai, principals are trying boys-only classes with courses like martial arts, computer repair and physics. In Hangzhou, in eastern China, educators have started a summer camp called West Point Boys, complete with taekwondo classes and the motto, “We bring out the men in boys.”

Education officials across China are aggressively recruiting male teachers, as the Chinese news media warns of a need to “salvage masculinity in schools.” The call for more male-oriented education has prompted a broader debate about gender equality and social identity at a time when the country’s leaders are seeking to make the labor market more meritocratic.

It also reflects a general anxiety about boys in Chinese society. While boys outnumber girls as a result of the longstanding one-child policy and a cultural preference for sons, they consistently lag in academic performance. Some parents worry about their sons’ prospects in an uncertain economy, so they are putting their hopes in male role models who they believe impart lessons on assertiveness, courage and sacrifice.

The view that there is an overabundance of female teachers that has had a negative effect on boys has, perhaps predictably, led to a backlash. Parents have accused schools of propagating rigid concepts of masculinity and gender norms, and female educators have denounced efforts to attract more male teachers with lavish perks as sexist.
On the other hand, the Society of Women Engineers sent some pamphlets to our school and asked us to hand them out. I refused, as their organization is sexist and exclusionary.  I half-jokingly remarked that perhaps I wouldn't have as much antipathy towards such organizations if there were similar organizations that tried to recruit boys and men into nursing or elementary teaching.  Reading the article above, though, I realize that I would have a problem with such organizations.  Can only men teach boys?  If "feminization" is the problem, shouldn't women teachers be taught how to be better teachers for boys?

So many problems when we start imposing our own views on others.

The Good Kind of Evil

From the party that brought you "for it before I was against it", let's really talk about big money in politics:
Former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) said Friday that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) should not boast about his freedom from super-PACs given his ties with organized labor.

“I don’t hear anybody asking Bernie Sanders for transcripts of some speech he made for a labor union,” he told host Andrea Mitchell on “MSNBC Live."

“For Bernie to say he doesn’t have a super-PAC…labor unions are super-PACs. Labor unions are super-PACs Democrats like so we don’t go after labor unions.”  (boldface mine--Darren)
Hypocrisy, thy name is the Democratic Party.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Abridging Free Speech While Claiming To Protect It

"Free speech zones" are so obviously unconstitutional that universities aren't planting their streamers on that particular totalitarian hill anymore.  No, now they're trying "bias response teams":
Universities are playing a dangerous constitutional game. They’re trying to deter speech they don’t like while avoiding creating policies or procedures that are plainly unconstitutional. As a result, they often do is create a “process-is-punishment” mechanism that subjects offending students to intrusive and humiliating investigations all the while claiming to any watching free speech advocates (or federal judges) that they’re not actually prohibiting protected speech, they’re just “investigating complaints.”

Friday, February 05, 2016

Sex, Laws, and Stupidity

I think some of our laws regarding sex crimes are draconian.  And sometimes their enforcement is just plain stupid.

Years ago, when my son was young, a neighbor suggested I check Megan's List.  I did, and found out a registered sex offender had moved into the neighborhood.  There was no indication that the person had anything to do with harming children, but all sex offenders are the same, right?  Someone who flashed someone is the same as a child rapist, that's the way the law is.

I noticed that, not far from me, there was a cluster of many sex offenders.  Turns out that there are requirements about where sex offenders--who, remember, have already done their time--can't live within a certain distance of a school.  So this one apartment complex has several sex offenders, because given its location (and cost relative to houses), it's one of the few places in the area where sex offenders can live after prison.  Doesn't matter if their offense had anything to do with kids or not.  They're all the same.

We don't label murderers when they get out.  Is there anyone--besides sex offenders--whom we do label and harass for the rest of their lives after they get out of prison?  I'm drawing a blank here.  It's clear to me we want them to suffer the rest of their lives, and this is how we do it.

This topic bothers me, not just because of what I see as the injustice of these particular laws, but also because of their application.  How many stories do we have to read of teenagers sexting each other and getting brought up on freakin' child pornography charges?  I can't believe that this is how our rather stringent laws were meant to be applied:
A Three Rivers, Michigan, teenager is both the victim and perpetrator of a sex crime. He might land on the sex offender registry, and face criminal charges, all because he took an inappropriate photo—of himself.

The boy is unnamed in local news reporters, which note that he is under 15 years of age. He allegedly took a nude photo of himself on a girl’s cell phone. That girl sent the picture to another girl, who sent it to another. Preliminary charges are pending for all three—the boy was charged with manufacturing child porn, and the girls with distributing it. A prosecutor is still weighing whether to pursue the charges...

Teens who create and share sexy photos aren’t child pornographers. They are teenagers. To pretend the law can suppress their natural curiosity about their own bodies, and each other’s, is to subscribe to vindictive madness and paranoia about human sexuality. These kids aren't hurting themselves—we're hurting them.
I work with teenagers every day.  I know of students who have sent pictures of themselves, or even of others, to other students.  It's not something wise, it's not something I condone, it's not something I recommend, but I cannot imagine for the life of me that it's something worthy of lifelong stigma and legal harassment.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Knowledge, Good.

I get so tired of the "just look up the knowledge someone else already learned" canard:
The Knowledge Matters campaign is lobbying for schools to teach a broad curriculum including history, science, geography, art and music — especially to “those least likely to gain such knowledge outside school.”

You’d think there’d be no need to ask schools to teach knowledge, but it’s being pushed aside by drill in reading skills and by the belief that kids don’t need to know anything because they can just look everything up.
Can I get an "amen!"?

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Have STEM, Will Travel

The two most intelligent people I know both went to state universities.  They both majored in engineering, too:
We’ve written before about how selective colleges function to perpetuate privilege, giving students access to exclusive resources, opportunities and networks that are unavailable to students who are just as bright but couldn’t impress an admissions committee at age 17—or who, for financial or personal reasons, didn’t want to go to a elite school. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the economists Erica Eide and Michael Himler, who have tallied earnings data for students across colleges and across different majors, offer an important qualification to his phenomenon: it only seems to apply to students who earn liberal arts degrees. Students with similar characteristics who major in STEM fields earn roughly the same wherever they go to college....
They've both done well for themselves.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

It's A (Post-)Christmas Miracle!

It doesn't matter what day of the week I give a test or a quiz on, there will be an inordinate number of students absent.    It's gotten out of hand.

Statistics classes, being all seniors, are especially bad at this.  So last week I put out the word:  the make-up quiz will be inordinately more difficult; so much so, I taunted, that I'll savor giving it.  I smiled a lot as I spoke.

Today we had our weekly "block schedule", having only odd-numbered periods.  Tomorrow we'll have even-numbered periods.  First period is especially bad, what with absences and tardies, but today not a single student was missing or late.  Third period was also 100% present.  Fifth period I teach a different class andt that class also had a quiz, but no one was absent--and I hadn't even threatened them with a harder make-up quiz!

My third stats class is tomorrow.  I'm curious to find out if everyone will be there to take the quiz.

It's clear everyone knows that I meant what I said.  Credibility pays dividends.

Update, 2/3/16:  The only two students that were absent today have been sick for several days.  Everyone else attended classes today.   Let me restate that:  in two days, I've had only two students miss class.

Monday, February 01, 2016

What Was The Point of the Civil Rights Movement? Not This, I'm Quite Sure

The whole purpose of the Civil Rights Era was to end segregation and different treatment based on race.  There is a direct line from Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, through Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, through the Little Rock Nine (commentary here), through the March on Washington, through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (which was signed by President Johnson when I was a few months old).  The Civil Rights Era can be summarized in a way in two quotes:
"There is no understandable factual basis for classification by race...."
-Thurgood Marshall, in his brief for the NAACP in Sipuel v. Oklahoma State Board of Regents, 332 U.S. 631 (1948)
(read more from Marshall here)

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 1963 "I have a dream" speech
The goal, quite clearly, was legal equality for all Americans.  There could be no color bar any longer.  Somehow, though, in the intervening half-century since the end of the Civil Rights Era, the idea of civil rights has morphed--actually, it's more apt to say it's been twisted--from its rightful focus on individual rights to what we have today, which is a focus on "group" rights.  And unfortunately, this focus on group rights has brought us full circle; we again have a situation in which some people are "more equal" than others, but this time it's minority (in this case black) students instead of whites, and what many of them are asking for is neo-segregation:
The University of Connecticut is hoping that black males will graduate at a higher rate if they spend more time with one another, and is building a new residence hall to facilitate just that.

The ScHOLA²RS House—which stands for "Scholistic [sic] House Of Leaders who are African American Researchers and Scholars"—"is a scholastic initiative to groom, nurture, and train the next generation of leaders to address grand challenges in society through the promotion of academic success in undergraduate programs at the University of Connecticut and in competitive graduate programs," the website states...

"It is a space for African American men to, one, come together, and validate their experiences that they may have on campus," he (a faculty director) explained. "Number two, it's also a space where they can have conversation and also talk with individuals who come from the same background who share the same experience."

The specialized housing does not—quite—constitute a "segregated" residence, as it is currently optional, much like the "affinity housing" that other schools have put in place to serve as a "safe space" for minority students.

Isaac Bloodworth, a sixth-semester puppetry major, however, ascribed opposition to the plan as simply racist.

"The white portion of the University of Connecticut is probably not ready for it," he speculated. "You have people who are going to go against it because they are just racist and they see this as a form of segregation or that we’re getting better things than they are."
Who sounds more racist: a person who considers this a form of segregation, or Isaac? 

We've heard for years, starting with Bakke in 1978, that the rationale/justification for so-called affirmative action in higher education is "diversity"; where's the diversity when you separate people by race?

Can racially-segregated dorms be justified by Marshall's and King's ideals?

Are the post-Ferguson Black Lives Matter protest demands (a view from the left here, a view from the right here) congruous with Marshall's and King's ideals?

Is this really what we want in higher education?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I Didn't Know AP Tests Were Scored Any Other Than 1 Thru 5

Apparently they are, and getting a 5 doesn't mean you "aced" it.  Only 12 people on the planet aced the AP Calculus test last year:
What's 12 divided by 302, 532?

It comes out to .00003967 or .003967 percent. That's the percentage of students in the entire world who took the test and earned a perfect score on the infamously difficult college-level Advanced Placement Calculus exam last year.

Cedrick Argueta, the son of a Salvadoran maintenance worker and a Filipina nurse, was in that tiny fraction of perfection, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the self-described quiet 17-year-old senior at Lincoln High — a school of about 1,200 students in the heavily Latino Lincoln Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles — called the news "crazy."

"Twelve people in the whole world to do this and I was one of them? It's amazing," he told the Times.
Though Argueta found out over the summer that he had achieved the highest score, a 5, on the three-hour and 15-minute test, he only found out about his perfect score last week when the College Board sent a letter to the school's principal.
Who knew!

And good for Cedrick for achieving excellence.

UpdateHere's a little more information.