Monday, September 01, 2014

Remember When Republicans Wanted To "Cut Funding For Big Bird"?

Maybe that was a good thing.  We wouldn't want to harm children, now, would we?
Thrillingly, the early episodes of Sesame Street have just been released on DVD, but be warned - those shows are dangerous! Slapped across the front of the case is the message, "These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child." And looking at the wobbly sets and be-stringed puppets, they probably are better suited to sentimental adults than kids raised on Pixar. But this sticker is an expression of concern.

It's not the psychedelic nature of the programme in its 70s incarnation that worries, but the behaviour it might encourage. Children dancing in the street! Grown men reading storybooks to kids - for no apparent reason!
I recall reading once that in the first episode, a sad child is invited into a man's house for milk and cookies--and that's one of the horrors to which our modern prudes object. Yes, let's just assume that every man is a child molester.  That's the ticket to a balanced psyche and a good society...

It's just a tv show.

A Wee Willy Winkie?

I guess it takes all types, even in science:
Here at IFLS, we love many things. But we relish the opportunity to talk about two of our favorite subjects- animals, and genitals. So we thought we would dedicate an entire article on wacky willies and quirky nether regions. Because who doesn’t love to learn about four headed penises and musical privates? You can thank us afterwards for this enlightening genital journey.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Even This Liberal Columnist Knows That The "Rape Culture" Stuff Is Bunk

Now anybody sending a daughter off to college these days would be well-advised to hire a professional referee to give her the final instruction boxers get before the bell: “Protect yourself at all times.” That said, isn't it odd that with violent crime rates dropping sharply everywhere, sexual assaults are supposedly metastasizing on campus?

Supposedly, one in five women college students gets sexually assaulted. Never mind that if one in five Starbucks customers got molested, the chain would soon go out of business. It follows that nobody outside the Task Force really believes those numbers. Alarming statistics are manufactured by including in the definition of “sexual assault” things like trying to steal a kiss or patting a girl on the fanny – ill-advised and boorish, but not normally a crime.

This is not to make light of real sexual crimes. Quite the opposite. Those should be prosecuted in real courts by law enforcement professionals. It's an imperfect system, but these faculty tribunals are a joke.  link
His point about Starbucks is true, and here's another:  if, say, high school counselors actually believed that statistic, couldn't they be considered accessories for pushing so many women to go to college?  If nothing else, how could they sleep at night knowing they were sending one in five girls to such an environment?

It's a bad number that won't go away, just like the "women make xxx cents for every dollar a man makes".  It serves someone's political need.  This is the politics of lying, and it doesn't seem to matter who gets hurt in the process.

Why Do People Make Things Up To Get Worried About, And Possibly Ruin Lives In The Process?

A book whose story takes place 900 years in the future, and the author (a teacher) was taken by police for a psychiatric evaluation?  What is this, Salem, Massachusetts?
A Maryland middle school teacher was placed on leave — and taken by police for an “emergency” psychiatric evaluation — because he wrote two novels set 900 years in the future about school massacres.

A police search for guns and bombs found nothing. (Not even a slice of pizza chewed into the shape of a gun?!) But police will guard the middle school until the nonexistent danger is past.
The sane mind spins at the insanity.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Why California Needs A Part-Time Legislature

Perhaps if there was less time for them to meet, they'd pass necessary laws instead of having plenty of time to spend on stupid and inconveniencing laws like this:
The state Senate on Friday gave final legislative approval to a measure that would phase out single-use plastic bags in supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores as part of an effort to rid beaches and streets of litter.

The measure, which now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration, would allow stores to charge customers 10 cents to provide paper or reusable plastic bags as an alternative to single-use bags.
"Single-use"? Who says so? Why can't people who don't reuse them just put them in their recycling bin?  Why do we have to ban something that's useful?  (Ans:  because liberals like compulsion.  It's who they are, it's what they do.)

I wonder if anyone's considered the water that will be necessary to wash all the reusable bags we're supposed to use now.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Clean Classroom Is A Happy Classroom

Today one of our custodians told me how easy my room was to clean this summer, how easy it was to wax and polish the floors, because my room was already so clean anyway.

I don't know what goes on in some rooms.  Some people must drag furniture across the floors day and night, their floors look so bad.  Some people allow students to wipe the mud off the bottoms of their shoes using the bookracks under the seat of the desk in front of them.  I've seen the piles of dirt  and/or mud (on those couple days a year around here when it's wet), and it's gross.

I do keep a pretty neat and clean room.  In fact, every custodian who's ever taken care of my room--at all three schools at which I've taught--has made it a point to thank me for making their job easier.  They tell me about having to pick up trash off the floors....

I don't do it for the compliments, I do it because I don't want to teach in a pig sty.  But I'm glad it's clean enough for them to notice, and I'm glad it makes their job easier at no real cost to anyone else.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is This Really The Kind Of Society In Which We Want To Live?

When one class of people has more protection under the law, when one group of people is automatically assumed by law to be a suspect class, there lie problems:
In the rush to advance legislation to combat sexual assault on college campuses, California lawmakers have cast aside the due process rights of the accused. As a result, more college men could find themselves unfairly branded as rapists.

On Monday, the California Assembly overwhelmingly passed S.B. 967, a bill that would apply a uniform definition of sexual consent to all colleges and universities that receive state funds.

The law is being pitched as a way to ensure the safety of college students. But instead of merely making sure that all accusations of rape are treated seriously, it creates a standard that stacks the deck against the accused.
For those of you for whom this type of information is important, the author is a woman--not that that matters to reasonable people without an agenda.

Update:  Stupid, unfair, and unconstitutional rules which are applied mostly against men will disappear almost overnight if they start being applied against women:
On June 9, 2014, the female student in question was visiting with friends in UO’s Carson Hall dormitory. According to the student, looking out of the dormitory window, she spotted a male and female student walking together (she did not know either of them) and shouted “I hit it first” at them in jest. The female of the couple responded with two profanities and the couple reported the student’s comment to the Resident Assistant of the dorm. The Resident Assistant located the student and insisted that she apologize to the couple for her remark. The student readily obliged.

That did not end the matter, however. On June 13, the student was shocked to receive a “Notice of Allegation” letter charging her with five separate conduct violations for her four-word joke. In addition to dubious allegations of violating the residence hall’s noise and guest policies, UO charged the student with “[h]arassment,” “disruption,” and “[d]isorderly conduct.” After being presented with these outrageous and unconstitutional charges, the student contacted FIRE.

FIRE wrote to UO President Michael Gottfredson on August 1, demanding that the charges against the student be dropped. FIRE also called on UO to revise its unconstitutional speech codes—in particular, the harassment policy under which it charged the student. That policy contains unconstitutionally broad and vague prohibitions on “[u]nreasonable insults,” “gestures,” and  “abusive words” that may cause “emotional distress” to others, subjecting UO students to punishment for any expression deemed subjectively distressing. FIRE’s letter explained that Oregon courts have struck down state harassment laws containing similar prohibitions.
If you're going to support the "disparate impact" argument regarding race and education, law enforcement, etc, you can't look away when there's a disparate impact against a group or class just because you don't want to see them as victims.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tech In Schools

Anyone but a "true believer" could have told you this was going to fail, and fail spectacularly:
In a surprising reversal, L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy has abruptly halted the district's billion-dollar technology program, which aimed to put an iPad into the hands of every student and teacher by the end of, yes, this year.

It's a rare retreat for the headstrong superintendent intent on getting the tablets into classrooms as soon as humanly possible. But it comes after more than a year of negative news stories – everything from LAUSD students "hacking" devices to the incomplete iPAD-friendly software to an allegedly chummy bidding process in which Deasy gave Apple and Pearson, the software company, a leg up
It gets better:
The practical part is to give children some practice in the months leading up to California's big switch in testing, when some students, this spring, will begin taking their standardized tests on computers, not on paper. Loads of students won't do well if they don't know their way around a computer.

The idealistic part is to narrow the very real digital divide that separates poor and working-class Los Angeles children from middle-class and rich kids.
If you think giving a teenager an iPad is going to bridge any gap at all, you're just nuts.  Or a true believer, but I repeat myself.

Here's the climax:
"My responsibility is to lift kids out of poverty," says Deasy. "They have the right to technology."
That's not his responsibility, and kids don't have a right to technology.  Kids are entitled to a decent education, which they obviously aren't going to get in a district run by someone who thinks fixing social issues takes priority over the 3 R's.

The LAUSD board should fire him immediately for not even knowing what his job is.  That they don't tells you all you need to know about LAUSD in particular and public education in general.

Best and Worst Majors If You Want To Make A Buck

In which fields are graduates often underemployed, and in which fields are employment prospects good?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#WarOnWomen? Not Quite.

It's three mothers who have formed a new non-profit to ensure due process rights for those in the crazed sexual environment of higher education:
She and two other mothers who say their sons were falsely accused of sexual misconduct recently formed a national nonprofit organization called Families Advocating for Campus Equality to provide a support system for other families going through what they experienced and to bring awareness to what they call a “lack of fair and balanced safeguards within campus hearings.”

“When this happened to Caleb in 2010, I thought we were the only ones,” she said. “We felt very isolated. You feel afraid a lot. It’s very traumatic.”

Their goal is to ensure fairness and due process for all parties involved in allegations of sexual misconduct on college campuses. The group also hopes to help change the ways campuses respond to sexual assaults. When the issue of sexual misconduct on college campuses is addressed, rights of the accused are hardly, if ever, mentioned, said Warner Seefeld, who is president of the group.
Caleb was never even charged with a crime but was still kicked out of college.  How does that remotely seem reasonable?  Is this what feminism has become?  Because if it is, I want nothing more to do with it.

Anxiety, and Section 504

Talk at the lunchroom table recently has revolved around the latest fad in 504 Plans, and that's anxiety.

But let's back up for people who don't know what a 504 Plan is.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was designed to help kids with physical issues.  Apparently there were some rather inflexible teachers back in those days, teachers who wouldn't accommodate a child's physical issues.  Section 504 requires schools to make accommodations, such as:
  • allowing a student with low blood sugar to eat a candy bar, even if food isn't allowed in class
  • giving an exceptionally obese student more time to get to class, especially if he/she has to walk across campus
  • cutting slack on assignments related to color for the kid who's colorblind
  • getting large-print books for a student who's near-blind
The following comes from a pamphlet put out by the Office of Civil Rights:
Section 504 defines an individual with a disability as a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include caring for one’s self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, performing manual tasks and learning.

Some examples of impairments that may substantially limit major life activities include: HIV/AIDS, blindness or low vision, cancer, deafness, diabetes, heart disease, intellectual disabilities and mental illness.
You get the idea.  Pretty common-sense, right?  Well, the problem with Section 504 is that there's one clause in it that, like the Commerce Clause in the US Constitution, has been blown and stretched out of its original meaning to essentially become a catch-all for any additional bennie a parent can get for a child, and that's "and specific learning disabilities."

You might think that ends it, but let's look at the definition of "physical or mental impairment" that requires accommodation under Section 504:
(A) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory; including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hermetic and lymphatic; skin; or endocrine; or
(B) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
You can see that Section 504 is designed to accommodate certain specific disabilities, and I assert that "specific learning disabilities" was understood when it was written to mean disabilities more like dyslexia and less like "oppositional-defiance disorder" or "anxiety".

If a parent wants special consideration for his/her kid, all he/she has to do is get a doctor to say that the child has some "condition" and the world of 504 accommodations opens up for them.  For the longest time, ADD/ADHD was the prize; if you could get that diagnosis you could ask for the sun, the moon, and some unicorn farts for your kid and the schools pretty much gave it to you (actually, administration promised it all and the teachers have to make it happen).  Get a diagnosis, any diagnosis, and your kid gets a leg up on all the other kids.  Bonus!  Of course not every parent and/or student abuses Section 504, but abuse is common enough that I haven't met a teacher yet who doesn't get at least a little frustrated when a new 504 Plan hits their mailbox.

So back to the lunchtime conversation.  Several of us have noticed that, over the past few years, we're getting more and more students in class with 504 Plans.  Furthermore, ADD/ADHD, the former gold standard in diagnoses, is starting to go out of favor.  The up-and-coming diagnosis is, you guessed it, anxiety.

I myself am noticing this trend, as I've put three students in the past four days in tears.  And I'm not even trying!  Ask someone a question they can't answer, anxiety!  Ask someone to focus on their schoolwork, anxiety!  Look at a kid the wrong way, anxiety!

And it's not like I'm known as Mr. Mean, either.  In general I have very good rapport with students, and being less than two weeks into the school year so far it's not like I'm tired of kids, don't like kids, or any other excuse someone could come up with.  I'm just flummoxed!

I was discussing a recent "event" with one of our school counselors today.  We view things pretty much the opposite of each other but we agreed on this:  kids are getting this diagnosis and we have to deal with it.  I don't want "I need to go talk to my counselor!" to be a get-out-of-class-free card, and she doesn't want kids who genuinely need to talk to be denied.

There must be some median between "There there, baby" and "Suck it up, Buttercup."  I hope we find it, because 504 Plans have been around for a long time and they're not going away.

Personally, I lean more to the way of thinking that says we should teach the kids effective ways to deal with their own anxiety and not expect someone else to fix it for them all the time, but that's just me.  I'm Mr. Mean.

UpdateHere's some related humor.

Monday, August 25, 2014

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Play Dirty

Can anyone come up with a similar situation in which it was Republicans acting like this?
The indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry on August 15, 2014 has drawn criticism from pundits, politicians and papers all over the country. Some Democrats have disavowed the indictment, going as far as to claim that launching courtroom attacks against their opponents in the GOP is just not how Democrats operate.

But is that the case? Or have Democrats shown a disturbing pattern of using courtrooms to go after Republicans who pose a threat to them?

The following eight cases suggest that Democrats will wield ethics complaints and courtrooms as weapons against Republicans at strategic moments.
Let's not forget "let's keep recounting votes until we get the result we want", a la Christine Gregoire's 3 counts until they finally found enough votes in the trunk of someone's car in Seattle to put her over the top against Gino Rossi.  Let's not forget other electoral shenanigans, such as illegally allowing Frank Lautenberg on the ballot to replace Robert Torricelli when he had to resign.  And these are recent ones off the top of my head, there are plenty more from history.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How Many Education Consultants and Charlatans Does This Guy Want To Put Out Of Work?

What is the key to better education for kids?  This guy has what seems to be a fairly obvious answer:
Hattie says there’s far too much focus on things that will do little to improve student success — such as reducing class size, focusing on transformational ideas and leadership, advocating for discovery or inquiry-based learning, and labelling kids with learning disabilities and learning styles — and not nearly enough time and money spent on the one thing that matters: raising the level of teacher expertise.
The more I learn about other teachers, the more I come to believe that.
Perhaps his least popular finding is that reducing class sizes enhances student achievement, but not by much. “It does have an effect,” Hattie says. “The problem is it’s very small"...

Educational research also doesn’t support the notion of classifying kids with various disorders or learning styles, Hattie says. “It’s pop psychology rubbish that’s perpetuated in our system ... It’s absolutely almost criminal how we classify kids and label.”

Teachers certainly need to understand each child and to use all kinds of strategies to reach each one, but labelling the kids doesn’t help, Hattie says. “That’s great he’s got that learning style, but let’s give him some other ones, because when that one doesn’t work, what is he going to do?"
To that I can only add a loud and thunderous "hear hear!"
Hattie is also leery about Alberta Education’s recent fixation on discovery or constructivist learning, where the teacher is a facilitator and even elementary-aged students fixate on project and group work, with little or no focus on memorizing math facts and word sounds.

The evidence shows this inquiry-based learning model has limited success, Hattie says. “I would seriously wonder why you would take on something that we know is below average.”
I feel the same about Common Core, both the math standards themselves as well as the almost-explicitly-required pedagogy that goes with them.
Hattie isn’t a big fan of a massive curriculum rewrite either. “All those people who want to spend hours and money on curriculum change, it’s not going to make a difference.”
Curriculum itself usually isn't the biggest problem when it comes to adverse educational outcomes.
Excellence abounds here, he says. “One of my messages, particularly to the politicians, is: ‘Don’t look outside, don’t look to Finland, don’t look around the world. It’s here in Alberta right now.’ ”

The real job, Hattie says, is having school principals get into the classrooms, figure out which teachers are having success and which are not, then working with the ones who need it.
Again, hear hear!

This article definitely speaks truth to me.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Are You Surprised By This Entirely Predictable, and Predicted, Result?

If so, you're not very bright, and you weren't paying attention when those of us who understand even the slightest bit about economics were telling you this would happen.  You let your slobbering support for an untested man as president overwhelm any reason and common sense you may have had, and now the country will suffer under the weight of your socialist dystopia.  Here's just one more example:
Add the Affordable Care Act – or, specifically, the big-business Cubs’ response to it – to the causes behind Tuesday night’s tarp fiasco and rare successful protest by the San Francisco Giants.

The staffing issues that hamstrung the grounds crew Tuesday during a mad dash with the tarp under a sudden rainstorm were created in part by a wide-ranging reorganization last winter of game-day personnel, job descriptions and work limits designed to keep the seasonal workers – including much of the grounds crew – under 130 hours per month, according to numerous sources with direct knowledge.

That’s the full-time worker definition under “Obamacare,” which requires employer-provided healthcare benefits for “big businesses” such as a major league team.
You refuse to believe that people, and organizations, respond both to incentives and disincentives.  You choose to believe, in the absence of any evidence, that if you add just the right amount of pixie dust and ground unicorn horn to the current mix that everyone will live happily ever after.  And when it doesn't work you complain that those who were right sabotaged you, that people just didn't try hard enough to implement your ideas, that maybe just a little more pixie dust will do the trick.

I may be over here on the side of the road drinking my Slurpee, to paraphrase your Lightbringer Obama, but I'm smart enough to know that you can't wish the car out of the ditch.  I also know that digging isn't going to get it out of the ditch, but that is what you keep trying.

Will you please, just once, ditch your left-wing, authoritarian, top-driven, rose-colored views of how things should work and join the rest of us here in reality?  It's an open invitation.

Update, 8/25/14Here's another set of examples:
Institutions say complying with the Affordable Care Act has caused them to pass on some costs to employees, according to a new survey from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

Since the act began to take effect, some 20 percent of institutions have made changes to benefits in an effort to control associated costs, the survey says. About the same percentage of colleges are considering making changes, or making further changes, in the year ahead. Of those institutions that have made changes so far, 41 percent have increased employees’ share of premium costs...

The new health care law as it relates to higher education made headlines last year, when scores of colleges and universities began to limit adjuncts’ hours so as to minimize their number of full-time employees. Under the act, large employers must offer health care coverage to employees working 30 hours or more per week.