Category ►►► Educational Elucidations

March 27, 2012

Greasing My Spindle Regurgitated

Educational Elucidations , Energy Woes and Wows , News of the Weird
Hatched by Dafydd

To recap, John Hinderaker at Power Line sporatically adds to a series he calls "slucing my spindle" or "polishing my pole" or somesuch (I forget), wherein he collates several quick hits on newsy items that either don't warrant a full post, or to which he was too lazy to publish in a timelier manner.

Since I'm even lazier than he, I have heisted the concept complete, and now I pretend that it's my own and hope nobody notices. Thus...

A twelve hundred mile reality gap

This one is too delicious to pass up: Trying to "deflect" the ire of Americans over four-dollar gas -- set to rise to five-dollar gas this summer -- President Barack H. "Gas Passer" Obama has finally, if reluctantly, embraced the Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas. Yazoo, yakima!

Oh, wait; it was the part over which the president has no authority... and he "authorized" only the half of it anyway: Obama is willing to "jump start" the (already scheduled) project to build the southern half of the pipeline... you know, that part that doesn't connect to the oilfields in Canada. So this authorized/unauthorized pipeline can just sit there as a monument to liberalism at its smirkiest:

"Despite numerous attempts by Republicans to compel the president to approve the Keystone permit, Americans are still left with a 1,179-mile (1,897-km) gap between the oil resources and this southern portion of the pipeline," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, referring to the full Keystone XL project.

Well! Who could argue with that Solomonic compromise? We build half the pipeline -- the half that doesn't connect to anything but an oil storage depot in Cushing, Oklahoma. As the saying goes, a man should not commence vast projects with only half-vast ideas.

I wonder if voters will get the joke.

BFF in the UK

There are some Progressivist ideas that simply scream for a mass "WTF?" Such as:

Teachers are banning schoolkids from having best pals -- so they don't get upset by fall-outs.

Instead, the primary pupils are being encouraged to play in large groups.

Educational psychologist Gaynor Sbuttoni said the policy has been used at schools in Kingston, South West London, and Surrey.

She added: "I have noticed that teachers tell children they shouldn't have a best friend and that everyone should play together.

What could go wrong?

Say, why don't we extend the policy to adults, as well? The British government could ban men and women from falling in love; think how painful it will be if they break up or get divorced!

And of course, they should ban career planning because of the severe shock if employees don't get promoted... or in Britain's case, employed at all.

I love the idea; it's so efficient: Rather than waste time and effort improving one's lot, isn't it better just to reject hope altogether? That way, you'll never be disappointed again.

Eurosocialist Progressivism: Leading the free world in institutionalized despair as public policy!

John Paul III he ain't

Pope Benedict XVI (no relation to Napoleon the XIV, as I understand it) courageously announced today that Communism is no longer working in Cuba:

His remarks on Friday were at least as forthright as any made by his predecessor, John Paul II, on a groundbreaking trip to the country 14 years ago. Answering a question about his visit to Cuba, which has remained a communist bastion for more than 50 years, the pope said: "Today it is evident that Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality."

Actually, I suspect that Pope John Paul II might have been a skosh more forthright. He might have inquired, after Benedict said Communism was no longer working, when did it ever? Yes, it was working like gangbusters for the first few decades; then something went terribly, terribly wrong!

Or he might have quoted his famous friend and simply left it at, "there you go again!"

Zimmerman's dreadful mistake

The current stories dominating the news the last few days, anent the confrontation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, hold that it was Martin (the "victim") who first assaulted and then battered Zimmerman (the "assailant") -- rather than the other way around. Zimmerman claims that Martin punched him in the nost hard enough to knock him to the ground, then straddled him and repeatedly banged Zimmerman's head against the sidewalk. It was only then, emerging evidence suggests, that Zimmerman drew and shot Martin at point-blank range.

Aren't we glad that the President of the United States has already weighed in with his support for Trayvon Martin (and subtextual judgment that George Zimmerman is a despicable racist and murderer)?

Assuming the current claims prove correct -- and the police have admitted that the physical evidence seems to back Zimmerman up -- then I would have to say the plain implication is that Zimmerman did indeed make a terrible, and ultimately deadly mistake.

He should have drawn his gun earlier.

Zimmerman should have drawn his concealed pistol as soon as Martin began to approach him in a menacing manner. Had he done so, Zimmerman could have controlled the situation better; it's even possible that Martin would have backed off -- and Trayvon Martin might be alive today.

So the lesson for today is... if you are armed, and if a situation begins to develop that warrants an act of self defense (or defense of another), then earlier is better than later. The longer you wait, the less control you likely have over events.

Hey -- it's just like war! As Winston Churchill noted (paraphrasing Machiavelli), if a nation puts off a war that is inevitable (think Iran), a very likely outcome is that when the war finally comes, it will be significantly harder to win and much more devastating.

Something to think about; even the smallest stone thrown into the most local lake can create ripples of national and even international import. And on that pompous yet sententious note...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 27, 2012, at the time of 11:32 PM | Comments (9)

July 19, 2011

Cheat Sheet

Democratic Culture of Corruption , Educational Elucidations
Hatched by Dafydd

In response to the No Child Left Behind policy of George W. Bush, in which schools, administrators, and even teachers can be held accountable for incompetent "teaching" that in fact does leave children behind, hundreds, perhaps thousands of teachers and other school functionaries have decided to raise standardized test grades the old-fashioned way: by cheating:

Those sneaky students in the back of the classroom aren’t the only cheaters.

Teachers and school leaders are getting in on the scams by boosting test scores not through better instruction, but by erasing wrong answers, replacing them with the right ones and hoodwinking parents in the process.

Funnily enough, the cities where cheating runs utterly rampant are by and large Democrat occupied territory: Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. Except for Houston, which is a "divided city," they have all long been run by Democrats; and even Houston has a Democratic mayor -- and the last Republican mayor of that city left office nearly thirty years ago.

Democrats are likewise enormously over-represtented among teachers and "educators," as well. Given the Democratic culture of corruption and lawlessness, I find myself unsurprised that teachers, faced with evidence of their own failure to educate, respond not by improving their teaching skills but by honing their talents for trickery, dishonesty, fraud, and criminality; seducing their students to do the same; and then reaching out to powerful Democrats to deep six such few standards as still exist in this age of Obama.

Evidently, some see not the cheater but "the system," standardized testing itself, as the culprit:

Under No Child Left Behind guidelines, schools can be labeled “failing” if student test scores don’t meet state benchmarks. [Quelle surprise! -- DaH] Poor results are embarrassing for teachers and often cost principals, superintendents and school board members their jobs. By contrast, high scores on reading and math tests equal praise for those in charge.

In the face of such pressure, teachers and administrators sometimes go with their “natural reaction,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

“The teachers and principals who changed test scores did something unethical and probably illegal, [but they were] caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “We’ve created a climate that corrupted the educational process. The sole goal of education … became boosting scores by any means necessary.”

Yes, I'm sure we've all noticed in our own lives an utterly resistable compulsion to resort to dishonesty and criminality whenever we're not doing well at a task. Irresistable!

What's galling is that cheating teachers and administrators, and their Democratic political enablers, have redefined the whole point of standardized testing as some terrible, unanticipated flaw in standardized testing: If "student test scores don't meet state benchmarks," isn't that the very definition of a failing school? Students in "failing" schools clearly aren't learning; because if they were, they would do reasonably well on the standardized tests.

Wait, perhaps standardization is itself stultifying; why not simply allow teachers, who are closest to the students, to evaluate their performance via grading and just work with that?

But there is a flaw in the logic here: The whole original point of standardized testing was to correct for the previous form of teacher and administrator cheating: the routine promotion of students, regardless of their performance, and the hallucinatory grade inflation that invariably accompanied guaranteed promotion. In an effort to make themselves and their schools look good, and to get more of their kids into upper-tier universities, teachers gave much higher grades than the students had earned. Although on paper they were well prepared for college, in reality, they were utterly at sea from Day 1 and frequently dropped or failed out of university.

When I was a teaching assistant (TA) at U.C. Santa Cruz, in the math department, I was utterly appalled by the huge number of students who hadn't the faintest idea what a mathematical proof was, how to construct one, or even what one looked like -- and I'm talking about a calculus class for math or science majors, not "Math for Poets"! I had to spend the first few weeks just teaching these incoming freshmen the most basic elements of a mathematical proof, which they were supposed to have mastered before even being admitted to a math or hard-science major at any campus of the University of California.

In theory, they all had that skill; in their own minds, they were all learned in mathematical proofs; but in practice, perhaps a third of them were reasonably competent. The other two thirds had been shanked by their "compassionate" teachers.

To combat this kind of scholastic cheating -- teachers and principals cheating their students out of the education they thought they were getting -- state boards of education set up standardized testing and implemented the "No Child Left Behind" policy; which was flawed, to be sure, but was at least a step forward, not backward. If schools that are not actually teaching get labeled as "failed" schools, that is a feature, the main feature of the program -- not a bug!

Does anybody really believe that a teacher willing to erase wrong answers and write in the correct ones (assuming he or she knows them) would scruple merely to inflate a few grades for the same motivation? Wouldn't the same cheating teachers of today cheat just as much if working under a hypothetical, grade-only standard?

I wonder how many of the apologists for incompetent teaching were themselves taught by incompetent teachers, and perhaps became incompetent teachers in turn. How much opposition to standardized testing is nothing more than self interest and self defense?

I have argued for many years that the chief educational reform we need, the one that would do the most good, is not reducing classroom size; or implementing this or that theoretical, egghead pedagogy; or funneling ever more money into the insatiable maw of government schools; or Lord help us, handing yet more power to the teachers unions. None of the above. The most important reform is to root out the lousy, incompetent teachers from the classrooms, even if you have to use gunpowder, treason, and plot.

My gut feeling is that nationwide, at least twenty percent of K-12 teachers are so incompetent they should be fired immediately and perhaps sent to remedial education camps in a perhaps futile attempt to fill their own educational lacunae. But in some school districts, like the Los Angeles Unified, the incompetency rate is probably closer to 60% (based on personal experience as a child).

It's hardly a wonder that teachers unions and Democratic machine politics so often work foot in glove; it's a match made... well, not in heaven, perhaps, but a mating nonetheless.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 19, 2011, at the time of 4:40 PM | Comments (2)

July 28, 2010

Brilliance at Midnight - the Dawn

Educational Elucidations , Kriminal Konspiracies , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

In the comments of the previous post, commenter BigLeeH asked how I would "go about pursuing the war of ideas which we both agree should be a central focus in our confrontation with radical Islamism." Here are some thoughts I've had recently on that very subject.

(Note that I only discuss here the war of ideas against the radical Islamists; we of course also need actual military action... but that is beyond the scope of this piece.)

I point out that every one of these suggestions was actually carried out during World War II, within the context of the 1930s and 40s, of course. In fact, the defenders of American values went even farther, making scores of movies that were pro-American, pro-allied (including pro-Soviet), anti-Nazi, and anti-Imperial Japanese; producing pro-America propaganda for radio and the stage; and enlisting the aid of popular entertainers world-wide. There is no reason that conservatives within the entertainment industry -- and there are some -- cannot do at least some of that; "What Man has done, Man can aspire to do again."

School's in forever

The most important task before launching into a war of ideas is to fully arm and equip our "soldiers" -- in this case, our soldiers comprise all Americans willing and able to defend Western values of individual liberty, property and Capitalism, freedom of speech and religion (not merely freedom of worship, as Obama would have it), actual rule of law, and governance by the consent of the governed. Bluntly, I mean educating the masses about the Grand Jihad, its goals, its methods, and the existential danger it poses.

There are, as we know, any number of excellent books which will give the reader a very good education in the goals, strategies, and history of what Andrew McCarthy calls the Grand Jihad or the Project, a.k.a. the Islamist Project (just to be more specific). I'm not going to give a suggested reading list, because I can't possibly survey the literature deeply enough to make even a fair pass at it. But I'm sure there are experts in the field, such as former federal prosecutor McCarthy, or Professor Bernard Lewis, or even a lowly journalist like Mark Steyn or Hugh Hewitt, who could promulgate a required and desired reading list.

Step 1 in the war of ideas is not to be a tabula rasa; let's assume you've all read enough to educate yourselves. We move along.

Alas, while such books are necessary, they won't do the heavy lifting of educating the American heartland. Not because Americans are too stupid to read (that's a canard of the Left), but because most Americans either don't have time to read, or have been so traumatized by being force-fed leftist propaganda in school that they never developed the habit of reading. Thus, a 300-page tome is unattractive and intimidating.

Too, young Americans prefer a more interactive, more human style of communication. I believe much of what we find out, despite the left-leaning news media's desperate attempts to suppress it (such as the true nature of ObamaCare, with its huge taxes, massive premium hikes, and rationing councils that amount to death panels), we find out just by talking to our friends. (I call this news distribution system "water-cooler samizdat.")

Americans are always news-hungry; but for the water-cooler samizdat to start spreading the news virally, it must have an input source somewhere.

Our ideological army must publish short, readable articles in surprising venues, from Readers Digest to People to McCall's to Newsweek to Popular Mechanics, even to Playboy... except for the last, all magazines you'd find in a doctor's office or in the lobby of your office building or in the waiting room of your automobile service center.

These articles should:

  • Keep the message simple and clear, using plain words.
  • Include necessary examples but not lard down the piece with too many anecdotes.
  • Be brutally honest -- not minimizing, but not exaggerating, either.
  • Focus on the ideology and how it encourages violence when necessary, but is even more dangerous when it's "mere" propaganda and sabotage.

So much for structure; what about substance? I think this should be the general outline of the articles, though obviously each one should deal with a different aspect or "take" on the central theme:

Radical Islamism has been at war with us not just since 9/11, not even just since 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini seized control in Iran, but at least since 1928, the year that Hassan al-Banna founded the Society of Muslim Brothers (the Muslim Brotherhood). Or perhaps since the mid-eighteenth century, when Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab began preaching what we now call Wahhabism. Or one could even trace the war's beginning all the way back to Mohammed himself at the turn of the 7th century.

The point is that they, the Islamists, have always known they were at war with us, the West; and they have acted accordingly. Contrariwise, we have known, then forgotten, then remembered, then forgotten again, then remembered again, then forgotten again... for literally centuries. 9/11 was an alarm klaxton warning us that we've allowed the enemy to breach the outer defenses. The threat persists; but too many Americans, and especially too many of our national leaders, have long since hit the snooze button, rolled over, and fallen back asleep.

But can anti-Islamists really gain a toehold in national magazines? Not all, but surely some.

A few of the obvious venues will be utterly hostile to "outing" radical Islamism. But credentialed journalists who oppose the Grand Jihad must keep trying; and of course, keep publishing in those magazines that are not actively hostile to Western values or active collaborators with radical Islamism.

(How does an ordinary writer get published in a magazine like the above? It's not easy; I've never been able to crack them. But one tactic is to team up with someone who has "credentials" in the national-security or Islamic studies field, someone who has the knowledge but not the ability to write a strong article. National magazines are much more likely to publish something by, say, a former senator and his co-writer, or a former CIA analyst and his co-writer, than by some no-name writer whose only nonfiction publication is the blog he writes. Of course, if the writer himself has such credentials, that's even better!)

Another good source of education is a guest speaker at a club, service organization, or church gathering. Such venues are often desperate for entertaining and motivational speakers on a wide variety of topics; so why not this one? Those of you who are good at public speaking could work up a nice 45-minute talk: Why the world seems suddenly upside-down -- and how it's been a long time coming.

The presidential "bully pulpit" is another powerful venue. Of course, Obama is highly unlikely to aid or abet this effort... but if this president won't do it, we must demand that the next president becomes the Great Communicator, like Ronald Reagan, about the threat of our time that rivals the threat of Communism that Reagan faced -- and defeated.

But there are plenty of mini-bully pulpits, many Republican and even some anti-jihad Democratic congressmen who can talk about the Islamist Project -- its origins, its agenda, the threat it poses, and what we can do about it -- during town-hall meetings, during interviews, and during their reelection campaigns. It shouldn't be too much of a distraction; national security is always an important "issue" for American voters.

Once Americans have a much better understanding of what we're up against and where to look for radical Islamist subversion of our system of government (for example, demands for "sharia law" in some section of an American city that happens to have a large Moslem population), they can denounce the idea, out the vermin who are pushing it, and largely neutralize the "soft jihad."

There's gotta be a law...!

And for the most part, there is.

It's long past time we start prosecuting (at the least) every member of the government, federal, state, and local, who knowingly leaks classified information, contributes money or effort to terrorist groups, or infiltrates vital agencies or departments with the intent to sabotage them. For too long, our policy has been to fret and dither but never actually file charges.

This stands in marked contrast with how we treat those caught spying, infiltrating, or sabotaging on behalf of foreign governments in past decades, such as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, or a host of other hostiles. Why should covert agents for enemy ideologies like radical Islamism get a free pass?

We'll win some prosecutions and lose others; but even the losses, if well publicized, will serve to wake up Americans and other Westerners to the danger. And every prosecution will out another batch of deep-cover, enemy organizations and individuals; just as the Holy Land Foundation prosecution outed CAIR, the Council for American Islamic Relations, as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the Grand Jihad.

More particularly, we need to find and expose all the "Major Hasans" who have infiltrated the military, the intelligence services, or the State Department; alas, I suspect there are hundreds of such (wide awake) sleeper agents in our midst.

At the very least, we can start with the loudest, most visible, and most astonishingly overt about their sympathies... as was Nidal Malik Hasan, who is charged with murdering thirteen of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood and attempting to slay 32 others. His radical Islamism and America hatred was an open secret for years, but the Army did nothing substantial about him. And then he had his episode of "sudden" jihad syndrome. But in most cases, such explosions of violence are neither sudden nor surprising; such radicals generally cannot contain themselves for longer than a few minutes without outing themselves... if anyone's listening.

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on them

Similarly, whenever anti-Islamist government officials of any party, or any news organization that actually supports freedom of the press, obtains intelligence of some atrocity or infiltration or subversion in the West, even outside the United States, it should issue a press release or publish a story, respectively. In the first case, politicians should e-mail the press release to every newspaper, local or national news channel, and news radio show in the country. Many small-town newspapers love getting national press releases, because they can quickly write a story from it, getting some nice, international coverage without them having to pay reporters to hang out in Washington D.C. And Even the big metro papers and the network newsies find it hard to ignore forever a story that powerful Washington personalities are pushing hard.

Even if they write a story to try to refute or rebut the claim that Islamists are trying to subvert and destroy Western democracy, that would be better than completely ignoring it... which is what they do now, with nobody pushing back.

As a general rule, the best way to disrupt the infiltration and sabotage phase of the soft jihad is to drag it, writhing and screaming, into the light of day.

Invite the God of the West into the debate

Conservatives who are well educated on the subject of the Islamist Project, and who are members of a congregation, should encourage their pastors to begin giving sermons on the differences between the Judeo-Christian God and what He wants from Mankind -- and the radical Islamist version of Allah, and what he demands from Mankind. I daresay many more Americans get their worldview and moral compass from church or synagogue than from the rive-gauche news media, shocking as that may sound.

Again, it's vital not to exaggerate; we are not fighting a jihad against all of Islam. There are hundreds of millions of Moslems who reject the Islamist Project, who have undergone a quiet Enlightenment on their own, however ahistorical such moderating influences may be within Islam.

Of course, the Mediaeval Christian Church itself was militant, supremacist, totalitarian, and perfectly willing to slaughter those we now see as innocents, but who the Church damned at the time as heretics, infidels, Jews, witches, or sadly, sometimes simply people who owned property that some powerful clergyman coveted. Such hypocritical or intolerant behavior is, in fact, what led to the Judeo-Christian Enlightenment in the first place; and it can lead to the same rejectionism within Islam... though admittedly, Enlightenment thinkers had more to work with in Judeo-Christianity; neither Jesus nor Moses was a bitter, enraged, vengeful old man defined entirely by who and what he hated, rather that what he loved.

Still, the Reformation and the Enlightenment are precedents we should not discard. I don't believe there are many today who defend, say, the harsh sentences (including death by stoning) for seemingly trivial offenses in ancient Judaism; the violent excesses of the crusades; the expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492; the continent-wide Inquisition against witches in the fifteenth century; the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572; the brutal suppression of Catholics under Queen Elizabeth in the late sixteenth century, the seventeenth-century witch-mania among Protestant churches in the United States; or even such modern-day acts of extraordinary religious violence as the Mountain Meadows Massacre of more than a hundred peaceful settlers by the Mormons in 1857.

Yet today, neither the Catholic Church, nor the Protestant churches, nor any branch of Judaism, nor the Mormons engage in, condone, or even tolerate such violence and totalitarian control over the individual. They changed; they changed in the wink of an eye; and they changed much for the better.

But no one living in the earlier versions of those societies would have suspected such a change was about happen. It seemed to come out of nowhere; but reformation and englightenment typically do spring "ex-nihilio." There clearly is hope, and we must believe there is hope, that Islam too can shed its own history and become "just another religion."

Such change begins by dissidents drawing contrasts between the paradise the radicals promise -- and the Hell on Earth they actually deliver.

Finally, closer to home, Christian ministries must focus with an even greater intensity on converting black prison inmates to Christianity, to save them from being converted by the Nation of Islam instead. The combination of a violent life history, an unwillingness to live within the law, and a violent, jihadist ideology is the ideal incubator for terrorists, subversives, and saboteurs. Reform would be best; but even if they remain mere criminals, that's far better than becoming self-styled "soldiers of Allah."

"Good enough" is good enough

This list of suggestions is surely not inclusive, but we cannot wait for the perfect plan before we start to implement what we can do today. In fact, if we even followed half or a third of the obvious paths I suggest here, we'd be a heck of a lot better off, better armed, more vigilant, and we would make much harder targets than we do right now.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 28, 2010, at the time of 4:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 17, 2010

Crist Vetoes Merit Pay: "Best" Enemy of "Better?" Or Something More Troubling?

Confusticated Conservatives , Educational Elucidations
Hatched by Dafydd

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the education reforms passed by the Republican state legislature; the bill would have eliminated grade-school teacher tenure and instituted merit-based pay in its place:

The veto puts Mr. Crist, a moderate Republican, at odds with his party base in the Republican-controlled Legislature. His decision has also renewed speculation that he might drop out of the Republican primary for a United States Senate seat and run in the general election as an independent. For months, he has been trailing the more conservative Republican candidate, Marco Rubio, a Tea Party favorite, in polls.

Mr. Crist said Thursday that his decision was not political. He cited "the incredible outpouring of opposition by teachers, parents, students, superintendents, school boards and legislators."

Crist is likely trying to stake out a position as the "third way" candidate in the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL, not yet rated), Crist's former chief of staff, whom he appointed to fill the remainder of Mel Martinez's Senate term.

Crist trails conservative Marco Rubio by a Real Clear Politics average of 23 points in the Republican primary; either Crist or Rubio would beat the probable Democratic nominee, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL, 95%); but a Quinnipiac poll released yesterday indicates that if Crist ran as an independent against both Rubio and Meek, he might squeak out a narrow victory -- Crist 32%, Rubio 30, and Meek 24.

Three caveats might cause Gov. Crist to hesitate before setting off down that road:

  • 32-30 is easily within the margin of error; and Rubio's lead has been growing, not shrinking. If Crist abandons the Republican Party to run as an independent and loses anyway, he has pretty much immolated his political career.
  • A Rasmussen poll from late March -- which polls likely voters, rather than Quinnipiac's registered voters, hence is more likely to be accurate -- finds a very different picture: Rubio 42%, Meek 25, and Crist 22. Has Crist actually surged against Rubio and Meek? Or is the Quinnipiac poll fatally flawed by surveying registered voters who may not be likely voters?
  • In 2012, Florida's other Senate seat, currently held by Bill Nelson (D-FL, 95%), comes up for election. If Crist remains within the GOP and even campaigns for Marco Rubio if (when) Rubio wins the primary, then Crist can reasonably expect strong party support for him to challenge Democrat Nelson. But if he breaks with the party, runs as an independent, and loses, odds are slim that the party will welcome him back and support him two years hence.

In the end, I don't think he'll do it. But the New York Times article above speculates this is a last-ditch effort to move the meter in his direction for the Republican primary, since the education reforms he vetoed are fairly controversial.

Which is, of course, why Crist claims he vetoed them:

The bill was supported by the Florida Department of Education and statewide business groups, which expressed disappointment in the governor’s decision, saying that teachers should be held more accountable.

But the governor, announcing his veto in the Capitol in Tallahassee, said the changes envisioned would put "teachers in jeopardy of losing their jobs and teaching certificates, without a clear understanding of how gains will be measured."

Linking teacher pay to student achievement has long been a goal of some education reformers. They are mostly conservatives, but their ranks also include people in the Obama administration.

They argue that teachers should be treated like people in most professions, and paid based on how effective they are.

Let's take Crist at his word; assume he vetoed the bill because he fretted that teachers would lose their jobs "without a clear understanding of how gains will be measured." Has the governor pondered the point that no matter what anti-tenure, merit-based system is concocted, it will always be possible that some teacher might lose his job because he had no control over students' home lives and family relations? That the only realm where we can be sure that no teacher would be fired (or not given a raise) unfairly would be -- paradise itself?

In this case, "the best" may well be enemy of "the better." Assuming (for sake of argument) that Crist is not a closet liberal, unwilling under any circumstances to eliminate tenure -- a dream come true for the teachers' unions -- or pay based on actual achievement (a nightmare for the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers)... mustn't Crist at some point be willing to sign onto a conservative, market-based education reform, even if imperfect?

If so, then what is so wrong with this one?

I fear that the most obvious conclusion is correct: That Gov. Charlie Crist really is a liberal Republican, not a moderate; that he really does believe in big and bigger government; and that he has no intention of ever approving any reform that shatters the union monopoly and inviolability of teachers in the great state of Florida, fourth largest state in the union.

Ergo, it's time for Mr. Crist to return to the private sector for a refresher course in Capitalism. Any scheme to bypass the market is not only counter-economic, ushering in rising costs without a ceiling and deteriorating services with no floor, but also doomed to failure in the long run: In the long view, I believe Americans will always detect the scent of protectionism and special pleading, and vote against it.

That's why I am a political optimist; and that's why I say, it's time for Charlie Crist to go.

Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 17, 2010, at the time of 12:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 5, 2010

Obamunism in Action: Gaming School Funding

Educational Elucidations , Obamunism
Hatched by Dafydd

As part of its ongoing project to taint and corrupt every element of federal policy, the administration of President Barack H. Obama has started gaming school funding... literally: It initiated a "contest," called Race to the Top, that states could enter to pick up a jackpot in federal education grants. But rather than base the awards on, for example, the ability of different states actually to educate students, they had another set of winning criteria in mind:

Officials from several states criticized the scoring of the contest, which favored states able to gain support from 100 percent of school districts and local teachers’ unions for Obama administration objectives like expanding charter schools, reworking teacher evaluation systems and turning around low-performing schools.

Marshalling such support is one thing for a tiny state like Delaware, with 38 districts, they said, and quite another for, say, California, with some 1,500.

Delaware was one of only two winners, the other being Tennessee.

“It was like the Olympic Games, and we were an American skater with a Soviet judge from the 1980s,” Mr. Ritter said [Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado].

If the Obamacle intends to be as fair and impartial between local schools and the teachers' unions as he was between General Government Motors and the UAW, or between the needs of state and local governments (and America in general) on the one hand versus the SEIU on the other, then I think we have a pretty clear idea what sort of "educational reform" Voyage to the Bottom of the Ethical Sea will flog.

Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, may have yet another game in mind anent their funding X-prize:

Administration officials say they consider last week’s outcome a splendid success. By awarding only $100 million to Delaware and $500 million to Tennessee, Mr. Duncan retained $3.4 billion to dole out to up to 15 winning states in September, weeks before the midterm elections -- a political bonus that officials insist is mere serendipity.

Too, for the next round of funding, Secretary Duncan has added a new twist: all the federal flavor, but only two-thirds the funding calories -- and even that spread over four years. The new grants will be capped and amortized, giving states much less money, dribbled out very slowly... but with the same federal takeover of previously locally controlled school districts:

“That’s a lot of money, and we need it,” said [South Carolina] superintendent of education, Jim Rex. “But spread it over four years, with all the federal expectations that come with it, and you have to ask whether you have the time and capacity to gear up again for the arduous work of filing a new proposal. We’re still weighing that.”

To egregiously paraphrase Mark Twain, there is something satisfying about federal grants: One gets such wholesale return of control for such a trifling investment of funding.

I suppose that after the federal takeover of GM and Chrysler, insurance giant IAG, hundreds of banks and savings & loans, health care, and the entire student-loan system, it was inevitable that the lidless eye of Obamunism would turn its hungry gaze upon the American public-school system. Imagine, thousands of local school districts that Barack Obama doesn't personally control, whose students he cannot extort for his reelection and recruit into the revolutionary brigades for national socialism! Something simply must be done about that.

But I don't think this seizure will be as successful as the recent vote on ObamaCare; for one thing, even Democrats -- albeit lame-duck Democratic governors, like Bill Ritter of Colorado -- are fighting to preserve the rights and authorities of states over their own local school districts:

“People judging our application may not have appreciated that in the West there is a great deal of local control,” he said. “Many tiny school districts don’t like federal mandates. So even as I believe that school reform is important for our country, it’s also important that people in Washington understand that one size doesn’t fit all.”

By the way, Ritter decided not to run for reelection; the latest Rasmussen poll (a month ago) shows Republican former congressman Scott Innis leading Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, by six points. Similarly, Rasmussen shows the Republican winning the U.S. Senate seat for every matchup they polled. The times they are a-changin'.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2010, at the time of 1:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 8, 2009

Schoolhouse Crock

Educational Elucidations , Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities
Hatched by Dafydd

Looking at DRJ's post over at Patterico's and Paul's and John's on Power Line, I see that once again, it falls to the lowly Lizard to play the fly in the punchbowl.

Three bottoms


[H]opefully we can agree it’s a good message to tell students they need to work hard and get a good education.

Thankfully, we can't.


[T]here is no good reason for Obama not to give his speech.

Yes, Paul, there is.


The Obama administration is off to a horrible start, but it isn't yet a lost cause. If Obama could put aside his dopey left-wing ideology and stick to this kind of positive message, he could yet salvage his Presidency. But I'm afraid he doesn't have it in him to do that.

No, he can simply make himself a laughingstock. (But I do agree with your last sentence.)

The ghost in the machine

What all three are missing is that this speech, or indeed any speech by the President of the United States given (by decree) to all schoolchildren on their first day back -- even if the attempted monopolization was unsuccessful -- causes very real and significant damage to the education of a free, self-reliant citizenry in what should be a nation of liberty.

Oh, come on, Dafydd, where's your sense of proportion? Aren't you taking this much too personally?

No, I'm the only one being honest and realistic on this bus. Hasn't any of you asked yourself why Obama insists upon delivering this speech in the first place? Do you imagine he thinks his little homily will actually turn around the decline in American education over the past few decades? Or is it more likely that he just wants to get his nose in the tent -- so that next time, the precedent having been set, he can say what he really wanted to say this time.

John mentioned "subtext" in his post, but he didn't take that analysis far enough. The systemic subtext of any such speech is that the president is acting within his jurisdiction in talking to other people's children about how they should approach school and life in general... and the only proper response by parents should be to say, "Mr. President, my child's education is none of your damn business."

It may be the business of their state's governor, or perhaps their city's mayor -- or better yet, their kid's principal. It may even be the federal government's business that the states are doing their jobs at least minimally well, so long as those states suckle at the federal teat.

But the subtext of this or any other presidential speech to the nation's schoolkids is that the federal government, and its avatar, the president, stand in loco parentis: "In the position or place of a parent;" and that is simply above the pay grade of the president. It's not Obama's business, especially when his platitudes may well conflict with lessons from the parents he is usurping.

In particular cases, as when a parent is abusing a child, I can see the state, county, or city having authority to become the child's new parent -- though we all know how horribly that power can be abused. But there is no justification possible for the Chief Executive of the United States to usurp parental and local authority of all students, irrespective of how good or bad a job is being done by those he has just elbowed aside.

What's done is done -- and done again, and again, and again

In addition, this speech sets a vile precedent: That anytime the president wants to propagandize the nation's youth (even for "good" propaganda about working hard and doing all their homework), he can henceforth give a speech and demand that teachers and school systems everywhere force students to listen to it.

What life lessons will Obama feel compelled to pass along in 2010, 2011, and 2012?

What if the next president gives a "back to school" speech about the importance of celebrating same-sex marriage, abortion, and socialism? What if the one after that wants to use his by now traditional privilege to force kids to sit still for a lecture on pure laissez-faire Capitalism, the evil of any and all taxes, and the unprovable, fairy tale nature of "Darwinism?"

As a general rule, it's a wretched infringement to teach children to take marching orders from the president. Any president, at any time other than dire national emergency... and even then, they should be skeptical as hell: The Tree of Liberty demands nothing less.

This year's back-to-school speech is seemingly innocuous; I'm utterly convinced that the next will be a little more pointed, however; the third will be outright partisan; and the fourth will exhort all the little Winston Smiths to tattle on their parents' thoughtcrime.

What once all knew

I can't believe conservatives still haven't gotten it through their heads that the worst tendencies of people in this fallen world are exaggerated and exacerbated by orders of magnitude when those bad people serve in the government.

But I'm not in the least surprised that the libertarians -- last seen voting for Ron Paul, Babar, or even the One They Were All Waiting For himself -- are nowhere at hand when the State reaches its grubby paws right into every classroom in the most direct and offensive method possible: A presidentially directed national sing-along that simultaneously infantalizes students, emasculates fathers, and marginalizes mothers. Repent, ye natural sons of liberty.

Speaking of tea parties, how would those Boston rapscallions have reacted to a royal decree that some recent "speech of virtues" given by King George III be read aloud to every child in America -- even "innocuous" virtues that in the abstract, they all supported?

In many ways, we were a more sophisticated, intuitive, savvy people 236 years ago.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 8, 2009, at the time of 7:41 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 4, 2009

Judicial Home Invasion

Constitutional Maunderings , Court Decisions , Educational Elucidations , God in the Dry Dock
Hatched by Dafydd

This story utterly nonplusses me; not that a judge would want to make a bigotted, anti-Christian decision -- I expect that -- but that she would have the reasonable belief that she'd be allowed to do so by the appellate courts in New Hampshire, or any other state. (Full disclosure: I am not now, nor have I ever been a Christian, a religious or observant Jew, or even a believer in God; nor am I a disbeliever.)

If this story in the Washington Times is at all accurate, a judge has just ruled that a little girl must be removed from homeschooling and sent to a government school -- because the judge hoped that would cause her to lose her religious faith:

A New Hampshire court ordered a home-schooled Christian girl to attend a public school this week after a judge criticized the "rigidity" of her mother's religious views and said the 10-year-old needed to consider other worldviews as she matures....

On Tuesday, the girl, Amanda Kurowski, started fifth grade at an elementary school in Meredith, N.H., under court order. Amanda's "vigorous defense of her religious beliefs ... suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view," District Court Judge Lucinda V. Sadler said.

Perhaps the Times got some elements wrong; but unless reporter Julia Duin fabricated the tale out of thin cloth, which is possible but very improbable, there's no way to spin this decision as other than appalling. None of the normal confounding factors appear to apply here; Judge Sadler herself ruled that the child was well-adjusted, academically ahead of her grade level, and not isolated from other children:

The course load, except for the Bible study, is similar to what public students get and the mother's home schooling has "more than kept up with the academic requirements of the [local] school system," the judge's statement said. The child also takes supplemental public school classes in art, Spanish, theater and physical education and is involved in extracurricular sports such as gymnastics, horseback riding, softball and basketball.

I must assume that each of these extracurriculars involves interacting with other children and with adults who may not share Amanda's and her mother's religion and religiosity, giving Amanda plenty of opportunity to seriously consider other religious points of view. But even if she did not have such activities, what business is it of a judge to judge that element of their religion? Would Judge Sadler order a Moslem girl not to wear a veil, or a Hassidic boy not to wear the distinctive clothing, hat, and hairstyle of that sect of Judaism? Yet such religious uniforms not only have the effect of isolating believers from infidels or goyim, that is the whole idea.

If I understand this ruling, Judge Lucinda Sadler would have been perfectly happy with Amanda's homeschooling if the religious instruction hadn't "taken," if Amanda rejected her mother's Christianity and become a Moslem, Jew, or atheist. For that would prove that Amanda had "considered [another] point of view," you see.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution begins, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This fundamental right has absolutely, "no bout adout it," been incorporated to the states, meaning that state law cannot violate it anymore than can Congress.

Is this not a textbook example of a state judge prohibiting the free exercise not only of Mom's religion, but of Amanda's as well? Even ten year old children have that right, so long as the belief does not physically endanger them (rejecting urgent medical treatment, for example). Nothing of the sort is involved in this case. One would imagine that a judge in a state whose very motto is "Live free or die" would think a second time before ordering a child into the government schools precisely in order to diminish her religious faith.

And by the way, isn't it an eye-blowing admission against liberal interest that one of the functions of the government school system, deliberate or incidental, is to damage the religious faith of its students? Were I an advocate of compulsory government educational propaganda (which you may infer from my phraseology I am not), I would be aghast that some dork of judge came right out and let the beans out of the bag.

Lest anyone mistake Judge Sadler's motivation, she made it even more explicit, if that's possible:

"[Mr. Kurowski] believes that exposure to other points of view will decrease Amanda's rigid adherence to her mother's religious beliefs and increase her ability to get along with others and to function in a world which requires some element of independent thinking and tolerance for different points of view," Judge Sadler's ruling said.

The ruling quoted Mrs. [Janice] McLaughlin [court appointed "guardian of the child's legal interests"] as saying the child "appeared to reflect the mother's rigidity on questions of faith." The child would "be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior," it added.

How thoughtful of the court (a previous court) to pick a guardian of Amanda's "interests" who is clearly in complete disagreement with her over those interests. Perhaps if I were in a coma, and some wacko relative was suing to pull the plug so he could collect the insurance, the court would appoint the president of the Hemlock Society to speak for me.

I cannot imagine a state appellate court allowing this ruling to stand; in fact, I suspect it will end up in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit for a ruling on the First Amendment question. And I wonder... is it possible this case will come up in the First Circus shortly before the 2010 elections?

If so, Democrats across the country will be forced to take a stand on federal control of religion -- to supplement federal control of banking, the auto industry, energy, and health care. (Republicans too; but it will be a lot harder for Democrats to avoid infuriating either the liberal nutroots or real Americans.) The Squeaker, the Majority Leader, the chairmen of the two Judiciary Committees, and even the Big B.O., Barack H. Obama himself, will have to opine for the record.

To maintain party discipline and solidarity against homeschooling (which liberals despise, as it interferes with "proper socialization" of children), Democrats will have to tell American parents that their children's religion will henceforth be controlled by the federal government -- and convince them that this is for their own good.

What could possibly go wrong?

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 4, 2009, at the time of 9:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 19, 2009

The Private Option: Consistency Is Sauce for the Gander

Educational Elucidations , Health Insurance Insurrections
Hatched by Dafydd

Several pundits (I can no longer write "pundants," with Mr. Bush being gone from the scene) have quipped that if the Democrats are so anxious for a public (government) option in health-insurance reform, arguing that allowing the government to "compete" with private industry reduces cost without damaging quality, then why do they reject a "private option" for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and schooling?

It's a grand idea; let's play with it a bit.

The putative government "option" works by allowing employers and perhaps private individuals who buy their own insurance to elect instead to buy the government insurance plan. All right... at the moment, while there are a few private insurance plans contained within Medicare, ordinary people have no option of paying for a private health-insurance plan for their sunset years instead of Medicare; if somebody wants such a plan, it must be supplemental coverage in addition to Medicare, which they also must fund via involuntary taxation -- part of the FICA taxes, which you can examine by looking at your W-2. (The self-employed must pay the entire amount directly, as SE tax.)

The same is certainly true for Social Security, paid for by the other part of FICA: You are not allowed, in general, to cease paying your FICA taxes. (There may be some exceptions for people already on government health care or retirement plans.)

Half the FICA tax is automatically deducted from your paycheck; the other half is "paid" by your employer -- but in reality, it passes that cost along to you, in the form of reduced salary. Employers certainly count that half of FICA as part of total compensation, just as they count the health insurance they offer; if they didn't need to make those payments, they would be free to offer that much more to lure the best candidates away from competing businesses.

So if Democrats really like public-private competition, how about this?

  • Allow citizens to opt out of public Medicare, instead directing their employers to deduct the amount of their Medicare taxes, 2.9% total of all income -- and pay it as a defined contribution to a health-insurance plan, selected by the employee, that will pay for medical care in old age. Those who pay SE tax could also opt out, paying that same amount instead into the same kind of plan.
  • Allow workers to opt out of public Social Security entirely -- all 12.4% of taxable wages, not just 4%, as President Bush proposed -- by instead having their employers direct the amount of the total FICA tax into a qualified IRA investment plan (same deal for SE tax). The plans would be offered by any broker willing to set them up... which of course would mean all of them, because every major broker already offers such plans.
  • And of course, allow parents to opt out of paying the portion of their federal taxes that go to government schooling, instead having a tax credit for that amount, which they can put into a special, qualified investment fund -- chosen by the taxpayer -- that could only be used to pay for non-government schools or for home-schooling. (Because the government would not directly be paying schools, the problem of whether to "fund" religious schools does not even arise, as it does with a voucher system.)

    This liberty is trickier, because people must continue to pay these taxes even after their kids are all grown and out of government schooling. Should the opt-outers continue to receive a tax credit for life, based upon what portion of their children's schooling was supplied by government schools (that is, when they chose to opt out)? Or should the tax credit diminish over time? These questions would be negotiating points to try to gain votes in Congress.

First, each of these is obviously an interim step between the current system of government monopoly and a system of actual liberty and personal responsibility; but we still must take into account that pesky First Rule:

[G]overnments conclude that it's very bad public policy -- political suicide, in fact -- to allow people to die of easily treatable injuries, illnesses, and conditions....

Let's call this the First Rule of Health-Policy Political Reality: If voters have to step over dead bodies to get to the polling place, it affects their vote.

In addition to health care, this rule also applies to standing by and allowing seniors to live in grinding, third-world level poverty, or allowing some parents to refuse to educate their children at all.

In economics, it's called the "free rider" problem; the classic example is a streetcar with a single driver who is also the ticket-taker, so he really has no ability to extract fares from riders not honest enough to pay voluntarily. These moochers start hopping on the streetcar without buying a ticket; eventually, as more and more people see others riding for free, even ordinarily honest riders start feeling like suckers. When they, too, begin doing the same, the streetcar line goes bankrupt. Then nobody gets the service.

In this case, if we have an unenforced system of health insurance, what happens when somebody without any insurance gets terribly sick or injured -- or worse, his child does. Given that Americans will not stand by and watch someone die from an easily treated disease or injury, the reality is that those free riders will, in fact, be treated. Maybe they'll be billed afterwards, but they can declare bankruptcy and weasel out of even that small bit of personal responsibility.

Similarly, Americans will never countenance senior citizens living on the streets or children growing up illiterate or otherwise uneducated: We have no stomach for willfully forcing people to pay a draconian, perhaps even fatal, price for stupidity... even less for making children pay the price of their parents' stupidity.

Without some solution to the free-rider problem, we cannot move to a system of full liberty. (I'm not saying it's insoluble, only that I personally don't know any solution.) But we can at least significantly pare back government intrusion to the least extent required to still leave nearly everyone covered for old-age health care, retirement, and some standard minimum level of education.

Second, these "private options" would naturally have to take into account that there are three groups of people:

  1. Those who have already retired (Medicare and Social Security) or whose children have finished secondary schooling, thus cannot choose not to partake of the private option.
  2. Those who have not yet begun to pay into the system -- primarily children -- who have the cleanest choice possible.
  3. And a vast remainder, including those who have already paid taxes for some number of years but haven't yet used any Social Security or Medicare, or who have children who are part-way through school, or various other combinations.

Group 3 is the toughest, of course; but all that is needed is a reasonable compromise, how much of taxes already collected would be returned to the taxpayer as a "start-up" balance in his account... because it would not be mandatory to switch to the private option. Every individual (or family) in Group 3 would have to decide which choice is best for him (them).

And of course, Congress will see a battle royal about how to fund the transition. But heck, the Democrats seem to be happy with only the least bit of hand-waving about how to pay for the government option -- ultimately, the full government control -- of health care; so why should they kick at any temporary transition cost of allowing people to opt out of Medicare, Social Security, and the government-run school system?

In any event, the cost saving of a private option is much more easily calculated than the cost of ObamaCare: Fewer people in Medicare and Social Security mean less money spent; fewer kids attending government schools mean states can consolodate and close some of them. And in both cases, a bunch of bureaucrats at all levels of government can be told to find honest work instead. Not that any of this would happen -- but that's a separate issue, the tragedy of immortal bureaucracy.

However, there is one killer argument that would persuade every Democrat in Congress, even the Blue Dogs, to vote against the private option: Demand for such a private option would eventually overwhelm the public programs, which would eventually dissipate into desuetude: Eventually, nobody in his right mind would stick with the lousy government plan, when he has the option of a much better private plan for the same money.

But of course, accepting that argument means accepting the corollary: The only way that a government option in health care could "complete" with private health-insurance (group or individual) would be for the government "option" to cheat... to take unfair advantage of the fact that the federal plan gets to write the rules for its competitors -- and it gets to operate at a loss so catastrophic, it would bankrupt any private company.

So Democrats have shot themselves in their own petard. Let's call their bluff by proposing an increase of liberty in areas of government monopoly to balance out the Democrats' demand for more totalitarianism in areas dominated by the private sector. Fair enough?

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 19, 2009, at the time of 6:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 2, 2009

What We Learn in School

Educational Elucidations
Hatched by Dave Ross
“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” -- Ecclesiastes 9:11

As the time approaches for the annual rite of passage known as high school graduation, I find myself thoughtful about some of the lessons that we learn in school.

One thing I have come to appreciate over the years is that many of the things that the schools (all public schools, everywhere) attempt to instill in our children are not necessarily survival skills for the real world, and are certainly not lessons that people who hope to become good citizens should necessarily take to heart.

One thing that we have to accept is that the institution of public education is resentful of, and somewhat afraid of, the truly exceptional child. It is far more comfortable with the mediocre achiever. Public education was created in its present form at the beginning of the last century to turn out good factory workers. Not poets, inventors, dreamers, or revolutionary thinkers.

Again and again we see that many of the people who are paragons of success in today’s society, such as Bill Gates, didn’t even finish school, or at least were not considered good students when they were there. The ultimately successful in life are not always those who won the races or got the best grades, or made friends with their teachers.

Another thing is that the school’s mission of maintaining good order and discipline isn’t always in line with promoting our nation’s freedoms, such as freedom of expression. School districts get in trouble almost every year for trying to censor school publications -- the most recent that I'm aware of was Fallbrook High School District in San Diego County, California -- and trying to tell kids what messages they can or cannot express on their T-shirts.

Respect for authority, remembering who is in charge, and following instructions without question are important to maintain good order; but they don’t do a darn thing to encourage thoughtful citizens to come to their own conclusions, follow their own paths, and carve out their own versions of success.

The next Einstein or Eisenstein will be someone you have never heard of.

Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, June 2, 2009, at the time of 11:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2009

Sociology: an Evil "Science"

Educational Elucidations
Hatched by Dave Ross

I’ve returned to the university as an online student after a 33-year absence from academia. One of the courses that I must take in order to obtain a communications degree is sociology, an evil discipline if ever there was one. Sociology is less of a “science" than a cult, or even a belief system that has underlying assumptions, such as the assumption that “the system,” particularly the capitalist variety, is inherently unfair, and that our society is replete with victims who are being treated unfairly, i.e. various racial groups, feminism etc. It is, after all the “discipline” that Ward Churchill, the fake Indian, teaches.

A friend of mine, a college professor who will remain nameless, gave me this insight into sociology: “Sociology is not really a very well-organized science. It doesn’t have good research protocols, and it is a haven for people’s 'issues,' which they try to 'prove' by using dubious methods.” She noted how at her college, an interdisciplinary team worked to create a freshman education program. “Quickly, it became clear that while English and History had similar ideas and worked similarly, the Sociology group didn’t write, test, research, or approach education anything like English or History.”

I can attest to sociology not having any kind of a backing in simple, grammatical English.

Take a look at a question from a quiz that I took recently. This is after the quiz was graded. It was a multiple choice quiz and the answer that I chose was the correct answer. I aced the test, by the way:

Volunteers who seek out roles that differ from the ones they play in the paid labor force is referred to as:

Question 10 answers

  • Selected Answer: Correct contrast hypothesis.
  • Correct Answer: Correct contrast hypothesis.

I won’t bother to parse this sentence, except to point out that it has two basic grammar errors.

One can read through the sociology textbook, as I am doing, and think that one is reading a position paper by the Democratic Party. While I’m certainly willing to concede that one can be a sociologist without being a raging liberal, or even a radical socialist (I mean, all you have to do is just switch a couple of letters in the name, right?), the discipline, or at least the bit that I’m reading, seems to presume a lot of things that are part of the liberal doxology; except that unlike the Christian doxology, this one is in praise of political correctness.

For instance, there’s a section about the “shrinking” middle class -- the presumption being that this is a fact, rather than a position that liberals like to take in order to justify class warfare. In fact, the book opens with an excerpt from Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, which is about how it’s impossible to get by if you earn the minimum wage.

Now look at this paragraph from my textbook and note the moral relativistic tone that it takes about pedophilia:

What does constitute sexual deviance, then? The answer to this question seems to change with each generation. Today, U.S. laws allow married women to accuse their husbands of rape, when a generation ago such an offense was not recognized. Similarly, pedophilia -- an adult having sex with a minor -- is generally regarded with disgust today, even when it is consensual. Yet in many countries, fringe groups now speak positively of “intergenerational sex,” arguing that “childhood” is not a biological given (Hendershott 2002).

Though this and some other aspects of sexual expression are still against the law, the meaning of the labels is beginning to blur.

Yikes! I can easily imagine finding a paragraph that could take an equally non-judgmental tone about consensual cannibalism!

Now, I can see some value to some of the things that sociology studies: how groups interact, whether society’s rules work or are in need of fixing, how we define define deviance and control people. But it is also obviously one of the mushiest courses imaginable; and rather than being a discipline, it is a lack of discipline, being a tent so big that you can’t see its walls!

Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, March 23, 2009, at the time of 11:05 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 21, 2008

Found: Source of All Those New Democrats

Dancing Democrats , Educational Elucidations , Elections , Future of Civilization , History of Moral Philosophy
Hatched by Dafydd

We've all been wondering -- oh, all right... I've been wondering -- whence came all those gazillions of Democratic voters who propelled the over-the-top Barack H. Obama over the top. Well, it appears that a new survey by the Josephson Institute of Ethics may have found part of the answer:

Teenagers lie. They cheat and steal, too. And they are doing it more often and more easily than ever.

That is the conclusion of the latest “Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth”, released this week by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, a partnership of educational and youth organizations. The institute conducted a random survey of 29,760 high school students earlier this year (as they have every two years since 1992) and found that the next generation of leaders have a somewhat casual relationship with the truth.

Among the findings:

  • 30% of teenagers (35% of boys, 26% of girls) claim to have stolen something from a store in the past year.
  • 42% (49% M, 36% F) said "they sometimes lie to save money;" I'm envisioning 14 year olds crouching down in front of the Mann theaters ticket office, and in a squeaky voice, insisting they're only 12. But in addition, 83% told their parents a lie about "something significant;" again I'm guessing, but I'd say about smoking, drinking, toking, or, er, going a little too far with their boyfriends or girlfriends.
  • 64% -- nearly two-thirds! -- cheated on a test; 36% let their mice do the writing, turning in papers they downloaded off the internet. (Perhaps these are the future Joe Biden voters?)
  • And to make things worse (and even more confusing), a quarter of respondents confessed that they lied about "one or two" of the questions on this very survey! Of course, that begs the question: lied which way, to make themselves sound more honest and trustworthy, or more wicked cool?

What this survey, which shows a growing trend of falsity, cheating, and amorality, tells us is that we are not only raising yet another generation of kids without a functioning moral compass, but more threateningly, a generation of kids who haven't the slightest idea that there is a real world out there where lying, cheating, and stealing not only won't get you anywhere, it can destroy your life.

I wonder how this recklessness with the truth -- heck, recklessness even with the things they make up -- affects their romantic relationships, their friendships, their own self respect? How can a person honestly, deep down, respect himself if he knows he's a lying sack of offal?

Of course such truth-challenged, reality-denying kids would be much more likely to grow into Democrat-voting young adults; the Democratic Party is the party of fantasy, denial, and situational ethics. Naturally, not every Democrat is dishonest... but the contemporary Democratic Party rewards brazen dishonesty in a way that I don't believe any previous political party in the United States has done.

Heck, look who just got elected president... and how he did it.

I firmly believe this is the result of leftist government schools (followed, after a while, by secular private and even religious schools) ceasing to teach ethics, civics, or even basic right and wrong, for fear of trampling on some kid's "right" to choose his own "values." (For that matter, even the substitution of "values," a content-neutral term, for "virtues," which implies a fixed moral code, is a terrible symptom of the disease of nihilism.)

My worthy co-conspirator in a number of projects, Brad Linaweaver, has recently coined a neologism to describe another aspect of this; he refers to members of ELF, ALF, PETA, and other such eco-nut radical activist groups as "econihilists;" I believe he defines the term to mean self-identified ecologists who are so anti-human and pro-nature that they actually ache to see the entire human race destroyed, to make room for the more "moral" species -- spotted owls, blue whales, blue-green algae, Ebola viruses, and the like. I don't think they would put it exactly that way, but that's the gist of their practical philosophy, such as it is.

Both the econihilists and the teens in the Josephson Institute's survey seem to share a deep loathing of the human race... which I can only conclude comes from a deep inner loathing of themselves. Paradoxically, I believe this self-loathing stems from the self-inflicted soul-wound of lying, cheating, and stealing; it is both cause and effect.

By being afraid to tell kids that there is a real right and a real wrong -- that some moral codes are absolute, not subject to the whim of the actor -- we may be sowing the seeds of our species' own destruction.

Perhaps it's time to tell the leftists running the nation's schools to go take a long walk on a short shrift. In my political manifesto, I shall declare that it's time for the GOP, marginally better on absolute morality than the Democrats, to seize the schools back from the dark side... "for the sake of the children." It's one of several strategic goals that the Republicans must pursue with vigor, making the case without compromise, now that we're completely cut out of the legislative and executive power.

To paraphrase Janis Joplin, "Political freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 21, 2008, at the time of 6:07 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 14, 2008

Why women should NOT rule the world

Educational Elucidations
Hatched by Dave Ross

Note: This is the first of what I intend to be a series on my premise that the decline of America began when women began being put in charge of the school systems of this nation. I’m beginning what I think is a novel experiment in the annals of blogging: I’m going to compose this series with, I hope, the help of my readers. I’m soliciting examples from the readers that, if suitable, I will incorporate into the series, and, which I eventually hope to use to create a much larger piece that I hope will find wider circulation in some publication that has the cajones to print it. (yeah, that’ll be the day!)

The title of this series was suggested to me by the recent publication by former Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers of her book “Why Women Should Rule the World,” although I have been toying with the premise for several years.

It is given urgency by the (admittedly less likely) possibility that Hillary Clinton might become president.

It would be foolish of readers jump to the conclusion that I am in any way against the idea of women in leadership positions, or equal pay for equal work. I’m speaking of the rise to primacy and in fact dominance by women of our elementary and secondary education system in the last few years. Because almost everyone goes through the public school system, this accords women a particular opportunity to dominate a sector of our lives that has a profound affect on our society as a whole.

Think back when many of us were in school. Yes, women dominated the classroom. But usually it was a man at the head of the school, or of the district. When little boys would face off in the school yard, as little boys have a tendency to do, usually it was a man who would separate them.

“Who started this?” the principal would demand. He would send the guilty party to detention, or to sit out in front of the principal’s office for the rest of the day to consider the error of his ways. Or the principal might demand that the two boys shake hands and go back to class. The boy who was defending himself usually had leave to go about his business without further repercussions.

Compare that to the way we do things today in many schools around the land. Under the “zero tolerance” policies in force in many school districts, both boys, the aggressor and the defender, will be punished. Occasionally the police will be summoned. It is considered just as bad to fight, even if someone else threw the first blow. Presumably the only way to get out of being punished under these circumstances is to fall down in a faint upon being punched!

A second example occurs to me that comes from my real world experience as the editor of a small town newspaper. A few years ago our high school football team was preparing for the upcoming season. Each year the team poses for a group picture for a poster that carries the calendar of all the games. Each year the team plays under a slogan. One year it was “Get it Done!” (a particularly neanderthalistic slogan if you ask me). But this year it was “Cowboy Up!” That is a rodeo term that refers to the cowboy in a rodeo getting ready to mount the bucking bronco. So the football coach suggested that the boys of the team be photographed in cowboy regalia, on horseback. He added the touch of giving the boys Remington rifles to hold to make them look more like cowboys.

The superintendent, a woman, hit the ceiling. The photo was withdrawn and the team photographed again, this time without the offending firearms.

Twenty, or even ten years before, this episode would not have turned out the way that it did. Today, even if the superintendent had not been a woman, it would probably would have turned out as it did, because of the pervasive influence of the female perspective on schools. Even when men are in charge they frequently run schools as if women were in charge.

A third example will suffice to bring this introduction to a close. Just last week a 6-year old Virginia first grader was declared a sex offender for slapping another student on the bottom! The police were called and an incident report was filed. Now, I have no evidence that the top school officials in this case were women, but the unseen hand of a philosophy that we have all heard articulated by radical feminism is in evidence: the idea that all “men” no matter how young, share a group guilt.

You might persuasively argue that this is all simply political correctness run amok. But would political correctness be as strong as it is if the female perspective hadn’t become the dominant “rubric” (a favorite term among educators) in our public school system, and therefore in society as a whole?


Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, April 14, 2008, at the time of 8:51 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

March 7, 2008

Homescuttled: California Educational Establishment Squashes Homeschoolers

Educational Elucidations , Injudicious Judiciary
Hatched by Dafydd

In a ruling almost certain to ignite a chalkboard revolution, a California appellate court unanimously (3 to 0 in In re Rachel L., et al.) held, in essence, that parents cannot homeschool their kids unless the parents have a valid teaching credential for the appropriate grades.

And of course, in order to get a valid teaching credential, you must attend a "multiple subject teacher preparation program." This requirement is only satisfied by getting a BA in Education, or else taking a post-graduate course of study for at least one year; and it must include student teaching.

In other words, for all intents and purposes, the court has ruled that only credentialed teachers can teach their own kids at home. Others who want their kids taught at home must hire a tutor with a state teaching credential, as above. This is a full-blown assault on parents who don't want their kids indoctrinated in the latest leftist fads in the public schools, but who haven't enough money for private tutoring or a private school, and who cannot find a low-cost religious school near enough for their kids to attend.

At this point, it appears the only option for parents who don't like what their kids are taught in the public schools is to form their own private school -- and then get the state to certify that school. This may be difficult, as it's in the vested interest of school districts to have as large an enrollment as possible in the public schools, since that is the basis of the school's budget as set by the state. In addition, the California Department of Education is in thrall to the California Teachers Association, and the CTA hates and despises homeschooling... because the moms and dads who teach their own kids obviously have no reason to join the union.

Tthus, there is little incentive for a school district to certify any private school that is not a big corporation who can take the district to court to force certification.

I'm not a lawyer, but I sometimes play one online, to my own amusement. (And to the hysterical consternation of real lawyers, such as Patterico, Beldar, and the lads at Power Line, who seem to believe that graduating from law school, passing the bar exam, and practicing as attorneys for decades gives them some sort of superior "knowledge" about the law. Faugh! Bourgeois credentialing fetishists.) Reading through the In re Rachel L. decision, it looks like the appellate court is on fairly firm legal ground... which only shows that "the law is a ass, a idiot," as Beadle Bumble observed in Dickens' Oliver Twist.

The mandatory schooling laws were enacted at a time when many parents saw no purpose in their kids learning anything beyond a 2nd or 3rd grade reading ability and "sums." And the law was also passed in the progressive/"liberal fascist" era, when those running the country firmly believed that it didn't take parents to raise a child... it took the entire nation, and parents were merely unhelpful roadblocks to statist indoctrination. It took... trained and credentialed "experts."

Nowadays, parents pulling their kids out of school almost never do so because they don't want them to be educated; they pull their kids out because they do want them educated, and they don't believe their pathetic public school system is up to the job. It's long overdue to revisit those laws and make some very significant changes... while we still can.

The court in the current case relied much on In re Shinn, 195 Cal.App.2nd. 683, decided in 1961; but part of that ruling found:

To qualify as a bona fide school, a place of learning must have competent teachers capable of teaching. The evidence indicates that appellants, in conducting their self-education program, failed to fully comply with Education Code, section 7901, setting forth the courses required to be taught at a private school. Dr. Shinn admitted that the children did not receive any instruction in civics or in California history. Home education, regardless of its worth, is not the legal equivalent of attendance in school in the absence of instruction by qualified private tutors. Accordingly, the juvenile court had evidence to support its finding that the Shinn children were not being instructed in a private fulltime day school by persons capable of teaching. It was justified in concluding that appellants violated the compulsory education law.

In the current case (In re Rachel L., et al), the appellate court noted the following:

The attorney representing the younger two children asked the juvenile court to order that the children be enrolled in a public or private school. The dependency court declined to make such an order despite the court’s opinion that the home schooling the children were receiving was “lousy,” “meager,” and “bad,” and despite the court’s opinion that keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where (1) they could interact with people outside the family, (2) there are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children’s lives, and (3) they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents’ “cloistered” setting.

Note that in both Shinn and Rachel L., courts found specifically that the homeschooling was academically inadequate. In addition, in the current case, the dependency court also found that the kids were kept in a "cloistered" environment and didn't interact sufficiently with kids outside the family.

So it's possible a better case could be made for homeschoolers being considered a "private school" if they did actually teach all subjects required in public school -- and also enrolled more than just the kids of one family. Thus, if a group of parents got together and created a private school, they might have a better case, even if they were not able to get the local school district to certify them. (They could perhaps appeal on the basis of bias, if they could show that their education skills were demonstrably as good as those of credentialed teachers at the local public school.)

But a much better case can be made for what I consider the real answer to the question of homeschooling: The California state legislature should add a new teaching credential for non-institutional teachers.

This credential should not require attending Ed school or engaging in a year of student teaching... which would be beyond the resources of most mothers or fathers. But it should require the potential homeschooling parents to take a test to ensure they know the required subjects well enough to teach them, plus some standardized testing of the kids to ensure that the kids are not just "learning the Bible" (or the Koran) and nothing more.

With such a credential, parents would of course legally be allowed to teach their own children, even without having to turn themselves into a private school (a kludgey work-around for the obvious animosity of the Department of Education towards homeschoolers).

The same new teaching credential should cover another kind of teacher as well, one with relevant of "life experience" to take the place of the "multiple subject teacher preparation program" and student teaching. It's unconscionable that, for example, a military instructor with years of experience training officers and enlisted men can't teach high school; but a sheltered 21 year old with a BA in Education from Cal State and a year of student teaching -- even with only the bare minimum subject-matter knowledge -- is qualified to teach any subject in any public school, except foreign language.

Naturally, the majority Democrats in the legislature will kill such a bill in committee; but that's fine... because that will give Republicans challenging the Democratic incumbents a real issue to use to fight their way into the state Assembly or Senate... an issue that appeals across the board from left to right, and especially among black, Hispanic, and other minority parents whose children are stuck in dreadful school districts -- as well as suburban soccer moms who are increasingly unhappy with the local district's NOW, NARAL, GLADD-written curriculum on sex education; their AIM and La Raza-written curriculum on California history (Aztlan!); the AMA's push to distribute condoms and teach kids how to use them in middle school; and the American Psychiatric Association recommendations on drugging kids in classrooms without even parental notification, let alone consent.

California is a liberal state; there is no doubt about it. But it's not as liberal as New York or Massachusetts... obviously, seeing how the vote runs here -- not just for the Governator but for president, too. In 2004, John Kerry won California by only 9 points, compared to 19 points in New York and a whopping 25 points in Kerry's home state. It's absurd that Democrats utterly dominate both chambers of the legislature. But one reason is that Republicans haven't been able to articulate any solid reason why they should oust incumbent Democrats.

Well, now they can. If, that is, the GOP can get off the stick and on the hump and start proposing popular, party-line crossing legislation... like making it easier for parents who want to homeschool and retired professionals to get credentialed, without having to drop everything and go back to college all over again.

There are some fields where you only want trained experts to participate. But when it comes to educating kids, having a knowledgeable and caring teacher and a disciplined environment (where kids can be actually punished for acting out, for example), is far more important than "expert" credentialing.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 7, 2008, at the time of 7:36 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 1, 2007

Take Back the Right!

Educational Elucidations
Hatched by Sachi

Front Page Magazine reports that yet another David Horowitz speech was disrupted by screaming left wing and Islamist thugs. I won't go into detail about what happened; it's the usual: Horowitz speaking as part of "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" at Emory University; bunch of Leftists and Islamists show up full of sound and fury, signifying nothing; event has to be called off. Horowitz compares them to "the fascists... in Germany in the 1930s." You know the routine.

The reason I call this "routine" is that it really is:

  • Concordia University in Canada, 2002. (Note: YouTube, as is its wont, long ago censored the videos linked at the Power Line post.)

    A Jewish student group, Hillel, organized a talk inviting former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; to prevent this, violent antisemites from the Muslim Student Association showed up and literally beat members of the audience who showed up to listen. One victim was a survivor of the holocaust; he too thought it reminded him of the Nazis. Never in his life did he think this kind of thing would happen in Canada.

  • Only a few days ago in Denmark, four members of Stop the Islamization of Europe were ambushed and beaten with iron pipes on their way to a peaceful demonstration.
  • Jewish community centers at universities are frequently vandalized or even torched.
  • Stacks of Jewish and conservative newspapers are seized and burnt, printing systems destroyed, editors threatened and roughed up.
  • Conservatives are hauled before star-chamber speech-code tribunals, convicted on the basis of anonymous complainers, and sentenced to "re-education."

You get the picture. But this post isn't simply a recitation of the hundreds of incidents of Leftists and Islamists suppressing everyone else's freedom of speech (but especially the freedoms of Jews). That's a given. We all know they don't believe in a free society; they will resort to anything, including murder, to silence us.

But what should we do about it? Blogging about the evil alliance between the so-called Left and militant Islam is all well and good, but it changes nothing. "Exposing" their tactics doesn't hurt them; I rather think they enjoy the PR and believe it scares away conservatives.

So yes, we must speak up, mustn't be intimidated by scare tactics. But we must not be careless: We have to bear in mind that these people are terrorist sympathizers, and many are actually terrorists themselves... and they need to be treated as such.

Inviting conservative speakers to the campus is commendable -- but do it with eyes open. Know what to expect! Participating in anti-Islamist demonstrations is courageous; but you'd better be prepared for outrageous disruptions and intimidation, violence, and increasingly likely, the use of weaponry by the MSA and their surrogates and accomplices.

Here are a few tactics to consider:

Monitor enemy actions

When word gets around that your conservative student circle is inviting a conservative, pro-Israel, or anti-"Islamofascist" speaker, the leftist students are bound to mobilize "resistance" against you. Hold your nose and read their stupid flyers, monitor their websites, infiltrate their rallies (using friends unknown to the campus Left and the local MSA) and make note of their plans. While some of the professional leaders may keep their plans secret, in order to get a large number of students to attend and disrupt the talk, they have to go fairly public.

Keep copies of everything you find; they may prove useful when you get sued (as you likely will; it's a favorite tactic of Islamists nowadays).

Learn their plans, plan a counterattack. Your freedoms and liberties are precious; don't trade them for a pot of message.

Open your mouths and persuade private citizens to volunteer for security detail

You know your school won't provide adequate security; heck, the kind of security guards the school provides are probably in cahoots with the protesters anyway! So talk as many friends as you can into showing up (free ticket!) and helping keep the peace.

Special emphasis on ROTC members, athletes, alpha males, and most especially, combat veterans returning to university on the modern G.I. Bill.

Open your wallets and hire commercial security guards

If you've got the wherewithal, then raise the jacksons and hire some private security guards from a company with teeth.

Blackwater comes to mind; I wonder what they charge for a few hours of three or four security men without firearms? Maybe they'll give you a discount rate, considering who the enemy is.

Screen the audience

The best way to short-circuit disruptive protestors is not to let them into the building in the first place. They're usually pretty easy to spot: They'll be the ones wearing orange, Gitmo jumpsuits and/or pink t-shirts with obscene anti-Bush slogans; carrying Israeli flags with a swastika instead of Star of David and misspelled signs that read "No blood for ol!" and "Rascist, sexiste, anti-gay. David Horwits, go away!"; compressed-air horns sticking out of camouflaged trousers; or black ski masks covering everything but their hate-filled piggy eyes. Leftists and Islamist radicals are rarely subtle... they don't need to be.

So anyone wearing or carrying obvious disruption paraphernalia gets nixed. Even if they offer to leave the tools of their disreputable trade at the door, they still have no business entering the hall and should be forcible kept out. Refund their ticket prices, so they'll have not a single legitimate charge to make against you... they'll have to rely on the bogus charge that you violated their freedom of "speech" by preventing them from blowing air horns to drown out your hired speaker... make the university board of rights squirm.

Eject the first jackass forcefully and immediately.

This is very important. Any group like this has a leader, and the followers await his cue. When the first guy stands up without permission and starts doing something objectionable, unseemly, intimidating, or obscene, your security guards should swoop upon him and eject him with visible (but not injurious) force. The other cowards will then be reluctant to stand up themselves when they see their leader made into such a laughable failure.

In any event, the security force must overwhelm any violent protesters; they cannot let the crowd overwhelm them.

Protect the speaker

Protect the speaker with a beefy blocker, and don't ever let protesters get anywhere near your guest.

On a nutshell

We must be vigilant -- and we must be prepared to fight back, to "take back the Right." Either that, or our enemies will just escalate until they're picking us off one by one, as we see happening in Lebanon today. There are many Islamists, and possibly a few Western Leftists, who would even kill you to gain your silence: Remember Theo Van Gogh, Salman Rushdie, and Daniel Pearl. Murder means nothing to members of the Muslim Brotherhood or any of its offshoots (such as Hamas or the Muslim Student Association); what's one more human sacrifice among so many?

Fight bravely; but more important, fight wisely. And let's be particularly careful out there...

Hatched by Sachi on this day, November 1, 2007, at the time of 7:17 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

June 5, 2006

Anutter Grutter Cutter?

Asquirmative Action , Constitutional Maunderings , Educational Elucidations , Politics - National
Hatched by Dafydd

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that has at least a good possibility of reversing what was arguably the worst Supreme-Court decision of the Bush era... a position that was ardently supported by the Bush administration itself.

The Supreme Court agreed today to consider an issue of enormous importance to parents and educators across the country: the extent to which public school administrators can use racial factors in assigning children to schools.

The court accepted cases from Seattle and Louisville, Ky., for its next term. The school districts in both cities defeated challenges to their assignment procedures in the lower courts.

"Looming in the background of this is the constitutionality of affirmative action," Davison Douglas, a law professor at William and Mary, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "This is huge."

The earlier case to which I alluded was Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), in which the Court held that the "affirmative-action" (racial preferences) in the University of Michigan's law school were constitutional. And the reason I think there's a reasonable chance to chip away at that awful decision is that it was 5-4... with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor writing for the majority.

O'Connor has since retired, of course, replaced by Justice Samuel A. Alito: if Alito actually opposes racial preferences, as I suspect he does, then he could be the crucial flip-vote that might begin wrenching the country towards racial sanity.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist died in the meanwhile and was replaced by Chief Justice John Roberts; but Rehnquist was in the minority in this case. So assuming that Roberts is as opposed to "affirmative action" as Rehnquist was, this will result in no change. But the O'Connor retirement could lead to racial preferences moving from a 5-4 win to a 5-4 loss.

Seattle school administrators have wrestled for decades with the de facto segregation that tends to mirror the housing patterns of white, black and Asian families in the community. Students can pick among high schools. But since some schools have more applicants than they can handle, the district relies on tie-breakers, including whether a sibling attends a certain school, distance from a prospective student's home and race, to decide who gets into the over-subscribed schools. A group called Parents Involved in Community Schools sued in 2000, contending that it was unfair for the school district to consider race.

There are two cases here, and it could end up with another split decision (like Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger -- the latter involving U of M's undergraduate admissions, where the Court struck down racial preferences). The problem is that in the Kentucky case, there is an existing federal judicial order to desegregate:

The Kentucky case arises from a suit filed by Crystal Meredith, who contends that her son Joshua was not allowed into the neighborhood school because he is white. The Jefferson County school district has a history different from Seattle's, in that the Louisville schools operated for years under a federal order to desegregate. In 2001, the district began using a plan that includes racial guidelines. The plan was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

I have always argued that the way to combat official segregation is by the complete lack of segregation... not by segregating in the other direction. It's as unfair to the white Joshua Meredith that he's kept out a good school because he's white as it was to black kids during Jim Crow to be kept out of good schools because they weren't white.

But we'll see how the Court sees it. Keep your eyes on the prize....

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 5, 2006, at the time of 5:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 24, 2006

Stop the Party - Crack Those Books!

Court Decisions , Educational Elucidations , Ludicrous Lawsuits , Politics - California
Hatched by Dafydd

We neglected to comment on the May 12th decision by a goofy California state judge to overturn the rule in the public schools requiring students to pass an "exit exam" before they can receive their high-school diplomas. (It was the press of other issues, honest!)

High school seniors who flunk the controversial state exit exam may be able to graduate next month anyway, according to a judge's tentative ruling issued late Monday.

Setting the stage for heated debate in court today between supporters and opponents of the California High School Exit Exam, Alameda Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman said he is likely to rule that the test cannot take effect this year as scheduled....

The court's preliminary injunction against the state would allow students to graduate this year if they've met all requirements for graduation - other than passing the test of basic math and English skills. It would mark a huge setback for state officials, who are eager to implement the test they see as the cornerstone of California's school accountability system.

What's worse, the judge refused to stay his own ruling while an appeal was heard. He clearly hoped the wheels of law would grind so slowly that it would be impossible to require the class of 2006 to actually know what they had been taught.

The basic problem, according to Judge Freedman, is that the test is "discriminatory" -- because predictably, different groups will perform differently on the test. But this same argument can be made for any test in any class, any grade, any imaginable method of evaluating the progress of students: some students will perform well, others will not.

Any evaluation whatsoever is fundamentally based upon "discrimination": discriminating between those who have learnt the knowledge and those who have not. And sadly, so long as different racial subgroups have different, culture-based attitudes about schooling -- and so long as boys are different from girls -- those differences among students will tend to clump into racial and gender classifications.

To be perfectly blunt about it, black and Hispanic male students whose subculture is less oriented towards sedentary study and more towards aggressive, even violent interactions will not do as well on the test (as a group) as Asians, and Jews, whose subcultures are precisely the opposite on this issue... or even black and Hispanic female students, who perform markedly better at this level. The performance of white students will be somewhere in the middle. So far, at least, nobody has found a way to change this.

(The standard caveat: there is always more variation within a group than between groups: there are plenty of individual black and Hispanic boys who are very scholarly and individual Asians and Jews who hate school and never study. But once you aggregate into groups, those kids turn out to be minorities within minorities.)

Thus, for any academic test, Asians and Jews will perform the best (again, as a group), whites and black and Hispanic girls in the middle, and black and Hispanic boys at the bottom. But often, teachers are appalled at the pattern they see... and they use grade inflation to make up for this disparity. Many teachers -- perhaps unconsciously, perhaps in response to school rules -- will "re-norm" black and Hispanic male students upwards, awarding them grades that they do not deserve by their individual performance.

Many of those unfairly re-normed students (and of course individual, poorly performing whites, Asians, and Jews as well) have gone all the way through 13 grades of kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools, received a high-school diploma -- yet have been unable to read, write, or compute at even a middle-school level.

The solution of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit is to keep doing that, but more and harder:

If the tentative ruling stands, "this will be a historic ruling for all children in California because Freedman is telling the state, 'You cannot deny a student a diploma if they have not received adequate classroom materials,' " said Arturo Gonzalez, a San Francisco attorney representing students who have failed the exit exam but passed all other graduation requirements.

"You just can't do that," he said. "Its unfair, and it's illegal."

One of the major purposes of the California exit exam is to serve as a last chance to smoke out those students who have managed to duck education for years... aided and abetted by soft-hearted, soft-headed parents, teachers, and school administrators. When these kids fail the exit exam and realize they won't be graduating until they learn the material, it puts huge pressure on these students to take remedial classes and actually bring themselves up to the standards.

That good benefit was lost when Judge Freedman removed the requirement; he became the chief "enabler" of the cultural rejection of learning. Fortunately, however, some of the adults in the California judiciary are less interested in enabling destructive attitudes that in making sure kids are actually, you know, educated. Today, the California State Supreme Court itself issued a preliminary stay on Judge Freedman's ruling... and they did so in plenty of time to make the requirement possible for this year (since the test has already been given).

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated the state high school exit exam as a graduation requirement for this year’s senior class, leaving 47,000 high school students who failed the test in danger of not graduating.

The high court ordered a state appeals court to hold hearings in the case, but with schools ready to hold commencement ceremonies as soon as this weekend, a resolution appeared unlikely before then....

This year's class was the first in which passing the test of 10th grade English and eighth grade math and algebra was required for graduation.

Five of the seven justices sounded very skeptical of Freedman's decision:

Still, the justices said they were not convinced that Freedman ruled correctly. "At this juncture this court is not persuaded that the relief granted by the trial court's preliminary injunction ... would be an appropriate remedy," five of the seven justices wrote.

The case itself was not decided; it still must work it way through the appellate courts, and only then will one side or the other appeal it to the Supreme Court. But this still is very encouraging; such a clear signal that the State Supreme Court is likely prepared to strike this decision down should make the appellate court less sanguine about upholding it.

Accountability and responsibility must be integral parts of education; because in the end, education is not about teachers teaching... it's about students learning.

Keep your fingers dry and your powder crossed....

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 24, 2006, at the time of 4:51 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 16, 2005

Fre-School For All

Educational Elucidations , Politics - California
Hatched by Dafydd

The elfin Daniel Weintraub reports that Rob "Meathead" Reiner has paid for enough goons to gather a million signatures for his socialist initiative to give "free" pre-school to all children in California -- subsidized by "the rich," of course; Weintraub avoided using those prolix and tendentious adjectives, however, so you may find the Big Lizards take more exciting.

Every four-year-old child will receive "free" pre-school, paid for by a special tax on individuals earning $400,000 or couples earning twice that. If this succeeds, I'm sure Reiner will next move an initiative to give every child breakfast and lunch, new, fashionable clothing, a G4 Power Mac, and in high school, a brand new car (hybrid, naturally).

Presumably, children who don't actually need pre-school because they can already read will be told to forget everything they have learned and sit through the stultifying classes anyway. Big Bother has spoken.

Weintraub also dryly notes that the money required for this safari into deepest, darkest nanny-statism -- about $2.4 billion per year -- has already been earmarked by state legislators for higher spending on K-12 education and also earmarked by California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides for paying down the massive California budget deficit. In other words, this now would be the third way that same money would be spent.

The first problem is that California's state income tax is already one of the highest in the nation... and every rise sends another huge batch of wealthy job-creators fleeing to other states, thus reducing the tax base and increasing the misery index. But liberal do-gooders like Rob Reiner never care much about the actual consequences of their bursts of taxpayer-subsidized generosity: what matters is the good intentions; the actual grubby effects are left to someone else, someone less "creative" and more proletarian to sort out. It is enough that Reiner is willing to dig down deep, deep into the pockets of some other guy's trousers to show his compassion for those downtrodden, uneducated ignoramuses who don't even know the whole alphabet by the time they're being potty trained.

But of course, as Karin Klein argues in a Los Angeles Times op-ed,

We don't need this. Preschool is already more "universal" in California than you might think. Somewhere within that patchwork are an estimated 70% of all the 4-year-olds in the state — about 63% in preschool centers, and a handful in family child care. The universal-preschool crowd hopes to raise that to 80%. So to get an additional 10% enrolled, taxes would pick up the bill for the other 70% as well. California's nonuniversal system already covers a bigger percentage of its 4-year-old population than Georgia's universal pre-kindergarten system, now in its 12th year. [Emphasis added]

She also argues that the standardization envisioned by the Reiners of the world would likely decrease, not increase, the positive effects of such pre-kindergarten education:

Consider Doggett's description of what happens in a quality preschool class:

A little boy is happily building with blocks. The teacher (who has a bachelor's degree, of course) comes up to talk with him about the structure he's building. She suggests that he bring some model cars over to incorporate with the blocks. If the blocks make a roadway, how would the cars get to the road? In this way, Doggett says, the child is engaged in critical thinking on how to build a ramp. (In reality, he probably decides with the perfect wisdom of his age that cars can fly.)

Some parents might love this little "teachable moment" scenario. I feel like screaming, "For pity's sake, can't 4-year-olds play with blocks anymore without some teacher trying to turn them into future transportation planning administrators, GS-12, Level B?"

The Reiner initiative's "statewide preschool content standards" would be devised by the state schools' superintendent. These would be "aligned with statewide academic standards" and carried out and supervised by county education departments. It makes you want to weep for those tots.

It makes me want to weep for my home state.

So I guess the rule is that four year olds are best taken away from their parents to be indoctrinated educated by the government -- while fourteen year olds are best taken away to give them abortions without the parents even being so much as notified.

Am I the only one who detects a pattern here?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2005, at the time of 1:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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