Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Party Planning

We'll just have to continue this moving ...
from the Dipso Chronicles

FROM: Pauline, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 21st October 2008
RE: Christmas Party
I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23rd, starting at noon in the private function room at the Grill House. There will be a cash bar and plenty of drinks! We'll have a small band playing traditional carols...please feel free to sing along. And don't be surprised if the MD shows up dressed as Santa Claus! A Christmas tree will be lit at 1.00p.m. Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time; however, no gift should be over £10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone's pockets. This gathering is only for employees! The MD will make a special announcement at the Party.
Merry Christmas to you and your Family.

FROM: Pauline, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 22nd October 2008
RE: Holiday Party
In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday, which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on we're calling it our 'Holiday Party'.. The same policy applies to any other employees who are not Christians. There will be no Christmas tree or Christmas carols sung. We will have other types of music for your enjoyment.
Happy now?
Happy Holidays to you and your family.

FROM; Pauline, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 23rd October 2008
RE: Holiday Party
Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking didn't sign your name. I'm happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads, 'AA Only', you wouldn't be anonymous anymore!!!! How am I supposed to handle this? Somebody? Forget about the gift exchange, no gift exchange allowed now since the Union Officials feel that £10.00 is too much money and Management believe £10.00 is a little cheap. NO GIFT EXCHANGE WILL BE ALLOWED.

FROM: Pauline, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 24th October 2008
RE: Holiday Party
What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20th begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees' beliefs, perhaps the Grill House can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party - or else package everything up for you to take home in a little foil doggy bag. Will that work? Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Weight Watchers to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the toilets, Gays are allowed to sit with each other, Lesbians do not have to sit with gay men, each will have their own table. Yes, there will be flower arrangements for the gay men's table too. To the person asking permission to cross dress - no cross dressing allowed. We will have booster seats for short people. Low fat food will be available for those on a diet. We cannot control the salt used in the food we suggest those people with high blood pressure taste the food first. There will be fresh fruits as dessert for Diabetics; the restaurant cannot supply 'No Sugar' desserts. Sorry! Did I miss anything?!?!

FROM: Pauline, Human Resources Director
TO: All F***ing Employees
DATE: 25th October 2008
RE: The F****ing Holiday Party.
Vegetarian pricks I've had it with you people !!! We're going to keep this party at the Grill House whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the 'grill of death', as you so quaintly put it, you'll get your f***ing salad bar, including organic tomatoes, But you know tomatoes have feelings too, They scream when you slice them. I've heard them scream. I'm hearing the scream right NOW!!
I hope you all have a rotten holiday, drink drive and die.
The Bitch from HELL!!!

FROM: John Benson.( Acting Human Resources Director )
TO: All Employees
DATE: 26th October 2008
RE: Pauline Lewis and Holiday Party
I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pauline a speedy recovery, and I'll continue to forward your cards to her. In the meantime, the Management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and instead, give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd December off with full pay.
John Benson.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Those extended vacations

You know how the vacations are scheduled ahead of time? Coach Brown mentions this in the context of teacher accountability here at "A Passion for Teaching and Opinions".

Up here, it's "Our driveway was snowed in yesterday. I couldn't make it in. Can I take the test today instead?"

Great Expections, the eduWonk edition.

I ran across this assignment today:
Expectations: 7th Grade High Level Writing Assignment
Essay on Anne Frank
Your essay will consist of an opening paragraph which introduced the title, author and general background of the novel.
Your thesis will state specifically what Anne's overall personality is, and what general psychological and intellectual changes she exhibits over the course of the book
You might organize your essay by grouping psychological and intellectual changes OR you might choose 3 or 4 characteristics (like friendliness, patience, optimism, self doubt) and show how she changes in this area.

I'm no English teacher, but if this is for a 7th grade class, how much are we realistically expecting? I'll repost my comment ...

At first, I thought they were making fun of the grammatical errors in the first slide. Then I read the rest of the blog entry and realized they were praising this as the better of the two. Having thought about it, I'm not sure that I don't find the first to be one of those over-written and quite pretentious lesson plans that pretend to high expectations while grading everything easily and accepting anything.

I am always suspicious when obvious mistakes are made in a piece that is released to the public in this fashion - did no one check or notice?

High expectations need to be followed by high standards in grading. That is where I would focus in this situation. What was received and how was it measured?

Anyone can copy a good assignment from the internet and butcher the execution.

The second page is just silly, but maybe it was meant to be? I could see this on the first day of a new block class, second semester. At least it gets the subjunctive mood.

Math Tales from the Spring: The Avoider

Math Tales from the Spring: The Avoider.

Take some comfort: It's not just you, Mrs. H. These clowns are all over the place.

And their unfortunate kids, too.

Not so Touchy-Feely Herself.

In Time, Michelle Rhee,
"The thing that kills me about education is that it's so touchy-feely. People say, 'Well, you know, test scores don't take into account creativity and the love of learning.' I'm like, 'You know what? I don't give a crap.' Don't get me wrong. Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don't know how to read, I don't care how creative you are. You're not doing your job."
The curmudgeon smiles as he waits for the screaming to start.

The Enabler

Alcoholics and their support groups use this term, I think it applies to education in an equally insidious fashion. Some people incorrectly lump them in with helicopter parents, but they're too different. The helicopter parents are more annoying but the enablers are more destructive.

Had a parent-teacher conference the other day with guidance, parent, kid, Mme. Science and me. The topic was "What's going on? Baby boy is failing." My take on it was simple, "Not paying attention in class, unfocused, whispering and talking. Always misses the crucial details that make math easy if you know them and impossible if you don't."

He had a ready excuse - he only wants to be a helicopter pilot. "No college" means "no effort needed now." He doesn't see when he'll need any of this. Pythagorean theorem? Who cares? Right triangle trig? Useless to this flyboy. Critical thinking? Who needs that? All he needs is some flight courses after high school. A couple of hours of training and wham, he's got a glamorous job for life. Navigation? He doesn't care. Aeronautics? Useless. He only needs to fiddle with the stick. That won't take any training at all. He's got video games so he knows what it takes to fly.

Momma is on board with the whole pilot thing. She's got all of his dreams for him. She likes the idea. She's told him that it's his choice and she'll pay for all of it and pat him on the head. She didn't seem to see that she had given him this way out of working. Neither of them can see that there is a tremendous amount of work and studying that goes into a pilot's license - that spending the money is the least of it. I can't see him putting in the time and effort to make it in that field. He'll be competing against way too many ex-mil who have real skills and experience and who have gone to college on the GIBill and have a resume that isn't crap.

So he's failing.

Am I giving up lunch to tutor? Ummmmmmmm, no.
Am I keeping him after school? Ummmmmmmm, no.
Am I available after school? Yes and if no one shows, I'm outta here. ( I stay roughly an hour, longer if someone comes in.)

Here's the deal, kiddo.

First, if you screw around during class, I'm not going out of my way to somehow force you to come after school or get extra help during other times. The onus is on you to seek out the help.

Second, if I'm going to spend 1.5 hours of class time teaching you something, only to have you ignore it, then I won't be so happy about taking even more time to reteach you personally. I'll do it because I consider that hour or so to be an expandable "office hours" where I'm available for anyone, but you'll be lower in priority than those who were trying. I'd do the same during prep period, too, if you had a question during that study hall, but I know you won't.

Third, your grade stands. Earn your way out of the hole. You took a test and got a 20%. You took a retest on the same material with basically the same questions (only different numbers) and got a 25%. The rest of the class was in the As and Bs with a couple Cs. You knew the difficulties and the material and you didn't bother to do anything.

You asked no real questions, tried nothing, copied the classwork from the next kid, copied the homework from someone else and thought you'd put one over on me. Here's your rope, kid.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Students are NOT multi-taskers

I don't know how many times I hear this each day, but it seems to be the excuse on everybody lips. "Students today are multi-taskers."

Bull. Students today are exactly like students yesterday, students a decade ago, and students in my generation. There is no physiological or psychological difference that makes them more able to multi-task than any other human. Individuals may be able to do more than others, but the differences are not age-based.

Watch your own students. Watch someone else's. Watch them in the supermarket, at the skate park, in casual settings. They are just like you were. They can focus completely on one thing at a time when they want to. Watch (if you can) four straight hours of practicing a particular grind on a certain rail configuration or repeated hikes up the halfpipe to do a McTwist or a frontside 1080 over and over. Watch as they practice guitar hero for hours. Today's teenagers are exactly like yesterday's except the music has changed (not it's attitude, only the names).

When we claim that students can multi-task, we allow them to excuse their lack of focus in the classroom and explain away their inattention to algebra. We reinforce flightiness instead of letting them find out what being "in the zone" is really like in academics.

Still don't believe me? Have them read Gould's article "The Median Isn't the Message" while you are talking about measures of central tendency. How well does that multitasking work out for them now?

Can they text/phone while driving? No. No one can do that. Attentional blindness is a human failing not a aged one.

Can they even have friends in the car during their first months of having a license? No, because the friends are too distracting.

Can they listen to music while typing a paper? Mostly no, but it depends on the music - always has.

Can they text in class and understand what you just said? No. Sure, they "heard" it but they weren't listening. All of you teachers know the difference.

Ask a simple question to find out who's listening -
"If I take the high value of a data set and change it to a number large enough to be an outlier, which of the following will change and in what way?
mean, mode, median, IQR."
"What if I made that same number SMALL enough to be an outlier?"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The debut of a new category!

Over at FoxNews they've got a story about a bus driver who asked the cheerleaders to lift their shirts for money.
"... Diamond approached the girls with his request ... The high school students found another ride home ...."
He's lucky they didn't slap him stupid.
"Diamond ... was described by co-workers as a quiet man who keeps to himself."
A sure sign of trouble, right there. I love the understated nature of this line, though ...
"He faces termination for the alleged incident."

Gee. You think?

Here's the whole story (sort of, it's Fox after all) ...

A longtime school bus driver could be fired after several members of a cheerleading squad in Lynnfield, Mass., said he offered them $40 to lift up their shirts.

Driver Bill Diamond, 56, was suspended without pay after the allegations surfaced, reported. Diamond has been at the job for 23 years.

"This clearly goes well beyond any bounds of acceptable behavior," said town administrator William Gustus.

Police said Diamond approached the girls with his request after a cheerleading competition in Lowell. The high school students found another ride home and went to authorities, who in turn questioned the bus driver, according to

The driver allegedly didn't deny that the accusations were true.

Diamond has no record and was described by co-workers and his supervisor as a quiet man who keeps to himself.

He faces termination for the alleged incident.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Time redefined

I was just killing time talking with Mr. Sweater (History) and the subject turned to evaluations. He was being evaluated this month sometime and was looking forward to it (?!?). He then threw me for a real loop.

"I haven't been evaluated for at least three principals, maybe four. I'll have to go and look."

How about that? We've had so many that it's easier to discern which year not by the kids who were there (Sam's older brother's year - you know, when they decorated the ...) but rather by the principal. Oh, and this measurement system is more fine-grained than doing it by year, too.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

AP in the News again

Jay Matthews feels that anyone can learn in an AP class and said so. "I was repeating for the 4,897th time my view that even low-income students who have not performed well in school can learn in a college-level high school course, like Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate, if given extra time and encouragement." I'll save his caveat until the end of my post because he did the same. It's a qualification of his argument that gets him off the hook but is always ignored by demagogues and administrators, or missed by anyone who doesn't read the whole article.
A commenter replied, in part, that access to such advanced material must begin early and " ... this kind of feel-good, everyone-can-do-it idea is valuable, but not at the expense of students who are not trying to game the system but who have worked solidly to learn and succeed .... ACCESS BEGINS IN KINDERGARTEN, not at the moment a child who has effectively been asleep in school for 11 years suddenly decides to wake up!"
Matthews is wrong because he's confusing ability to learn and the quality and quantity of that learning. When you are talking AP, it's not a matter of equal rights through equal placement, measured by enrollment numbers. It's rather "What is most appropriate?" In APCalc, for example, one can teach trig and logarithms and advanced algebra along the way, but it's better if students already have learned it because calculus builds upon previous knowledge like no other subject. Those who cannot do the preliminary work CAN learn calculus but aren't really doing college work. They're dilettantes, in a way. There's nothing particularly hard about rates of change and accumulated areas and anyone can learn these concepts. Using them is another matter.

Matthews says "can learn" is the criteria to use, but he's repeating this too-often repeated educational canard. Anyone CAN learn SOMETHING in any class, but an appropriate placement means that the same "anyone" will be able to learn FAR MORE.

The first commenter, on the other hand, is wrong because he's starting way too early and because he's confusing "gaming the system" and behavior with ability. If you are talking about "not performed well" because the kid got bad grades but knows what he is doing - APCalc will be fine. If the "not performed well" is due to a lack of knowledge and skills, why not put him into a class that's appropriate?

There is no reason why a kid can't start with nothing and work up to AP level during the high school years. Escalante proved that - just remember that Escalante didn't do magic, didn't do it in 1 year, put a strong linearly-progressing curriculum into place, and demanded the world from his kids every day.

You CAN go from worst to first - but it takes a boatload of work, a competent teacher and a good teaching-and-practice curriculum, not the constructivist stuff. It takes work.

The first commenter is also correct when he says that students who do well and work hard should not be held back by those who don't work hard and who lack the necessary skills and knowledge.

A second commenter criticized the first - "Scary to think this person is a teacher. It appears he/she does not teach in a public high school ... The notion that access to AP classes should begin in early childhood education is absurdly myopic. Recently my colleague Mary Ann Bell and I gave a presentation to approximately 40 parents and 8th grade students who wanted to learn more about our AP Network here at Wakefield. ... We have AP Summer Bridge, AP Study Seminar, AP Lunch Lab, Academic Cohort for Minority Males, United Minority Girls, etc. ... the overwhelming majority of our AP students have never been identified as gifted. We also have AP students with individualized education programs that require hosts of accommodations."

Firstly, if AP access doesn't start early, why are you giving presentations to 8th graders? Saying "Early childhood" is silly, but preparation is hugely important.

If the AP is the right placement, then why do you need all the Bridges and Summers and Lunch Labs? Because it wasn't the right placement. They weren't ready for Calculus and you knew it. If the kid doesn't know what's in a typical Pre-Calculus course, why not schedule him for Pre-Calculus?

If the overwhelming majority were never identified as gifted, that's your fault as a school. It takes a superior student to be able to gain college credit in a high school setting as a younger age. Putting weak students in the course may satisfy your need to prove non-racism, but it doesn't help the students.

If the kids' IEPs provide accommodations that modify the environment, then I couldn't care less - that's not a concern, just something that is done and no one thinks twice about it. If the IEPs modify the material or the teaching methods or the requirements, then the student is mostly likely better placed in another course.

Having said all that, what was Jay Matthews's caveat?
"For some courses, particularly calculus and foreign languages, unprepared students should not be admitted." It's correct but it is buried in a paragraph from which a casual reader (and administrators and reformers and critics of pre-requisites) would take the opposite meaning.

The whole paragraph ...
The AP and IB teachers with the best results in the classes, for both fast and slow students, have told me they don't need to grind the whole thing to a halt to help kids at the bottom. For some courses, particularly calculus and foreign languages, unprepared students should not be admitted. But in most AP classes with students at different levels, some will grasp more of the classroom discussion than others, but for nearly everyone there is a net gain. The data show that opening AP to anyone who wants to take it does not reduce the number of students getting the top scores on the exams, one indication that the fastest students are not hurt.

To finish, I'll add an experience of my own - a girl who scored 480 on the math SAT and was placed in an AP Calc class. I argued that it was the wrong placement, that she was doomed to failure. I was overruled because "teacher can individualize the education" and low scores on a single test should not prevent you from taking a course." Bull. If you can't score at least 600 on the math SAT, you will probably not do well in AP calculus. It's not fair to place a student into a situation which will be forever frustrating. She wound up failing because she didn't have enough background. She was trying to learn the algebra when the rest of the class was trying to use the algebra to learn a calculus idea. Failure.

Why do keep making this mistake? Inflated grades are part of the problem, as is the group work is a cure-all fallacy. This girl did a lot of group work in her previous courses (read: she followed along while others learned). Mostly, it was an administration who wouldn't say "No" because they thought that anyone can learn in a calculus class.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tolerance and Acceptance

I have fears for this country. People spent 8 years ranting about the hardline right running the country into the ground, ruining civil liberties, destroying political freedom, etc., ad infinitum. Then, a few hard-left nutjobs promptly recreate the tyranny and intolerance from their side of the park.

If liberals want to be taken seriously, then Liberals and Libertarians need to denounce the radical morons who make everyone look bad. Sure, you've got the right to say it - but not the right to overreact and get violent and get nasty when someone else says it.

"I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the Death your right to say it." attr. to Voltaire, but actually written for him by Hall.

The college girl punched and screamed at because she wore a McCain button - is this how civil discourse works in colleges these days? The 8th grader with conservative father and liberal mother who decided to test her classmates and teachers. The kid who wore a McCain t-shirt to an after-election street party and was arrested for it? The grandmother whose cross was taken from her and stomped upon by a group of Prop 8 opponents? The NYCity people willing to let themselves be filmed swearing and cursing someone quietly standing - simply because his shirt says Palin on it? Students who can't help but criticize another's choice, saying, "Palin is a religious freak and a danger to society." without knowing anything about her, other than she's on the Republican ticket? The Racist Right has it's mouth open with brain shut moments, too. Cool it, people. You're not clever and you're not making much sense, but you are making videos that compare Obama to Hitler and Jim Jones. Rein in your psychoses and have a civil disagreement. The Black Panthers "standing guard" (one of whom is holding a nightstick) at the polling place giving certain people a bad time -- Gee, didn't someone think that might be misconstrued by a camera with an axe to grind?

To be taken seriously, to be American, we must all denounce these actions and the millions of other occurrences great and small, anti-republican and anti-democratic alike. We people who claim to be tolerant of diversity? How about some true tolerance? Be tolerant except of intolerance.

I work in education - surrounded by people who are knee-jerk one way or the other. I have one message. Grow Up.
Be the token liberal in a group of redneck friends.
Be the Red-State diehards on a BlueState campus.
But talk to each other. You're friends, or you ought to be.

Why can't we see that the country split nearly 50/50 on this election - if you isolate and demonize those with whom you disagree, you will never achieve consensus nor will you ever achieve peace. If we can't rein in the extremists, we will trade one set of pedagogical fools for another.

Just sayin'.

Friday, November 14, 2008

SmartBoard follies

SmartBoard professional development presentation at our little hole-in-the-wall consisted of:

District tech coordinator.
School tech dude.
Computer Teacher.
Chemistry teacher.

20 minutes passed while they tried to hook up the smart board. Comedy of errors mixed with Keystone Kops choreography.

Finally machine was up and running but Science teacher (only one who used it regularly) didn't have her files on this computer - it wasn't networked because the wireless card was fritsy.

So she showed us how to doodle on stuff and kept apologizing that she couldn't show us any of the really cool things she did with it everyday.

Computer teacher showed us the dice-rolling animation thingy. She didn't apparently have any other ideas or suggestions.

District tech has never used one except to tap to advance Powerpoint.

School tech never used it because he had admin duties.

That's it. That was the PD that wound up being PDS (pretty damn stupid) and PDI (pretty damn irritating) and PMAWOT (pretty much a waste of time).

Later, in my classroom, I read an online manual and played with the software for an hour (downloaded for free).

Guess which was more informative and useful?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rectangle of Squares 1

Boosted from JD2718
Clarence the Clever Contractor cleared a rectangular plot of land and covered it with gravel. Then he purchased 9 square wooden sections of side-length 2, 5, 7, 9, 16, 25, 28, 33, and 36. By placing the squares on the gravel with no two overlapping, Clarence built a patio which exactly covered the graveled surface. Find the perimeter of Clarence’s new patio.
I have another from an Informal Geometry book, which drew out the squares, labeled the 7 and 9 and left finding the rest of the sides for the students.

If you get the first, try this one ...
7, 9, 16, 19, 26, 28, 33, 44, 45, 60

Try using total area and prime factorization as well as the visual method, which I likened to a sunflower in that you start in the middle and work outwards.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The Foundation of a Society is the Education of it's Youth - Diogenes

You can go to a ski shop and get a good fit for an average foot, right out of the box. For oddball feet, you'll pay more for the custom boot fitting. For the race fit, you'll definitely pay more and you'll be more involved in the work. But you're a racer for whom fractions of a percent are important. You're in the right-hand end of the right side of the distribution.

You can go to the supermarket and get good meat for a good price, right out of the display. You have choices galore, but not every choice. A good deal for a good price for an average customer. If you want specialized, you go to the butcher and you pay more and you get exactly what you want. If what you wanted was already in the display, you'd be foolish to go to the butcher, wouldn't you?

You should get the same for education. The "government-run" schools should provide a good education for the average student, right out of the box. If you want Catholic - you pay to send him to parochial school. If you want specialized, you should have to provide that, too. If you want a charter school and all the perks, pay up. If you want to homeschool, then you should contribute the time and energy.

It's time for schools to stop trying to provide extraordinary education for the average price. The multi-million dollar facilities for athletics are too much. The million-dollar, 20 seat computer lab is over the top. The TV station is an extra the voters shouldn't have to pay for - especially since the cable outlets are providing one for free - cable access LOVES schools.

We provide the education. Free, Appropriate, Public, Education. But it needs to be on our terms. If you'd like to take advantage of it, then you are welcome to do so. Your child comes to the school and takes the courses we offer. We try to schedule to fit everyone and disappoint no one - ideally of course.

We ask that your child fit in and not raise waves - not because we're trying to "beat him down intellectually" but because we're trying to do the most for everyone.

We look like a mall because we have to. Explain another way to put 60-100 classrooms in a small location with wheeled access to every room and we'll probably build that way. You can't, though.

We run on a model that resembles a factory, not because we want to be grimy and dangerous, hurtful and uninterested, but because we need to service a whole lot of people and one-to-one isn't efficient.

I have 15-20 in my classes at a time, but not because we're warehousing them or coddling teachers. We've looked around and found that that is simply the most productive number. It's not that I couldn't teach 30 at once. It's not that I'm trying to keep the maximum number of teachers employed. I know that 18 is the perfect size because I've had both fewer and more over the last 25 years, and that's the best.

We the voters are paying for this because we want to provide this education to the town's children. No vouchers to some other school or district. No demands that we meet every whim of fickle parents who have little experience with anyone under 18 who isn't their own kid. If you have 1 kid or 8 kids, the price is free. There is no tuition. The town is providing this service collectively and taxing itself to do so. Like the road over the mountain, my helping to repave it has nothing to do with whether I ever drive on it. Take advantage of it or not, that's your choice.

Just stop complaining that it needs to go away.

Homeschooling without all the effort

Florida has upped the ante on stupidity. They've started on-line courses that will essentially relieve the State of costs, teachers, students, need for school buildings and other apparently unnecessary things.

If you don't like the other children at school or disapprove of the minorities who might contaminate your little precious but are unsure of how you could teach her? Plop her down on the living room floor and a Florida-certified teacher will teach her online.
"A teacher working out of her home at an undisclosed Florida location supervises instruction for Taylor and dozens of other elementary students across the state. She monitors their work, talks with students individually online and holds virtual class meetings to discuss particular topics."
Instead of holding actual class meetings, she supervises education and monitors their work? Instead of 18 kids in a room where a physical teacher can see that Johnny is bored or misunderstanding and do something about it, we now have dozens of kids in their own homes possibly supervised by their parents. This is an improvement?
"What's missing is 18 kids competing for one teacher's attention, boring downtime in the classroom, distracting discipline incidents and playground bullying."
Now your little darling can be homeschooled and you don't have to do anything or know anything except be a presence in the building. The elementary school teacher now has dozens of students instead of 18. Little kids with no self-control and little motivation are treated just like highly motivated ones. There is no teacher, no one to explain or instruct or motivate, only
"boxes of textbooks, work sheets, study materials and other classroom supplies, right down to a compass, magnifying glass and other nifty items for basic science experiments. Older kids even get microscopes."
That'll help the little darlings. Unsure of something? Ask your computer screen and when the online teacher gets around to it, she might explain it. An adult is required in the home to help with instruction - yeah right, that'll work. The whole point of this program is to provide homeschooling for parents too lazy, too stupid or too unmotivated to provide it.
Back in the kitchen, Joni Fussell keeps Taylor on task, although there is flexibility for running errands or doing chores, as long as Taylor spends about five hours a day doing schoolwork. The program requires an adult at home to aid with instruction.
I love the "flexibility for running errands" thing. Like anyone will check if the only adult is gone for 4 hours. Like the adult is truly expected to do anything or is responsible for anything. At least true homeschool parents make a commitment to teaching and guiding their children. Essentially, the state is pawning off it's responsibilities onto parents in guise of giving them choices.

But wait, there's more. You can't do a partial program. No clubs, sports, computer classes, proms, languages. No attending school for part of the day to take a gifted and talented program. The teacher is not negotiable.

The final oxymoronic part of this new wave of homeschooling? People who have been homeschooling already are not welcome in this program. I guess that "once jilted, forever angry" is the stance Florida is taking.

Here's the link.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Problems in American Mathematics

I'm technically supposed to teach certain courses in this constructivist manner - "Be a Guide on the Side, Not a Sage on The Stage." I think you can guess my response to that. "Learn, Drill and Practice, Baby." You can call it 'drill and kill,' but I call it practice. This is rocket science, it's education. Education takes practice. Teaching takes practice and learning takes practice. Writing takes practice and very definitely math and science take practice. Learn and then practice.

from my own past:
Right-triangle trig was difficult for me because I resisted memorizing the ratios. I resisted memorizing the functions of common angles. I didn't see why radians were necessary. I was trying to understand and going nowhere. I finally just memorized SOHCAHTOA and the reciprocals. Things became abundantly clear and so incredibly simple. Now, every similar situation in the wood shop became obvious, every real-world problem became a piece of cake. (and the angle on that piece of cake needed to be 45o - more would be greedy.) Then I practiced. Okay, the teacher gave us a bunch of questions, but they were easy because he had taught, I memorized some basics, I practiced and then I knew. I'd still be there if I'd had to come up with it myself.

"If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of Giants." At what point do our students get to stand on the shoulders of giants? We say that people learn better if they come up with it themselves. I say that's a flippin' waste of their time. Math geeks spend their lives figuring this stuff out and you want a bunch of kids to do it in 9 months?

Anyway, here's the article from over at ednews ...

“Student-centered” Learning (or “Constructivism”)
By Laurie H. Rogers, author of "Betrayed"

Constructivism and lack of practice

Here are two of the clues to America's current mathematics problem:

1."Student-centered" learning (or "constructivism")
2.Insufficient practice of basic skills

"Student-centered" Learning (or "Constructivism")

In an October email, Spokane's secondary mathematics coordinator reaffirmed this district's commitment to a "student-centered" approach to teaching (also sometimes called "discovery learning" or "constructivism"). In this approach, students often work as partners or in groups, and teachers act as "facilitators" rather than as "instructors." Students are encouraged to come up with their own multiple solutions to problems and to ask fellow students for help before asking the teacher.

Reform math curricula are typically built around a constructivist approach, probably because the 1989 Standards document from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics calls for it (Stiff, 2001c; "Curriculum," 2004). Proponents say the approach leads to "deeper understanding," helpful collaboration and better student enjoyment of the process. Others say a dependence on it can hinder the learning process and frustrate students.

A local parent told me this story about when his daughter took a math class that used reform math curriculum Connected Mathematics:

Students were told that "Juan" was mowing a lawn in a right-angle triangle. He wanted to figure out the length of the diagonal. The term "Pythagorean Theorem" (a2 + b2 = c2) wasn't presented. The students were to work in groups and figure out a way to get the answer. Finally, one student who knew the theorem provided it to her group. (Her group was the only one to get the right answer.) Incredibly, the teacher "chastised" the student for using the formula.

"A lot of parents don't believe it at first," the parent said to me. "Like, their kids are younger, they don't know, and they feel that parents are exaggerating, but it is the honest-to-God truth, and these stories get worse."

In small doses, constructivism can provide flavor to classrooms, but some math professors have told me the approach seems to work better in subjects other than math. That sounds reasonable. The learning of mathematics depends on a logical progression of basic skills. Sixth-graders are not Pythagorus, nor are they math teachers.

Meanwhile, anti-reform advocacy group Mathematically Correct provides an amusing take on constructivism ("What Is," 1996):

"This notion holds that students will learn math better if they are left to discover the rules and methods of mathematics for themselves, rather than being taught by teachers or textbooks. This is not unlike the Socratic method, minus Socrates."

Insufficient Practice of Basic Skills

Another problem in math classrooms is the lack of practice. Instead of insisting that students practice math skills until they're second nature, educators have labeled this practice "drill and kill" and thrown it under a bus.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that phrase. It's a strange, flippant way to dismiss a logical process for learning. Drilling is how anyone learns a skill. Removing drilling from the learning process is like saying, "We'll just remove this gravity. Now stay put." Everyone drills – athletes, pianists, soldiers, plumbers and doctors. Drilling is necessary.
It isn't good or bad – it's simply what must be done.

Imagine if I told chess players they had to figure out the rules of chess on their own, in fits and starts, by trial and error and by asking their fellow players. Imagine if I expected them to win games when they hadn't had a chance to practice.

In American education, the "worm" is not yet turning, but it might be looking over its shoulder. In its March 2008 report, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel reintroduced the notion of practicing the basics:

"Practice allows students to achieve automaticity of basic skills – the fast, accurate, and effortless processing of content information – which frees up working memory for more complex aspects of problem solving" ("Foundations," 2008, p. 30).

But children in the system now are stuck with a process that asks them to work in diverse groups to reinvent thousands of years of math procedures that they then don't get to practice.

Some people enjoy puzzles on logic and process, where things might not be what they seem and where they've got to figure out subtle differences and new ways of thinking. But this esoteric, conceptual approach to math, with a constant struggle to understand the process, doesn't seem like a logical approach for children. Children are concrete thinkers who tend to appreciate concrete ideas. Children want instructions, direction and things that make sense. Many don't appreciate the daily grind of writing about math, of having to figure out what they're doing, of having to count on classmates for guidance, of trying to remember things they've done just once or twice and several weeks ago.

It's ironic that proponents of reform math criticize traditionalists for supposedly not knowing "how to teach math to children." The reform method seems completely oppositional to how children learn best.

I asked a Spokane student if she prefers the Connected Mathematics she gets in school over the Singapore Math she gets at home. She said, "In a way, Connected Mathematics is easier because you don't have to know as much math, but in a way, it's harder because you have to know more. You have to know exactly what they want."

She gave me an example of the classroom approach: Students are to gather in groups to discuss a problem. The problem might be a complicated twist on simplistic math, or it might be a concept they've never seen before. As the groups muddle around, they don't always agree on what's required. Sometimes, they don't have the necessary underlying skills. Some students become frustrated or bored. Trying to help each other, some confuse the others. They might come up with the right answer, or they might not, but – without practicing the new concepts – the class moves on to something new.

Singapore Math, on the other hand, "might be harder as far as the math goes," she said, "but at least you know what they want."

I told her I thought her answer was articulate and enlightening. "I've spoken to a lot of people now," I said, "and you explained things very well."

"That's because they teach it," she replied, "but I'm the one who has to learn it."

Published November 9, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The opposite of strength

Professional development (two words and you already know this isn't going to end well) is starting. We are to write down information about our students. Now we have to speak about what we wrote. One says, "My students strengths are (1)(2)(3) and my students weaknesses are --" and is promptly cut off by the "expert."

"Your students don't have weaknesses. They have needs. You can't call them weaknesses."

You can't make this up.


A documentary about the Last Day of WW1, presented by Michael Palin.
(not HER husband, you ninnies. The Monty Python guy. Sheesh.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Leave it to the Onion

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

I think I've used this excuse before.

"No, really, Officer. I was doing research in the lab with my assistant. We were making diamonds with tequila. Hic." "Tell it to the Judge, Sir."

From SlashDot:
Researchers, oddly enough from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, have found a way to make diamond films using tequila. They were originally testing methods of creating the films with organic solutions like acetone when it was noticed the ideal ratios of water and ethanol turned out to be about 80 proof, or 40% alcohol. "To dissipate any doubts, one morning on the way to the lab I bought a pocket-size bottle of cheap white tequila and we did some tests," Apátiga said. "We were in doubt over whether the great amount of chemicals present in tequila, other than water and ethanol, would contaminate or obstruct the process, it turned out to be not so. The results were amazing, same as with the ethanol and water compound, we obtained almost spherical shaped diamonds of nanometric size. There is no doubt; tequila has the exact proportion of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms necessary to form diamonds."

I love science. I just need to figure out how to tell my principal that this is a great example of critical thinking and that we should replicate the experiment. You know, peer review ...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mme. Duck quacks and complains

We're in the first semester of a new daily schedule here at Curmudgeon HS. We moved from the old 4-period blocks to a hybrid 4.5 block setup. It's kind of complicated, with some blocks being split into half-block with full credit courses running all year. Other 40 minute half-block run for a semester and generate a half credit. The majority of the courses are full block, one semester, courses.

It's going to take some time to get fully used to it, but it has definite potential. The biggest upside is the increased chances for electives. We were all given the opportunity to propose new courses that we would like to teach. It was great. The Spanish teacher also knows Russian - how cool is that? Forensics got the nod, as did SAT prep and other non-traditional courses.

Needless to say, Mme. Duck is not amused. "I have so much work." "I'm just overwhelmed." "The students hate me even though I tried to help them. It just goes to show you how ungrateful they are."

Gee, Mme. Duck, I'm not an expert, but the probable cause is that you offered a course which is not in your area of expertise, you demanded that it be a requirement for seniors, and you forgot that many of the seniors are probably not finding your class too useful or meaningful, and that they've hated the way you teach for about 4 years now.

Why is that?

It's because you hand out photocopied workbook pages, plop down in your chair, and then don't teach them anything. It might also be that you chose a ninth grade level consumer-math skills book (designed for pre-algebra abilities) and everyone is feeling just a weeeee bit insulted. They don't think that learning to make change is something worth spending three days on. Many already have a car, with insurance and payments, they have a credit card and bank account. You don't need 12 pages of culturally diverse vignettes describing how to fill in the lines on a check.

I'd be more sympathetic, but when the math department pointed out a few of these problems, you rejected us and ran to the principal. Principal PJs couldn't figure out how long D period is -- 9:37 - 10:18 -- addition and subtraction are not his strength. He went along because "Everyone needs consumer skills."

The guidance counselor and scheduler, Mr. YankeeFan, got upset when you went over his head and basically forced him to redo the entire schedule in the first weeks of JUNE because you and Principal PJs suddenly wanted this a GRADUATION REQUIREMENT. At the last bloody minute. Mr YF got great glee setting you up with exactly the classes what you demanded before he waltzed off to a new job.

You have what you demanded. Your students are barely hanging on to their sanity. Your complaints are ringing in our ears.

Epic FAIL.

PD has me PO'd.

Dangerously Irrelevant wants to revamp Professional Development, to which I say "Hoo-Ah." Then I read the rest of it.

"Big idea 1: Most current staff development is awful."
Okay, for a Big Idea, this isn't much on the Wow scale. I thought this post was going to have some Ideas.

"Big idea 2: School vision statements are feckless."
Ummm. okay. I've never really felt that 50 words tacked over the door was much more than hokum, but this post isn't ringing my bell so far.

"Big idea 3: Schools have a great deal of internal expertise."
Ummm. okay. Sometimes though, this is the root of the problem ... many of those who are willing to get up some initiative are also those whose ideas are riddled with false intellectualism and educationese. You know, the ones whose jargon is meant to confuse rather than clarify.

Big idea 4: Students are experts too.
Ummm. no. They're not. They're willing to play with toys, but that doesn't make them experts any more than typing this blog makes me a Pulitzer-winner. Most of the students I've seen are technologically useless except when it comes to texting and IMing and Myspacing out. Games and toys are fine amusements for the young. Hardly what I'd call the qualifications of an expert.

All of this leads me to… Big idea 5: Have students deliver technology-related training!
Sure. Doing what, exactly?

Using the SmartBoard? If a teacher doesn't know how to use it, he should read the F Manual and work at it. You know, like we tell our kids to do - work at it, read the instructions, follow directions, practice, explore the software.

Excel or Powerpoint? Please. They do just enough to answer the question and then stop. Mostly, they play and attempt to copy off each other.

MySQL, Access? No.

PHP, ASP, JSP, AJAX? Right. In this lifetime?

FORTRAN, BASIC, COBOL, C, C#, PASCAL, VBASIC? No7. This is too much like work.

Photoshop, Fireworks, Flash, Premiere, Final Cut? Maybe, but only if they can morph the teacher's head onto a naked body and dub in the sound of giggling.

The rare few with the maturity to make art or programming that's useful in some way are greatly outnumbered by "I'm a digital native because I can listen to an iPod" clowns. These few would probably make a nice presentation for the tech illiterate. For me, though, and those like me, the preferred stuation is for that kid to sit down and "Check this out. Look at what I made this do!"

The last thing I want to do is to sit in PD while a student attempts to teach me something I learned years ago or that I could learn easily if I had the need. A fundamental problem remains the teachers' lack of motivation to learn the most basic tech without screaming for "more training" and "I'm not working on this at home."

If the computer teacher spent her time actually preparing for her classes and writing her plans instead of whining constantly about how overworked she is ...

If the slackers spent less time making stupid surveys from SurveyMonkey trying to change the schedule ...

Give me a break.

I'll post the entire article for reference:

Student-delivered PD: An idea whose time has come?

A collection of thoughts about P-12 professional development, with a (hopefully) whiz-bang ending…

Big idea 1: Most current staff development is awful.

We have known for decades what leads to powerful adult learning and what constitutes effective professional development. Yet the 3– or 4–days per year, ‘sit and get,’ one-size-fits-all training model still persists on a large scale. Shame on us.

Big idea 2: School vision statements are feckless.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a school organization that doesn’t have a vision, mission, or purpose statement that says blah blah blah life long learning blah blah blah. And yet we don’t really model ‘life long learning’ very well. Administrators feel that they can show no weakness in front of staff or parents. Teachers feel that they must be the experts before they can ‘teach’ students. No one has tried to operationalize the concept or delineate what it actually looks like. In terms of impact on daily practice, it’s a meaningless feel-good aphorism (much like all kids can learn). Shame on us.

Big idea 3: Schools have a great deal of internal expertise.

At the risk of impacting my occasional consulting income, I’m willing to say that most districts would be better served by having in-house experts deliver training rather than paying some outside guru big bucks to come in for a day (or hour). There’s a tremendous wealth of in-house expertise that goes ignored within school organizations. Shame on us.

Big idea 4: Students are experts too.

Tapscott & Williams note in Wikinomics (2006) that this is the first time in human history when children are authorities on something really important (p. 47). In other words, when it comes to digital technologies, our kids often are (or, given the chance, could rapidly become) the experts. We ignore this expertise in most school organization. Shame on us.

All of this leads me to…

Big idea 5: Have students deliver technology-related training!

Put Big Ideas 1 and 3 together and it’s clear that school organizations should do a better job of peer-to-peer training. Throw in Big Ideas 2 and 4 and we see that many school organizations could easily structure technology training opportunities for educators, parents, and students where children and adolescents were the instructors or co-instructors. The kids get the learning power and social/emotional benefit of being teachers and leaders. Adults and other students learn from the true experts.

All we have to do is walk away from our egos and our fear and embrace our mission statements, the ones that say that we all should be learners and say nothing about from whom we must learn.

How about it? You ready to start doing this?

Speaking of Obama

Charles Krauthammer wrote:
With him we get a president with the political intelligence of a Bill Clinton harnessed to the steely self-discipline of a Vladimir Putin. (I say this admiringly.) With these qualities, Obama will now bestride the political stage as largely as did Reagan.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

We found Him

Mrs. Curmudgeon, also a teacher, reports that her school has finally found the ONE. You've heard the stories, the rumors, the whispers. You never thought you'd ever meet him. He's the ONE. He's loud, obnoxious, bounces around in class. He doesn't do any work, teases and taunts other kids when he can get away with it. Hyperactive behaviors. The works. Special Ed has tested him left, right and center ... Took hours of time and bunches of money.

And can't find anything wrong.

No diagnosis of ADHD or ADD. No ED. No OCD or ODD. No bad home life. No learning diasabilities, no dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dysfuntional. He's not autistic, or Asberger's, Tourette's, nope. Average IQ on the WISC-R or Woodcock Johnson.


They can't give him an IEP, 504, 157, EST, VIP, MVPFB or any other alpha-numeric excuse. He's solely responsible for his bad behavior.

Didn't see that one coming, did you?

Time for Words of caution

Every once in a while I feel the need to step back and let someone else do the talking. Especially if the words are spot-on.

from Michael Crichton on opinion and the media

I grew up in the 1950s, supposedly the heyday of conformity, but there was much more freedom of opinion back then. And as a result, you knew that your neighbors might hold different views from you on politics or religion. Today, the notion that men of good will can disagree has disappeared. Can you imagine! Today, if I disagree with you, you conclude there is something wrong with me. This is a childish, parochial view. And of course stupefyingly intolerant. It's truly anti-American. Much of it can be laid at the feet of the environmental movement, which has unfortunately frequently been led by ill-educated and intolerant spokespersons--often with no more than a high-school education, sometimes not even that. Or they are lawyers trained to win at any cost and to say anything about their opponents to win. But you find the same intolerant tone around considerations of defense, taxation, free markets, universal medical care, and so on. There's plenty of zealotry to go around. And it's hardly new in human history.

The media might stand as a corrective, cool and a bit detached, showing by example how to approach information and controversy. Instead, the media has clearly caught the fever of our intolerant times. Formerly, news people would never openly state their allegiance; young reporters understood it was poor form, and a senior person would carry the caution born of the experience that at least some of what one believes in the course of one's life turns out to be wrong. But it's a new era. Now, media reporters are proud to pound the table and declare their advocacy. Since so few of them have any training in science, they don't really know what they are pounding about, when it comes to global warming. They couldn't tell you even in general terms how the global mean temperature is calculated, for example. But it doesn't matter anyway. They just want to declare they believe what "everyone" believes. Who values such a news source?

Hear, hear.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Technology might be the answer, but not to this question.

Dangerously Irrelevant posted the other day

Can a computer lecture better than a human?
I’m going to prime the pump a little bit for my K12 Online presentation next week… My fifth-grade daughter’s math homework this weekend required her to find out what a radian or a grad was (hint: both are ways besides degrees to measure angles). We hit ye olde Google and quickly found this helpful (and free) learning activity from Wisconsin Online.

I'd like for all of the people reading this to follow that link and see if you see what I saw. Then come back and finish here.

Interesting that none of the viewers of this pleasant little graphic actually learned enough to notice that one of the slides in the presentation was incorrect. The commenters on Dangerously Irrelevant were all effusive in their praise of this wonderful new tool for education called technology. The commenters on wisc-online were as well - it's so much better than school!

Aside to people: if you're going to praise something, check your grammer. Typos can be forgiven but incoherence is another matter.

"This website is what our entire culture will be like in the future when society is truly and educational and deschooled (read Ivan Illich) one, straight talk free and available to the public, instead of academia building walls around information. How many thousands of dollars would I have had to give a bank to get a school to tell me, pretending theres no other way, what this site alone has taught me? Many thanks."


Interesting, too, that wisconsin-online has not corrected the slide.

The real problem here is that this style of education - this Death by Poweroint animation model - is touted as the paragon of education. "Bam! Ten minutes later my daughter and I had learned what a radian was (the animation was much more helpful than the mere definitions that we found), answered correctly all of the self-assessment questions, and were ready to move forward."
"It’s going to become unbelievably easy to find a variety of ways other than text to learn about almost anything we want."

Well, not really. You found a definition and answered three multiple-choice questions.

Let's look in more detail at the "wonderful job" this thing does.

page 3 says "click next to learn why they chose 360" - and shows a circle divided into 72 sections. Hmmmm.

Page 4 puts out a reason that is NOT the most likely, isn't the one accepted by scholars or even Wikipedia. It doesn't mention any other reasons, reasons which are more likely and more reasonable if you credit the Babylonians with any brains at all. Unfortunately this animation just assumes they miscounted the number of days in a year, something they knew quite well. Interesting.

I can't complain about the animations too much. The animations ARE useful. I would probably use one myself if I hadn't already had several versions of it. Mine don't have the straight red line extending a bit as it gets wraps around the circle but most kids wouldn't notice that happening.

I also don't like the habit of filling in the sector to represent the angle. It's an unnecessary multimedia "feature" that doesn't help understanding. I'm probably just quibbling, though.

page 12 is really quick with no additional explanations - I can't see students accepting that fact without questions or discussion.

page 16 is just wrong. Think about it -- page 14 just got done saying that pi radians is a half-circle. (That's 3.14 radians for those asking) The page 16 figure has three radii as being MORE than a half-circle. This is such a simple error to fix, yet no one has. WHY? Can it be that the creator did not realize the error himself and that no one has pointed it out? Again, why has no one pointed it out? - because all the information on the internet is true, as far as most students are concerned. Who dares question the great shiny box?

This is the problem with computerized learning, internet information, wikipedia, and many other "modern" methods of learning -- it seems so good because it's colorful and mostly accurate, yet contains mistakes that are fundamental and should have been obvious. These mistakes arise because the programmers are not math people, and math people are generally not programmers. More, those programmers are very often teenagers with an imperfect grasp of the material, but have the time to waste creating Wikipedia content.

It seemed somewhat amateurish, like something I'd get if I assigned it's creation to my 11th graders. The fact that it's held up as the model for the next generation of teachers is disturbing and bears witness to the folly of depending on the top results from Google to answer much more than trivia questions.

By the way,
All of the math teachers I know who have seen this recognized the errors as fast as I.


DI replied:
Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Of course textbooks have errors too, and often teachers miss those as well. We can't blame the medium (Web or print), only our authors and fact-checkers. I appreciate you giving me some food for thought for today!


As quick reply and follow on, then I'm going back to checking homework papers.

Fixed stays fixed.
I agree that books have errors, but mostly in the problem solutions or in some area that is left to the graduate students to flesh out. The teachers I know take great pride in finding those errors and the students great satisfaction at noticing and correcting an error in the supposedly perfect text. An error, once found, remains corrected. Internet errors, especially Wikipedia errors, have an amazing ability to resurrect themselves. I am reminded of the case of a man who couldn't correct his own biography - the teenaged uber-user kept rewriting it and finally locked him out. How many other errors are there?

The second issue with "Textbooks are wrong, too" is the frequency. True, textbooks have errors, but far fewer than the information I typically find on the web.

Book errors are usually due to oversight or grad student miscalculation. They are rarely errors in fact or method. The errors on the web are due to not only typographical or "understandable" mistakes - I would include page 16 above - but also of the intentionally misleading (what politics calls spin), intentionally incorrect and nasty (see or just plain boneheaded nonsense.

I don't mean to pick on your one line, but the flexible and ever-changing nature of the medium demands that factual and methodological errors be fixed as soon as possible. I don't see that happening in very many cases.

Does internet reference ever work? Wolfram, yes. Wikipedia, only when it's a fact-based question that can be easily checked. Wisc-online - as far as I can tell. General websites, almost never - you just can't trust the answers unless you already know them.

Internet learning can be valuable - fix the errors above and that would be a good explanation of radians. But how are students supposed to know what's good and not? The previous commenters and reviewers and website users all took that little tutorial and none realized the errors. And that's a single page on a generally good site.

These ARE the fault of the medium as it is today and we must lay the blame at its feet or the medium will never change or improve. Is it a deal killer? No, but it worries me.

The whole lipstick on a pig thing.

But then, I don't want to be political.

Dance of the Lemons begins anon.

I went visiting some old friends from another school the other day. These guys had been through a lot with bad principals in the last few years - a wimp then a loser, followed by touchy-feely throw around a ball of yarn dude, replaced by borderline psychotic paranoid woman. So they breathed a pretty big sigh of relief when the down-to-earth guy arrived.

Who has been seen recently with the science teacher's hot wife ... in a setting and with behavior that didn't suggest routine "networking". Yup, the married with kids Principal canoodling with the married-with-baby, science teacher's wife. Quiet so far, but sooner or later, scandal will out.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends.

Politics and math -- what a concept!

I love when conservative bloviators try to make government sound really terrible, like this one did a few days ago on a Vt-based blog:

Protecting the Vermont Brand
The label says "Produced for Bove's of Vermont." The sauce is produced for Bove's of Vermont. What more truth in labeling can there be? But Bove's of Vermont will have to pay a six-figure fine. Yikes! We wish Vermont would get as tough on real crime as it is on business.

Sounds pretty mean of the state, doesn't it? "The gummint is just trying to ruin small business here in our state," I hear them cry.

The blog entry referenced another article for more details. A sentence from the article: "The settlement ... requires Bove's to donate $50,000 worth of food to the Vermont Foodbank and pay a fine of $5,000"

That's not a six-figure fine, at least not to people who do math. Maybe he's using the two digits after the decimal point? And that not much of a fine, really. That $5 grand won't cover the state's cost in lawyers and wouldn't be a fraction of the company's lawyer fee.

What was the point? "The attorney general said it is manufactured in Rochester, N.Y. and contains California tomatoes and "only one type of cheese ... made in Vermont." The product has other ingredients whose "geographic origin ... was unknown to the company," the attorney general's news release said." Puts a different spin on it, doesn't it?

As for the $50k part? It doesn't mean company cost of $50k but rather retail price - the company is probably paying $8k-10k out-of-pocket at most. Finally, it's being given to the Food Bank, for chrissakes.

More Orwellian, though, the company will call all of it a donation, like ad-copy for the holidays: "We're donating $100,000 of food product to the Vermont Foodbank." - actual quote.

Yikes, indeed.

--- update:

Later this afternoon, it also occurred to me that the company will write off both the fine and the required donation of $50k from their taxes, gaining more than the cost of the product involved. Add the voluntary donation and the write-off. Good for the accounting department.

It then all becomes a huge ad campaign: $100k of product labeled with your name being given to thousands of hungry folks in your sales area - those are not the folks who are going to be offended by the "not made in Vermont" tag. The people who do buy into the "buy local, eat local" are the only ones who will be affected -- but many of them will be swayed by the "Gummint messing with po' little us" argument here.

You are keeping your employees happy by maintaining their jobs in a bad time. They've already started the "We're wonderful for giving $100000" spin.