Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More High Tech Hype

RightWingNation has a good denunciation of a new high-tech school.

Education, beware. The forward-thinking and better-than-I folks have decreed that I am a dinosaur and that this is the face of education. I have to laugh at the list on earth-shattering newness ...
  • Bill Gates has money, therefore he is a good teacher
  • Authentic Learning (because it's all fake now and has been since Medieval Times)
  • Discovery Method is good. (because everybody knows how to teach, mostly the kids. I guess the teachers can't.)
  • “School of the Future” (Good thing, too. I'd hate to see that money go to waste on a boondoggle.)
  • first-of-its-kind model for technologically advanced schools worldwide (Note: not the model for education. Just for tech school.)
  • jaw-dropping awe (They spent THAT much?)
  • A laptop for every child (Wait, isn't that phrase copyrighted?)
  • Lockers that open with the swipe of a smart card. (Or a push against it with the card in the back pocket.) Or the inevitable run on magnets from the physics lab to wipe all those cards.
  • A fully wireless building. (God knows that never screws up)
  • Virtually no textbooks. (Ummmm, good pun. Stupid Idea.)
  • Not even an encyclopedia in the library. ('cause Wikipedia is so good.)
  • “It’s going to be as close to a paperless school as we can manage,” (Because paper is what you make contracts with and we don't want accountability.)
  • Plasma screens, ceiling projectors, interactive white boards, and laptops abound, and classroom furniture is on wheels to allow for group work in varying configurations. (Just like a business, don't you know. -- of course, not like the parts of business where they actually teach things -- this is like the parts of the business where the Board sits around amazed at all the wasteful techiness, thinking "Can I get a Bailout with that Cheeseburger?)

Right Wing Professor says, correctly, "The technology is nothing more than a tool, and it will not improve anything if there is no substantial content."

Curmudgeon thanks you, Professor.

Let's continue ...
  • toilets that flush themselves (Was it necessary to include this in a school? Can't the kids do this? Maybe the school is filled with airport travelers?)
  • the rainwater recycling (Great. Pigeons and rats defecate on the roof and you're re-using the water?)
  • Traditional education is obsolete (Then why are we constantly comparing ourselves to other countries and their traditional education systems?)
  • teach students the skills of problem-solving, critical thinking and effective communication, which they need to succeed in the 21st century.

Last time, people.

You can't teach students to think about a problem if they have no frame of reference and no background knowledge. They can't think critically before they know how to read, write, and do arithmetic. The whole point of critical thinking is comparing the new situation to old situations and experience.

Basics must be practiced. Drill and Practice, not Drill and Kill.
Preparatory knowledge is necessary to extension of knowledge.
Educationalists are idiots.

Uncle Jay is worth subscribing to.

Thanks to SchoolGal, NYCEducator, PissedOffTeacher, and others ...

He posts weekly and is teh funneh.

Wierd Gas Prices

It's a combination of low prices ($2.19) and the local supermarkets having a price-saver card deal thing going on. If you spend enough at the supermarket - you get $.30 off per gallon. We would up spending $1.89 per gallon for 20 gallons. It's only a $6 savings but damn. $1.89

just sayin'

That was Novemeber; now it's December.
Now it is cheaper than that without the discount. And we still get the discount.

New Year's Day: $1.54
Isn't it amazing how quickly we get used to these prices? I'd scream if it went up to $4.00 again.

Don't wear a hat!

It's puzzling, really
Curmudgeon's stepson reminded him of some more administrator silliness that you'll all get a kick out of. His school has a no-hat rule.

"No big deal, Curmudgeon," I can hear you all saying. "No hoodies and no hats is a pretty common rule."

And you would be right, but at his school, the rule was extended for the holidays. Halloween costumes were fine on the 31st, but without a hat. That's right. You could be a witch and dress in a scanty and flimsy sheer thing that wouldn't have passed the dress code if it weren't for the green-and-white-striped tall socks and even then the cleavage on display could be impressive. The hat was forbidden, though.

Camoflage was verboten at first because of the whole guns thing. This changed to ok when kids pointed out that many wore it almost every day and "Yes, Virginia, it is hunting season."

Then came Christmas. Stepson wore his Santa hat and everyone thought it pretty cool except Vice-Principal CSI and Principal Frumpyants. "Take off the hat or get a detention."

You just can't make this stuff up.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Racy Photos and Teenagers

Is it any real surprise that Sending racy photos is common among teens? They're immature, they don't have much forethought, and they don't have much fear of shame. No one is allowed to point out the inappropriateness of this to them for fear of being labeled a pervert, or worse. Their friends certainly won't criticize, just forward on the pictures. They see nothing wrong with it and probably do it themselves. Their parents have no clue until the kid gets upset by it, and that's rare.

Teenagers should not be interacting only with teenagers. Adults need to be a bigger part of their lives to point out that there are consequences even if the kid doesn't particularly care right now. It's not a good idea to post pictures of yourself getting stoned or drunk on Facebook, or acting like an idiot.

Shame isn't available. It's not the thing anymore.

They don't have jobs or other adult interactions where an adult can say "That's bad. You're fired," or simply point out how ridiculous they look.

I guess we'll just have to let them hang themselves.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all,
and to all a Good Night.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Silent Night, full of Snow

There's only one Christmas song appropriate for this much snow.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Day !

View out the living room sliding glass door, through the "tropical" plants at the nearly 20" of snow and thinking about the next storm of 1"-2" tonight and 5"-8" inches tomorrow and tomorrow night.

It's enough for a snow day. Ayup.

update: more snow.

Oh my goodness. Even the bird feeder is getting into the act.


I'm not an economist, just a annoyed curmudgeon. My thoughts are therefore not to be taken literally here, but maybe my ramblings have a notion of good sense in them.

Everyone from Jamele Hill on ESPN is saying things like:
Congress is stalling regarding the Big Three automakers, having forgotten it just wrote a blank check to Wall Street without even asking for so much as a Christmas card in return.
I think they're wrong to beg for an auto company bailout and here's why. The Big 3 built cars and a new (overpriced, overweight, overhyped) car (SUV, pickup) is not a necessity. In fact, in these times of trouble, the last thing that any family should do is to buy a new car if the old one has anything left on it.

For me, the difference in the bailouts is that the banks had retirement money, mortgages and such. The house and the retirement are more important to the average American than replacing a 20-month old car with a shiny new 3-month old car.

Companies go under all the time. There have been layoffs and closures that have hit my state hard. It's nature and it's style have changed dramatically over the last few years. That's progress. Move on.

I would let the banks go under, too. Screw the banks and their multi-millionaire owners and CEO -- save the account holders and mortgage holders. If you took the $700Billion dollars and distributed it a little differently, you could pay the mortgages for a year for more than 35 million families. Then sell their mortgages to someone like GMAC (the highest profit arm of GM, don't you know ...) at, say, 97 cents on the dollar and tell the banking industry to go buzz off.

Much more sensible than giving it to a company that's paying it's CEO more than $100 million dollars this year alone.

Friday, December 19, 2008

New Math for Newlyweds

I am rarely at a loss for an opinion. Those who play fast and loose with math to make a point, or who just don't understand the basics and demand to be heard by shouting from their soapboxes, need to be corrected.

In a comment about condoms, DANEgerous points out:
In contrast condoms break, or slip, up to 12% of the time. That may not sound like a big number but if you have sex more then once, each event is cumulative and the probability of unsafe sex quickly exceeds 100%. Given the average single person 'hooks up' with a few partners a year, a few times each, multiply those dozen "trials" by a failure rate that high and the average single person exceeds 100% every year.
What school did you attend, dude? Probability never exceeds 100%. Didn't I teach you that? Repeatedly?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Teh Funneh

Green campaigners called in police after discovering an illegal logging site in a nature reserve. Environmentalists found 20 neatly stacked tree trunks and others marked for felling with notches at the beauty-spot at Subkowy in northern Poland. But police followed a trail left where one tree had been dragged away - and found a beaver dam right in the middle of the river.

How about that logic ability?
How about the ability to notice detail?


Some more bogus research?

New York is apparently considering (or is currently pushing into place - I'm not sure) a law that puts taxes on non-diet sodas.   Moonbattery is having a conniption over it, saying in part
There's just one problem: Studies have found links between drinking diet sodas and obesity and diabetes.

Well, duh.  Fat people drink diet soda because they don't like being fat and they are trying to reduce their calorie intake.  Diet soda is not causing the fat.  Come on, people, think.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lesson Plans

So we've got lesson plans due later this month - hand in all of your plans at the end of the semester so Principal PJs can review them.

I took the easy way out. I made'em electronic.

Course by course, day by day, I've been transcribing them. I don't have to do every class, of course -- I have a few left over from last year. There are some updates and changes but math doesn't change that much from year to year. Shocking! Redoing all those lesson plan books was annoying and time consuming - thank God I saved them.

But now? Now the curriculum map is one aspect of it, daily lesson plans another, and substitute plans are a third. I have even less desire to do lesson plans now that I've actually compared a couple of years - I've always been a wing it and teach from the seat of my pants kind of person anyway. Really, I don't need a roadmap anymore. I have them if I need to prove I can do them.

Algebra started as a collection of assignment lists, then daily notes. The Calculus one is essentially an expanded version of what I did for the AP audit, along with the assignment list and various powerpoints, display, and labs. I don't have them dated with the actual date. Instead, they're day 1, day 2, day 3 etc. It's so much more useful and the whole "hand them in" thing is much less stressful. I just print. It's not my nickel.

Why did I wait so long? Why do I feel like I've caved in to the man?

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Night before the Unmentionable

Let's pass this one on, shall we?
Wish I knew who to attribute it to ..

'Twas the Night Before Christmas (PC Sytle)
A Christmas poem

'Twas the night before Christmas and Santa's a wreck...
How to live in a world that's politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to "Elves".
"Vertically Challenged" they were calling themselves.
And labor conditions at the north pole
Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul.

Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,
Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.
And equal employment had made it quite clear
That Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
Were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!

The runners had been removed from his sleigh;
The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.
And people had started to call for the cops
When they heard sled noises on their roof-tops.
Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened.
His fur trimmed red suit was called "Unenlightened."

And to show you the strangeness of life's ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose
And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,
Demanding millions in over-due compensation.

So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife,
Who suddenly said she'd enough of this life,
Joined a self-help group, packed, and left in a whiz,
Demanding from now on her title was Ms.

And as for the gifts, why, he'd ne'er had a notion
That making a choice could cause so much commotion.
Nothing of leather, nothing of fur,
Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her.
Nothing that might be construed to pollute.
Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot.
Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls. Or just for the boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific.
Nothing that's warlike or non-pacific.

No candy or sweets...they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.
And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden,
Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden.
For they raised the hackles of those psychological
Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.

No baseball, no football...someone could get hurt;
Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.
Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passe;
And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.

So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed;
He just could not figure out what to do next.
He tried to be merry, tried to be gay,
But you've got to be careful with that word today.
His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground;
Nothing fully acceptable was to be found.

Something special was needed, a gift that he might
Give to all without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision,
Each group of people, every religion;
Every ethnicity, every hue,
Everyone, everywhere...even you.
So here is that gift, it's price beyond worth...
"May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth."

Christmas Stupidity

What is wrong with these people?

Benson school removes holiday decorations

Instead of simply telling the kids "Sure, put up decorations from whichever tradition you'd like" and letting them have at it, we must remove it all. Complete idiots.

I like the comment "I just wish that we could give as much attention to eradicating drugs from our schools as we do to eradicating Christmas wreaths."

'Nuff said.

UPDATE: It turns out that one Jewish couple is complaining about Christmas decorations. That was the cause.

That Calculator

One of the main points that Malcolm Gladwell makes in Outliers: The Story of Success is that the time needed for total fluency and expertise in nearly anything is about 10,000 hours. Whether he's got it nailed or is off by a few percent, I have to agree with the basic premise.

Practice works. I know that I never really got the whole addition and subtraction thing down cold until I had to run a school snack bar. I could do it, just not quickly. When you're selling, speed is critical and there was no cash register to add for me. It was all mental and the kids were adding right along with me to be sure. SOHCAHTOA didn't happen until I had brutally memorized the formulas and then did 30, 40, or a couple hundred of them. It wasn't totally clear until after umpteen million R->P and P->R shifts. (Rectangular to polar coordinates, for any who wandered in here unawares)

Every day in my high school classes, I repeat the mantra. "Estimate mentally. You must know where you're going before you can be sure the calculator got you there." Every time there's an extended fraction or calculation on the board, they try to get a better estimate than I. Even questions as simple as 18*7: "10*7 and 8*7 is what?" I mention the distributive property. It's now been 3 months and some are trying to survive without a calculator as the first response.

Practice, Practice.

In addition, we teachers need to find those problems that are more difficult to do with a calculator than without - things like graphs that are nowhere near the "standard window". I might use y + 15 = ( x - 23 )2 or an exponential function that intersects another at (1000000, 21). Or my favorite old-school SAT problem (I remember looking over at another kid - back in the scratch paper days - who was doing a verrrrry long multiplication and wondering what I had missed. Turns out, nothing. He was doing it in the wrong order)
142802/145726 * 291452/71401 = ?
If you make the numbers at least 6 digits, you are guaranteed they will have transcription errors and the calculator will be more difficult than just working it out. It is one of the nice things about the SAT. The problems are solvable without a calculator. Practice, practice, practice.

In Math Tales from the Spring: Calcaholics, Mrs. H. is having these issues right now with her students - too much reliance on the machine instead of thinking and reasoning. I love the "Calcaholics" term for them, by the way. We're all having it and we all have to help the kids overcome it.

Practice, practice.

This issue comes up around here because the elementary school teachers are, by and large, unable to understand math themselves and so they pass on their overwhelming math phobias and calcuphilia to their students. Along with a healthy dose of "It's Drill and Kill not Teaching", they are ceding control of their classrooms to the whims of the students under the guise of "following their interests." What student wants to play with numbers? Much easier to punch buttons and get it over with.

Takes a while to overcome but it's worth it. First semester of college is over and the kids are coming back to visit. "I am sooo glad you kept making us do ..."

Such a nice feeling.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Not sure this is Wright. Yep, it is.

It certainly isn't right. If this is truly what the preacher said, it shows either a tremendous lack of civic knowledge or a willingness to bend the truth beyond recognition for a cheap rhetorical point.

"Today is December 7. The day that this government killed over 80000 Japanese civilians at Hiroshima in 1941. Two days before killing an additional 64000 Japanese civilians at Nagasaki by dropping nuclear bombs on innocent people."

I am going to try to find out if this is an accurate quote.

Update: yep, it is. As much as he annoys me, O'Reilly did have this one correct.

That's Reverend Wright, reading from a prepared script. Forward to the 47 second mark. It's not a misstatement or a slip of the tongue. It's deliberate and calculated to raise the ire, a "damned lie" meant to deceive with malicious intent. It's going to infuriate Republicans and Democrats alike, as it should. It's going to embarrass the hell out of the President-Elect.

Screw you Reverend. And the horse you rode in on. And the church that tolerates you.

Students cheat, you know.

Yup, almost 64 percent of them claim to have done it at least once last year. A few manage to hack into the grading system. The truly unique don't get caught. Everyone else gets on NBC.

There are so many life lessons here, it's difficult to know where to start. Like the Bronx, NY admin who got caught changing 1000s of test answers, these kids got caught because they ignored the fundamental rules of getting away with it. They did too much, too often, too suddenly and too loud.

Richmond County high school students caught changing grades
By NBC Augusta Staff
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Nearly 30 students at Glenn Hills High School are in hot water for cheating. Richmond County's executive director of high schools, says one student swiped a teacher's password and offered it to other students over the summer. The director said the student's score changed to 100 within minutes of receiving a failing grade. In one case a student was given a passing grade to a test she never took. The students were suspended for up to 10 days and lost credit for the online class they took. The student who stole the password has been withdrawn from the school.

Too much: if you are a bad student who has never gotten better than a 60 when a grade of 100 appears for a test, "You might be a Redneck Cheater." It doesn't take much to skim a list of numbers. Raise the grade 10% and I'll miss it. Raise it to 100% and I won't.

Too often: do something too often and the teacher is bound to notice and start checking against the paper gradebook. Do it just once and the single good grade stands out as an anomaly. You need to find the happy medium.

Too suddenly: don't change the grade the teacher just entered! (within minutes, no less!) It's still fresh in his mind. Change the something from three tests ago when you came in for a retest. The retest is the anomaly, so look to change a few grades AROUND it. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Too loud: The quiet ones are never suspect. The ones who brag to friends are always caught. Students don't realize that teachers LISTEN. Shut up and smile and shrug your shoulders.
Also follow these handy guidelines - Don't be ...

Too brash: Don't come out looking like the best kid in the class when you've been the loser all along. Give everyone a random 10-15% bump. Play Santa. Get into the Spirit of the Season.

Too weird: Don't just bump up your one bad grade. Why on Earth would you suddenly be a star in math after all this time? Raise all of your grades a little bit.

Too personal: Really throw them for a loop - reduce everyone's grades but your own and have a faked grade report sheet ready, proving you should have had a better grade. Then let the teacher feel guilty about your grades along with everyone else's and helpfully let him have a photocopy of the faked grade report.

To teachers who complain that I'm giving them ideas - I'm really showing you the ways to notice when someone is scamming you. #1 way to prevent that is to use Curmudgeon's Concerted Cheating Cancellation Cards. For three easy payments of a photocopier, you can prevent cheating too. Call now.

Monthly, either print out a hardcopy of your electronic gradebook or photocopy the sheets of your paper one. Notify the students that you do this and leave it at home. At any time you think something might have happened, take a cursory look at the two and you'll see the changes easily. You'll know.

Don't you just love the "The student who stole the password has been withdrawn from the school" line? Really? You don't say.

Political Correctness

Mamacita is disappointed with the few who ruin it for others.

Creationism and Evolution

Perhaps it's my need to question. Perhaps it's that I also teach physics and I feel for those science teachers who are caught in this debate.

I have one simple, straightforward question for all of those parents and religious types who are pushing for science teachers to teach creationism in their classrooms.


Why would you want me saying anything about your beliefs? I am a fairly non-religious but non-atheist curmudgeon who isn't of your brand of religion. I don't know what you think, I don't know what you believe, I don't have any sense of whether you feel the Earth is flat or is resting on a giant turtle, was created in 7 days or 7 ages. Do you really want me to teach your kid what I know nothing about?
"almost nine out of 10 believed they should be allowed to discuss creationism if pupils bring it up."
What if MY religious beliefs are that Thetans (8foot tall humanoids) created the Earth and populated it, not some Almighty Power? Would you like me to preach that "truth" in class on an equal footing with "God created the Earth in 7 days about 10,000 years ago" and that of the Flying Spaghetti Monster ("Touched by his Noodly Appendage")? Didn't think so.

Don't pretend to yourself that I could fake it well enough to satisfy all of my students and their families. My mentioning anything about another religion would be coming from an outsider, with an outsider's lack of true understanding. Wouldn't your Sunday School teacher be far better at explaining your beliefs than I?

In the U.K., nearly a third of teachers felt that creationism should have equal status with evolution in a classroom and nearly all agreed the religious students would feel "excluded" if their views were ignored.

Well, if I'm worried about kids feeling "excluded" when their views are ignored, how about we expand the discussion a bit (partial Straw Man argument coming) and consider other views that students might hold.

If I teach a law class to seniors, should I stick to the US Constitution or should other countries' laws have equal footing? The need to stone a girl to death if she becomes unclean? A woman in the company of a man she's not related to is gangraped by seven men as punishment - should we be talking about how the girl should also get 200 lashes with a whip as a legal punishment from the courts? (For talking to someone and for daring to appeal the original sentence for being raped.) If one of my students tells his "boys" to grab a girls and rape her for insulting him, should his views gets equal standing so he doesn't fee "excluded"? It's obviously something he "feels" is right. (Like the boys who did that to a 14yo for insulting one of them). Should we include all views like that in the classroom?

Of course not. Ignore the StrawMan and keep to the specifics and the answer's still the same. Let me teach my algebra or physics or whatever. You teach the religion. It's better that way.

I brought this up because of the article reprinted below.

One in three teachers believes schoolchildren should be taught that creationism is just as valid as evolution, according to a survey.
By Martin Beckford, London (UK) Telegraph Religious Affairs Correspondent
07 Nov 2008

The poll also disclosed that pupils in almost a third of schools already learn about the controversial divine explanation of the universe, with even science teachers thinking it has a place in classrooms.

Almost all of those questioned by Teachers TV, a satellite television channel, agreed that children with strong religious beliefs would feel excluded from science lessons if their views were ignored.

The findings support the views of the Rev Professor Michael Reiss, who lost his job as director of education at the Royal Society, Britain's prestigious scientific academy, after calling for creationism to be included in school science lessons.

The ordained Church of England minister said the idea that the Earth was made by God 10,000 years ago should be discussed if pupils raise it, because "banging on" about natural selection would not lead evangelical Christians or Muslims to change their views.

But he was forced to step down after his views were denounced as "dangerous" and "outrageous" by two Nobel laureates and the Royal Society claimed he had damaged its reputation.

Commenting on the results of the survey of 1,200 viewers of Teachers TV, its chief executive, Andrew Bethell, said: "This poll data confirms that the debate on whether there is a place for the teaching of creationism in the classroom is still fierce."

The poll found that 31 per cent of teachers agree that creationism or intelligent design – the theory that the universe shows signs of having been designed rather than evolving – should be given the same status as evolution in the classroom, including 18 per cent of science teachers.

Half of those questioned agreed that excluding the alternative to evolution would alienate religious pupils, and almost nine out of 10 believed they should be allowed to discuss creationism if pupils bring it up.

Mr Bethell said: "Although over half of teachers either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the idea that creationism should be given the same status as evolution, there is a significant minority who believe that it should be given equal weight.

"Nearly half of teachers also agreed with Professor Michael Reiss' sentiment that excluding alternative explanations to evolution is counter-productive and alienates pupils from science.

"Perhaps most telling is the fact that, almost nine out of 10 teachers take the pragmatic view that they should be allowed to discuss creationism or intelligent design in science, if pupils raise the question."

The survey was conducted ahead of a programme on Teachers TV, to be broadcast at 7pm on Saturday, which asks if the teaching of evolution is under threat from increasing religious fundamentalism among pupils.

It is thought that as many as one in 10 children in British state schools now holds creationist views.

Earlier this year the prominent atheist Professor Richard Dawkins accused the Government and teachers of "bending over backwards" to respect pupils and parents who do not believe in evolution.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "The findings in this survey are extremely alarming.

"It is time for the Government to issue instructions to schools that creationism is not to be given credence in science lessons. The place to discuss it is in religious education classes."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The fixture is set - can't wait.

I know it's not till March, but damn ...
Round 1 March 26 - 29: Port Adelaide vs. Essendon
Will they have a good year? I hope so.

Boobs at Sea

I can only wonder. Would these be a Sea-cup?

Missing inflatable boobs at sea from Ralph Magazine found
December 10, 2008 01:15pm

MORE than 100,000 pairs of missing inflatable breasts intended for an Australian men's magazine promotion have turned up in Melbourne. The shipment of plastic boobs from China had been missing for more than a week after Chinese officials lost the paperwork and put them on the wrong boat, a Ralph magazine spokeswoman said.

They had been due to dock in Sydney last week, but have since turned up at a Melbourne dock, where they've been sitting for a week. Workers are now frantically working to put them in bags to go out with the December 15 issue.

Ralph editor Santi Pintado said the incident had cost the magazine $30,000.

"If we'd found them a day later, it'd have been too late to get them on the next issue," Pintado said. "You'd think the Chinese economy was in enough trouble without misplacing 130,000 pairs of boobs."

The magazine is expected to break the Guinness world record for the most boobs given away at one time.

Teh Funneh

Huddled in Mr. Soccer's room for lunch, trying to avoid students for 10 minutes, we happened to bring up Blogjevich's "alleged" "sale" of "Obama's" "senate Seat" "to the highest bidder."

Mr. SweaterVest wasn't sympathetic. "It's treason. He should face the firing squad. Line them up and fire away."

Apparently, last period didn't go so well.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cheating - Followup

I said I'd get back to you on this Ethics Survey. Here's a preliminary look at the press releases. (I'm still trying to get the breakdowns from earlier years)
"Cheating in school continues to be rampant and it's getting worse. A substantial majority (64 percent) cheated on a test during the past year (38 percent two or more times), up from 60 percent and 35 percent, respectively, in 2006."
I have problems with that kind of a blanket statement when it's based on a self-reported survey handed out in classes across the nation. I also notice that the sensationalistic statement "and it's getting worse" seems more appropriate to a consultant driving his business in professional development seminars than a true scientist whose own data seem to undermine his thunder.
Sure, the self-reported cheating is up, but only because the Institute was very careful to pick the right goal posts. 2008 is up, but lower than much of the last decade. Is this a blip or a long-term upward motion? Are we still within the margin of error (3% for many questions because of the breakdowns)?
Also, in reading the past press releases, it seems as though the main focus of the Institute is the Character Flaw of the Year, whatever it is.
I remain unconvinced, however, with the basic premise of these surveys. Kids exaggerate boldly and humorously. I don't think they are any better or any worse than we were at that age. Maybe only more willing to say so, but even that is debatable.
I am sure that it will be a "standard" we'll have to meet at some point - develop their character with this curriculum and DVD and there'll be a multiple-choice state-developed test to show progress and to enable our student directed action plan agenda item to be eliminated from the forefront of the establishment and it's mission statement. We test, therefore we are good.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Constructivism and group work

It's not that I'm against it, per se. I just don't think it's very good for teaching math. The cartoon below is exaggerating for the humor value, but the idea that students will be able to learn math on their own, without being taught, is silly to me. The idea that students should construct their own view of the subject, building from scratch because they'll learn it better that way, is ludicrous. We humans have spent millennia devising these ideas and rules and concepts. We expect the kids to develop them from scratch?

The Guide-on-the-Side spends a great deal of time leading the kids by not leading them, pushing them in the right direction without pushing, guiding them without showing the way. I find the students just want the guide to stop dancing around and get to the point. Teach, ask, listen, reply, adjust. They want a sage. They don't want someone to stand there and talk incessantly for 90 minutes but they DO want someone who can impart some knowledge and help them to understand it, then take them down the road a little further each day.

Working together to solve a problem is wonderful for some things. After one has been taught, has been lead through the easier problems, and has been pushed through some harder ones, it's time for some practice. "Work together and ask each other" is okay - as long as the teacher is right there to correct the smart kid who doesn't quite get it yet. I have too often seen the smart kid in this situation "think he has it" but tell his compatriots a very wrong analogy or algorithm.

It's not conducive to the learning styles and abilities of high-schoolers to have too much of the education come at their initiative and design. Having a teacher stand there while kids are reading the book's instructions, sitting nearby while they follow the book's directions, sauntering around while the kids copy the "math notes" out of the book -- what's with that? Haven't you simply removed a sage with brains and intelligence, only to replace him/her with a dead-soul of a book? If that were effective, what the hell are you paying me for? Why not get a $6/hour substitute and let the kids teach themselves? They teach themselves math all summer long, right? That works, doesn't it?

Teenagers learn best in groups, right? Not from my experience. As Old Andrew says quite nicely, though a tad indelicately, in his article on Groupwork, "If you want to learn how to cooperate effectively with others, then the last place you’d start is in a group of teenagers being made to do school work. This is like saying the best way to learn how to make pork sausages is by being imprisoned in a pig farm with a half-dozen rabbis. Putting together people who are neither experienced at doing something, or particularly inclined to want to do it, is not how you learn to do that something."

And they don't need to learn to socialize -- they've got that down pretty well. Frankly, I'd rather they didn't do quite so much of it.

Maybe it's just late in the evening, but that cartoon's not really that funny. Kind of sad we're doing this to our kids.

Teachers who can't pass either.

On Nov 24, 2008 a New Mexico station broadcast the names and failure frequencies of some teachers who took the state certification tests.

I can't believe they mentioned anyone by name and school, but I suppose the information is available publicly. What bothers me is the way they collated and made public the information, and by their action emphasized its importance when it might have had none. I have to wonder, on the other hand, if these teachers should be actively examining their career choice.

These certification exams are pathetic in their simplicity - at least at the initial levels. The Praxis I, which I had to take because I was following the Peer-Review track to certification, was laughable. I had to correct one of the math problems for them. The Praxis II content test was much more reasonable. It was a decent test and covered all of the types of things I would have been expected to have been able to do as a first year teacher.

One of the viewers commented, in essence, that English teachers shouldn't have to pass math tests and vice versa. Interesting in it's narrow-mindedness, don't you think? The English teachers still need to calculate grades and the math teachers need to write. Besides, these tests are terribly easy.

Which of the following is equal to a quarter of a million?
A) 40,000
B) 250,000
C) 2,500,000
D) 1/4,000,000
E) 4/1,000,000

How can you possibly fail a test like that?

Cheating on the Rise? I'll get back to you on that.

As I read this story (below), I couldn't help the immediate reaction. "Really? Morals have declined that much, huh?"

And then I started to think about the mechanics of this. They sent out a survey to enough schools and to a broad enough sample that I feel comfortable with the averages and numbers. They didn't include any of the questions in the survey but they were probably straightforward - the results summary seems to indicate that. The only reservation I have is that the survey is self-reported data.

Is cheating really getting worse or are the students more willing to admit it now or are the students more willing to lie to pollsters now?

It seems to me that cheating has always been around. Passing notes, looking over at the next student's paper, scrabbling through the trash can next to the copier. This is nothing new. Texting is passing notes. Photographing a question is like the "wandering eye."

E.g., just a few days ago, I found a notebook in my classroom. It had belonged to a student three years graduated and held all of her chemistry notes, quizzes and returned tests. I dropped it off in the Chem lab and we figured out who knew the girl and "Lo and behold," he had been doing surprisingly well these last few months until he had gotten to a part of the course that wasn't in the notebook. Must have been a coincidence. You could see the wheels turning in the Chem teacher's head. I wish I could be there when he finds out she has his cheatbook.

I'm going to go look up the survey and read the original. Should be interesting.

Here's the article itself.

Survey Finds Growing Deceit Among Teens
64 Percent Admit Cheating on Test In High School
By David Crary / Associated Press via the Washington Post
December 1, 2008; A06

NEW YORK, Nov. 30 -- In the past year, 30 percent of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are apathetic about ethical standards.

Educators reacting to the findings questioned any suggestion that today's young people are less honest than previous generations, but several agreed that intensified pressures are prompting many students to cut corners.

"The competition is greater, the pressures on kids have increased dramatically," said Mel Riddle of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "They have opportunities their predecessors didn't have [to cheat]. The temptation is greater."

The Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics institute, surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, both public and private. All students in the selected schools were given the survey in class; their anonymity was assured.

Michael Josephson, the institute's founder and president, said he was most dismayed by the findings about theft. The survey found that 35 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls -- 30 percent overall -- acknowledged stealing from a store within the past year. One-fifth said they stole something from a friend; 23 percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative.

"What is the social cost of that -- not to mention the implication for the next generation of mortgage brokers?" Josephson remarked in an interview. "In a society drenched with cynicism, young people can look at it and say, 'Why shouldn't we? Everyone else does it.' "

Other findings from the survey:

· Cheating in school is rampant and getting worse. Sixty-four percent of students cheated on a test in the past year and 38 percent did so two or more times, up from 60 percent and 35 percent in a 2006 survey.

· Thirty-six percent said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment, up from 33 percent in 2004.

· Forty-two percent said they sometimes lie to save money -- 49 percent of the boys and 36 percent of the girls.

Despite such responses, 93 percent of the students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77 percent affirmed that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

Nijmie Dzurinko, executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union, said the findings were not at all reflective of the inner-city students she works with as an advocate for better curriculum and school funding.

"A lot of people like to blame society's problems on young people, without recognizing that young people aren't making the decisions about what's happening in society," said Dzurinko, 32. "They're very easy to scapegoat."

Peter Anderson, principal of Andover High School in Andover, Mass., said he and his colleagues had detected very little cheating on tests or Internet-based plagiarism. He has, however, noticed an uptick in students sharing homework in unauthorized ways.

"This generation is leading incredibly busy lives -- involved in athletics, clubs, so many with part-time jobs, and, for seniors, an incredibly demanding and anxiety-producing college search," he offered as an explanation.

Riddle, who for four decades was a high school teacher and principal in Northern Virginia, agreed that more pressure could lead to more cheating, yet spoke in defense of today's students.

"I would take these students over other generations," he said. "I found them to be more responsive, more rewarding to work with, more appreciative of support that adults give them.

"We have to create situations where it's easy for kids to do the right things," he added. "We need to create classrooms where learning takes on more importance than having the right answer."

On Long Island, an alliance of school superintendents and college presidents recently embarked on a campaign to draw attention to academic integrity problems and to crack down on plagiarism and cheating.

Roberta Gerold, superintendent of the Middle Country School District and a leader of the campaign, said parents and school officials need to be more diligent -- for example, emphasizing to students the distinctions between original and borrowed work.

"You can reinforce the character trait of integrity," she said. "We overload kids these days, and they look for ways to survive. . . . It's a flaw in our system that whatever we are doing as educators allows this to continue."

Josephson contended that most Americans are too apathetic about ethical shortcomings among young people and in society at large.

"Adults are not taking this very seriously," he said. "The schools are not doing even the most moderate thing. . . . They don't want to know. There's a pervasive apathy."

Josephson also addressed the argument that today's youth are no less honest than their predecessors.

"In the end, the question is not whether things are worse, but whether they are bad enough to mobilize concern and concerted action," he said.

"What we need to learn from these survey results is that our moral infrastructure is unsound and in serious need of repair. This is not a time to lament and whine but to take thoughtful, positive actions."

More Cheating in the News

You can pay them more, but they still have the same reactions to incentives and punishments - if you can't win by trying, cheat.

The gist of the matter is that an assistant principal altered thousands of MC answers of the Regents Integrated Algebra test given this past June so more students would get a passing grade.

"What a maroon," as Bugs would say.

Essentially, the State made a correlation between the erasures and the answers - too many erasures to correct answers, not enough to incorrect ones. The red flags went up as well when students' answers on individual questions didn't match his ability levels on other similar questions or match his overall score. Very hard to spot individually, but the discrepancies show up in the large numbers.

When will people learn?

On a similar topic, but unrelated to this story:

If you're the numbers type, the raw-score to scaled score conversions are interesting.

The whole thing (includes a video):

City Finds Bronx H.S. Cheated On Regents Exam
By: NY1 News

An investigation into a Bronx high school has determined there was tampering with a Regents exam given this past June.

A report released by the city's Special Commissioner of Investigation on Wednesday says the assistant principal at the High School of Contemporary Arts altered multiple choice answers to the Integrated Algebra Regents exam so more students would get a passing grade.

The report says there are irregularities on answer sheets such as thousands of erasures and changes in 94 percent of the passing exams.

Department of Education officials said in a statement, "We have reassigned Assistant Principal Ruth Ralston and we are seeking her termination."

Ralston has been at the school since 2006.