21 February 2006

We don't need no stinking Math (or Science)!

So apparently all this big push for more math and science has not gone over all the huge with parents, who do not seem to see the need for it.
If anything, parents are less worried about math and science these days -- not more.

In 1994, 52 percent of parents considered a lack of math and science in their local schools to be a serious problem. Now, only 32 percent say the same thing. During that time, states ramped up standards and testing, which seems to have affected parents' views.

This goes along with the recent Washington Post piece by Richard Cohen arguing that perhaps we need to reconsider the graduation requirements for all high school students. He presents us with the case of Gabriela, who struggled and failed at Algebra six times, and thus was not allowed to graduate.
Here's the thing, Gabriela: You will never need to know algebra. I have never once used it and never once even rued that I could not use it. You will never need to know—never mind want to know—how many boys it will take to mow a lawn if one of them quits halfway and two more show up later—or something like that. Most of math can now be done by a computer or a calculator. On the other hand, no computer can write a column or even a thank-you note—or reason even a little bit. If, say, the school asked you for another year of English or, God forbid, history, so that you actually had to know something about your world, I would be on its side. But algebra? Please.

Now, as a teacher, of course I expect all of my students to do well in every class, but...well, I can kind of sympathize. I passed my high school's standardized math exam with the minimum possible passing score. Basically, I find much more than simple Alegbra more than a little difficult, and I'm not sure that expecting all students to study Alegbra in order to graduate actually makes sense, at least if they are not going on to college. Some might argue that Algebra teaches reasoning skills, but c'mon, can anyone really argue that without Algebra, students wouldn't learn critical thinking and reasoning skills? I don't think so. I could do and do quite well without advanced math. Now, keep in mind, I'm refering to such things as Calc and Trig, not 3x+1=7, or even Logic, which is an important aspect of that math area that can be useful in many ways. But the more advanced stuff? That is what calculators and computers are for, after all!

My Darling Clement

So Matt Clement wants to remain in Boston, but if he is traded, hopes that "it happen sooner than later." The knock on Clement has always been that he is a first half pitcher, and that knock certainly held true last year, when he dominated in the first half of the year and collapsed in the second half (see the Globe article for the specific numbers), and his performance in the ALDS against Chicago was one for the Ages...the Stone Ages.
All that being said, he did still win in double digits for the Sox, and 10 wins in the first half is 10 less wins we have to worry about in the second half, ya know? If I had to choose, I think I'd take Clement over Wells, if only because Clement has not stated a desire to leave the greatest city on Earth. :)

"A Gulf State? I Thought It Meant, like, Florida or something!"

Kevin Drum has some excellent commentary on the incredible stupidity of this Administration foolishly thinking that allowing the UAE to run six huge US Ports would be okayed by Congress or the public with no complaints.

An excerpt:
What it shows is that Bush still doesn't understand how much influence he's recently lost with his conservative base. In the brave new post-Harriet, post-Katrina world, outrage over the port deal has been driven not by liberal critics, but by conservatives like Michelle Malkin and even administration uber-stalwart Hugh Hewitt, who are no longer willing to simply take Bush's word for it that they should trust him on this issue. For today's chastened conservatives, it's "trust but verify" when it comes to the Bush administration.

Pretty well said. This administration has become remarkably tin-eared and, well, stupid, when considering policy and action. A shame, especially when it comes to National Security.

How Scary is Dick Cheney?

So scary that when he shoots someone, the victim apologizes to HIM! Josh Marshall preserves the headline for all eternity here.

The words of Marshall, who is not at all impressed by Cheney's strong and measured reaction to the shooting 'nonsense':

Even if Dick Cheney is blameless in this matter in any deep moral sense, let's not forget that his immediate reaction was to send out his surrogates to publicly blame what happened on the victim.

Actually, that may afford him too much credit since it wasn't actually his 'immediate' reaction. It was his considered reaction after the 24 hour cooling off period he gave himself between the shooting and when he chose to make it public.

By my count, he continued to have his public surrogates blame Whittington for fully three days. He only relented and took responsibility himself when the public and no doubt private political clamor became too much to sustain.

That's Dick Cheney.

Hell of a way to characterize a VP, don't you think? The truth hurts!

08 February 2006

'I want to pitch closer to Texas...so I'm going to Toronto.'


Damn Yankees!

According to the Globe, The Lowell Spinners, the Sox Single A affiliate, is on a mission to eliminate the 'Yankees' as an acceptable name for a New England Little League or Youth League team. Oh hell yeah! I support this mission wholeheartedly. Naming your team the 'Yankees' when you are in New England would be like naming your team Stormtrooper League team the 'Skywalkers.'
Damn, that's a stupid analogy, but oh well. :)

Advanced Placement or Always Poop?

Kevin Drum over at Washington Monthly has a great debate going on over the issue of Advanced Placement courses in high school. He blogs about the recent bragging by the College Board about the increase in both student enrollment and student scores, and shares an email he received from a hard science prof trashing the program. You can read the post and debate here.

My own thoughts: I want AP courses in my high school. I loved AP in high school, even AP Spanish (though I never learned the alphabet and still got a 3!). I realize that they have their problems, and the pacing and scope is an issue. That being said, in a county where many of the students have little exposure to anything approaching college level material, or even plans or finances for college, AP is a fine alternative. I have a number of students in both my honors and regular classes that would get at least a 3 on the Exam, given the curriculum and the opportunity. Of course, this assumes that they would bother, you know, reading.

03 February 2006

Blasphemy...or Free Speech?

So, it seems some political cartoons printed in a Danish paper have caused a big conflagration in the Muslim world, with violence and riots and death threats toward the Danes for 'daring' to print the image of the Prophet in a manner that could possibly be seen as derogatory. Now, I'm a pretty progressive guy. I don't think Islam is evil; I recognize the contributions that it has made to the world, particularly in the preservation of knowledge during the Middle Ages (though I remain bitter about Algebra, thank you very much). I understand that it is an Abrahamic faith, and that much of the perception of the faith in the West is derived from a possible misinterpretation or perversion of the teachings of the Prophet. All that being said, the idea that the Muslim world would be up in arms about a bunch of cartoons in a Western paper none of them will ever read is a bunch of crap. To threaten violence over freaking cartoon depictions of Mohammed? This makes that society look so backward, ignorant of the concept of free expression, and so incredibly hypocritical. Consider, for example, the hundreds of 'blood libel' and derogatory cartoons that Muslim papers have printed concerning Jews over the last decades, not to mention the treatment of Bibles and the like in places like Saudi Arabia.
How DARE these people tell Westerners what they can and cannot publish. They ask us, would we print cartoons denigrating Christianity or Judaism? Um, yes...we can and we have and we will. Not just cartoons, but movies, tv shows, and books galore! And you know what? Those communities hate it, but too bad. It's free speech, and while it may be inappropriate, it is not illegal, nor should it be. We will apologize for free speech and these cartoons when you folks apologize for your depictions of Jews and Christians.
On that note, here are a couple of the pictures they are upset about:

Hit and Run has published more of the cartoons. Check out the link for the rest, plus a pretty good comment section. For a rather light-hearted but pretty spot on take on what a refreshing change it is not to be blamed for something, check out Kevin Drum's short bit here.
Somehow, I feel like dirt. I think I might be on the same side as Free Republic and Powerline. Ugh.

01 February 2006

On the State of the Union

I missed it last night. Does it really matter? Let's see if I can summarize:
"Blah blah war on terror."
"Blah blah wiretapping al-Qaeda."
"Blah blah oil."
"Blah science!"
"Blah blah bipartisanship."
"Blah blah look how great I am."

And the Dem response?
"Blah blah we don't care, we have no policy proposals anyway."
"Blah blah what 06 election?"
"Blah blah pander to the base."

Am I wrong?

Look, Johnny, Just Go Away, Idiot

Johhny Damon, former Sox centerfielder, one of my favorite Sox players ever, and the new Yankee centerfielder, talks about life in New York...and contradicts himself in the very last line of this Daily News piece.

Damon also spoke of how much Manny Ramirez wants out of Boston ("I think the Yankees would be a perfect fit for him ... as well as David Ortiz," he joked) and told the crowd that he was planning to have a new hairstyle ready for spring training.

As for whether he'll be the same playful "Idiot" that he was in Boston once he steps into the Yanks' notoriously sedate clubhouse, Damon smiled.

"Yes, I will be," he said, "but a tame idiot. I can be an idiot but not be stupid."

Sorry, Johnny, too late. You're a stupid idiot. Go aways and take your money and cut your hair and pretend New York is a better city than Boston.

Harp(er)ing about the New Boston

Tommy Harper, who has had a prescence with the Red Sox off and on for 30+ years, talks about the Red Sox and race in today's Boston Globe. Historically, race has been a huge problem for the team. They rejected Jackie Robinson after a tryout, Harper himself was treated poorly (and awarded damages in a suit!), and the city itself has struggled with race issues for decades (the iconic image of the white guy beating the black guy with a flag at an anti-busing protest comes to mind). That being said, Harper sees a significant change:
''I know where this team has been," he said. ''I know where it is now, and I know in the future where it is going to be. There's progress being made, and the reason I like it, the Red Sox are not out there saying, 'Look at what we've done, we've done this, we've done that.' No, no, no.

''Things are being done because these are good people. It's inclusive. I don't think a black person could come now to the ballpark and not have a good experience. The total experience. As a black person, yes, I do feel a difference. I can't put a finger on it. But it's not because they hired this guy or that guy. No, it's not that. It's not numbers. It's how well you're treated."

This is a good sign, and a nice rebuttal to Barry Bond's rather angry critique of the Boston organization a couple of years ago.

31 January 2006

You're bweaking my baws, Hans Brix!

Through Hit and Run, I present you with this link to Arms Control Wonk. Why? Well, besides the fact that Arms Control Wonk is one of the more interesting blogs out there, blogger Jeffrey gives us a video image of Hans Blix, the much-critiqued Arms Control inspector, humorously referencing his 'role' in one of the best puppet movies of all time, Team America: World Police. It is kind of funny; I feel like Beavis when I watch it. "He said fuck! Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh." Damn, am I dating myself here? I miss "Beavis and Butthead."
In all seriousness, Blix does have a point when references that classic film. Arms control inspectors really are powerless to do any true inspection. What is the only threat they have? "I'll report you!" How do we change that? Do we WANT to change that? Would the US approve, for example, providing inspectors with immediate military support? Somehow, I doubt it.

28 January 2006

Now, We Just Need Captain Crunch and the Trix Rabbit

Well, the Sox got their centerfielder, finally, and it seems like a decent trade. I'm not complaining.

From today's Globe:
Six days after reaching an agreement in principle, three days after Guillermo Mota's underwhelming physical, and one day after the deal teetered on the precipice of collapse, the Red Sox added cash considerations, and a player to be named or further cash considerations, to their offer and got their man: Cleveland's Coco Crisp.

The deal, announced by Red Sox executive vice president/general manager Theo Epstein last night, was expanded to seven players, including the six in the initial agreement.

Crisp, 26, who will succeed Johnny Damon in center field and atop the lineup, 29-year-old righthander David Riske, and 27-year-old switch-hitting catcher Josh Bard are coming to Boston. The Sox' top prospect, 22-year-old Andy Marte, is headed to the Indians, along with Mota, 25-year-old catcher Kelly Shoppach, a player to be named, and cash.

Over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto doesn't seem to think that highly of the deal:
The Indians appear to come out the best in this deal. The replaced their outfielder with a better OBA, picked up a hot prospect who's likely to replace Aaron Boone before 2006 is out, and made an even swap on relievers and catchers. The Red Sox plugged their hole in centerfield with a player who still has some room to improve offensively, and they control for four years. It's not a bad deal for the Red Sox, given their needs. However, if you look at this as Renteria for Crisp, the Sox just plugged one hole by creating another.

I'm not sure I look at this 'plugging' one hole by creating another. With the money they offered, Damon was going to the bastards anyway, and no way Renteria survives another brutal year in Boston. If the Sox sign Gonzalez for short, they come out ahead, even with a lesser bat in the lineup. We REALLY need defense.

27 January 2006

The Boston Media: Enemies of the Nation?

That's Red Sox Nation. Eric Wilbur, in his Globe sports blog, prints letters from his mailbag today. One them, from a William Sperling, had this to say:
Becket's arm falling off
Mota unable to pitch ever again
Mike Lowell hitting .123 for the rest of his life
Adam Stern in center
No one playing SS
Manny sitting out the year

You are one depressing guy. Do they let you in the clubhouse with your black cape and sickle? I understand the need to not swallow the Kool-Aid, but couldn't you write one positive thing once in a while?
William Sperling

Sperling has a point, I think. The media back home in Boston has been unremittingly negative this off season, even though the deals the Sox have made have not been that bad! Putting aside the Theo fiasco, I think it actually has been a pretty productive off-season, actually. I am kind of optimistic for 2006! Of course, I say this in the afterglow of having just viewed the 2004 ALCS from start to finish for the second time. :)

A Wasted Effort?

The Democrats are looking at a filibuster of Judge Sam 'TYMPMIHA'* Alito. Kos, over at that little-known blog 'Daily Kos,' has a good piece up about the reality of the situation. It can be summed up this way:
So you are pissed at the situation, you should be. But don't be pissed at a bare-thin caucus. Okay, be a little pissed. But really, the real culprit is the Democratic establishment has done such a piss-poor job of runnning elections that we only have 44 of them.
We need more Dems, and we need more good Dems.
At the end of the piece, he finishes with a flourish.

So be pissed. But realize that things won't change until we can grow our Senate caucus. To the electoral victors go the spoils, and it's time we stop their looting of America. And that'll happen when our congressional Dems get some reinforcements. Let's work to make that happen.

Kos is right. My biggest fear, though, is that if the Dems filibuster, the Republicans will, once again, spin it as though the Dems are out of touch with the 'mainstream' of society. My issue with Alito is not the whole 'choice' thing; abortion has become such a part of our society that at worst, it will kick back to the states if 'Roe' is overturned. No, my biggest fear is that we will get a justice less-than-willing to confront abuses of executive authority. But...damn it, the Dems can't win this one, and I'm not sure if it is worth it to spend what little political capital they have in a futile last stand.
*'Thank You Mr. President, May I Have Another?'

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To Dance With the Devil, or to Dance Alone

So my school just had a 2 and a half hour faculty meeting on Wednesday, to go over the School Improvement Plan prior to the visit of the accreditation committee. What a waste of time and effort, and once again, Social Studies is nowher to be found in the plan. Why? Because it is not tested. And that leads to a sort of Sophie's Choice: do Social Studies educators push for inclusion of the field on the standardized tests, or do we take comfort in the fact that we are not on the test, and thus able to cover what we want, how we want, when we want, the way we want---but also neglected when considering curriculum development and resources.

The National Council of the Social Studies has developed a number of themes or 'strands' that it suggests as the foundation of a strong curriculum. Few of them are actually testable, and they emphasize broad, critically evaluative, and general themes. That does not even consider if we test the field as 'Social Studies,' or we break it down into specific subject areas (History, Geography, Government, etc.). Again, what standards do we test? Hell, we couldn't even agree on just what standards to create for History in the 1990's!!!

I want more attention, more resources, more recognition of the importance of the Social Studies in developing future citizens. I fear that we will need testing to get it done.

Silly Boy, School is for Girls!

This kid in Milton, Mass. has got to win the award of Stupidest Lawsuit of the Month. He argues that as a white, middle class boy, he is dimscriminated against in school? How? Well, let's turn to his own comments, as recorded by the Boston Globe:

''The system is designed to the disadvantage of males," Anglin said. ''From the elementary level, they establish a philosophy that if you sit down, follow orders, and listen to what they say, you'll do well and get good grades. Men
naturally rebel against this."

And his suggested solution?

For example, he proposes that the high school give students credit for playing sports, not just for art and drama courses. He also urges that students be allowed to take classes on a pass/fail basis to encourage more boys to enroll in advanced classes without risking their grade point average. He also wants the school to abolish its community service requirement, saying it's another burden that will just set off resistance from boys, who may skip it and fail to graduate as a result.
Now, over the past twenty years or so, there has certainly been a shift towards a curriculum and pedagogy that has favored girls to some degree, and certainly we have neglected the needs of the boys. However, I would argue that much of this problem can also be tied to the increased emphasis on reading and writing, linguistic based skills that boys often struggle with in adolescence, while girls thrive.
That being said, this kid's nuts. Elsewhere in the Globe piece, he mentions that his GPA is a 2.88. Gee, ya don't think that THAT could be a reason for the lawsuit? I somehow suspect that SOMEBODY was a lazy student, or, well, maybe he was just 'naturally rebelling,' being a boy soooooooo disserviced by the school.

Dreaming of the Future, Hoping I Can Make It

Well, I'm going to try to start blogging again. I used to blog at Bostondreams, but kind of got caught up in, you know, life. Let's see if I can make this one last.