There Must Be an Election Coming Up

Michelle Obama is shopping at Target.

Not quite as funny as John Kerry's famous "can I get me a hunting license here?" man-of-the-people episode, but still pretty good.

Not good enough

When the Best is Mediocre - Education Next
American education has problems, almost everyone is willing to concede, but many think those problems are mostly concentrated in our large urban school districts. In the elite suburbs, where wealthy and politically influential people tend to live, the schools are assumed to be world-class.

Unfortunately, what everyone knows is wrong. Even the most elite suburban school districts often produce results that are mediocre when compared with those of our international peers. Our best school districts may look excellent alongside large urban districts, the comparison state accountability systems encourage, but that measure provides false comfort.
My childhood district, which is considered to be a good one, with a high percentage of college-goers, came in at: 61st percentile in math and 74th in reading when compared to students in other developed countries. Los Angeles Unified comes off badly with: 20 & 25. Milwaukee comes off even worse: 16 & 26.

But the point of the article is to look at those nice suburban districts that so many people rely on. It points out that they aren't keeping pace with the educational attainment of students in comparable countries. In other words, the districts that we think are good, aren't.

(cross posted on Square Dots)

Teaching to the Test

I really don't understand the concept of "Teaching to the Test (TTTT)." I often hear the term used in reference to No Child Left Behind. The claim is that No Child Left Behind has increased TTTT, and this is very very bad. Surely it doesn't mean teaching the material that is going to be on the test... that seems to me to be the whole point of curricula and testing. As far as I can tell, TTTT means teaching people how to answer questions on a test without really understanding the material being tested.

For a hilariously biased overview, check out the Wikipedia article on topic. Articles like this give Wikipedia a bad name, but they do provide a good laugh now and then.

It seems to me TTTT is mostly a straw man. Tests today, especially standardized tests used in public schools, are designed to test understanding. To what sort of questions could TTTT possibly apply? I can think of a few. For example, if you know how to add and multiply single-digit numbers together, then you could possibly learn and use the method for multiplying larger numbers together without really understanding what is going on. For math beyond these simple algorithms though, it gets harder for me to think of TTTT-approachable problems. Here is a practice math test put out by the Tennessee government. I don't see much TTTT-approachable material in there.

I can't think of any TTTT-approachable reading exam questions. You read a paragraph and answer questions about what you have read. How can you approach that other than by learning to read?

Libraries Today

I have, a few times recently, visited a public library in one of the wealthier parts of town. I was surprised to see that the place was packed! One of these times was in the middle of the week.

I had thought that the rise of the internet would kill a lot of library business. It seems that is not so.


Grass doesn't look greener with L.A. stadium plans - JSOnline
Meanwhile, because of a 1996 deal to erect Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ohio's Hamilton County - where one in seven people lives below the poverty line - has cut funding for social programs, partly due to huge debt payments on the new building.
Nice to know everyone has their priorities straight.

In the tiny suburb I grew up in, at least when they went on a building binge it was for a library. But the massive boondoggle is now massively driving up property taxes and driving down home values--the real estate market is at a standstill, because nobody wants a property tax bill bigger than their mortgage.

Do politicians care? Apparently not. They seem to believe there is always enough money around to take more, and that taking more will bear no consequences.

I've Forgotten More...

"I've forgotten more about this than you know about this!"

Or something like that. What a bizarre expression. Suppose what we know can be measured on a linear scale, with zero being "knowing nothing" and 10 being "knowing everything." Suppose what you know is an 8 on the scale. The guy who has forgotten more than that has forgotten 9 or 10 points worth, and so his knowledge is now rated at zero or one on the scale. So essentially, in this case, the other guy is calling himself ignorant.

Now if your knowledge is a 2, and his knowledge used to be 10 and he has forgotten 3, then yes he is still a 7 and knows more than you do. Note however that the expression is that he has forgotten more than you know. Surely it is better for him to have forgotten less than you know than to have forgotten more than you know! If more, it is possible that he has forgotten 9, in which case he is now a 1 and knows less than you do.

Perhaps this expression was once used humorously, but I don't think it is used that way most often any more. I think it is intended to be clever, but it just leaves me scratching my head.

Yes, I have thought about this too much now...

Update... I've thought even more while waiting for my family to wake up...

Let's say your knowledge is Y, and his used to be H but he has forgotten F, with F positive. What we want is

Y < H - F

so that what he knows now (H-F) is greater than what you know. An even stronger statement would be

Y < H - F - F

Putting one of those F's on the other side gives

Y + F < H - F

and this gives us a more reasonable witticism

"If you knew what I've forgotten, I'd still know more than you"

which might be used when one is accused of having forgotten a lot about some topic.

Geekiest post of the year!

You want to play ball?!

BBC News - Harewood Junior School bans leather footballs from playground

Kids want to play with a soccer ball? Don't they know how dangerous they are? Are they crazy!! Ban the blasted balls before some death-defying kid gets hurt!

It used to be that the UK would laugh at the US's stupid rules and regulations and our litigious society. Now who's laughing?

The Shame of College Sports

The Shame of College Sports - Magazine - The Atlantic

It's time to call them professionals, with a guarantee of 6 years free tuition, room, and board should they ever want to go back to college.

Square Dots

I have two new posts on Square Dots.

Premier Preschool Produced Functionally Illiterate Adults


Spending time with Aleks

Unions hate unions

WEAC has its own union troubles - JSOnline

Delicious irony:
This week, National Support Organization, which bills itself as the world's largest union of union staffers, posted an online notice discouraging its members from seeking work with the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

"Don't apply for WEAC vacancies!" screams the headline.

The reason for the boycott?

Chuck Agerstrand, president of the National Support Organization, is accusing WEAC officials of "breaching staff contracts and destroying any working relationship with its employees."

Ponzi Logic

The Left's argument, in a nutshell:

"Ponzi schemes bad. Social Security good. Therefore, Social Security is
not a Ponzi scheme."

Flawless logic, given the premise.

I also often read about how Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme because it is currently solvent. Bernie Madoff's scheme was solvent too... until it wasn't.

Ann says: I'd love to see the feds move towards the same type of accounting practices as businesses are required by federal law to use. In that case, the massive unfunded liabilities would scream off the ledger books, and it would make it hard to deny the massive crater we're in.

Sensible veto

Who said this:
To the Members of the [...] State Senate:

I am returning Senate Bill 105 without my signature.

This measure would impose criminal penalites on a child under the age of 18 and his or her parents if the child skis or snowboards without a helmet.

While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law.

I believe parents have the ability and the responsibility to make good choices for their children.

Answer at the link.

Line of the day

Is Barack Obama Dumb?
A mere four months ago, most readers looking at the above headline would undoubtedly shake their heads and think the author was a gun-for-hire Tea Party provocateur and quickly click away from the page. But the political climate has changed dramatically this summer, and even hard-core liberals are wondering about the smarts of President Obama as they consider the perceived nightmare of President Rick Perry (who was victim of the same headline last week on Politico). [...]

There are usual caveats: Of course Obama isn’t illiterate or Bush-dumb because as Jesse Louis Jackson once said, “God doesn’t make junk,” and the intelligence-challenged just aren’t allowed near Harvard, much less become editor of that university’s Law Review.

Yeah, they wouldn't let a dolt like 43 anywhere near Harvard!


George W. Bush: Yale undergrad, class of 1968, A.B.
George W. Bush: Harvard Business School, class of 1975, M.B.A.

Obamacare will make health insurance more expensive

Whoops! ObamaCare Backers in Wisconsin Produce Report Showing That the Health Care Overhaul Will Make Health Insurance More Expensive

Included in the price increase are people who will be getting subsidies. That is to say, if the law had never been passed, this segment would pay less that they will under ObamaCare.

This is due to the minimum coverage requirements and the fact that you can't buy real insurance anymore.

Insurance is risk sharing. In true health insurance, everyone would pay out of pocket for the year-to-year health maintenance and minor bumps and scrapes. Insurance only kicks in for the bigger things, the things only some people will get. Not everyone will get diabetes, cancer, or heart disease; everyone gets check-ups, flu shots, the occasional stitches, etc. The former gets covered in a true insurance scheme. If everything gets covered, it's not insurance anymore, but health care financing.

Before the law, you could buy a minimal policy that just covered major medical problems, and left you to pay out of pocket for the rest. That is no longer permitted by the government.

This study shows that there are few, if any, winners from Obamacare.

Young evangelicals and gay marriage

Young evangelical adults stand apart from elders on same-sex marriage
The poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 44 percent – nearly half – of young evangelicals between the ages of 18 to 29 favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
And heads explode all throughout the left.

The Climate Scam Marches On

The Climate Scam Marches On | Power Line


Jews heckled off the air

Proms: Palestinian protest at Royal Albert Hall forces BBC to abandon live broadcast