Wednesday, October 31, 2007

US Death Toll In Iraq at Lowest Level in Nearly Two Years

Good News in Iraq.

Milestones: 50,000th Visitor

Last night, the 50,000th visitor stopped by this blog. The visitor came via Long Beach, CA at around 6:00pm yesterday. They visited this page.

It took just under 3 months to get to 50,000 from 40,000 so it is nice to think that I am getting little more traffic. (yes I am vain enough to think about that).

For all who visit, keep coming back and tell your friends.

More on U. of Delaware

Mike Adams of Townhall discusses the U. of Delaware concentration camps masquerading as residence halls.

Those who read this blog can see that my alma mater, the University of Maryland has a red light speech warning from FIRE, but the policies that got U.Md. their red light, while egregious enough, certainly don't rise, or rather, sink, to the level of of its neighbor, the U. of Delaware.

While Adams doesn't particularly add anything new to the mix, Adams is a professor in North Carolina and it does make me sad that he didn't add anything from his personal viewpoint on the matter. Certainly, any publicity on this front is good--if for no other reason than to keep the pressure on Delaware's president Patrick Harker to completely dismantle the program.

Diveristy, while it may be a noble goal, is hardly a foundation for indoctrination. During my time at Maryland, "diversity" was shoved down our throats rather frequently. However, the context was far different in that diversity was founded in having to take courses in non-western culture, which I suppose was harmless enough. And while professors were often decidedly liberal in many cases, the student life bureaucracies did not shove liberal drivel down our throats. Of course, my experience may have been different than those of my classmates since I lived off campus (as a former Navy enlisted man I couldn't stomach living in a dorm with 18 year olds living away from home for the first time).

Of course, the oppression that Delaware seeks to make its residents aware of doesn't apply to U. of Delaware itself. Ironic.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More on U of Delaware Thought Police

Should have finished reading, but got to sick to my stomach FIRE - University of Delaware Requires Students to Undergo Ideological Reeducation:
"According to the program’s materials, the goal of the residence life education program is for students in the university’s residence halls to achieve certain “competencies” that the university has decreed its students must develop in order to achieve the overall educational goal of “citizenship.” These competencies include: “Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society,” “Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression,” and “Students will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality.”"
But apparently University of Delaware cannot spell IRONY. Their system of oppresion does not apply.

University of Delaware's Thought Police

As usual, FIRE is on the case:
The University of Delaware subjects students in its residence halls to a shocking program of ideological reeducation that is referred to in the university’s own materials as a “treatment” for students’ incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The Orwellian program requires the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware’s residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling for the total dismantling of the program, which is a flagrant violation of students’ rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech.

“The University of Delaware’s residence life education program is a grave intrusion into students’ private beliefs,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “The university has decided that it is not enough to expose its students to the values it considers important; instead, it must coerce its students into accepting those values as their own. At a public university like Delaware, this is both unconscionable and unconstitutional.”

The university’s views are forced on students through a comprehensive manipulation of the residence hall environment, from mandatory training sessions to “sustainability” door decorations. Students living in the university’s eight housing complexes are required to attend training sessions, floor meetings, and one-on-one meetings with their Resident Assistants (RAs). The RAs who facilitate these meetings have received their own intensive training from the university, including a “diversity facilitation training” session at which RAs were taught, among other things, that “[a] racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.”
FIRE has more links and more of the story.

Um, free speech on campuses is becoming more and more an oxymoron of staggering proportions.

Armed Government Agents

It goes beyond the agencies you would think of.

Over Testing? An exaggeration?

Read this op-ed for its larger message, which I think is important, but this paragraph just jumped out at me:
He cites studies, reports, hard data, from the appalling effects of television on child brain development (i.e.; any TV exposure before 6 years old and your kid's basic cognitive wiring and spatial perceptions are pretty much scrambled for life), to the fact that, because of all the insidious mandatory testing teachers are now forced to incorporate into the curriculum, of the 182 school days in a year, there are 110 when such testing is going on somewhere at Oakland High. As one of his colleagues put it, "It's like weighing a calf twice a day, but never feeding it."
How can that be? Fully 60% of a school year is given over to testing? The hyperbolic exaggeration notwithstanding, how can any journalist (even an op-ed writer) not verify that fact.

'Dropout Factories'--Not Really News

While it is important to have some hard data to talk about, this AP report and study on high schools with less than 60% graduation rates doesn't seem like big news to me. Anyone who has even looked with any depth at the problems of American education know that there are a percentage of schools where the graduation rate is abysmally low. While I didn't know the number of 12 percent of American high schools have a less than 60% graduation rate, the hard number is not far from my informed guess.
There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That's 12 percent of all such schools, no more than a decade ago but no less, either...

The highest concentration of dropout factories is in large cities or high-poverty rural areas in the South and Southwest. Most have high proportions of minority students. These schools are tougher to turn around, because their students face challenges well beyond the academic ones the need to work as well as go to school, for example, or a need for social services.
As part of the re-authorization of NCLB, Congress is considering requireing high schools to report data on graduation rates by race and other subgroups as well as develop data systems and consitent processes to track graduation rates.

This is all well and good. Having hard data to back up hunches of people like me is helpful--so far as it goes. Data doesn't solve problems, though.

The AP report notes that for many of the dropout factories (a pejorative term if there ever was one) they struggle with conditions that most people would say do not lend themselves to successful high school careers. But what can be done?

Here is where NCLB may actually be helping matters, but the law is so new that we haven't seen the echo effects yet. For students who have spent their entire school careers operating under NCLB the emphasis on basic reading and math skills will no doubt improve their academic skills, by osmosis if nothing else, making a high school career more likely to find success. Only students who were in 7th or 8th grade when NCLB's regime started have had made it through to high school, and we don't know what their graduation rates are, nor will we for the NCLB generate for another seven (7) years!

The AP study looked at data for 2004-2006, when no NCLB kids were in high school. Simply put, we don't know what the impact, if any, of NCLB will have on graduation rates for 2007 and beyond, the earliest cohort of kids to be exposed to NCLB's testing regime.

Next, we need to look a little deeper in to the numbers. Who is dropping out is just as important as a raw number of how many. Equally important is why. The AP story talks to a couple of GED students from DC, but you can't extrapolate much from a couple of anecdotes. Is it economics, is it crime and punishment, is it environmental, is it familial or what? The simple thing is that we don't know and that would be a great study to read if we could get a systematic method of contacting and asking high school dropouts such questions.

Finally, we need to look at the people who do graduate from these dropout factories. The school may have less than a 60% graduation rate, but it is greater than zero. So why do some kids graduate and others don't. That too would be a much more interesting study.

So dropout factories exist, this much we know. But frankly, it is not news and it doesn't really mean anything. The real meaning is the stories and the data behind those who do drop out and those who don't. The AP story is easy news, but not earthshattering.

Megan McCardle Dismantles Voucher Opponents

I don't much to add to this argument except that it does seem silly for middle class folks to be arguing against vouchers that give poor urban students the choice that middle class folks have made by living in a more affluent neighborhood.

The issues are not about the actual schools or the kids or even the parents. What vouchers do is give people a choice. And Choice is what America is fundamentally all about.

There is no law that says there has to be a public school system, all the state constitutions say that the state shall provide for (as in fund) a system of public education, it does not say that the state shall operate a system of public education.

"Public schools" are a consequence of legislatures wanting a little more control over how education dollars are spent, but there is nothing magical or required in a "public school." Indeed, arguable private schools generally do a much better job because they are far closer to the cusumers of educaiton (namely the children and parents).

Oh, wait, that is too "market place" for liberals. My bad.

Global Warming Causes Hurricanes

Um, scratch that.

But does Al Gore cause hurricanes? Well, he blows a lot of hot air, but that is not a hurricane.

Smoke for the Children

Satire, alive and well on YouTube.

Inconvenient Truths

Pete DuPont takes on the mtyhs behind the Democratic tax agenda.

Tax rate decreases actually lead to tax payment increases. Lower tax rates spur economic development, which in turn leads to more tax payments on greater economic activity. Want proof--here is DuPont:
Lower tax rates have be so successful in spurring growth that the percentage of federal income taxes paid by the very wealthy has increased. According to the Treasury Department, the top 1% of income tax filers paid just 19% of income taxes in 1980 (when the top tax rate was 70%), and 36% in 2003, the year the Bush tax cuts took effect (when the top rate became 35%). The top 5% of income taxpayers went from 37% of taxes paid to 56%, and the top 10% from 49% to 68% of taxes paid. And the amount of taxes paid by those earning more than $1 million a year rose to $236 billion in 2005 from $132 billion in 2003, a 78% increase.
Considering the the very rich foot the lion's share of our federal tax bill, increasing the tax rate on wealthy individuals is going to spur them to look for ways to protect their income from taxes, leading to lower tax payments.

But introspection is not the Democrat's strong point--class warfare is about par for the course.

C-SPAN's Brian Lamb to Get Medal of Freedom

Betsy Newmark points to the story.

If there was ever a man in Modern America who has done more to shed light upon the workings of Congress, Brian Lamb is the man.

C-SPAN may be a political junkies haven, but when you think about all the other goverment programming on cable, i.e. local government coverage on cable, think about 20 years ago and the impact of putting Congress on TV.

The one drawback to C-SPAN has been the grandstanding nature of Congress. There used to be two types of Congressmen, the show horse and the work horse. Now all we have are show horses. Not much work is actually being done.

Kentucky AG Missed FEC Filing Deadline

Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo a Democrat thinking about challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell next year, apparently goofed and failed to file a quarterly FEC report earlier this month. Captain Ed has the story.

This oversight, if true, is easily fixed by filing a report. The problem is that Stumbo, under teh law, is not required to file his quarterly reports with the FEC. As a Senate candidate he has to file them with the Secretary of the Senate who then forwards them to the FEC. It is an arcane rule, a left over of the original FEC law not McCain-Feingold.

So in reality, Stumbo may have complied with the law, we just don't know yet.

The problem is that for most of the general public, they wouldn't know about Stumbo's or any other Senate canddiate's spending for some time unless they voluntarily file with the FEC concurrently with their filing with the Secretary of the Senate. That is the problem with the law--it is inconsistent with reporting procedures. That inconsistency undermines the stated purpose behind the law, to provide open access to the manner in which federal campaigns are financed.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Valdosta State Expulsion

FIRE has the story and of all the stories of censorship and violations of freedom of speech on college campuses, this one is by far the worst I have ever read. A student who was protesting the construction to two parking garages using student fees. T. Hayden Barnes had his mental health questioned, was followed around campus by plain clothes policemen and uniformed police.

Barnes was expelled all for peaceful protests. Raise you head and open your mouth and get slapped down.

Hopefully heads are going to roll at Valdosta State, starting with President Ronald Zaccari.

Stupid Politicians

Look, I have never liked Joe Biden's politics and the man has made some massive gaffs in the past. This one is probably not the worst, but it makes you wonder why this guy thinks he is qualified to be President of the United States.

Biden has spent most of his adult life in Washington DC and you would think that he wold have learned a few lessons by now.

Education Spending and Oil Prices

Carpe Diem has a graph that demonstrates that we are spending more on education than on oil, lots more.

Check out the graph.

School's Double Standard on Sexual Harassment

Last week, there was a great deal of buzz in the education community on the Associated Press' expose of sexual misconduct among our nations teachers. Follow up stories discussed how the various rules, or lack thereof, contributes to the inability to police our teacher ranks for pedophiles and sexual abusers. One of the more galling issues raised by the AP's efforts is that it is not only difficult to stop these predators from getting jobs in our schools, but it is also hard to permanently rid our schools of such "teachers" once they are discovered, with the AP citing the plethora of practical and legal protections to safeguard the rights of teachers. Shockingly, though not unsurprisingly, those same protections are not available if the students are the ones doing the harassing or assaulting.

Back in July of htis year, a story came out of McMinnville, Oregon of two 13 year old boys who were hauled off to jail for five (5) days for swatting the behinds of their female classmates, in a prank the boys claimed was inspired by the movie "Jackass." There is no doubt in my mind that these boys needed to be punished (just like I needed to be punished for similar behavior when I was a young lad--but was at least smart enough (or lucky enough) not to get caught. However, for their behavior, which happened a number of times but in relatively short period of time, the boys had several violations of their civil rights occur and because a prosecutor was looking to make some bones, were charged with felony sexual assault. if they had been convicted, the boys faced ten (10) years in prison and a lifetime on the sex offender registration list. Fortunately, the public outcry and a sensible judge, led to the dismissal of the more serious charges.

But the dichotomy between how these boys were treated and how teachers accused of much worse are treated is utterly mindboggling. Teachers accused of sexual misconduct can and often do resign from one school and simply go to another state or in some cases a neighboring school district and get another job teaching.

The AP found 2,500 reported incidents over the course of five years, an average of 500 incidents a year. Given that there are some 3 million teachers in the United States, the overwhelming majority as disgusted by the behavior of their "colleagues" as the rest of us should be, the number of teachers involved in accusations of sexual misconduct are tiny, we are talking about less than 1/10th of one percent, but it is a number far higher than it ever should be.

Part of the problem is the teachers' unions. According to the AP report:
Two of the nation’s major teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, each denounced sex abuse while emphasizing that educators’ rights also must be taken into account.

“Students must be protected from sexual predators and abuse, and teachers must be protected from false accusations,” said NEA President Reg Weaver, who refused to be interviewed and instead released a two-paragraph statement.

Kathy Buzad of the AFT said that “if there’s one incident of sexual misconduct between a teacher and a student that’s one too many.”
II have a fairly long-running beef with the teachers unions on a number of issues, but I would have thought this would be one where we might agree. f there was ever a subject which the teachers' unions should be getting out in front of it should be the one. Their expressed sentiments might be right, but their actions are another thing.

There are protections for the rights of teachers and that is fine, but the problem is that teacher apparently have more rights than their students when it comes to sexual harassment and misconduct. Students of misconduct are treated like common criminals (which they may be), but a teacher is afforded more protection. Students are suspended from school, often at the whim of a single administrator. Meanwhile a teacher might be removed from the classroom (thankfully) but they are often put in a desk job or even worse, paid administrative leave while their case is pending.

From the AP Story:
The AP investigation found efforts to stop individual offenders but, overall, a deeply entrenched resistance toward recognizing and fighting abuse. It starts in school hallways, where fellow teachers look away or feel powerless to help. School administrators make behind-the-scenes deals to avoid lawsuits and other trouble. And in state capitals and Congress, lawmakers shy from tough state punishments or any cohesive national policy for fear of disparaging a vital profession.

That only enables rogue teachers, and puts kids who aren’t likely to be believed in a tough spot.

In case after case the AP examined, accusations of inappropriate behavior were dismissed. One girl in Mansfield, Ohio, complained about a sexual assault by teacher Donald Coots and got expelled. It was only when a second girl, years later, brought a similar complaint against the same teacher that he was punished.
One class of offenders has their rights to an education stripped away with little in the way of due process. The second gets so much "due process" as to stagger the mind.

The Catholic priest scandal enraged a nation, but the potential here is much worse. Priests come in contact with a small proportion of the populace of children. Conversely, nearly every child in America is entrusted to the care and supervision of a whole series of teachers every year. Surely, there must be some manner to protect our children. Too often the matter is swept underneath the rug.
Too often, problem teachers are allowed to leave quietly. That can mean future abuse for another student and another school district.

“They might deal with it internally, suspending the person or having the person move on. So their license is never investigated,” says Charol Shakeshaft, a leading expert in teacher sex abuse who heads the educational leadership department at Virginia Commonwealth University.

It’s a dynamic so common it has its own nicknames—“passing the trash” or the “mobile molester.”
But maybe there is opportunity to impose a solution, and as much as it pains me to say, this one has to come from Congress.

Congress is reviewing No Child Left Behind (formerly known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) and now is the perfect time to force some action on the states. As part of the re-authorization, more can be done to prevent the "passing of the trash." Not only must teaching credentials be revoked in a state when misconduct leads to resignation or punishment, that information must be shared between states. In addition, a little self-policing by the unions and licensing boards will go a long way to ending this kind of abuse.

Sex abuse by teachers, no matter how tame it may appear to the outsider, cannot be tolerated nor should it. But to end it, we must be better at policing it. To end it, we have to treat all harassers, regardless of position in the same manner. We can't have kids subjected to one standard of justice and adults to another.

Comments on William & Mary's Speech Code

From Eugene Volokh.
On reflection, I think I should have faulted William & Mary more for what sounds like an unconstitutional speech code (quite independently of whether it is to be enforced using confidential complaints). ...

Thus, for instance, condemning a particular student's or professor's religious or political views in any way that is "hostile" — even if it isn't threatening or "fighting words" — would seemingly be punishable, if it's "aimed at" or "directed at" the person. This might be limited to statements said to a particular person; but it might also be read as covering statements said to the public at large in a newspaper or a Web post about a particular person (depending on how "directed at" and "aimed at" is read). The Statement of Rights and Responsibilities seems considerably more speech-protective, and the "Bias Reporting" page restricts its statement about unprotected speech to speech that violates the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. But the Statement is not crystal clear about what is protected, and the "Bias Reporting" page may be seen as an elaboration on the Statement that makes certain speech punishable.

So William & Mary should, I think, be faulted for seemingly instituting a speech code that potentially forbids a wide range of protected and important speech — or, at best, leaving students unclear about what speech is allowed. I continue to think that the William & Mary initiative's solicitation of confidential complaints is sound, and I'll try to elaborate a little more on this shortly; investigating properly punishable conduct (such as physical attacks, vandalism, and threats) often requires considering confidential complaints. But constitutionally protected speech ought not be punished whether based on confidential complaints or otherwise.
The irony of the William & Mary speech code is just rich. If one visits Williamsburg, VA and the old colonial section, you will see dozens of William & Mary students running down the main street toward the Old Statehouse, the birth place of many of the ideas and ideals behind the founding of our nation.

Paging Dr. Moore, Paging "Dr." Michael Moore--Your Theory Needs Reworking

Britons Flee National Health System

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Donors in Diapers

As much as I don't like campaign contribution limits, they are the law of the land and must be obeyed. But as the campaign cycle wears on, there are practical limits on the number of $2,300 contributors out there and the campaigns might be hitting that limit. While that is merely the nature of the beast, circumventing the law is done at one's peril. But there does seem to be a large number of youngsters giving lots of money to campaigns.
Elrick Williams's toddler niece Carlyn may be one of the youngest contributors to this year's presidential campaign. The 2-year-old gave $2,300 to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

So did her sister and brother, Imara, 13, and Ishmael, 9, and her cousins Chan and Alexis, both 13. Altogether, according to newly released campaign finance reports, the extended family of Williams, a wealthy Chicago financier, handed over nearly a dozen checks in March for the maximum allowed under federal law to Obama.

Such campaign donations from young children would almost certainly run afoul of campaign finance regulations, several campaign lawyers said. But as bundlers seek to raise higher and higher sums for presidential contenders this year, the number who are turning to checks from underage givers appears to be on the rise.

"It's not difficult for a banker or a trial lawyer or a hedge fund manager to come up with $2,300, and they're often left wanting to do more," said Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. "That's when they look across the dinner table at their children and see an opportunity."

Asked about the Williams family giving, Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, "As a policy, we don't take donations from anyone under the age of 15." After being asked by The Post about the matter, he said the children's donations will be returned.
My two year old can't even decide what she wants for dinner or snack, let alone whether to give money (assuming she understands the concept of money). Obama has the right response and a sensible policy, but there are some wrinkles in the cloth.

As a law clerk at the FEC a few years ago, I was tasked with researching bank policies on checking accounts for minors. I contacted the top 20 national banks seeking their policies on checking accounts for minors. Without exception, each of these large banks required that an adult, usually a parent, be present to open the account and to be responsible for the account. It makes sense from a bank's point of view if you think of a check as a contract for the bank to pay money to a person of the check writer's choice. Under contract law, usually minors have the ability to disavow contracts made as a minor. So you can see the bank's position that they don't want to be put in the middle of a dispute over a dishonored check.

While we at the FEC debated what to do about older kids, say around teh age of 16 or so and whether they could contribute. The consensus, as I remember it, was that kids under say 13 or so simply lacked the ability to make the decision to give voluntarily.

That is not to say that it is not possible to prove that a youngster could give, but that there would need to be proof of individual intent. That could be hard to prove.

So here are the problems. Most campaign lack the resources to check the ages of its donors and thus would only find out after the fact that a donor is in diapers. While refunding the money is the proper response, there is no way in advance to make sure the donation is appropriate and legal.

Additionally, the violation, while it looks bad for Obama and other canddiates, is on the contributor who has made a contribution in the name of another, which is the likely scenario for kids giving. The donor, without a doubt must be punished. However, we are left with the question of what to do about the campaigns. Should they face any scrutiny for taking the funds in the face of evidence that it might be in violation of the rules (i.e. addresses of contributors, checks signed by the same person or agent?)

Minnesota School Looks and Operates Like an Office

Hmm!. Math is a problem with the school and it is admitted as a problem. But with a 90% rate of going to college and above average standardized test scores, it is hard to argue with the problem.

This struck me though:
New Country struggles to keep its seniors from leaving. The school's senior project is demanding — 300 hours of work. Many students choose to do their senior year at a traditional school, rather than invest the time and energy required for the senior project.
For a single project, 300 hours is a lot of time, but in a 180 day school year, that is less than 2 hours a day. Assuming a student works three hours a day on their project, they can be done in 100 days or just over half the school year. That doesnt' seem all that stressful to me.

In my current work as an attorney, I have spent 8 or 9 hours a day for weeks working on one project. For a school that seems to mimic the real world, it seems odd that this one requirement fazes students so much.

Obstacles to Teacher Merit Pay

To be honest, I had not thought about this obstacle to teacher merit pay proposals, but Fordham Fellow Maya Wallace did:
If the most effective teachers work in properly structured schools with leadership support for professional learning communities (which can entail interdisciplinary as well as subject-based teams of teachers working together to help each other and students improve), then it stands to reason that individual performance pay would have two obstacles to overcome in its implementation, especially in the upper grades.

First, it would be very difficult to divorce each teacher’s effect from the collective effect. It could be done, I suppose, but overall I think that having that many teachers in the equation would dilute the concentrated effect I see operating as an underlying assumption of how merit pay would work. Second, I can’t help but worry that as significant, individual bonuses become the incentive, some teachers would be compelled to avoid collaboration. (emphasis added)
The second obstacle Wallace suggests, I had thought about, but I have not given much thought to the first. While it may be possible in some subjects, say math or science, to divorce one teacher's effort from anothers, in others, such as reading or writing, it may be impossible to separate one teacher's effect from the collective effect.

Of course, that could be a problem, but the reverse is also true. Suppose a school had a solid corps of good teachers but one or two were of such poor quality that their negative impact on student achievement creates a drag on student achievement. So if single teacher merit pay might produce an incentive to avoid collaboration in order to maximize personal gain, collaborative or group bonuses would create a free rider problem, where the efforts of a small corps of excellent teachers can boost the performance of a larger group of mediocre or poor teachers, or conversely the poor performance of one or two truly poor teachers can reduce the chances of a group bonuses, how do we manage the avoidance of a free-rider problem?

In the end, I think we are likely to see an amalgamation of merit pay, with individual teacher bonuses, group bonuses within a school and school based bonuses.

Not Your Typical Reaction to the Middle School Birth Control Mess

From Fordham Fellow Cait Farrell:
It's completely fascinating to me the differences in state culture and politics. In Maine, the discussion focused on providing birth control prescriptions to middle-schoolers while other states are fighting to keep their socially conservative abstinence-only-until- marriage sexual education programs. For example, as reported by the ACLU, materials from an abstinence-only-until-marriage program used recently in Alabama state, “[S]ame sex ‘unions' cannot provide an adequate means of achieving a genuine physical relationship with another human being because this type of ‘union' is contrary to the laws of nature.”

3. Then there are the interesting federal politics at play, as states are choosing to accept (or avoid) federal funds for the Community-Based Abstinence Education Program.

My favorite part of the CBAE requirements:
D. Teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity.

So we can have a federal standard for human sexual activity but not for math or science?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Michelle Rhee's Next Big Challenge

DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has tackled textbook distribution, and is taking on the personnel system. But perhaps Rhee's biggest challenge will be overcoming the public perception of DC Schools--among the city's own residents. In an op-ed over the weekend, David Nicholson, a former DC resident, explains why he moved.
When a high school friend told me several years ago that he and his wife were leaving Washington's Mount Pleasant neighborhood for Montgomery County, I snickered and murmured something about white flight. Progressives who traveled regularly to Cuba and Brazil, they wanted better schools for their children. I saw their decision as one more example of liberal hypocrisy.

I was childless then, but I have a 6-year-old now. And I know better. So to all the friends -- most but not all of them white -- whom I've chastised over the years for abandoning the District once their children reached school age:

I'm sorry. You were right. I was wrong.

After nearly 20 years in the city's Takoma neighborhood, the last six in a century-old house that my wife and I thought we'd grow old in, we have forsaken the city for the suburbs.

Given recent optimistic news about the city's schools, this may seem the equivalent of buying high and selling low. And though I don't know new D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, what I know of Mayor Adrian Fenty and Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso (a former neighbor) tells me that real change will come, sooner or later, to D.C. public schools.

The thing is, with a second-grader who has already read the first two Harry Potter books, I can't wait the four or five years it will take to begin to undo decades of neglect and mismanagement of District schools, much less the additional time needed to create programs for the gifted and talented.
While the city does have roughly 55,000 students in the system, the fact of the matter is that many parents, people who may have lived in DC for years or even all their lives, still leave the city when their kids hit school, often when they realize, like Nicholson, that the DC schools cannot really help their exceptional child.

That leaves Rhee and her patron, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) between a rock and a hard place. To retain the very quality students, parents and families the DC schools need to get back on track, they need to make radical changes now. But such changes now are impossible to make without the input and dedication of those same people. It is a vicious chicken-egg scenario that could doom the DC schools recovery to a slow start.

But my advice to Rhee and Fenty is to ignore the "student age flight" that has been occurring and focus on your plan. The demand for a quick fix inthe classroom is what has doomed previous superintendants. While the public will not and should not wait for ever for results, Rhee and Fenty should focus on making small strides and keep moving forward. Take risks, to be sure, but steady progress on all fronts will be a vast improvement.

Nicholson details his efforts to stay in the District by searching for charter schools. However, like many start up charter schools, the lack of ability to navigate the notoriously difficult DC bureaucracy doomed Nicholson's efforts.
In the end, though, I couldn't sacrifice my son to an education system that seems at best inefficient and at worst willfully corrupt. As much as I admire Mayor Fenty, I can't help noting that his children go to a private school.

And if he doesn't send his kids to D.C. schools, why should I?
A very good question indeed and one that Rhee and Fenty have to answer.

Sexual Harassment Gone Too Far

Between 1990 and 1994, I served in the U.S. Navy. For the most part, my experiences were fantastic and I wouldn't trade them for anything, save for one incident--Tailhook 91. That a bunch of liquored up aviators (don't call them pilots) can sully an overall wonderful experience speaks volumes, particularly since I was an enlisted man in Washington, DC, almost a full continent geographically and whole world away mentally from the shenanigans of those idiots in Las Vegas. The fallout of Tailhook was dramatic and involved service-wide stand-downs for sexual harassment training that bordered on the comical for a young man whose parents raised him to be polite to everyone, regardless of their gender.

But Tailhook had an impact outside the Navy as well. As one of the most high profile sexual harassment episodes, coupled with a growing acknowledgment that sexual harassment in the workplace was a common, if not exactly commonplace, occurrence, Tailhook ripped the blinders off a society loaded with hypocrisy. But 16 years later, instead of getting better at dealing with sexual harassment, we have taken the matter to extremes that border on the insanely comical if it were so serious. Over the weekend, Yvonne Bynoe wrote in the Washington Post about sexual harassment in nursery school. Yes, you read that right, nursery school.
Could my son be accused of sexual harassment? He's a good boy. He likes watching "Thomas the Tank Engine" on television and playing "Simon Says." Like many 3-year-olds, he's very affectionate. Unfortunately, hugging his teacher may get him suspended from nursery school.

I doubt that it will happen to my son. But the frightening fact is that it could. I recently learned that children nationwide, some of preschool age, have been suspended from school or taken to jail after being accused of sexual harassment. In their zeal to avoid lawsuits, educators seem to be ignoring important information, such as whether the accused child intended to commit a crime or even knows how to pronounce the word "harassment."
What does it say about our society that the simple act of a mere hug from a three year old, who has been no doubt brought up with love and affection symbolized by hugs and kisses, can now be considered sexual harassment. Bynoe has more that should chill to the bone:
In my home state of Maryland, state data show that during the 2005-06 school year, 28 kindergartners were suspended for sex offenses, including 15 for sexual harassment.

Last December, a kindergartner was accused of sexual harassment after he pinched a classmate's bottom at Lincolnshire Elementary School in Hagerstown, according to the local paper, the Herald-Mail. The charge will remain on his record until he enters middle school. "It's important to understand a child may not realize that what he or she is doing may be considered sexual harassment, but if it fits under the definition, then it is, under the state's guidelines," school spokeswoman Carol Mowen told the Herald-Mail. "If someone has been told this person does not want this type of touching, it doesn't matter if it's at work or at school, that's sexual harassment."

In fact, the Maryland Department of Education defines sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and/or other inappropriate verbal, written or physical conduct of a sexual nature directed toward others." I am alarmed that Mowen's statement appears to imply that schools will find a child guilty of sexual misconduct even if the child doesn't understand the implications of his or her actions.
Fifteen 5 and 6 year olds suspended for sexual harassment? The fact that the policy of the Maryland Department of Education is so broad, what surprises me more is that more kids haven't been caught in the dragnet.

In the law of torts, most children under the age of 6-8 depending on the state, are generally considered incapable of forming the necessary intent to commit an intentional tort, not because they can't intend their actions, but they have no concept of the consequences of their action. In Maryland, a child could be suspended for the FIRST act of harassment, regardless of whether they know what they are doing is "wrong." As Mowen noted above, it doesn't matter if they know what they did is wrong, the mere act in itself is wrong--regardless of the age.

For those of us who were fans of "Legally Blond," the whole incident reminds of the "malum in se" and "malum prohibitum" discussion. Malum in se are crimes that are by their very nature, evil. These are the traditional, murder, robbery, rape, assault type crimes. Malum prohibitum crimes are those that society has deemed should be wrong, like speeding or public drunkeness. The funny thing is that sexual harassment is not a crime prosecuted by the state, but a civil charge, brought by an individual against another individual or individuals. But now our society looks upon sexual harassment not as a civil charge, or even a "malum prohibitum" but as a "malum in se," something that is evil by its very nature.

But sexual harrassment doesn't end with the suspension of 4 year olds from nursery school. We have now taken sexual harassment to the point of labeling it a sex offense on par with rape or sexual abuse--requiring sex offender registration. Few may forget the episode in McMinnville, Oregon, where two 13 year old boys were facing sexual assault charges and possible sex offender registration for slapping the bottoms of female classmates. Fortunately a judge finally exercises some common sense and dropped the charges against the boys.

These boys are old enough to know better, but to charge them (and treat them as they were treated, which involves some possible civil rights violations) as sex offenders simply crossed the line. Yes, the boys deserved punishment, and in this case a school suspension would have been enough for the first offense, particularly since their "victims" did not seem inclined to press charges, testify against and indeed may have been coerced into making their statements. The McMinnville boys may have crossed the line (I remember being their age and pinching and slapping the bottoms of my female classmates and getting pinched and slapped in return--in our adolescent view that was flirting) but can we really say they did? The McMinnville boys say they got the idea from the movie "Jackass" but just as likely they thought it was flirting like I thought at their age.

Is the problem with our kids or with us?

The problem with sexual harassment as it is prosecuted now, is that we have become so overly sensitive that we can't know where the line it and when we have crossed it. Our media is saturated with sexual images, so that while we "empower" our children to think of themselves as sexual beings at a younger and younger age, despite their readiness for such a view, we are at the same time acting in prudish ways when it comes to inter-gender relations. The problem of course with sexual harassment law is that it usually requires some notice be given that a behavior is unwelcome--at least that is what I was taught in the aftermath of Tailhook.

Some behaviors would clearly be unwelcome, such as the grabbing of the breasts or pelvis of a female shipmate. But is the touching of the small of the back sexual harassment or not? What about inadvertent contact done once in tight quarters, such as on a bus? What about foul language (a staple in the Navy)? Where does an off-color joke cross the line? These were difficult questions for a large institution and for a service where everyone was, at least legally, adults. How can we expect our young teenagers and pre-teens to make the same fine line distinctions? How can we expect a three year old to do the same?

Humans crave interaction. It makes us happy to love and be loved, to touch and be touched. But can a three year old really be faulted for hugging a teacher? More importantly, should a three year old be faulted for hugging a teacher?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Medal of Honor Awarded To Navy SEAL

John B. Dwyer has the details:
President Bush will award a posthumous Medal of Honor to the family of Navy LT Michael P. Murphy. For Operation Red Wing he led a 3-man SEAL recon team that was taken under fire by several dozen Taliban in June 2005. When his commo man was wounded, Murphy had to expose himself to enemy fire to radio for a rescue chopper (shot down upon arrival; all aboard killed).

Though shot in the back while doing so, he completed that call and, multiply wounded, returned to the team, now engaged in a desperate battle. Some 2 hours later, only one, Luttrell, remained alive.
Dwyer has links as well.

Michael Yon Deserves a Pulitzer Prize

So says Rick Moran and he is right.

Check out Yon's latest Dispatch and read others. No one that I have seen or read is reporting like Yon.

Limbaugh vs. Reid, Part --Something or Other

This is what happens when you fight the censorship Nazi's.
They were trying to pull an Imus on Rush Limbaugh. But, despite the efforts of Harry Reid and his forty solons, it didn't work. Clear Channel didn't fold the way MSNBC and CBS did. Thanks to Limbaugh's steadiness and quick wit, the attempt did blow back. The brilliant auction play not only defanged the attack but turned it against the perpetrators, making Reid and his posse look like forty-one schmoes despite everything the media could do to slant the story. (It accomplished very little for Harry back home either, if recent reports are any indication.)

Harry Reid probably is not going to be sending out such self-righteous, ham-handed letters anytime soon. Nor is the media or anyone else going to pull an Imus on any other new media figures. Limbaugh has not only embarrassed the Dems and restored his own reputation, he's also deprived the left of the Imus weapon, something that might have served them well over the next year or two.
Every broadcaster should take note, no matter what side of the political spectrum they are on, if you fight back you give the censors nowhere to go.

A Conservative Soros?

It's just a rumor, but interesting nonetheless.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Michael Graham on Middle School Birth Control

Michael Graham writes:
I have a daughter in a public middle school. I know how hard it is to get a school-sanctioned Tylenol on campus. I’ve fought the “no cupcakes, they might have peanuts!” fight. Some schools are getting rid of the snack machines out of fear of giving our children access to high-fructose corn syrup.

But these same liberal educators are going to let the school nurse my 11-year-old full of progesterone so she can “get her groove on” without fear of pregnancy?

Please. Just give her the cupcake.

Maine runs a series of school health clinics like the one at King Middle, most commonly treating things like sore throats and giving physicals. But King, which already hands out condoms to 12-year-olds regardless of whether mom likes it, wants to expand its mission to include aiding and abetting sexual assault.

Because in Maine, the age of consent is 16, too.

Liberal activists supporting the King Middle proposal claim it’s necessary because some of their students are sexually active. Of course they are - you’re giving them sex aids! What are they supposed to do with birth control? Use it to control weight gain? Trade it for Oxy?

The only reason to give 12-year-olds the pill is because they’re having sex. But sex with a 12-year-old is a felony in Maine, so who are they supposed to have this sex with? Other 12-year-olds?
Makes you wonder, doesn't it.

Clinton Money Machine Redux

Hot Air has links to what could be the next Clinton Funrdaising mess.

Do we really need these crooks in the White House again?

Bit of Advice: Don't Mess With Septugenarians

Ask Gateway Pundit why.

And They Wonder Why Their Approval Rating is So Low

REP. STARK (D-CA): "SOLDIER'S GETTING HEADS BLOWN OFF FOR PRESIDENT'S AMUSEMENT!". Thanks to Gateway Pundit for the pointer and video.

The comment speaks for itself.

A Truly Lost Generataion

Philip Mella on the Portland Maine birth control pill controversy:
This decision has achieved what most of us would have found impossible, which is a rare combination of a collective abdication of moral responsibility and a cynical endorsement of the presupposition that children are immune from ethical imprinting. We don't need psychologists to tell us that eleven year old children are emotionally unformed and fragile souls whose moral immaturity and compromised judgment can conspire to cause them indelible pain and suffering. Yet this decision puts them in the wholly untenable position of encouraging an act for which many adults are emotionally unfit.

We must wonder why the liberals, who are champions of this kind of stupidity, suppose that those 'victimized' by the sub-prime housing debacle aren't truly capable of making an informed decision, but insist that children have the maturity to decide whether or not it's wise to engage in sexual intercourse.
Hmmm! Good point.

Maryland Law Allows Pre-Teens Confidential Access to Birth Control

Yesterday, I stood in shock of a recent decision by a Portland, Maine school board to allow a middle school to give out birth control pills to girls as young as 11. Apparently, I should have looked in my own back yard, as the Baltimore Sun reports:
While much of the nation debates a Maine school board's vote to let school-based clinics give young teens contraceptives without parental consent, Baltimore girls as young as 12 have had access to birth-control pills from such clinics for more than 20 years.

Advocates say making contraceptives available has played a large role in the city's declining teen birth rate - especially in the past decade, when it has been cut in half for girls younger than 15.

It's not just in Baltimore. A Maryland law that dates to the 1970s allows a minor confidential access to contraception, meaning any adolescent girl can ask her doctor for birth control - knowing that information will not be shared with her mother or father.

Most girls will tell their parents, health officials said, but the girls have a right to privacy here, as in 20 other states and the District of Columbia.

"We promote abstinence as the best choice for teenagers," said Bonnie S. Birkel, director of Maryland's Center for Maternal and Child Health, "but we don't deny services to anyone."
When it comes to reproductive health care, it is apparent that this country as a real problem with hypocrisy.

Under the laws of 20 states and the District of Columbia a pre-teen can walk into a school administered health clinic (not the school nurse apparently, but if there is a clinic staffed by a nurse practitioner) she can ask and receive birth control pills WITHOUT NOTIFYING HER PARENTS OR GUARDIAN!!!!.

This kind of a law, while it may have lead to a reduction in the teen pregnancy rate, completely undermines the role of parents in the healthcare decisions related to their children. In Maine, the rationale for providing the birth control is that some girls will not want to discuss the matter with their parents. In Maryland, officials believe that the most girls will tell their parents. Unless the girls in Maine are of a completely different sub-species of girls than those in Maryland, the chances are that no girl tells their parents because to do so will indicate to the parents that they are sexually active.

There are so many health risks associated with not telling the parents that it is hard to fathom how this was even made law. First, there is the hormonal content of a birth control pill and the effect on younger girls, even those who have reached menses. This is no a simple matter of giving a child a Tylenol, which washes out of the system in relatively short order, but a pill that alters and regulates the hormones in a body, a body that is still growing and changing on practically a daily basis.

Second, the hormones in a birth control pill can interact with other drugs that may need to be prescribed. Unless the young girl informs the health care worker giving out the pill, there is a risk of interaction. If a girl gets another prescription from her regular doctor and the parents don't know of the birth control pills, there is a risk of an interaction. There is a reason why doctors ask questions about whether you are taking any medications before prescribing a new medication--it is to prevent dangerous interactions.

But aside from the medical/physical side of things, there is a conflict with other laws. For example, under most state laws, including Maryland, a doctor may not treat a child for say a broken leg without parental approval. Absent a life-threatening injury, doctors are supposed to wait for parental approval to do much of anything to any minor, even those as old as 17. Yet, girls as young as 11 can get birth control. How are we to reconcile those two policies? A girl with a broken arm can't authorize treatment of her arm because the law has deemed her incapable of making that choice, but she is capable of making a decision to get birth control?

Either she is old to enough to authorize all medical treatment or she is not old enough to authorize any medical treatment. Choose one policy because the conflict is too great.

The argument that a child is "entitled" to a right of privacy is ludicrous. A girl as young as 11 or 12 is not entitled to the same rights as an 18, 19 or 20 year old. There are so many other reductions in her rights that to say she enjoys a full right of privacy on this matter is ridiculous and flies in the face of logic. For example, in the schools in Frederick County, a high school girl or boy for that matter, cannot take a prescription drug for allergies without oversight by the school nurse. So the right to take a doctor prescribed antibiotic is circumscribed, but not the right to OBTAIN birth control. Is there anything else so ludicrous as that particular dichotomy?

One by-product of this debate is that there will be a fair number of state legislatures put on the defensive about this particular law, not that I expect that Democratically controlled Maryland General Assembly to change the law (that would make sense), but at least there will be some questioning.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wow!! $20 Million Bonus Program For NYC Teachers

Big news in the NYC.

More later on this news.

Maine Middle School to Offer the Pill

Portland, Maine school officials voted to permit a middle school to dispense contraceptives. Yes, a middle school--and we are not talking about condoms, we are also talking about birth control pills.
Pupils at a city middle school will be able to get birth control pills and patches at their student health center after the local school board approved the proposal Wednesday evening.

The plan, offered by city health officials, makes King Middle School the first middle school in Maine to make a full range of contraception available to students in grades 6 through 8, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services....

The Portland School Committee voted 5-2 for the measure.

Chairman John Coynie voted against it, saying he felt providing the birth control was a parental responsibility. The other no vote came from Ben Meiklejohn, who said the consent form does not clearly define the services being offered.

Opponents cited religious and health objections.

Diane Miller said she felt the plan was against religion and against God. Another opponent, Peter Doyle, said he felt it violated the rights of parents and puts students at risk of cancer because of hormones in the pill.

A supporter, Richard Verrier, said it's not enough to depend on parents to protect their children because there may be students who can't discuss things with their parents.

Condoms have been available since 2002 to King students who have parental permission to be treated at its student health center.
I hope it is not just me that feels quesy about this step. I certainly hope that the school health center must obtain specific consent to dispense contraceptives rather than just a generalized consent to dispense drugs, but I would not be surprised if it were not required.

The sexualization of our youngsters is bad enough when talking about consumer products such as dolls (the Bratz line in particular) or clothes (do 10-year-old girls really need thong underwear marketed to them?) because parents can exercise reasonable control over the purchases of their children. But when contraception in the form of condoms has been available to 11, 12 and 13 year olds in a middle school for five years and now contraceptive drugs are now available, we have strayed into an utterly surreal world. We need to be teaching our 11-13 year olds about responsible sexual behavior and at 13, that should include a warning that they don't need contraceptives because they shouldn't be engaging in any activity that would require such drugs.

The hypersexualization of American kids needs to stop.

Only one member of the school board in Portland got this right. Contraception is a duty of the parents and there is no reason for a school health center to be providing these services. I can envision a reasonalbe argument for high schools (I don't like it but I can see the rationale), but not for middle schools.

I don't brook the argument that "kids are going to do it whether we counsel against it or not." Such an argument is a surrender to the notion that kids run the world and the schools. I also don't brook the argument that some kids don't feel comfortable talking about sex with their parents. No kid does, but that doesn't detract from the parental responsiblity to do so. It is not a fun conversation for either side, but it is one that is just as important as "Don't do drugs."

Political leaders and school officials issue a regular hew and cry about the lack of parental involvement in our children's schooling and lives. Yet then we have steps like this one which not offers a mechanism for parents to abdicate their role, but practically begs the parent to not be involved in this aspect of their kids lives because the school makes these services available.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

American Thinker: The Silver Lining Behind the McCain/Feingold Cloud

American Thinker: The Silver Lining Behind the McCain/Feingold Cloud

There's An Unemployment Angle We Should Be Happy With

As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch :
At what's believed to be the world's largest cemetery, where Shiite Muslims aspire to be buried and millions already have been, business isn't good.

A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months, and that's cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.
I am sure that a surging Iraqi economy in other sectors can find work for these poor displaced workers.

The Shirnking Budget Deficit

How's this for news, the budget deficit continues to shrink.

This despite efforts by both parties to spend more and more. Could it be that our prosperous economy responds to stupid spending by producing more?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Baltimore City Council Considers Supporting Teachers In Contract Dispute

If I were Andres Alonso, I would be screaming at this latest news in the protracted dispute between the Baltimore Public Schools and the Baltimore teachers union.

For those who are not aware, The Baltimore Teachers Union is staging a work to rule protest (which is only partially effective) because of an impasse with the School Board and Alonso over a 45 minute planning session.
Schools chief Andres Alonso wants principals to have the authority to require teachers to spend one planning period - about 45 minutes a week - collaborating with colleagues. The union says it considers the change a loss of planning time. Protesters at the school board meeting called for Alonso's ouster over the dispute.
Well, now the City Council is getting involved by supporting the teachers union.
A dispute between the Baltimore Teachers Union and the chief of the city school system spilled into the City Council last night with the introduction of a nonbinding resolution supporting the union in the impasse.

Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, a former teacher and the wife of labor leader Glenard Middleton, introduced the resolution, which was sent to the council's labor committee.

Last week the councilwoman and her husband were among more than 150 protesters who protested a proposed change that could affect the way teachers use planning time.
Try as I might, I just can't seem to wrap my head around this dispute. Collaboration with colleagues is a useful tool and the time could be put to use to for overall planning purposes. Imagine a group of second grade teachers collaboratively designing a lesson for reading or math. Or those same teachers could work together to help improve their skills in presenting information--you know doing things to make themselves better teachers.

For a profession that works largely in a separate environment, I would think that the opportunity to work with ones peers would be a welcome addition to the weekly routine.

For his part, Alonso appears to be standing firm with his demand, as I think he should. I think he should be more public with his reasoning, but I am not handling his press shop. In the end, I think the union comes out looking poorer on this matter. There is room for compromise but that possibility may be at an end now.

Now that the City Council is jumping in, the dynamics are about to shift. I think that Middleton is too beholden to the union and has what to me looks like a clear conflict of interest. Whether the resolution passes or not, the City Council is not making things better for getting involved. With elections coming up for Mayor and for City Council, the matter is now too politicized for any meaningful resolution.

Neither Alonso nor the union itself can really get a settlement without looking like they were pressured into it. Alonso, if he gives in, will look as though he caved to city council pressure, a stance he can't afford to be pushed into. For its part, the union looks like it can't negotiate without government interference and it looks weak. In short, everyone loses.

By everyone, I mean everyone, including the kids in Baltimore schools, who are the ultimate victims here. They are victims of the pettiness of the adults in the education system and their elected leaders. What lesson for them in all of this?

Boston Law Firm Bans Billable Hour

Boston Law Firm Bans Billable Hour. I get their point, as billable hours does inhibit efficiency to some degree.

However, having now been on both sides of the billable hour madness, I can tell you that it is inefficient and does disincentivize certain behaviors. It was also pretty common in service industries, law is just lagging behind.

For example, in medicine you pay for procedures or the doctor's visit. While that makes drawing a line between what you got and what you paid for, it does not incentivize efficient care. The incentive is to have very short visits (so the doctor can get more in--just think--when was the last time your doctor's visit lasted more than 10 minutes) and to have multiple procedures and tests.

While per transaction or per action billing may work for many legal services--for example, the creation of a simple will or the processing of an immigration visa. It may not work well for other services--litigation being one. Lawyers and legal consultants could spend thousands of hours coming up with a billing schedule and it would be subject to constant revision. Is that worth the effort?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Baltimore Teachers Call for Superintendent Ouster

Well, that didn't take long. The Baltimore Teachers Union, upset with the progress of contract negotiations, over planning time, plan to call a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Andres Alonso, who has been on the job for only four months.
The dispute centers on what would seem to be a minor issue: 45 minutes a week of planning time. Alonso wants principals to have the authority to require teachers to spend one planning period a week collaborating with colleagues. The union says teachers don't have enough planning time as it is.

The contract for the union expired July 1, and negotiations are at an impasse. The two sides have reached an agreement over pay and benefits.

"This is absolutely asinine that we are out here fighting over planning time," said Loretta Johnson, co-president of the union, which represents teachers and aides.

But Alonso said after the board meeting that he's not budging.

"The city has to make a choice," he said. "Is it about adult interests, or is it about kids?"

In a meeting this week with The Sun editorial board, Alonso said of the union dispute: "It's almost like defining the terms of engagement. I'm working from principle, not a political stance, and I think for some people in this city, that is so new."
Alonso is right. For far too long, school boards and superintendents have caved when it comes to contract negotiations. But Alonso is right, the issue is not really about planning time, that is only the context of the battle. The real battle is whether the kids will take precedence in a school system or the adults. For many people involved in education, the protection of the adults has seemed to take priority of what is best for kids.

I think that the dispute over planning time is asinine. We are talking about nine minutes a day. In a previous post on this subject, I made these comments:
The thing that really chafes me is that the impasse is over planning time--planning time. In a work day that is already an hour or so shorter than the rest of the world but France, and includes a 45 minute lunch break, further shortening the work day, the Baltimore teachers union is upset about planning time. Not having too many kids in the class, not pay, not benefits, not even the condition of classrooms (i.e. no heat or A/C) but planning time.

I don't know of any other job, unionized or otherwise, that even considers planning time a negotiable condition and the cause for a labor demonstration. The fact that heartens me is that I know many teachers will ignore the union and go about doing their jobs for our children the best they know how.
In return, I got the comment that because a teacher spends six or more hours a day presenting material, they need planning time. But that is a false argument. By that standard, a teacher would need forty-five minutes a day to plan presentations for the entire day. Are you seriously telling me that an extra nine minutes a day is really going to help you? The same commenter noted that she/he works a 7-7 day and usually takes work home.

Well, welcome to the world of professionals. I work a full day, often 8 to 6 with another three to four hours of work at home. That is that nature of being a professional. You cannot claim to be a professional deserving of professional work standards and then complaint about the work conditions.

I also got the comment that I don't know what it is like to teach in Baltimore and that I should follow a "dedicated" teacher around for a week. Well, that commenter is right--I don't know what it is like to teach in Baltimore but assuming I could get paid on my job to follow a teacher around, I can guarantee you this--they won't like my assessment, even if I do sympathize with that teacher.

But what I do know is that if the teacher's union really believes their own rhetoric about wanting to put kids first, then the would just give up this silly little objection (and yes it is silly). I like the fact that Alonso is standing up and saying that it is non-negotiable. That is what a leader does, set priorities and stick to them. The union has agreed to a pay and benefits package. They should take their money and then perform. If you can prove to the students, their parents and the community that they are worth the money spent on their pay package, then at the next negotiation, they can revisit the planning time issue.

What the teachers union really wants is a group of stooges, both on the school board and in the Super's office. That is not what the students of Baltimore need. They need leaders, and teachers, that will actually follow my Ten Commandments of Education. The first one reads:
Commandmant One. Thou shall never forget that the most important people in schools are the students, first, last and always. Nothing trumps their importance, not your job or your cousin/uncle/aunt/mistress' job, not your favorite policy, not the school principal, not the school board, not even the teachers. Nothing!!
Far too often, the adults involved in the education of our children look upon their role as somehow more important than the kids. Any policy or program that employs more adults should be looked up skeptically and properly disposed of. Educating kids, while a noble vocation, does not make your personal profession more important than those you serve.
Your "clients" must come first.

Demonstrate that, prove that and then we can talk about planning time. Until then, teachers must take a back seat to the kids. Only Andres Alonso appears to truly have his real clients interest at heart.

O'Malley and Slots

The Frederick News Post Reports:
Governor Martin O’Malley said he’s open to the possibility of a referendum on slot-machine gambling. The Washington Post reported the idea was floated this week in private meetings between O’Malley and state lawmakers. O’Malley told The Post he’s open to all ideas that build consensus. Some lawmakers say a referendum could help break the legislative logjam on the issue. But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who supports slot machines, called the referendum idea “ludicrous.” A referendum would require a three-fifths majority in both houses, and the issue would not appear on the ballot until next fall.
Of course, these same state lawmakers didn't like slots when Bob Ehrlich was governor, but now that they are on the short side of a budget deficit, it is looking like a good thing.

Liberal Outrage

Rick Moran has a great piece on the whole outrage on the left about the right's reaction to Graeme Frost.
The problem as far as I can see it is that conservatives must have erased their blog posts in the middle of the night of all the nasty things they’ve written about little Graeme while no lefties were looking because for the life of me, I can’t seem to find a single example from any conservative blog where one negative word has been written about a 12 year old little boy suffering the pain and trauma from an automobile accident. Not one. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

There has, of course, been plenty written about his parents.
Moran is right. I have not seen anyone actually criticize the child, but all the invective is against his parents.

Moran has more and it is worth the read.

Maybe Some Should Have Guarded Him A Little Better

over the weekend, in the Dutch soccer league Heerenveen defeated SC Heracles Almelo by a score of 9-0. While the rout was bad enough for the second to last place club Heracles, the embarassment goes far deeper.

What could be worse that losing a professional soccer match by nine goals? Well, allowing one man, Afonso Alves to score three goals within nine minutes in the first half would be pretty bad. But wait, it gets worse, much, much worse. In the second half, Heerenveen scored five goals in 13 minutes.

Oh, no, wait for it!! It really does get worse.

Of the five goals scored in those 13 minutes, four, that is right FOUR of them were scored by Afonso Alves.

Alves scored seven goals in one game. You would have thought that Heracles would have double teamed him or something.

Charles Jenkins Did Not Violate His Oath of Office

Of all the charges thrown about regarding the Frederick County immigration proposal by Commissioner Charles Jenkins, the most irresposible is the charge that Jenkins somehow violated his oath of office. Local NAACP chapter president Guy Djoken is one culprit.
"Without any actual data sustaining his view, (Jenkins) is embarking on a campaign at odds with the current laws and his oath of office," said Guy Djoken, branch president for the Frederick County branch of the NAACP.
County Commission President Jan Gardner is another:
Gardner has said all along she opposes Jenkins' proposal, primarily because the federal government should craft immigration policy, but also because she does not believe school children should be targeted.

She has accused Jenkins of wanting to willingly break the law and violating his oath of office to the constitution.
To accuse Commissioner Jenkins of violating his oath of office is ludicrous on its face and Jenkins would be well within his rights to demand an apology from Gardner at least.

If proposing a law that would change existing law is a violation of one's oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States, then every time a Congressmen went to the well of the House to drop a bill in the hopper, she would be violating her oath. The same holds true with any other legislator or elected official.

Jenkins did not violate his oath of office by proposing a change in the law or by proposing that a 25 year old court precedent be challenged. Had laws challenging court precedents never been passed, we would not have the nation we have. We could possibly still have slavery as a legal institution and we certainly would have segregation. Laws that are proposed and debated that seek to change existing law is how our nation grows and develops. We cannot have changes to the law without proposing changes, and proposing changes to the law is at the very heart of a legislators and County Commissioners duty.

Jan Gardner and Guy Djoken, you owe Charles Jenkins and apology and until you give him one, you can bet that neither of you will receive any support from me for anything, no matter how right you might be.

While Charles Jenkins may not be in the same position, I can afford to be vindictive.


SCHIP and the Consequences of Choice

Another flaming idiot in Maryland.

Andrew Kujan has turned into the bane of our existence at Red Maryland. Brian Griffiths has already taken on Kujan on this post, but I think I have to throw in a couple of cents.

I have no issue with private schooling, if parents choose that route. I have no issue with parents who choose not to have health care for them or their children (as insane as that decision may be). I have house envy of the Frosts, but they have their home and I have mine. They have made their choices and they should suffer the consequences of their choices.

My problem is that I, as a taxpayer, should not have to subsidize their choices. Maybe the kids are on a scholarship to that private school, I don't know. But you have to question the prioritization of spending in a family of six, with four kids in private school, a huge house in a tony Baltimore neighborhood and no health insurance.

The political issue of SCHIP is that the Democrats and Kujan by extension, want to expand it beyond its original scope. The program was designed from the start to cover poor children, those living at or below the federal poverty line. It was not intended to cover their parents, it was not intended to cover a family of six with apparently considerable resources (as evidenced by a large house and private education). It was for poor people who had no other means of obtaining health care for their kids.

The real issue is that people make choices and those choices carry consequences. The government should not be in the business of cushioning those people who make choices and then desire protection from the consequences.

Frederick County's Immigration Proposal Fails

An effort by Frederick County Commissioner Charles Jenkins to limit some social services spending on illegal immigrants failed by a 3-2 vote last night. In its place was a ridiculous call from Commission President Jan Gardner and Commissioner David Gray to ask the General Assembly to pass a resolution that
called for the state and federal governments to solve a "dysfunctional national immigration system and policy," and to stop asking local governments to foot the bill for the impact of illegal immigrants.

It proposed no county action, instead urging specific measures for state and federal leaders to take and requesting they read e-mails sent to the commissioners and view a DVD recording of last week's public hearing on the proposal.

No concrete action other than watching TV is called for. Like the Delegates are going to have time to do that! Gardner and Gray are simply living in a dream land quite apart from you and I. Said Gardner:
The resolution tried to acknowledge the issues and direct positive community dialogue that isn't divisive.
While I admit that Jenkins' proposal resulted in a divisive debate, it became divisive by the interest groups involved in the matter. The proposal itself is about allocating scarce resources, should it go to those who are citizens and those in this country legally or should it go to those who disregard our laws with apparent impunity? Granted, some aspects of Jenkins' proposal were of questionable constitutionality, it doesn't mean it is unworthy of a real debate in Annapolis.

Commissioner Gray also floored me with his belief that a mid-size county in a mid-to smallish state is going to have an impact on the Federal Government's policy. As I said, a dream land:
Gray said he hoped it could spur the federal government to make some changes and give people hope a solution can be found.

"It's putting people at each other's throats unnecessarily and I think that's sad," Gray said.
It is never to going to spur the federal government to do anything since the touchy-feely resolution is never going to pass Annapolis, let alone make any dent in federal immigration policy. Is it sad that we are at each other's throats policitcally, yes, it is. But we as a county have been put in this position by a failure of the federal and state governments. It is time that we be the ones to step up to the plate and help ourselves, because surely no one else is going to do it.

Jenkins is right, though a resolution to call for a resolution is a pointless exercise and really a waste of the Commission's time as well as that of the Frederick County General Assembly delegation.

I hope Jenkins takes on this issue next year. I suggest he modify his proposal to take out his weakest link--education services. Education is a tender subject and his proposal was of questionable legality. In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that a state could not deny public education benefits to illegal immigrants. While the Court has changed and the immigration picture as well, denying an education is a tricky solution.

If Jenkins were to carve out education services and beef up his argument about spending, he may have a better chance next year.

Cross Posted at RedMaryland.

Local Media and Education Statistics

Friends of Dave parses a story from a local paper in California. When major dailies make mistakes like these, they tend to get shredded by lots of people. When local media does it, there is very little accountability to the public. This is why so many people have a wrong impression of NCLB and education policy, because it is reported so poorly.

An Interview with Nanny State author David Harsanyi

Bill Steigerwald has the interview with Harsanyi at Townhall.
Q: What’s “Nanny State” about?

A: It’s about the difference between coercing someone to do the right thing and convincing them to do the right thing. In the Nanny State, we coerce them -- or the government does, at least. All these intrusions -- what we eat, what we smoke, what we watch -- one by one they don’t seem like they are much. But when you bundle them together, you have a movement, and a movement that undermines our freedoms. That’s what the book’s about. ...

Q: Who’s responsible for this Nanny State -- liberals, conservatives, Jane Fonda, Jerry Falwell?

A: All of the above. I would say that the left typically believes that government can make us better people and protect us from all the vagaries of life. On the right, at least rhetorically, we hear a lot about individual freedom. But in the past few years, and maybe it’s compassionate conservatism, we see the Republican Party coddling adults as well and buying into the Nanny State. It’s still not as bad as the liberals, but bad enough. But there are many different kinds of people involved in the Nanny State and it’s driven by all kinds of concerns -- hyper-risk-aversion and political correctness are also part of it. It’s not like you can pin it down to one or two types of people. It’s a bunch of people.
Go read the interview.

Health Care Competition

John Stossel:
Health-care costs overall have been rising faster than inflation, but not all medical costs are skyrocketing. In a few pockets of medicine, costs are down while quality is up.
What are those few pockets?

The areas of medical care and services that are not covered by insurance, i.e. plastic surgery and laser eye surgery among them. It funny how much doctors who don't rely on government subsidies or insurance payments really do try to help their patients. While Stossel, of course, can only profile a couple of doctors, he does well with his choices. When government and insurance companies are kept away from the transaction, good new things happen. He writes:
A doctor in Tennessee I talked to publishes his low prices, such as $40 for an office visit. can't make money this way. But Dr. Robert Berry told me you can. "Last year, I made about the average of what a primary-care physician makes in this country," he said.

Berry doesn't accept insurance. That saves him money because he doesn't have to hire a staff to process insurance claims, and he never has to fight with companies to get paid.

His mostly uninsured patients save money, too. Unlike doctors trapped in the insurance maze, Berry works with his patients to find ways to save them money.

"It's coming out of their pockets. And they're afraid. They don't know how much it's going to cost. So I can tell them, 'OK, you have heartburn. Let's start out with generic Zantac, which costs around five dollars a month.'" When his patients ask about expensive prescription medicines they see advertised on television, he tells them, "They're great medicines, but why don't you try this one first and see if it works?"

Sometimes the $4 pills from Wal-Mart are just as good as the $100 ones.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, medical clinics are popping up in Wal-Mart stores and in other similar markets. The clinics offer people with simple problems like sore throats and ear infections relatively hassle-free care cheap. Almost everything costs $59 or less. And the clinics are typically open seven days a week.
It really is as simple as market economics. The demand for health care is there, we know that it is. There is a vast supply of health care avaialable, perhaps too much. So market forces say that prices should go down. However, they don' because of government and insurance company intervention. But when those two forces are absent, the market works, just like it should.
When consumers pay for medicine themselves, saving insurance for the big things, and doctors deal directly with consumers, doctors begin to compete. They start posting prices and work to keep them low.

And consumers gain more control of their health care. Instead of governments and insurance companies deciding for patients, patients decide.

Competition gives consumers more choices. And choice gives them power. Remember that when you hear a politician promise to make health case accessible and affordable through the force of government.
Health care is not a right and there is no need for government intervention beyond being a market player as an insurance agency. If consumer paid for routine care out of their own pocket and saved insurance for the big things, like a long term illness or a surgery, then you see costs go down.

Tell that to the Presidential candidates.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

What If Heidi Fleiss or Deborah Jean Palfrey Sponsored Your Soccer Team

A lower division Italian soccer club has done something similar. In America at least, players are required to do some public appearances on behalf of sponsors. MLS limits it to no more than a couple per month and a max number of total appearnaces.

If one of your sponsors was an escort agency, you can bet that most players, especially the single ones would waive that contract requirement.

FIFA's Goalmouth Referees

Hmmm! Not sure what to think of this, either the human element or the computer chip thing.

Liberal's Ethical Lines: An Oxymoron

Christy Hardin Smith:
The difference between the far right wing and the far left wing: the far right will do anything — anything — so long as the ends justifies the means. The far left folks have ethical boundaries that they try very hard not to cross: things like attacking other people’s minor children is bad form, let alone harassing a family that includes a child with severe brain damage from an auto accident.
Oh like smearing a General? Like sending Michelle Malkin (the supposed target of this attack) hate mail, bigoted statements and racial epithats.

Yeah, some ethical boundaries.

Look if the Democrats pick a boy to be their "spokesman" they should have done a better job vetting him. If he lives in a 3,000 square foot in a tony Baltimore neighborhood, some questions are going to be asked.

Please Tell Me This Didn't Get Some Context

"We're Going To Let The Lawyers Decide When We Go To War"--Mitt Romney.

The Politics of Exit Exams

The Baltimore Sun looks at the politics and perils of high school exit exams--the chance that some kids won't pass.
Maryland isn't the first state to have second thoughts about denying diplomas to thousands of high school kids who can't pass state tests.

As the graduation deadline grew near, Washington state delayed requiring its math exam. Utah dropped the testing requirement altogether. In Massachusetts, the teachers union mounted an ad campaign against the tests - though the state held firm.

And in California, parents got angry and filed a class action suit. Students still have to pass the tests to get a diploma, but they can stay in high school for up to six years if that's what it takes.

Across the nation, state leaders have gotten nervous as the date approaches to deny high school diplomas. They have agonized over what to do, though in the end, only Utah has decided to do away with the requirement.

"States realize that they have set standards that kids simply aren't able to meet ... or the failure rates are simply too high politically," said Jay Heubert, a professor at the Teachers College, Columbia University.
So the question that is asked by policy makers is not "What should we do to help each kid pass the test as written?" but the question becomes "What can we do to get around the exit exam requirement so that I can look tough on standards without actually holding everyone accountable?"

These are two very different questions. One is a question about education and pedagogy, the other is about political CYA and unfortunately the latter does nothing to help kids.

In Maryland,
State data released last month showed that 68 percent of students in the Class of 2009 have passed the English exam. In Baltimore, 41 percent have passed. Statewide, there was a 77 percent pass rate on the algebra, 71 percent on government and 62 percent on biology.

In concept, making sure that all high school graduates are at least competent in a few basic subjects is easy for politicians to embrace. Maryland began planning more than a decade ago for high school assessments in many subjects. The testing requirement was supposed to take effect for the Class of 2007 but was delayed until 2009.

Then last month, after hearing complaints, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick proposed that students who fail the tests three times be allowed to do a senior project instead. Grasmick said it would be a rigorous assignment designed for only a few thousand students a year.

Under Maryland's current rule, students also can get a diploma by getting a minimum composite score on the four tests. And for special-education students and those with testing anxiety, a different but "comparable" test is now being tried out in three districts.
Under the Maryland program, the exams are given to students after they take the relevant class. English is at the 10th grade level.

The problem of course is that people are making all kinds of excuses for the kids. Everything for English as as Second Language (ESL) students to kids with "test anxiety" are going to get a pass from the exam requirement. While federal law requires states make accomodations for students with verified disabilities, my fear is that test anxiety will become a disability and that means they will probably get a pass.

No one seems to be asking an important but relevant question. What is the reason why kids are failing the tests? I find it difficult to believe that an average of 30% of students haven't passed the tests (statewide) without a reason. Do we even know what kids are missing on the tests? Assuming such an analysis has been done as to which questions are being missed, what is the cause. With 66,000 students in the class of 2009, surely there must be some statistical pointers.

Another relevant question might be how well does the test match up with the curriculum? One could easily assume that the two match, but that may not be the case at all.

The answers to these questions should lead to either a better curriculum or a better test. But we cannot and should not allow ourselves to be led down the path of softening the requirement. Sure, it is politically scary to be looking at 2,000 to 3,000 students and telling them they won't graduate because they haven't passed the requisite tests. Even scarier is the prospect of looking their parents in the eye and saying the same thing.

Make no mistake, the finger pointing is going to be ugly. But the blame rests not only on teh students, but on their schools, their teachers and their politicians. The parents are not without their share of the blame, either. But no one should escape accountability and letting the students off the hook allows them and everyone else to escape the consequences of their failure and no one has learned a thing.

For all the states with an exit exam, when it was developed, it was easy as there were no human faces associated with the failure of the exam or the failure of the policy. Now we as citizens are looking at both squarely. If you are going to have an exit exam and spend millions to develop it, you can't simply scrap it because the price is suddenly too high. Either it was a good policy to begin with or it is not. If state policy makers think it is a bad idea, they should say so instead of trying to end run around the problem by granting some dispensation because a kid can't pass the test. In either case, we must take responsibility.

We will do better in the long run by failing these kids now and figuring why they are passing rather than to give them a pass.