Mar 31, 2008

Mariners win, but fail to impress

We're one game in, and I haven't yet seen anything substantially different from last year. In fact, many of the same traits appeared:

1. Slow-starting offense, with mostly pull hitting and nothing deep.
2. Richie Sexson not really in the picture.
3. Yuniesky Betancourt booting one.
4. An overworked bullpen thanks to a short start.
5. A win inflated by the Rangers' terrible pitching and shoddy defense.
6. Michael Young tearing our pitching staff to shreds.

However, there are reasons for optimism.

1. Bedard might have been a little nervous for his first home start. When he gets settled, he could be deadly.
2. The bullpen mostly stood up.
3. We ran more (if not better--I'm looking at you, Jose Lopez.)
4. We rallied late.
5. We won.

One percent of our requisite playoff success has been accomplished.

a logical consequence of poor management skills

A recipe chock-full of stupid:
Brian Havel, 22, was teaching English at the school March 14 when the boy arrived after class started.

"In his class, the disciplinary process was X amount of sit-ups or push-ups in a certain amount of time. He either wouldn't or couldn't complete them," Delta interim Police Chief Roger Christian said of the punished student.

The boy's classmates volunteered to administer an alternate punishment.

"The class made a suggestion that if he couldn't finish, we ought to be able to punch him, and (Havel) agreed. So 10 to 15 students got to hit him," Christian said.
Let's count the errors:

1. Normally assigning an illogical consequence for misbehavior.
2. Letting the class in on the punitive negotiation.
3. Taking the class's suggestion seriously.
4. I mean, come on.

Mr. Havel's one correct choice: resigning immediately.

Mar 30, 2008

Google trend: emo vs. goth

I'm not sure what to make of this. Should I be amused? Frightened? Relieved? Nostalgic? Open-toed? Sticktuitive? Peckish?

special meeting moved to Thursday, April 3

Originally scheduled for April 2, the Olympia School Board's special meeting to (hopefully) appoint a replacement for Rich Nafziger has been moved to Thursday, April 3, at 6:30 p.m., The Olympian reports.

This means I won't be able to attend and liveblog, but since it's likely that the meeting will be held in a closed session, it wouldn't matter much anyway.

April 13 is still the ultimate deadline for the Board to find a District 2 director. After that, what'll happen? Only Nostradamus knows.

our long National Board nightmare is over

Almost. I still have to take the six computer-based assessments, which count for 40% of my score, but for some reason I'm not worried. I guess I'm one of those people who, perversely, enjoys testing.

Last night I must have tossed and fretted for about an hour, going over all the ways I could have improved my portfolio. I then fell asleep to bizarre and wondrous dreams, as I often do.

In the first, my wife and I fly to Africa. I do not mean we fly in an airplane. No; we grasp an umbrella and catch the jet stream and fly to Africa. (I must have been recalling this commercial.) We land in a thinner part of the jungle, and walk to a house, poking around inside until we meet the inhabitants, a family of Korean immigrants who, miraculously, share our surname.

They take us in, and we stay there for a time--weeks? months?--becoming our bosom friends. One day, we decide to leave. For some reason, my wife and I take separate transportation. My plan is to depart from the post office. I stop to check the mail, and somehow end up in a storage room where thousands of games and toys are stashed, collecting dust on row after row of massive shelves. Furious that the postal employees have been hoarding others' goods, I demand that they give these toys and games to their rightful owners. "It is a crime against humanity!" I shout at one point. "You have stunted their development! It is a crime against learning!"

When all is settled, I am finally able to leave, walking toward the shore in my windbreaker, willing the breeze to catch me and carry me across the Atlantic to New York. The dream ends as the alarm rings at 3:32, waking Melissa for her Starbucks shift.

After more mild fretting, I dream again.

This time I find myself as Keanu Reeves' character in A Scanner Darkly, hiding underneath an ever-evolving disguise. I walk out to my truck and take off my disguise, when a coworker stops by in his Camaro, saying he has tickets to the Texas-Memphis game. I hop in, and he proudly shows me the customized interior: the dashboard, with all the controls except the steering wheel, is along the side.

We drive off. It's a muggy March afternoon here in East Texas, and we're zipping along the freeway outside of Dallas when a 1976 Ford F150 comes screaming up beside us, swerving into our lane. I grab a gun from the glove box, and wave it toward this crazy driver. My friend jerks the wheel and we skid off a nearby exit. The truck, driven by some sort of assassin, crashes into a car and explodes.

We blithely continue toward the university where the game is held. I get out of the car, and, in the sweltering calidity, scramble up a steep slope, grabbing roots and trees to propel myself upward. "Watch out for heat ants," my friend warns. I ask him if he means fire ants, but he doesn't. "Heat ants don't burn as much as fire ants," he explains.

I somehow lose my friend and arrive at the arena alone. The game is close. At the end of the first half, the shot clock malfunctions, giving Memphis 1.2 extra seconds to make a three-point shot. The refs don't notice, though, and Memphis goes into halftime ahead by two.

I awake to write this as quickly as I can, before the memory disappears in a dream-vapor.

[Tacky tie posted here.]

Mar 29, 2008

mysterious Google trends

1. Why does "shrink" peak near the end of the year, then fade as the new year dawns?

2. Is this a sign of a recession?

3. Is Obama about to really hit his stride?

4. Why did American interest in the devil peak in summer, 2006? (Actually, this one's not so mysterious, but the trend graph is amazing. God wins!)

5. Is America in religious decline? What about education?

6. ?

7. Should we be surprised that this one looks like an EKG?

8. Something about holidays.

[Thanks to NewScientist's Michael Marshall for the diversion.]

seven hours

Seven hours until I mail off my National Board box. Then I will collapse into a pile of Learning.

Update: DONE.

Mar 28, 2008

Ottavelli and Messmer visit Capital High School

This Thursday and Friday, councilmembers Karen Messmer and Craig Ottavelli visited my 5th-period class to talk about the development in Olympia's future, and to facilitate as students played the city's Development Game.

It all started when Ottavelli came to answer students' questions a few weeks ago, and was so impressed by the astute and perceptive audience, that he said that Messmer's presentation and game would be a perfect next step.

On the first day, Messmer presented a slide show about the Foundational Principles of Olympia's growth management plan.

Interesting: What's different about a bus and a train? What's this image thing?

Mar 27, 2008

No Country for Old Men: the condensed version

An excerpt found here, courtesy of yours truly. (Oh, and it's a musical.)

And the error message by Kybard: perfect. I thought it was #1.

[152nd in a series]

Gregoire passes end-of-course exams

I'm still a little surprised that she signed a bill to gut the Math WASL, replacing it with end-of-course tests (described earlier). The WASL's been such a fixture on the landscape for so long, and Gregoire had previously been so adamant about preserving high standards.

But no: no more Math WASL.
In 2013, students will have a choice: Pass the math WASL, or two end-of-course exams. In some districts, those exams will be given at the end of Algebra I and Geometry I. In districts that mix those two subjects into "integrated" math classes, there will be end-of-course exams in Integrated Math I and II.

In 2014, the math WASL is scheduled to end all together.

A bill that would have dumped the WASL in favor of end-of-course exams also passed last year, but Gregoire vetoed it, in part because she thought there were too many unanswered questions, said Judy Hartmann, her executive policy adviser for K-12 education.

Since then, however, the state Board of Education commissioned a study that looked at end-of-course exams in other states and concluded that both the math WASL and end-of-course exams can do a good job of assessing students' math skill.
And before you say anything: yes, I realize the title is ambiguous. It's on purpose.

Mar 26, 2008

can we just move to adjourn?

A couple weeks ago, the motion came up for consideration, its timing prompting one Board member to walk out. The motion roared back this week, as the Olympia School Board held a regular meeting on March 24.

It was a strange motion: a motion to let the current Superintendent's contract continue through 2010, as approved back in January 2007. In other words, it was a motion to maintain the status quo--which, if you know anything about parliamentary procedure, is pointless.

That must have been why Russ Lehman, introducing the motion, amended it to extend the contract until 2011--and then voted against his own motion. No surprise that the Board got a little confused:
Lehman said he would vote against his motion because he disagreed with the contract's terms for severance. He has voted against changing the expiration date every year he has been on the board. He was elected in 2001.

[Superintendent Bill] Lahmann said his contract only requires that the board take a vote on whether to terminate his contract or to change the expiration date to a later year. The board took no further action, which means that Lahmann's contract ends June 30, 2010.

Board vice president Bob Shirley said he was not happy with the superintendent's performance, but Lahmann asked that discussion about his performance be conducted under executive session.
(That's where The Olympian's report ends.)

When asked to explain the motion, Lehman said, [mp3]
Well, it's a little confusing why it's on the agenda and how it's on the agenda the way it is. The way it's on the agenda, The Board will consider a motion to allow the present contract... with the Superintendent to continue toward its expiration date of 2010. Either way, I think it's important to vote on this specific contract extension the way it's worded in the contract, which is not very good, but the way it's worded in the contract, and then vote that down. That would be my preference, as it has been for the first six years.
Board President Carolyn Barclift asked why the motion was necessary, and Bob Shirley jumped in saying, "I think it's the motion that Russ is familiar with for six years--this is my third."

Well--not exactly. Last time Lahmann's contract came up, Lehman simply made a motion to not extend the contract [pdf]. (This again runs afoul of parliamentary procedure--you can't make a motion to not do something.)

The whole hoopla was probably entirely unnecessary, since the Board had already long passed the January 31 deadline for either extending the contract or letting it stand. As the contract states,
No later than January 31 of each contract year, the Board will review the Superintendent's employment status to determine whether to offer the Superintendent an extended contract or, alternatively, to allow the present contract to continue toward its expiration date.
So, to recap: one unnecessary-yet-controversial motion got amended so its modified version could be voted down by the person who made it.

I am willing to offer a class on parliamentary procedure to all takers. Seriously.


Lame Platonic pun: I'm trying to become the Ideal Teacher--in other words, I have to fill out a Form. (Except for National Board purposes, it's more like several thousand.)

Sad truth: Once I've completed the pile of NBPTS paperwork, I have to finish doing our taxes.

Observation: The closer the goal, simultaneously, the more achievable and impossible. An optical illusion of the will.

Back to work!

Mar 25, 2008

we type tonight

As my Board cert goes down to the wire, my time and creativity wane. (Not so with the tacky.) Luckily, I have plenty of interesting blog neighbors. Click any of those rightward links and be happy.

Mar 24, 2008

how to properly dispose of your NCAA bracket

If, like me, you have watched in anguish as your bracket has been shredded by the likes of Davison, Western Kentucky, or Villanova, and you've slipped into the ignominy of the 17th percentile, you're probably wondering, What is the acceptable method for disposing of an NCAA bracket?

There are four, as a matter of fact, approved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Bracket-Busting Committee. Each is outlined below.

1. Round Filing
The simplest and most convenient method. The bracket must be wadded into a ball no larger than 3 inches in diameter, and tossed toward the nearest cylindrical trash receptacle. For proper symbolism, badly miss at least three shots before completing disposal.

2. Cremation
The bracket must be held at arm's length, facing away, and lit in the lower right hand corner (West region). Hold until at least 50% extinguished, then drop into a burn barrel. Warning: do not perform indoors, or while sober.

3. Composting
Eco-friendly bracketeers should consider tearing their bracket into 1/2 inch strips, then placing in a compost pile under a layer of fruits and vegetables, the more acidic the better. Wait two or three months, then sprinkle the compost in your garden, and perhaps something good--tomatoes?--will come from your lack of bracket savvy.

4. Heroic Burial at Sea
A lake or sufficiently slow-moving river will suffice. Fold your bracket into a boat. (Instructions here.) Light your bracket at the sail, then let it sail away slowly, carrying your dreams toward the gathering dusk.

a one-line Rock Band critique

I will strike the bass drum when the time is right, not when I have permission.

success is arbitrary

A flawed premise, and a little logic, and you can justify giving a student 50% for nothing. Ryan finds it troublesome, and so do I.

However, there's a deeper question: who originally decided that, when it comes to a passing grade, 60% is good enough?

(By the way, success for a National Board candidate is 68.75 percent. I have exactly one week to get the first part of my D+ or better.)

Mar 23, 2008

finished, unfinished

Finished: Speech and Debate's run at state. Our top performer was Erik Luetkehans, who claimed 2nd in Humorous Interp with a nearly perfect excerpt from Larry Shue's classic The Foreigner. August Mattson, another junior, in his second mention on this blog, finished tied for 7th in Lincoln Douglas. Most of my team members are underclassmen, so watch out for next year.

Unfinished: Speech and Debate's postseason, since Masato Ulmer earned a berth in U.S. Extemp for the National Forensic League tournament in Las Vegas this June. Winner gets to face Teller (of Penn and) in a speak-off.

Finished: My NCAA bracket. That's what happens when National Board makes you put off and put off the more important things in life, so instead of ten carefully crafted masterpieces, you have one dashed off in three minutes. (C'mon, Butler!)

Unfinished: Speaking of, that National Board portfolio isn't getting any done-er. At least, not today.

Finished: The Seattle (Super)Sonics. They suck, and they're leaving, which sucks.

Unfinished: Tacky tie blogging for this week. Putting off important things, indeed.

Finished: This post.

Mar 22, 2008

no dancing

I have to stay pretty much a wallflower during the first rounds of the Big Dance, since my National Board deadline comes up in just over a week, and today marks the state Individual Events speech tournament, where I'm headed in just about twenty minutes.

But don't worry. My prediction poems will be back in time for at least the Final Four. Nostradamus'll be cuttin' down the nets.

Mar 21, 2008

PZ Myers: expelled!

He's interviewed in the movie, but the producer wouldn't let him watch the movie.
They singled me out and evicted me, but they didn't notice my guest. They let him go in escorted by my wife and daughter. I guess they didn't recognize him. My guest was...

Richard Dawkins.

He's in the theater right now, watching their movie.
One funny post from PZ Myers. Here's the followup.

Mar 20, 2008

it's all about the physics

The other day, on another of those 45-minute rides to a debate tournament where I'm surrounded by (fellow) nerds and get to spout nerdly theories, we were talking about video games. My position: graphics are as good as they need to be. A.I. is nifty, but not always necessary.

Most exciting to me, right now, are the advances in gaming physics. That's why Wii Bowling is such a hoot--even though everything looks cartoonish, the pins fall like real pins and the ball spins like a real ball, at least real enough to feel and sound like bowling.

I was only skittering on the surface of the subject, it turns out. If I had seen this video about Crayon Physics Deluxe, I could've saved my breath.

Chris Baker calls it "pretty awesome." I concur.

red light cameras redlighted

One of the best summaries of the red light camera debate is available from MSNBC today:
Last week, Dallas officials reviewed the numbers and decided that a quarter of the cameras they had installed to catch motorists running red lights were too effective. So they shut them down.

They are not alone. Faced with data showing that drivers pay attention to cameras at intersections — resulting in fewer ticketable violations and ever-shrinking revenue from fines — municipalities across the country are reconsidering red light cameras, which often work too well.
When they don't work, which is also often, they're either counterproductive or just too expensive. We're right back where we began.

(Longer-lasting yellow lights, on the other hand, are safe--and cheap.)

Mar 19, 2008

the world needs parliamentary procedure

Although Student Congress sometimes draws my (mostly loving) barbs of criticism, at least its practitioners become well-versed in parliamentary procedure, even if their faulty reasoning leaves the event unscathed.

Maybe that only increases their frustration in the "real world," though. It does for me: whenever I sit through a meeting of any type, listening to people rambling on without a timer, or dominating a discussion, or foundering on the shoals of uncertainty over what to do or say next, I think, if only they knew how to conduct a meeting according to Robert's Rules of Order, with a dash of NFL rules thrown in to keep the times short, the passions muted, and the discussion moving.

If only!

Olympia School Board fails to choose replacement

After a brief and at times acrimonious debate [mp3], the Olympia School Board couldn't settle on an applicant for the District 2 position, vacated when Rich Nafziger resigned earlier this year.

The meeting opened at 6:32 as Russ Lehman, who had been felled by a stroke, returned, taking his seat to healthy applause. All three applicants and about twenty audience members attended.

The Board decided to have an open discussion, and started debate when Bob Shirley nominated Theresa Tsou, citing her expertise and the diversity she would bring to the Board. His motion rallied no support.

Lehman then nominated Paul Parker, noting his work on the Budget Advisory Group and his progressive vision. Shirley voted in favor, but Frank Wilson and Barclift voted against.

That left John Keeffe for consideration. Wilson mentioned his extensive previous experience on the Board and his focus on "the kids." The first member to specifically criticize an applicant was Shirley, who said he couldn't square that with Keeffe's previous statements about the opening being "right for him right now." Shirley characterized Keefe's attitude as self-centered.

Lehman, responding to Wilson, said, "Certainly no one who's on the Board more than a year should ever say it's about the kids." He described Keeffe's career on the Board as ineffective, saying, "It's unbelievable what little has been accomplished in those twelve years."

Wilson and Barclift, speaking strongly in Keeffe's favor, said their minds were made up, and voted for him, but the two votes weren't enough. Frustrated with the sharp dialogue, student representative Adam Buchholz described the resulting impasse as "kind of ridiculous," urging the Board to reconsider compromise.

Eventually, the Board voted to meet again on April 2, in closed session, to discuss the applicants. If they cannot reach a decision, representatives from ESD 113 will choose Nafziger's replacement.

The meeting adjourned at 6:59.

I'll add more should any of the applicants return my request for a comment. The Olympian's brief initial recap is here.

Update: Paul Parker writes, "With three capable and qualified candidates before them, it will be disappointing if the Board cannot find a way to make the decision and move ahead."

Ironically, Parker's most vocal supporter on the Board, Russ Lehman, doesn't share Parker's view, describing the other primary applicant*, John Keeffe, as ineffective in the past and wrong for the Board right now, spouting clichés instead of substance in his public appearances. Lehman's hardline approach might have sunk Parker's bid, unfortunately, by pushing Keeffe's supporters away from a potential compromise.

Near the close of the meeting, Frank Wilson publicly expressed willingness to listen to Shirley and Lehman's side, though, so things may turn out in the end. If they don't, the decision falls on the ESD's Board, at which point the outcome is anyone's guess.

*Theresa Tsou gained only one vote to Parker's and Keeffe's two, though Lehman listed her as his second choice. Three votes are needed for a majority. The student representative's vote is symbolic.

to choose a Board member: March 19 liveblog

Update: The podcast is available [mp3]. See an addendum below.

Will they be able to decide? After this week's chiding by The Olympian, maybe the Board will be extra-officious this evening, and settle amicably on an applicant. I'll be liveblogging, whether they do or don't.

Lahmann, Barclift, Wilson, Shirley, and student rep Buchholz are here. Barclift announces that Russ Lehman is (hopefully) arriving soon, and we'll wait for him to show.

And he does! Smiling, to applause, Lehman takes his seat, and Barclift calls the meeting to order. Here we go.

The first question: should we go in public, or take it to an executive session? Lehman and Shirley say let's take it public. Buchholz worries that something said tonight might potentially start a conflict later; his call for executive session is seconded by Barclift, who doesn't want to talk about qualifications in public.

As Barclift polls the Board about their public/private preference, but Lehman, thinking it's a different kind of poll, says his preferred candidate is Paul Parker.

Shirley makes the first official motion, seconded by Lehman, to choose Theresa Tsou. He gives a brief speech about her passion for the underprivileged and the struggling.

Lehman says that Tsou would be a good candidate, both as a woman, as an immigrant, and as a PhD, but that he'll still vote for Paul Parker.

First vote: 1-3 for Tsou. Not yet. Lehman then moves to nominate Paul Parker.

Lehman talks about Parker's experience and attitude, especially concerning the budget, which Lehman sees as the big issue in coming months. Parker's work on the Budget Advisory Group matters a great deal.

Shirley says he's willing to vote for Parker (who's sitting in the third row).

Wilson favors John Keeffe's experience.

Second vote: 2-2 for Parker. Not yet.

Wilson speaks in favor of Keeffe because of his experience and his focus--putting kids at the center.

Barclift agrees.

Shirley notes that Keeffe's description of his feeling that joining the Board would be "right for him right now," was putting his own fulfillment first. Wasn't convinced.

Lehman says that "John's experience is exactly what we don't need right now." "Certainly no one who's on the Board more than a year should ever say it's about the kids.... John said how the Board would serve him, not how he would serve the Board." "It's unbelievable what little has been accomplished in those 12 years."

"I'm absolutely not willing for John."

Wilson disagrees sharply, saying that it really is about the kids. Shirley agrees that it is, but doesn't see that as Keefe's focus.

The vote: 2-2. No agreement, then.

With the failure of all three motions, Barclift asks if anyone's mind might be changeable as the Board considers the next move.

Lehman says he'll consider anyone but Keeffe.

Sparks continue to fly, as Barclift says, "Russ, quite honestly, you don't believe anyone on this Board has done anything worthwhile."

Shirley: "I think two of us have expressed a willingness to compromise."

Buchholz: "This is kind of ridiculous. The first thing about conflict resolution that anyone learns is compromise, that no one is going to get everything they want."

Shirley says that to turn over the decision to the ESD would be a "failure." Wilson says he's willing to listen. Barclift says that Buchholz may one day learn when compromise is just not possible. His quick reply: "I guess I'm just too young to understand."

Barclift wants any potential discussion taken to an executive session.

Buchholz breaks a long silence by asking if the Board can go to executive session as a way to work through the impasse. That meeting will come April 2nd, a "special meeting" not open to the public.

The meeting adjourns at 6:59.

Addendum, 3/20: Comparing my quotes with the podcast, I was only slightly off; for example, where Russ Lehman says "what we don't need now," I put it as "What we don't need right now."

Although the pro got the words exactly right, her piece misses Lehman's comment, in bold below, that appeared to set Wilson and Barclift on edge. The context:
The term that I served with John, well, just look at some of the answers to his questions, and for being on the Board twelve years, the first answer to the question, What should the Board be about?, it's about the kids, well, that's a cliché that everybody says, and certainly nobody who's been on the Board more than a year should ever say it's about the kids, as the sole answer to the question, Why be on the Board?
With Lehman and Shirley dead set against Keeffe, his chance of joining the Board is pretty slim--only if the ESD has to step in, or only if Shirley or Lehman takes a Damascus road trip. I'd put 2:1 odds on Parker, 4:1 on Tsou.

Mar 17, 2008

Teachers Light the Way: nominate an incandescent teacher

I just received this in my email:
Lands’ End is announcing the Teachers Light the Way Contest. The company will recognize outstanding teachers that have made a difference in the life of a student, a school or a community.
  • Forty-five (45) teachers will receive the coveted Lands’ End Lighthouse Award – representing the company’s 45-year history.
  • Three (3) Grand Prize winners that will receive between $4,000-$10,000 for the teachers to split with the winning school.
  • Forty-two (42) Honorable Mention winning teachers will receive a $100 Lands End gift card.
But that’s not all – readers who nominate a Grand Prize winning teacher will also receive a $250 Lands’ End gift card. Readers who nominate an Honorable Mention winning teacher will get a $25 Lands End gift card.

If your readers would like to recognize an extraordinary teacher or get more information, they can submit an essay up to 500 words and fill out the online entry form at The contest will end at midnight, April 17, 2008.
There's no age limit, so whether you're in school or graduated years ago, you can submit a nomination, as long as that person is still teaching. (I already have someone in mind.)

Teachers get cash and recognition, schools get cash, you get cash, and Lands' End gets free advertising. Everybody wins!

Mar 16, 2008

math WASL dumped for end-of-course exams

Hasta la geometría, baby:
Legislators and Gov. Chris Gregoire have decided to phase out the math portion of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning and replace it with end-of-course tests. The final budget announced on Wednesday included $3.2 million toward developing exit tests for each math course. The senior class of 2013 will still be the first group of students who must pass a math test to graduate, but they will be able to pass either the WASL math test or end-of-course exams. And the math WASL likely will be eliminated by 2014....

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson supports the change, and Steve Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable business group, said, “We’ve basically received a lot of assurances that while this was a different method, the rigor would be the same or perhaps higher.”
I can see a certain amount of pedagogical sense to the plan, detailed in HB 3166 [pdf]. Not sure it's going to be any less expensive, though.

Over at the Partnership for Learning blog, alisonm goes over the pros and cons. Her final assessment of the assessment:
Offering both tests gives students more options, which can be a good thing. But the reality is, if standards aren't aligned with curriculum taught by high quality teachers to motivated students, the kind of test given to students won't really make much of a difference.

CBS, NCAA team up to strangle economy

CBS Sports and the NCAA have teamed up to offer free live internet video of the NCAA championship tournament.
As a VIP member you will have access to the live games much faster on game day. Catch all of the action from the Championship live online. Plus, you will have access to on-demand highlights, buzzer beaters and detailed recaps of every game.
The video player includes a helpful "Boss Button," just in case you're tempted to watch in your cubicle. With every other economic indicator buckling, why not take a whack at worker productivity?

(Yeah, I signed up. I won't have time, really, but it's free.)

Mar 15, 2008

notes from our state debate tournament

Fortunately, I didn't see one bad round at our state's Lincoln Douglas debate tournament. Most, in fact, were quite entertaining, intellectually speaking. Some of my observations:

1. Negatives, setting out to prove that hate crime enhancements are just, rarely had sufficient criteria. They'd say, "My criterion is proportionality," which is one aspect of justice, but, in most schemes or theories, not the whole. Sadly, few affirmatives realized this, or took advantage.

2. Several debaters admitted that they had never read the ruling in Wisconsin v. Mitchell; I don't know how this could be possible, but it was. It seemed like such a crucial case.

3. I never saw a value clash. Everyone went with "inherent in the resolution."

4. I was thanked for blogging by a fellow coach. It is still a bit strange to think that I'm a national discussion-shaper for the activity. Power madness hasn't quite bubbled into my head, but I'm sure it will soon.

5. Don't ever argue that destroying your opponent's criterion will win the round for you, and offer an eight-point criterion attack, and then drop all your opponent's contentions. Otherwise, you'll watch as she applies all her contentions to your criterion, and wins it away from you. Saw it happen.

Did you have a state or national qualifying tournament this weekend? What did you learn? What worked, and what didn't?

Mar 13, 2008

I want my voice back

In its absence, I can still type, thank goodness. My ties speak loudest, anyhow.

Also, I got my pencil sharpener back when the WASL (round I) ended. My sanity remains at large.

[Ties posted here.]

no random drug searches for Washington schools

I'm quite pleased that our state's Supreme Court stood up to the feds and upheld our own Constitution, which more strictly safeguards our right to privacy.
The decision involved athletes who sued the Wahkiakum School District in 1999 after the district began requiring students to undergo urine tests if they wanted to participate in sports. If the tests indicated drug or alcohol use, the student was suspended from sports but wasn't reported to police.

At the time, officials in the Southwest Washington school district felt there was a real problem with student drug use, including use among athletes. Public surveys named youth substance abuse as the No. 1 problem there. That's not enough to allow drug testing of a student when there's no reason to suspect he or she is using drugs, the court ruled unanimously.

"The justices concluded, as we had contended, that it violates the state Constitution to require a student to give their urine without any reason to believe they've done anything wrong," said Doug Honig, a spokesman for the ACLU of Washington, which represented the students and their parents.
Students don't deserve random drug testing, especially not the students who are least likely to abuse drugs. Every now and then, law and common sense collide. This is one of those rare times.

comparison of coverage: 5/17 vs. The Daily O.

This morning's Olympian has a report on last night's OSD applicant forum titled "Candidates offer philosophies." Compare my liveblog and recap. Read each before you consider my critique, and note that this isn't (just) a chance to trumpet New Media values, but a kindly suggestion to the paper of Olympia's record to deepen and expand its education coverage.

Let's look at the pluses and minuses to see why and how.

Minus: If you're scanning the headlines, expect confusion. Candidates? For what? This isn't an election. The Board will choose one of the three applicants by majority vote of its four members, or, failing that, the ESD will handpick one. Though their educational philosophies were asked for and presented, the article itself doesn't list them.

Plus: My question about extracurricular activities makes the cut. Obviously, the writer and editor have good taste in interrogation tactics.

Plus: The article's summary of the backstory is concise. However, this also becomes a...

Minus: Lots is missing. No word from the article, for example, that the process could potentially fail, and the ESD would have to step in

Minus: There's no other analysis. Are the candidates substantively different? There's no mention of Tsou's "data driven" style, or her call for diversity, or unguarded moments. There's no discussion of the lone applause line (which John Keeffe delivered). There's no link to Parker's fundraising mustache, obvious and credible evidence of his community activism.

Most important, there's not mention of the tiny turnout.

I think most of the minuses can be explained by the demands of newsprint. When you have a set column space to work with, you have to skim and selectively quote, get the gist and move on, quickly. And, to be fair, the paper covers a wide range of issues for three major districts. Lord knows we can't get perfect depth on every single one.

Maybe it's time to really make something of the new medium, Olympian. You have a blog: now start linking to local bloggers. Teachers with no real free time Livebloggers are bruising their metacarpals filling in the gaps. For free. Take advantage.

red light cameras make things worse

My skepticism about red light cameras only grows. A careful study of multiple datasets reveals a painful truth:
Rather than improving motorist safety, red-light cameras significantly increase crashes and are a ticket to higher auto insurance premiums, researchers at the University of South Florida College of Public Health conclude. The effective remedy to red-light running uses engineering solutions to improve intersection safety, which is particularly important to Florida’s elderly drivers, the researchers recommend.

The report was published this month in the Florida Public Health Review, the online journal of the college and the Florida Public Health Association.
“The rigorous studies clearly show red-light cameras don’t work,” said lead author Barbara Langland-Orban, professor and chair of health policy and management at the USF College of Public Health.
“Instead, they increase crashes and injuries as drivers attempt to abruptly stop at camera intersections. If used in Florida, cameras could potentially create even worse outcomes due to the state’s high percent of elderly who are more likely to be injured or killed when a crash occurs.”
Worse than useless. Counterproductive--and harmful.

[Via the inimitable Radley Balko]

Mar 12, 2008

Olympia School Board applicant forum recap

Twenty people showed up to ask fifteen questions of three applicants for the District 2 seat. On average, how many times did the words "difficult," "listening," "students," "sustainable," and "experience" appear in each answer? Show your work.

Okay, pencils down.

All in all, an interesting two hours (blogged in more detail here) as Theresa Tsou, Paul Parker, and John Keeffe fielded questions from the audience, mediated by Peter Rex, the District's communication director.

One common theme: the importance of bringing all stakeholders to the table when making some pretty tough decisions about the current budget crisis, which was described as "difficult," "not easy," and "painful" throughout the evening. The more I think about it, the more I am impressed that these three have come forward.

Tsou again focused on the diversity she could bring to the Board, and emphasized narrowing the achievement gap for disadvantaged students, a subject that caused her to become a little emotional at several points.

Parker took the most charged approach to a question about the Board's division, questioning its premise that the schism is based on issues rather than on process. He mentioned his experience working with different partisan groups, reaching across the aisle to reach compromise or consensus.

Keeffe emphasized his previous experience, and mentioned time and again just how difficult the upcoming budget battle would be. He said he would listen to all points of view, and make the decision he thought best for the students. In his words, "Consensus is wonderful, but decisions are also important."

The audience was mostly quiet throughout, with only a brief moment of applause from a corner of the room when Keeffe mentioned the importance of civility in the Board's interactions.

If Russ Lehman is able to return to health within the coming weeks, the Board may be able to choose Nafziger's replacement by its preferred deadline of March 19. If no decision is made by April 13, the decision goes upstairs to ESD 113, which sent one of its Board members to watch the proceedings tonight.

As I see it, the Board has the advantage of three strong remaining choices. The upside is that they can't make a truly wrong decision. The downside is that the decision will be just that much harder to make.

I'll post an analysis of The Olympian's writeup as soon as it appears. Old media takes time.

Olympia School Board applicant forum liveblog

The wireless is up, which means this'll be a liveblog. Oh boy!

First panelist to arrive: John Keeffe, followed closely by Theresa Tsou. Carolyn Barclift is the first Board member, in at 6:23. Bob Shirley comes at 6:25. One more and we have a quorum. Frank Wilson's here at 6:28. Here we go. (Adam Buchholz, the student rep, is here. Absent: Russ Lehman, who is still recovering from a recent stroke, and who we hope can return shortly.)

Paul Parker, last of the panelists, is here. Peter Rex, the District's communication director, will take questions written on blue 3x5 cards, and read them to the panelists. Since I've lost my voice, I just might take advantage.

Barclift explains the process: panelists get 3 minutes to open and close, and 3 minutes answer any particular question. Theresa Tsou will speak first, followed by Paul Parker, with John Keeffe concluding.

14 19 folks have shown up to listen and ask questions.

I should note: questions and answers are paraphrased. When the podcast is available, you'll be able to fact-check me. [Update: and here it is.]

Each applicant begins by speaking about their families and their connections to the community. Their priorities:

Tsou: PhD in science = hopes to strengthen our math and science education. Hopes to diversify the Board, as she's said before.

Parker: Bring people together. Budget. (Cites experience on the Budget Advisory Group.) Implement the Strategic Plan.

Keeffe: Sees this as an opportunity to work at the intersection of community and government.

The first question: Do you have children in the District? How does that your affect your role on the Board?

Parker, when asked about his familial connection to the District and how it would affect his Board role, gets a good laugh when he talks about growing a mustache for Roosevelt's Moustache-a-thon. Pictures here. (More seriously, he wants to visit the different schools across the District, to really see how they operate.)

Keeffe is the only applicant whose kids no longer attend District schools. He notes that 80% of District constituents don't have children in schools, so his present family status shouldn't be a hindrance to his "kid-centered" focus.

Tsou's voice breaks as she talks about the gap between low-income and higher-income students' success; she says that she doesn't just see her own kids, but "everybody's kids."

Next question: This appears to be a divided board on many issues. How will you handle being the swing vote?

Keeffe, Tsou give nearly identical answers: they'll vote based on what they think is right, what's best for the students.

Parker is different: he thinks the differences are more about process than issues. Cites his experience working with partisan groups, bringing different sides together.

Paraphrased question: some issues brought to the Board have some "intensity" behind them, which gets reflected in the press. How will you deal with this?

Tsou: Talks about the importance of communication. Sincerely listening is the first step.

Parker: Like Tsou, notes that parents who come to speak to the Board show just how much they care. All stakeholders--parents, administrators, teachers--care a great deal about the kids. Boards have to make the tough decisions.

Keeffe: Once again, listening comes first. Mentions the disagreement about closing Rogers Elementary (this gets a smile from Frank Wilson, who opposed the decision). Wants to reach out to everyone, even those who don't come.

How will your experience help you in making a decision about the science curriculum?

Parker: Science is fun. I'd want to hear all points of view, and then make a decision. I'm "comfortable" with science, but "I'm not the professional."

Keeffe: Pay particular attention to those who will use the curriculum. Without their expertise, it won't be anything great. "I'm not a science major, but I'd work really hard to understand [the curriculum]."

Tsou: "I'm a scientist, so the first thing I'd do is gather data." (I'm not surprised by this answer; she struck me early on as "data driven.") Sees the state requirements as a floor, not a ceiling.

"Please describe your educational philosophy, and how this will affect your role as a Board member."

Keeffe: A well-rounded education allowing students to explore many places. Allowing all students to be successful.

Tsou: Start with the basics--math, reading, science. Character-building is "even more important than knowledge."

Parker: Learning happens all the time. We have to teach students to "learn how to learn, and enjoy it." All children learn differently, in different ways.

Both Keeffe and Parker mention the importance of extra-curricular activities, the subject of my now-extraneous question.

"What is the proper relationship between the Board and the administration and teachers?" (The woman behind me whispers, "That's a good question." It's also one each had time to answer last week.)

Tsou: Not to micromanage, but to provide leadership.

Parker: Listening, leadership, vision. Provides direction to the District staff "with the Superintendent," and responds to the parents.

Keeffe: It's collaborative. The primary goal is to create an environment where all students can succeed.

"Why do you feel there's such a low turnout for this opportunity for community members to meet you and ask questions?"

Parker: People are pretty busy. I don't know how much awareness there is--this isn't a campaign, with "yard signs out all over the place."

Keeffe: I can't second-guess people's motivations, although some might be pretty trusting that the process will work out okay.

Tsou: The short turnaround time for the announcement might be to blame. Also, some parents don't necessarily know what the Board does, or how the Board is involved in their students' education. This is especially true among immigrant families.

"As a member of School Board, what will you be able to point to as your greatest accomplishment after your first year?"

Keeffe: Wouldn't really be "my" accomplishment, but I'd hope we can have a stabilized budget, so we can "take a breath" and look at the other "pressure that are out there."

Tsou: Narrowing the achievement gap, or at least having a practical strategy for narrowing the gap.

Parker: "As a team... we sat down together to set priorities... to develop a sustainable process to solve the ongoing structural budget issues that we have."

"Give an example of a difficult situation, and how you built consensus within the group. In other words, describe your leadership style."

Tsou: First, listen. Then gather facts.

Parker: Recognize that different people have different needs. Identify the needs and desired outcomes, and "then it's a lot easier to find solutions that work for everybody."

Keeffe: Sometimes the Board won't get consensus, but we're going to make sure that "everybody gets their chance" to be heard, and to understand the process. "Consensus is wonderful, but decisions are also important."

"The budget faces a large shortfall. How do you decide between worthy but competing programs, when not all can be sustained?"

Parker: If we have "all the right people at the table," we can find novel ways to solve these difficult programs without having to eliminate programs.

Keeffe: Cutting $2 million won't be easy or pleasant. Our paramount consideration is the "core mission of the District." We'll go looking for "cuts across everything."

Tsou: In my experience, budget cuts have forced greater efficiency. Agrees with Keeffe that we have to "minimize the impacts on student learning."

I thought it'd already been answered, but Peter Rex asks my question anyway: "How important are extracurricular activities, such as music, drama, or debate, for our District's success?"

Keeffe: Students are most engaged by these activities. If we lose these activities, we risk losing students. They're "terribly important."

Tsou: Basic education, basic knowledge "is what sustained me today." Sometimes students have "too much fun" these days--their main responsibility is to learn.

Parker: We need to focus on efficiency, so we don't think about cutting programs, but about more effectively doing what's best for students.* (But see below for Parker's clarification of my paraphrase.)

"How should the District deal with difficult family situations, such as abuse or poverty?"

Tsou: This subject is again emotional for Tsou, whose voice breaks as she admits that she doesn't have a strategy, but that this is one of her top priorities.

Parker: Our District has to do more than just teach--we have to provide resources not only from the District, but from the wider community.

Keeffe: We have to identify these students as early as possible.

"How would you convince the public that you're objective on the issues, and not seeking the office for a personal agenda?"

Parker: People who know me know I'm fair and a hard worker.

Keeffe: To ensure the success of all students and to be respectful.

Tsou: I don't have a personal agenda. This isn't about personal gain; I'll have to sacrifice family time and time from my own life. Extending education to all students for a better future for our whole society.

"How would you describe the benefits of an interdisciplinary studies methodology as opposed to a separation of separate curriculum areas?"

Keeffe gets a laugh by mentioning his recent degree from Evergreen. It's more "real world" to learn the why and the how together.

Tsou: The basic skills have to come first to provide a foundation for interdisciplinary endeavors.

Parker: It's beneficial to experience, but not necessarily best for all students, or best for all teachers.

"As a Board member, how will you work civilly, as a good example for the community?"

Tsou, Parker, and Keeffe all emphasize the importance of respect and listening. Parker is a little concerned that there hasn't been enough communication about the budget process. Keeffe gets scattered applause by quoting from the Strategic Plan, and saying that the Board has to model that behavior.


Closing statements.

Paul Parker: My ability and experience dealing with contentious issues makes me an ideal candidate in these difficult times, when communication is especially important. We need a new perspective on organizing our budget so it can be sustainable, and still meet the needs of all stakeholders.

John Keeffe: We need to "enhance the partnerships" among the Board, teachers, administators, and the community, so everyone can be involved in this difficult process. My previous Board experience makes me especially ready for this time.

Theresa Tsou: We need to ensure that the needs of all students are met. I hope to show the same level of care for all students, especially the disadvantaged, that I have shown for my own children.

And we're done. A recap follows soon. is available here.

*Via email, Paul Parker writes,
I think you will find that I began my response to your question about extra-curricular activities by stating how important they are to students, their parents and teachers. But they are always the first items put on the chopping block. Within that context, I then made my pitch that we stop talking about cuts. If we keep developing and revising the budget as we always have, sports, drama, etc. will be the first to go. Instead, my suggestion is -- let's do things differently.

It's not necessarily about "efficiency." Let's agree on what is important, what we need to do (both what to continue to do and what we need to start doing) then figure out how to do it within the resources available. Peter Hutchinson is the theorist behind this approach -- arguing convincingly to me that "traditional budget cutting focuses entirely more on what we cut (or hide), while ignoring what we keep. It does little to improve the effectiveness of the 85 or 90 percent of tax dollars that continue to be spent. It never broaches the question of how to maximize the value of the tax dollars we do collect." Osborne and Hutchinson, The Price of Government, page 5.
I thank Paul for writing in to clarify his philosophy of funding. More about Osborne and Hutchinson's work here.


Today I lost my voice and my Panasonic pencil sharpener.

The former comes and goes with the tide. The latter was gone when I arrived this morning, borrowed, I hope, and just not yet returned.

Guess I won't be asking too many questions at tonight's forum. But I will be blogging.

Mar 11, 2008

I know that teacher

The one who writes funny multiple choice answers:
"What was the Great Awakening?" a question from one of Campbell's most recent tests reads. "(a) Coffee and a bagel, (b) The name given to FDR's evening radio addresses, (c) 'C'mon, Mom! Let me sleep five more minutes!' or (d) A dramatic religious revival in Anglo-American history."

"The answer is D," said Campbell, holding back a wry smile. "Giving them the option of 'Coffee and a bagel.' Get it?"
I had a guy just like him for a college course on Ancient Near Eastern history. One of his distractors for the correct response "Balaak, Son of Beor" was "Balsam, King of Shampoo." I don't remember anything else from his class.

Google forgives your orthographic deficit

Someone looking for debate information found this post by searching for "should the u.s. use militarey force to prevent enemeys to get nukler arms."

Better thank Google, friend.

Mar 10, 2008

how about banning anonymity?

If a certain legislator has his way, anonymous posting on a website--in Kentucky, however that works--will be against the law.
The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.

Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.

If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.
So much for the grand American tradition of pseudonymous rabble-rousing.

[Bill available here. Via Radley Balko]

LD debate podcasts on the current resolution

If you prefer to have your mind expanded while listening, or just need to replace all those Maroon 5 tracks on your iPod with something more constructive, check out the new podcasts offered by Loquitur. They're interviews with academics about LD and public forum resolutions, a nifty idea. Props go to Mahesha Subbaraman and Brandon Sheats.

Mar 9, 2008

why Wednesday matters

It's the law.

The Olympia School Board of Directors is comprised of five citizens elected to represent the community in setting District goals and policies, adopting the budget, placing tax levies and bond issues on the ballot, hiring personnel including the Superintendent, and providing the necessary facilities for the education of our community's youth. Members serve in staggered four-year terms. School Board members must be citizens of the United States and qualified voters residing in one of the five geographic "director districts" They are elected, however, by nonpartisan popular vote from the total school district. The state does not limit the numbers of terms a director may serve. Three board members constitute a quorum for transacting business. Official action can only be taken at a regular board meeting or special board meeting for which public notice has been given. Board action has the force of law.

happy birthday, PZ

It's his 51st. As always, this necessitates a poem.

A temper burning hotter than a tower of flaming tires:
Who's that conflagration? PZ Meyers.

His ire directed straight at evolutional deniers:
What's his name again? PZ Miers.

Oh, woe betide the kill-filed that his acrid wit expires,
Their visc'ra disemvoweled with a pair of rusty pliers;
It's only what's expected for a crowd of cranks and liars.

Can you spell it right? PZ Myers.

Mar 8, 2008

sample negative cases for the hate crime enhancement resolution

Intrepid reader okiedebater has offered up more shell cases for consideration and critique. They're blockquoted; my comments follow each one. As always, your thoughts are appreciated. (Part I, aff cases, here.)
Possible Observations:
-occasional abuse of hate crime enhancements is insufficient to label them unjust. We must examine hate crime enhancements as a whole, instead of judging a rule by the exceptions.

-Hate crime enhancements are both legal and constitutional (Wisconsin v. Mitchell)

-Not all crimes are hate crimes (this came up several rounds that I've seen)
I like the first; the Aff has to show a systemic or inherent problem. Affs take note about Wisconsin v. Mitchell: it's not entirely settled, since the primary question was 1st amendment rights, and secondarily proportionality; the Court did not address "equal protection" under the 14th amendment. The last observation, you would think, is unnecessary. But some Affs are weasely. My five word rebuttal for any Aff running that silly "all crimes are hate crimes" canard: "Jaywalking isn't a hate crime."
Negative #1
V: Justice
Cr: Retributivism

C1: Hate crimes are worse than parallel crimes
-often brutal and depraved
-cause more harm to the community and overall society

C2: HCE recognize the more dangerous nature of hate crimes and increase punishment accordingly
A solid argument if you can support it. The Aff's potential responses:

1. Hate crime laws are overinclusive, and often punish offenders additionally, without warrant. See here.
2. What counts as a "parallel crime?" For instance, which is more terrifying: a hate crime or a random shooting? Should we include murder-for-hire in this calculus? Which one causes more fear in a community? Are they "parallel?"
Negative #2
V: Justice
Cr: John Locke (the gov't must protect the right of its citizens)

C1: Hate crime enhancements allow government to better protect its citizens
-increases protection for those who most need it (those who are most likely to be targeted because of a characteristic)
-this allows the government to restore a kind of equal playing field among citizens (response to an Affirmative argument about Equality)

C2: Hate crimes are more harmful to rights to than parallel crimes
-increase chances of vengeful violence
-emotional/psychological harm to the community
-->b/c hate crimes are worse, it is only just that the punishment be increased in order to 1) try to prevent them from re-occurring (deterrence), 2) incapacitate the more dangerous offender (due the potential number of victims) for a longer period of time (incapacitation), and 3) hopefully stem any potential vengeful violence from the victimized community
The question for the Lockean: do the added protections of hate crimes, even if they can be proved, avoid giving the government additional unwarranted or arbitrary power?
Negative #3
V: Justice
Cr: Just Punishment (under Constitution, or law, or something that includes that the punishment should fit the crime)

C1: Hate crime enhancements are constitutional
-shown in Wisconsin v. Mitchell

C2: Hate crime enhancements allow the punishment to fit the crime
-hate crimes are worse than parallel crimes
-regular laws can't punish sufficiently given this different
---> HCE allow more punishment, making it fit the crime
Wisconsin v. MItchell primarily deflected a "chilling effect on free speech" argument, and sicondarily reasoned that the added harms of HCEs justified additional punishment. With a criterion of constitutionality, make it two contentions:

1. They're constitutional on 1st amendment grounds.
2. They're constitutionally proportional.

And, of course, the Negative had better be ready to defend constitutionality as a criterion, given its fluid nature.

sample affirmative cases for the hate crime enhancement resolution

Intrepid reader okiedebater has offered up some shell cases for consideration and critique. They're blockquoted; my comments follow each one. As always, your thoughts are appreciated.

(Part II, the negative cases, here.)
Affirmative #1:
V: Justice
Cr: Equal Treatment under the Law ("all men are created equal" and 14th Amendment relates to "in the United States")

C1: Hate crimes are inadequately defined
-no consensus (shown by differing laws between states, federal gov't...)
-would be either too broad or too narrow (either all crimes will qualify, or there will be many unprotected minorities)
-they are vague (leaving a loophole for prosecutorial abuse, shown in C3)

C2: Motive can't be proven sufficiently to support hate crime enhancements
-even if the defendant showed prejudice in the past, that doesn't mean the actual crime was motivated by prejudice
-even if the criminal yelled derogatory words during the crime, even that doesn't necessarily indicate prejudice, just anger

C3: Hate crime enhancements are used unjustly
-as a result of the difficult burden of proof in C2, prosecutors don't always use HCE, even when applicable, thereby violating my Cr. of Equal Treatment
-HCE are used disproportionately against minorities, indicated that they may have become a tool for prejudiced people, rather than a deterrent
I like this case because it has a clear standard for justice that is both universal--equal treatment under the law isn't just an American concept--but also strongly linked to Constitutional rights. Contention 1 can be easily demonstrated, and would be sufficient to affirm.

I see some potential problems, though:
1. C2 can be rebutted by noting that the law requires proof of intent beyond a reasonable doubt, which means that enhancements aren't going to be applied arbitrarily or without warrant.
2. C3 requires access to specific empirical evidence. (As luck would have it, you can find a starting point on this blog.)
3. Is there a higher standard of justice? For example, even an oppressive law can be applied equally. Also, define "equal."
Affirmative #2
V: Justice
Cr: John Locke (government is established to protect the rights of its citizens)

C1: Hate crime enhancements are unnecessary
-regular punishment is sufficient to protect the rights of citizens because punishment, even without HCE, increases to reflect the severity of the crime

C2: Hate crime enhancements are ineffective
-they have not shown any significant deterrent effect
-they are even used to disproportionately to prosecute minorities (which they are apparently made to protect)

C3: Hate crime enhancements are used unjustly
-they are not always applied, even when they are applicable
-they do increase the amount of punishment in an unjust way (Even if a hate crime is worse, does it merit doubling punishment? Also, could we really determine how MUCH worse a hate crime is?)
Some interesting issues here.

1. If we're using Locke, we have to make C3 our strongest point, showing how HCEs give the government arbitrary power, which is anathema to Locke.

2. C1 and C2 could be combined.

3. Subpoint 2 under C2 should go under C3 instead. Subpoint 1 isn't intuitively resolutional--ineffective things aren't unjust, just ineffective. The Aff would have to show that the government is somehow failing in its obligation to protect citizens--which wouldn't square with C1, which purports that our current system is already working. Then what's the harm of C3? Hmm... Gotta square these away.

As an aside, all Affirmatives should look into the evidence that HCEs disproportionately target minorities, since they're drawn up in ways that protect race (or gender, etc.) as a category. The "HCEs protect minorities" argument was quite popular at the last tournament I judged, but could have been defeated quite easily.

who is John Keeffe?

This is the third in a three-part series*, introducing you to the three applicants for the District 2 seat on the Olympia School Board, which was vacated when Rich Nafziger resigned.

The series goes in reverse alphabetical order, wrapping up before March 12, when the candidates will face questions in a "community forum environment."

A longtime Olympia resident, John Keeffe is the only current applicant with previous Board experience, having served from 1991 to 2003. He knows firsthand how difficult the job is, so why would he want to come back, especially when the district faces tough times? In his own words (via email):
I created a job resume recently and I thought a lot about what my passion was in relation to work I wanted to do. I found that the place that would give me the most satisfaction is a job that is at the intersection of government and the public. The 12 years I was on the Board previously, as well as the 30 years I worked for the Post Office, and my work with Parking Services allowed me to be in that intersection in a number of different ways. The School Board was in some ways the most rewarding because it was all about kids. When Rich left the Board and the position became available I thought about whether I could or wanted to do it again. After a lot of internal dialogue, and conversations with family and friends, I felt that this was a place that fit my job goal and where I could have a positive impact in my community.
Among other things, in his remarks to the Board on March 5th, Keeffe lists concerns about graduation requirements: taken individually, the WASL, Culminating Project, and extra math requirements might be worthy, but when taken together, they endanger electives, which Keeffe regards as essential for a well-rounded high school education.

Keeffe sees the current budget crisis as an opportunity to prioritize district spending in line with our strategic plan, and a time to scale back expectations for growth. He also believes that, along with its local obligations, the Board should advocate for change at the state level.

You can listen to Keefe's opening statement starting at 6:05 in [mp3]. His answers to specific questions are interspersed among those of the other applicants.

*A fourth, Kevin Douglas Donahoe, has already been removed from consideration.

Mar 7, 2008

McCain praises informed electorate

March 7, 2008

New Orleans, LA -- En route to a campaign stop, presidential candidate John McCain made sure to take time out from his withering schedule of lectures and photo-ops to heap accolades on the American people.

Though media elites had accused Americans of crippling political ignorance, McCain wagged his finger at them, describing the intellectual breadth and depth of a nation that waited breathlessly for every honey-dripping word to fall from his lips, passing them down from generation to generation in their folk tales and bedtime stories.

"Everybody knows that I had a private conversation. Everybody knows that, that I had a conversation," McCain told a bevy of citizens and hangers-on standing around his chartered jet. "And you know it, too."

When a meek acolyte humbly demurred, McCain responded, "No. You know it, too. No. You do know. You do know."

McCain added, "I don't know, but it's well-known that I had the conversation. It's absolutely well-known by everyone. Everybody knows it. Everybody knows it in America."

An enraptured adherent begged McCain to share more truisms about the American character that he had reputedly revealed to Senator John Kerry in a private conversation.

McCain's saintly glow faded only slightly as his voice cracked with emotion. "I don't describe private conversations. Why should I? Then there's no such thing as a private conversation."

He then ascended, flying away on the wings of the dawn.

smoking, no. acting, yes!

If only they'd consider that acting is at least six times the health risk:
Dozens of bars are expected to stage "theater nights'' this weekend in which patrons are dubbed actors. The law, which went into effect in October, permits performers to smoke during a theatrical production. "Two weeks ago, we had one bar doing this,'' said Mark Benjamin, a criminal defense attorney who launched the theater-night idea. He estimates 50 to 100 bars could be on tap for theater nights this weekend based on phone calls, e-mails and requests for the how-to-stage-a-theater-night packet that he's devised. And many bar owners are passing on the information quickly among themselves without getting in contact with him.
(The tie, it should be noted, is 100% carcinogen-free.)

[via BoingBoing]

Mar 6, 2008

Kevin Douglas Donahoe nixed from applicant list

The current Board has unanimously voted to cut Kevin Douglas Donahoe from its list of applicants, The Olympian reports.
Donahoe wasn't at the meeting; his answers to the questions that were submitted to all of the candidates were shown on a video.

He told the district in an e-mail that he submitted the video to accommodate for a disability....

In his video, Donahoe, a software engineer, emphasized the role of technology in the operation of the school district and said he encouraged the use of Web sites such as YouTube and Second Life in governing and learning experiences.
I have a feeling that Donahoe was already at a distinct disadvantage; read his self-styled job description for the position, and you'll see that his idiosyncratic perspective just doesn't jibe with the status quo. I just don't think we're ready for virtual board members.

I had meant to include Donahoe in my series introducing the applicants. I should note that he was the only one out of the four who never returned my email.

Mar 5, 2008

who is Paul Parker?

This is the second in a four-part series, introducing you to the four applicants for the District 2 seat on the Olympia School Board, which was vacated when Rich Nafziger resigned.

The series will go in reverse alphabetical order, and will wrap up before March 12, when the candidates will face questions in a "community forum environment."

I've made care to accurately quote or represent the candidates, and any potential errors are my own.

Paul Parker lives down the street from Jill Johnson, one of my colleagues at Capital. "Paul's hard-working, thoughtful, and smart," she told me over lunch on Tuesday. "Thorough, too." The only applicant with a law degree, Parker has worked in higher education and state government, and currently serves as a senior policy analyst for Washington State's Transportation Commission.

More to the point, Parker is an active PTA and Site Council member, and chaired the district's Budget Advisory Group in 2007. Last June, after examining the district's finances, the group advocated some cuts that, to paraphrase Parker, "washed out" with paired with recommended expenses.
Parker and other advisory group members who attended an Olympia School Board study session Monday said they think the group would need more information about the district’s entire budget to make decisions about how to make additional cuts. Traditionally, the group has strictly focused on potential cuts and additions proposed by district staff.
Parker's role, as the committee title should make clear, was strictly advisory. Should he join the Board, he'll have the unenviable chance to make cuts firsthand, since we still face at least a $1.5 million shortfall in the coming year.

When it comes to policy recommendations, Parker has three specific goals for the district:
  • Encourage more students to study world languages such as Spanish and Chinese and be proficient in them by the time of graduation;
  • Prepare more students for careers in science and technology, either in college or in the workforce; and
  • Provide students more exposure and hands‐on experience with fine arts.
You can read Parker's resume and a brief purpose statement here [pdf].

Mar 4, 2008

nativist, pork-laden hypocrisy

Some of the recent hoo-ha over Boeing's contract loss to EADS-Northrop-Grumman-Airbus-les Français is staggeringly stupid.
In Tuesday's speech on the Senate floor, Murray said the $35 billion decision for 179 planes was "a key piece of our national and economic security."

"Instead of securing the American economy and military at a time while we are at war we are creating a European economic stimulus package at the expense of U.S. Workers," she said.

"We cannot trust a foreign company to keep our military's best interest in mind."
Thank goodness our allies don't see things our way. Quick: without resorting to Wikipedia, name just ten of the many countries the U.S. supplies with weaponry. Which two already have a Boeing tanker contract?

no teacher ratings allowed

In France, that is:
Following the example of successful U.S. sites, French entrepreneurs created in January that encouraged students to grade teachers and discuss their ability.

Unions, backed by the education ministry, immediately took the site to court, saying the personal comments represented a breach of privacy and an "incitement to public disorder."

The judges backed their case and said the Web site could no longer identify any teachers by name and told the site's owners they faced a $1,517 (1,000 euro) fine for every infraction.
Ridiculous. This--hopefully--would never occur in the United States, which still has a token affection for the First Amendment.

I'm not worried about ratings, anyway. I get consistently high marks for fashion.

[via Katherine Mangu-Ward]

Mar 3, 2008

who is Theresa Tsou?

This is the first in a four-part series, introducing you to the four applicants for the District 2 seat on the Olympia School Board, which was vacated when Rich Nafziger resigned.

The series will go in reverse alphabetical order, and will wrap up before March 12, when the candidates will face questions in a "community forum environment."

I've made care to accurately quote or represent the candidates, and any potential errors are my own.

Parent activist Theresa Tsou is ready to bring her scientific expertise and data-driven approach to the Olympia School Board. A Ph.D. holder and groundfish expert, Dr. Tsou is known in the community for volunteer and committee work, and for her role in the opposing the "Connected Math" curriculum that was adopted last year.
"I don't think the data supports that CMP2 is a better curriculum than Glencoe," said Tsou, who has children in third, fifth and eighth grades.

Tsou also is worried about several drops in math WASL scores this spring among sixth-graders. Of particular concern was a drop among low-income students as a whole, she said.

"Those students are disadvantaged students and usually don't get as much support from their families," Tsou said. "That's a big alarm to me."

Although Tsou was among parents who opposed the district's adoption of Connected Math, she said she wouldn't push district officials to reverse their decision at this point.

But she said she thinks it's important that all teachers supplement the Connected Math curriculum with materials that allow students to hone basic math skills.
Tsou's stated interests include providing "internationally compatible [math and science] education," diversifying the Board, and prioritizing budget cuts in a difficult time. She believes her experience managing Department of Fish and Wildlife budgets makes her particularly apt for the latter.

At this time, Dr. Tsou has declined to clarify or expand upon any items in her introductory letter to the Board, which can be read here [pdf].

Mar 2, 2008

WASL expenses set to rise

A week before March madness approaches again, a fun story: some of those classic WASL questions have to go.
The state superintendent's office estimates that the cost of administering the Washington Assessment of Student Learning could jump by $15 million to $25 million in 2009.

That's on top of the $22 million originally budgeted.

The increase is being driven mainly by a higher demand for testing because of the federal No Child Left Behind education law, said Joe Willhoft, an assistant state superintendent of public instruction in Olympia.

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said paying $47 million for one year of testing is not an option.

Instead, state leaders are pressing for changes they say would shave millions off the cost and cut the amount of time spent testing without diminishing the accuracy of the WASL.

The savings would come primarily from chopping the number of open-ended, thought-provoking questions and delaying some extra features. And even then, the tests would still cost an extra $15 million or so.
The WASL takes eight days, and uses four booklets (reading, writing, math, and science). Even at today's lower rates, it costs the state roughly $70 per student to assess the WASL, assuming that student takes all four exams. Meanwhile, the SAT costs a student $43, while the PSAT costs $12. Is either any less valid than a proposed "mini-WASL?" Maybe it really is time to exorcise our Concorde effect demons and scrap the WASL.

Update 3/5: KOMO has more, noting that now, a bill to slice the WASL has passed the House. Meanwhile, the Senate wants to bring back end-of-course exams... Not while Gregoire's in office, methinks.

I learned it at Nat Quals: part II

Extemporaneous speaking: almost as bad as Student Congress, these days. This past Friday, I learned...
  • We have to do more to support "academically really high students."
  • There was a player who had beaten "Babe Ruth's record for hits." This player did not have a name, nor did he realize he was actually breaking Ty Cobb's record.
  • The economy is easy to forget.
  • The surface of a river may appear smooth, but "it's a hurricane under there."
  • The government should "help out foreign aid."
  • We have to do something about "the oil dependence that we rely on."
  • "Keyly" is a word.

Part I here.

who is Kevin Douglas Donahoe?

This is the first in a four-part series, introducing you to the four applicants for the District 2 seat on the Olympia School Board, which was vacated when Rich Nafziger resigned.

The series will go in alphabetical order, and will wrap up before March 12, when the candidates will face questions in a "community forum environment."

I've made care to accurately quote or represent the candidates, and any potential errors are my own.

Kevin Douglas Donahoe
Founder and CEO of New Technology Advantage, Donahoe is a "knowledge engineer," with decades of experience in data management.

Kevin Douglas Donahoe links:

His self-styled bio

Mar 1, 2008

Olympia School Board applicants ready to face their first test

Four brave souls have answered the call.
Four candidates, including a former school board member, have applied for ex-Olympia School Board member Rich Nafziger's vacated District 2 seat. The application deadline was 5 p.m. Thursday.

The candidates are Kevin Douglas Donahoe, John Keeffe, Paul Parker and Theresa Tsou.
Click through for the brief bios. More interesting to me are the Board's questions for the applicants, available via PDF. A sample:
6) Do you believe there are any issues or questions concerning educational policy (not questions or issues related to identifiable, individual students or employees) and Board operations that should not be discussed publicly; and, if discussed publicly, are there are any issues or questions concerning educational policy and Board operations for which the Board should not make a recording of the discussion available on the OSD website? If you believe there are matters (excluding issues concerning individual students and employees) that should not be discussed publicly or recorded and made available to the public, please give three examples.
Here's a hint, potential applicant: if you want the spot, but don't know which sitting board members are particularly concerned with this issue, you'd better do your homework. And brush up on your state law.

More information available here.