Sep 27, 2009

Obama plans to ruin your summer vacation

Kids who creepily sang Obama's praises the other day: might want to rethink that. Obama wants to amputate your summer break.
"Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas," the president said earlier this year. "Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."

The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.
Just give the plan a snappy title--No Child Left Outside?--and watch it sail through Congress.

In all seriousness, reconfiguring the summer break is way, way overdue.

Capital to rejoin Narrows League?

It appears that Capital, along with the three other remaining teams from the tiny Western Cascade Conference (itself part of the WCC/OWL--confused yet?), will rejoin the Narrows League next year.
The Narrows League will absorb the four remaining Western Cascade Conference teams: North Thurston, Timberline, Yelm and Capital, all Class 3A teams.

That will make the Narrows League, which was founded in 1979, as a 15-team league.

The Narrows League had previously been resistant to adding Class 3A teams. Several Tacoma schools could end up in the 3A classification next year as they were “opting up” to remain in the Narrows League. Gig Harbor had 3A numbers as well and opted up.

A committee will meet next week to being figuring out how this re-configured league will look and function.
My guess is it'll have two subdivisions, hopefully based on geography to make travel and gate proceeds best for all involved.

At least two good things about this, from Capital's perspective: first, playing in a bigger league means more battle-testing before the playoffs. Second, it restores the full import of the traditional crosstown rivalry with Olympia--now the game would matter for more than pride.

Capital's proven that it can hang with 4A schools. Next year, we'll have to do more: we'll have to beat them.

[via Meg Wochnick]

Sep 26, 2009

the day the cell phone died

Via Cory Doctorow, a clever little video highlighting the cell phone failures that angst up the modern thriller. (Warning: salty language and excessive horror cheesiness.)

There's an element of verisimilitude to the cliché; in the summer of '08 my wife and I found ourselves stranded in the Olympic mountains, no cell signal. And there's nothing more frightening than mountains.

Sep 24, 2009

the cruelest blackout

In my swine flu funk, I'm sitting on the sofa, watching ESPN360, as USC (the other USC) takes on Ole Miss. During commercial, the site jumps over to ESPN radio, displaying a list of upcoming games and TV blackout maps.

This one cracked me up:

For the upcoming, certain-to-be-a-barnstormer contest between Idaho's Vandals and the Northern Illinois Huskies, ESPN360 has blacked out the roughly eight counties that might care about the game. (And not one is in Idaho.)

Nice work, ESPN.

is this swine flu?

I'm sitting at home, congested, sore-throatish, achy. Most important: I am at home. I am not teaching today. I'm keeping my germs in the family.

I have my principal's permission. Via email:
We are experiencing several students coming to the health room with flu-like symptoms and we are sending them home.

The health department asks that students who have a fever be kept home for 24 hours after the fever has subsided without the aid of medication. (like Tylenol or Advil)...

In addition, even though educators hesitate to miss school, even when sick, we would like teachers to make sure that you have sub plans on file, stay home if you are ill and follow the same 24 hour fever free rule. Please do not come to school to bring in sub plans, but phone a colleague or email them to us. It is important that we also look out for our staff.
Last night's fever was mild-to-medium, and this morning's congestion was medium-to-spicy.

Perhaps it's swine flu, or perhaps it's just a nasty rhinovirus. Either way, I'm sitting at home.

Sep 21, 2009

"chicken one day, feathers the next"

The concretion, found in Oregon, offers a potential glimpse into a world millions of years in the past, but the story offers an equally fascinating glimpse into the colorful world of paleontology.
"It's kind of like your first blind date," said state paleontologist Bill Orr. "The closer they get, the worse they look...."

We're waiting for Mother Nature to knock it off the wall," Hanshumaker said.

There's an expression in paleontology, Orr said, that describes the frustration involved in finding something that might be spectacular but really isn't that big of a deal.

"Chicken one day, feathers the next," he said. "This is definitely a feather day."
Here's hoping for a really cool chicken ancestor trapped in the middle of an ancient rock.

Sep 19, 2009

it's called "projection."

Daniel Mallory in high dudgeon, takes on the Onion's AV Club:
Nominally non-satirical, the section aims to commune with Onion readers, who in turn could easily mistake its crueler-than-thou hipster solipsism for parody. A few pop-culture artifacts (the Magnetic Fields, "Arrested Development," those fauxteurs Terry Gilliam and Wes Anderson) send the A.V. writers cartwheeling, but for the most part they traffic in snark -- which, as David Denby observes in his book "Snark," "has zero interest in anything except the power to ridicule." Consider the diverse bureaus of the A.V. Club: the Hater blog, devoted to further exposing celebrities it decries as overexposed; I Watched This on Purpose, a masochistic catalogue of crimes against film; the Tolerability Index, which gauges "what we're barely putting up with this week" (exempting, of course, its own tone of entitled contempt). Acrid stuff.
As AV Club writer (and link source) Scott Tobias notes, this is cherry-picking of the worst order. AV Club writers are snarky at times, to be sure--their parent site is a satirical newspaper, fergoodnesssake--but if they are harsh toward pop culture's trash, it is because they so love pop culture's treasures.

Consider just two of the site's features Mallory ignores: Primer and Gateways to Geekery, whose very purpose is to open up new alleys for pop culture neophytes to explore. The site is often brutally honest about its own failings, a trait uncommon to critics. And no one gets a free pass; in its (loving) TIFF wrapup, supposed "fauxteur" Gilliam earns a D+.

I won't comment on the rest of Mallory's piece, which concerns a memoir I haven't read, except to say that for someone who deplores acridity, his criticism sure packs a sting.

And I'm not sure what stage of life involves defending a pop culture website. But it seems like a good stage.

Sep 16, 2009

grades are arbitrary?!!

A "D" average is good enough to earn a diploma, according to the Seattle Public Schools.

The district is considering dropping graduation standards from a "C" average to a "D" average in order to boost the number of college-ready students.

The school board is doing its own math on the district's logic.

According to an administrator, the district wants to offer more advanced classes and raise the bar. In order to do so, it needs money. To get that money, it has to find a way to keep more kids in school. So a "D" might be good enough to graduate.
What does a "D" mean?

Some places, you pass with a C. Others, you pass with a D. Some places, a C starts at 70. Other places, a C starts at 62.

Yep. Grades are arbitrary.

Which is what makes arguments over changing grading schemes so much fun.

Sep 15, 2009

stripes and... what?

A brand new--which is to say, new to me--tacky tie for Tuesday, September 15th.

Not sure if it's supposed to be reminiscent of a Band-Aid.

Sep 14, 2009

flip forward to the future

I'd love to know what late adopters like Christina think of Google's in-development "Fast Flip." (Initial impression: not for laptops with small screens.)

[Via the old-school-new-school New York Times.]

Sep 13, 2009

value / criterion pairs for the exit exam resolution

The Sept/Oct exit exam resolution asks us to consider the features, aims, and methods of American public education.

The following is a list of some potential value/criterion pairs for either side of the resolution.

Remember that some of these pairs work best for one side, and that one of your main obligations is to prove your value superior to that of your opponent.

Also note that this is a work in progress. Don't see a pair you like? Suggest one in the comments, and I'll add it to the list.

One of the primary questions, when choosing a core value, is whether you should go with a value inherent in the resolution (and thus easy to warrant), or a larger value that might be "more valuable," but a more tenuous link. That's why I've divided value/criterion pairs into three categories.

Values Inherent in Education

V: Academic Rigor / Achievement
C: Universal high standards

V: Academic Rigor / Achievement
C: Accountability (Public accountability?)

V: Morality
C: Moral education / Socialization

V: Self-sufficiency
C: Increasing personal autonomy and educational choice / freedom

V: Personal Fulfillment
C: Well-rounded education / educating the whole child

Values to Which Public Education is Instrumental
In other words, what education is good for.

V: Societal Welfare
C: Equality of opportunity

V: Societal Welfare
C: Educational excellence

V: National Security
C: Educational excellence

V: Democracy
C: Educated citizenry

Values not necessarily inherent to education, but which are individually or societally important

V: Justice
C: Rawls' difference principle / reducing inequality

V: Democracy
C: Local control of education / Community Standards

V: Economic Stability
C: Workforce preparation through education

Sep 11, 2009

Capital loses Spaghetti Bowl heartbreaker

In a game that seesawed so fast I got whiplash, Capital eventually fell to the Olympia Bears, 35-28.

With four minutes left and the scored locked at 28-all, it appeared that the Cougars might have the moxie to muster another grueling drive, just like Tyler Sundberg had ground out in the 3rd quarter.


This time, Sundberg fumbled, and Olympia recovered, racing all the way back for the winning score.

I couldn't believe it. From where I stood, it appeared that the ball had popped loose when Sundberg's elbows hit the ground--in which case, he was down, as the ground can't cause a fumble. But the refs saw something different, and that was that.

What a game. What a great, great game. We came so close.

Next year.

Update: The Olympian's writeup is available. Judging from one of the comments, I'm not the only one who thought Sundberg's "fumble" wasn't.

Sep 10, 2009

Thursday thoughts

1. Tomorrow's Spaghetti Bowl will be very, very interesting. Oly dominated Gig Harbor in their warmup, while Capital's relatively inexperienced squad narrowly lost to O'Dea. Neither fact makes predicting the outcome any easier. This may qualify as limb-going, but I'm calling this one for the Cougars, 21-14. (And don't you dare bet on sports.)

2. Tacky ties are back in season, and have folks around Pod B seeing double.

3. Capital High now has eight bell schedules, A-H. Just kidding. We actually have nine, now, with an email announcing that tomorrow's half-hour end-of-school assembly is "Schedule Z." (I suggested at a staff meeting that we start naming them after vitamins, but I like the James Bond vibe of the latest addition.)

4. "They are who we thought they were!"

5. The crazy guys who go over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Much empathy from me.

Sep 9, 2009

back in action

School starts in an hour and fifteen. Eight years at CHS--and in the profession. It feels good to be starting again, though strange to be starting so late in September.

I don't have any words of wisdom or keen observations or witty sayings at 6:45 in the morning. I will by eight.

Sep 8, 2009

in today's education headlines

1. Kent teachers defy court order; continue strike. (There's no Becca Bill for teachers.)

2. Obama urges all children to assimilate into the Borg.

3. An instrumental version of "Ave Maria" breaches the wall of separation, apparently.

Happy school year, everybody.

(Oh, and one more: Washington's doomsayers predict swine flu for a third of us.)

Sep 7, 2009

1.7 decades of futility

No matter how terrible your sports franchise of choice has been over the past couple decades, at least it's probably had a winning season or two. No such luck for Pittsburgh's baseball fans: the last time the Pirates had a winning season, Bob Dole--no stranger to failure--was still a senator dreaming of the presidency. ESPN has the story:
The Chicago Cubs assured the Pirates of an unwanted place in baseball's record book, getting two homers from Derrek Lee and an effective start from Ted Lilly while beating the last-place Pirates 4-2 on Monday.

By losing their 10th in 11 games, the Pirates are guaranteed of finishing below .500, just as they have every season since 1993. The 17 consecutive losing seasons represent the longest streak for any team in the four major North American pro team sports, and only the Phillies (1933-48) have also had as many as 16 in a row.
That the Cubs are the ones cementing the Pirates' place in the record books is an irony as sweet as Bob Dole's peanut butter.

Sep 6, 2009

Nathaniel Hawthorne, quasi-libertarian?

Re-reading The Scarlet Letter means re-reading "The Custom-House," its windy (in both pronunciations) preface. (If you skipped it, I don't blame you. But you really should go back and read it--it's a witty counterpoint to the heavy-handed moralizing of the novel.)

Hawthorne's experience as a federal employee turned him into a bit of a libertarian. In a typical digression, he writes,
An effect—which I believe to be observable, more or less, in every individual who has occupied the position—is, that, while he leans on the mighty arm of the Republic, his own proper strength departs from him. He loses, in an extent proportioned to the weakness or force of his original nature, the capability of self-support. If he possess an unusual share of native energy, or the enervating magic of place do not operate too long upon him, his forfeited powers may be redeemable. The ejected officer—fortunate in the unkindly shove that sends him forth betimes, to struggle amid a struggling world—may return to himself, and become all that he has ever been. But this seldom happens. He usually keeps his ground just long enough for his own ruin, and is then thrust out, with sinews all unstrung, to totter along the difficult footpath of life as he best may. Conscious of his own infirmity,—that his tempered steel and elasticity are lost,—he for ever afterwards looks wistfully about him in quest of support external to himself. His pervading and continual hope—a hallucination, which, in the face of all discouragement, and making light of impossibilities, haunts him while he lives, and, I fancy, like the convulsive throes of the cholera, torments him for a brief space after death—is, that, finally, and in no long time, by some happy coincidence of circumstances, he shall be restored to office. This faith, more than any thing else, steals the pith and availability out of whatever enterprise he may dream of undertaking. Why should he toil and moil, and be at so much trouble to pick himself up out of the mud, when, in a little while hence, the strong arm of his Uncle will raise and support him? Why should he work for his living here, or go to dig gold in California, when he is so soon to be made happy, at monthly intervals, with a little pile of glittering coin out of his Uncle’s pocket? It is sadly curious to observe how slight a taste of office suffices to infect a poor fellow with this singular disease. Uncle Sam’s gold—meaning no disrespect to the worthy old gentleman—has, in this respect, a quality of enchantment like that of the Devil’s wages. Whoever touches it should look well to himself, or he may find the bargain to go hard against him, involving, if not his soul, yet many of its better attributes; its sturdy force, its courage and constancy, its truth, its self-reliance, and all that gives the emphasis to manly character.
Later on, Hawthorne credits his (politically-motivated) dismissal for providing him with the creative energy and spark to turn the outline for The Scarlet Letter into a living, breathing, perpetually sermonizing novel.

Sep 5, 2009

I used to like having my picture taken

Mom sends along some photos taken by a friend of the family, a long, long time ago, back when we lived in Gimli, Manitoba (named after the scrappiest member of the world famous dance troupe Lord of the Rings).

I had a stage in my life where I absolutely hated being photographed--well after these were taken, it appears.

I was pretty fashionable for a toddler; Dad was pretty fashionable for a dad.

From left to right: brother Matt; Dad; me, rockin' the vest; Mom; sister Cathy. Not pictured: slacker sister Caroline, who waited years to be born.

Obama's speech to schools echoes a previous president

In the Olympia School District, we won't be in school on Tuesday when President Obama delivers a speech to the nation's students. Nevertheless, the controversy over the speech has prompted Superintendent Lahmann to issue a statement:
On Tuesday, September 8, President Obama will do a national address to students about education. The national media has focussed on concerns that have been raised about the address being shown in schools. We have received a few emails and phone calls of both support and opposition about having students watch the broadcast.

Since our students do not start school until Wednesday, September 9, it seems obvious that we will not be broadcasting the President's message to students live. If parents or community members contact you about this issue, please remind them when school starts.

I have attached a copy of a Question & Answer release that the Department of Education sent out related to the President's speech. If staff wants to record the President's speech and use it later as part of a lesson, they may do so just as they would use an other supplemental resource. Given the concerns that have surfaced, please be sensitive to the controversial nature of any use.
The last time a president asked for a bully pulpit at the front of your classroom? Back in 1991, when Bush--George Herbert Walker Bush--asked for support of his educational goals.

Jim Lindgren links to the story, and does a little WestLaw digging to find media reactions.

In October of 1991, I must have been in seventh grade. I don't remember Bush's speech in the slightest.