Don’t Know Much About History

21 11 2006

Don’t know much bi-ology . . . (humming)

herman's hermits hits cover

“Public education” is so much bigger than mere schooling. Two examples today:

1) NPR is running a week of interviews on how American generations rewrite the same historical “facts” to fit their own politics, beliefs and changing culture. Over time, this changes and sometimes completely reverses the “lessons learned” and which history applies to what current thinking. I just heard the first installment mention how prevailing hi-story of the War in Iraq already has changed —

A Look at How the U.S. Understanding of its Own History Changes

Morning Edition, November 21, 2006 · Historian Kyle Ward speaks with Steve Inskeep about his book, History in the Making. It chronicles the ways that U.S. history textbooks change over time in their portrayal of events like the Mexican-American War. This is the first in a series of conversations about history.

2) NYT coverage of morphing public lessons in science and religion  headed, “A Free-for-All on Science and Religion” by George Johnson, outlines how our beliefs change about what is true and important to study, and weighs how different kinds of “truths” are best communicated and advanced — through sharply drawn, take-no-prisoner confrontation or incremental understandings and acceptance.
For example, this recent forum comment among top scientists was quoted:

““Persuasion isn’t always ‘Here are the facts — you’re an idiot or you are not’ . . .I worry that your methods” — he turned toward Dr. [Richard] Dawkins — “how articulately barbed you can be, end up simply being ineffective, when you have much more power of influence.”

Your Sex Life

18 11 2006

And the people who want to manage it — for your own good, of course.

The political angle:

Bush’s Bipartisanship: Appoint extremists to manage family planning and reproductive rights

Why the science is bad:

Bad Science? It’s OK — Just put him in charge of women’s health

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called Keroack’s appointment “striking proof that the Bush administration remains dramatically out of step with the nation’s priorities.” This was from the Washington Post writeup on this dangerous appointment.

And she makes a good point. According to this report, 82% of us disagree with this kook’s ideas.

The only practical suggestion — beyond blogging about it and writing and calling your representatives in Congress (you can write to Pelosi if you want to feel like you did something) — I read in all of this was to make sure the right person gets into the White House next time around.

In the meantime? More bad policies justified with bad science.


Insane Idea

17 11 2006

I’m not sure this school board member heard what he said, but I think he’s got a good point.

Implementing teacher bonus pay program an “impossible task”

November 16, 2006
By By David Magliano

Students always remember that one, special teacher, and the state wants to give pay bonuses to its best educators through its new Special Teachers Are Rewarded program.It may sound good, but the Walton County School Board said implementing the program in the time they have might be overwhelming.“We’ve been given an impossible task to do in a more impossible timeline,” said Superintendent Carlene Anderson at a special school board workshop meeting Nov. 13 to discuss how to get the program started.

STAR is a state program that awards bonus pay to teachers based on the performance of their students. The top 25 percent of teachers in each district is entitled to a bonus of 5 percent of their normal salary.

How the top 25 percent is determined, however, is controversial.

Specific plans vary, but in general, if a student shows improvement over the course of a school year, the student’s teacher is given points. If students do not show improvement or show regression, their teachers lose points.

For example, if a student scored a 2 in last year’s FCAT reading test, and scores a 3 at the end of this year, the student’s reading teacher is given a predetermined score for that particular improvement.

Each student is evaluated, the teacher is assigned the appropriate points, the scores are averaged, and the teacher’s score is compared to other reading teachers.

In theory, higher scores indicate greater student improvement and, therefore, better teachers, but not everyone agrees.

“The whole idea of being accountable for somebody else learning something is the most insane idea I’ve ever heard in my life,” said Mark Davis, vice chairman of the school board.

. . .

Nancy Pelosi Steps into the Fire

16 11 2006

Just heard her first post-caucus leadership address to the media . . .here’s what struck me, about what she said and how she said it:

a) She isn’t comfortable with public spiritual-speak but apparently feels she needs to use it, so it rings false — she said her parents were “looking down from up there” (if she couldn’t even say “heaven” why not simply say “they are with me” or some other variation?) and then later she stumbled to backtrack into a “church” reference: “as we say in church, let there be healing and let it begin with us” (??)

That’s not what anybody says, in church or otherwise, is it? 🙂

b) She annoyed me right off the bat, by blowing off being the first “woman” speaker –which I nodded to, figuring she’d follow up with saying she planned to be everybody’s speaker, for principles beyond gender/ sex. The Speaker represents the whole house and all the people, not just her party.

But no! She said PARTY was more important than being a woman — she’s delighted to be a Democratic speaker, not a woman speaker. Ruined the whole thing, at least for me (as a woman) who thinks party politics obstruct rather than advance principles and progress for all Americans. And it sure made the healing unity message that followed ring false!

Shouldn’t she be better at this by now? Of course she had just suffered a loss of face, but still . . . that’s politics. Oh well, I’ll think more about it, this is just my instant impression. Anyone else see her differently today?Pe4losi with new team NYT

UPDATE: NYT’s take on it:

The speaker is the party’s top figure in the House, but that position also carries a broader role as a constitutional officer charged with representing the interests of the full chamber.

Some Democrats said . . . many lawmakers had concluded that the best chance of limiting any bitterness was to install Mr. Hoyer and, in effect, save Ms. Pelosi from

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Why Society Defends School

16 11 2006

With conventionality, no one has to anxiously block experiences or invent rationalizations. The problems remain unconscious (ignored) because they have become a part of the social background.

Whenever we feel that something must be the way it is, or that it is only natural or rational, when we say that of course we must have war, or of course there have to be rich and poor, or of course this must be forbidden and that absolutely required, we may be facing a society-wide defense!

Facing Down Doctors and Dragons

16 11 2006

Have YOU intelligence and courage enough for the study of dragons? Enough even to believe and be curious, for a start?

Dragonology: The Dragon’s Eye
By Dugald A. Steer

Your father suggested that you might like to stay with Uncle Algernon, but we have talked things over and decided that it is time for you to get to know our old friend Dr. Ernest Drake. He has a house in Sussex and a little shop in London that he keeps as a sort of hobby. I have asked him to meet you at Waterloo if he can. If for any reason he is not there to meet you, you can find his shop quite easily by going to Trafalgar Square and walking up St. Martin’s Lane until you see a street called Wyvern Way. You can’t miss the shop because there is a large sign with his name on it hanging above the door.


The scientific study of dragons requires intelligence and courage above all else, as young dragonologists find out soon enough.”

—Dr. Drake’s Dragon Diary, January 1842


In July of 1882, I was twelve years old and had never heard of Dr. Ernest Drake. I had certainly never met a dragon . . . This was the second summer that our parents had failed to meet us on short notice. The year before, there had been another mysterious emergency that had seen us packed off to Uncle Algernon’s. Life there had been so monotonous that I had been almost glad to get back to boarding school.

“Who’s Dr. Drake?” I asked.

“Don’t you remember him?” said Beatrice. “He came to visit us when Father was ill. He has an enormous moustache that gets soup in it. All he ever talks about is dragons. Uncle Algernon told me that he has dangerous ideas and that we shouldn’t listen to people like him if we want to grow up to be intelligent members of society.

I didn’t remember clearly. I had a vague impression of a jolly man with a big moustache coming to stay with us when I was five. I remembered pretending to be an iguanodon and chasing him round the garden while he laughed. But I had no idea his name was Drake.

Is he a real doctor?” I asked.

“No,” said Beatrice. “I think he’s a dragocologist or something. But I’m sure he got Father the job in India. I hate him.

“At least he sounds better than Uncle Algernon,” I said.

We looked round the station. There were a lot of porters carrying luggage and people hurrying to catch trains, but no men with enormous moustaches, apart from a couple of guards.

“You see,” said Beatrice after we had been waiting for an hour. “He hasn’t even bothered to turn up and meet us. I expect he’s too busy with his dragons.”

“Does he really know about them?” I asked.

Beatrice laughed. “No one really knows about dragons, Daniel. They don’t exist.

Fantasy Play Homework

15 11 2006

It occurs to me that our president is a lifelong sports guy.

Maybe then he thinks like one? So this fantasy football analysis might shed light — if not shedding subjunctive grace like the song says— on what’s happening to all sorts of teams and players for whom the Decider has been deciding. (In America, WE are the team owners so we’d be smart to know the grammar of the games being played.)

Public school sudden-death test score competition, foul midterm election playoff strategies, and everything to do with Iraq including Rumsfeld as head coach come to mind of course, then other campaigns both military and electoral, from social security and health care reform to social initiatives for or against private choice.

If you see fields of political play where game strategies play out, feel free to post them here or link Snook readers elsewhere.

I can suggest one connection now while I go sift through other stuff later: Glenn Beck’s CNN special on the end of the world airs tonight, while for weeks on his radio show, he’s been playing fantasy football with high-profile terrorists as the players to trade, whose values rise and fall with the latest international news.

Knowing when to cut your losses

Fantasy owners on the playoff bubble in dynasty (or ”keeper”) leagues are wondering whether it is best to take a last-ditch shot at making the playoffs or to trade present value for the future. These ”dumping” trades occur when teams give up on the season by trading multiple players for one stud or when fantasy players in leagues with salary caps trade for low-valued players.

First, I firmly believe keeper leagues in football are not the way to go since you don’t start as many players as say in a baseball league. I much prefer scratch drafts, which also help avoid unfair balance shifts late in the season when teams trade three top players with expiring contracts (or high-valued players) for one player that will help them in the future. While most leagues play with trade deadlines, decisions are looming.

I would advise to only make a trade for the future if

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