March 31, 2009

A Note to Any Teenage Boys Who Wander By Here

A word in your ear. 

If you go work out at a gym or fitness center (i.e. an indoor exercise facility), please make sure you leave the cologne at home.  The rest of us would really appreciate it as we have become fond of  breathing while we're working out.

Thank you for your cooperation.

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August 15, 2008

There Is Only One Possible Reaction to This

Russia slams missile shield deal

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's envoy to NATO said on Friday that a deal struck between the United States and Poland on missile defence amid the Georgia crisis showed the system was aimed at Russia.


Why whatever would give them that idea?

*blink* *blink*

Posted by: Teresa in Education at 02:54 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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July 24, 2007

Fired!

And I'd be willing to bet it was alumni withholding donations or nothing would ever have happened. After all it certainly took long enough. more...

Posted by: Teresa in Education at 03:22 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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July 13, 2007

And Then I Realized...

I was appalled for the wrong reason!

I was perusing Instapundit when I ran across this link

Churchill dropped from England's history syllabus

The first thought that comes to mind... "What could they possibly be thinking?!?!" Then I read the article which starts like this

Britain's World War II prime minister Winston Churchill has been cut from a list of key historical figures recommended for teaching in English secondary schools, a government agency says.[emph mine --ed]

It's always amusing to find out how very different other countries really are from America. Especially when they speak the same language. I had no idea their "federal" government decreed what is taught in their schools. Down to exactly who and what! That's astounding. (America may be pointed in this direction - but we're a far far cry from it yet)

Now I'm sure someone would love to jump in and say that these "government agencies" are made up of educators. But still - the fact that the schools are overseen by one single entity that directs even the minutia of what is taught in the classroom. It takes the breath away.

Then I read this

A spokesman for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said the new curriculum, to be taught from September 2008, does not prescribe to teachers what they must include.

But he added: "Teachers know that they need to mention these pivotal figures. They don't need to be instructed by law to mention them in every history class.

Interesting - I wonder why these instructional laws were created in the first place. Was it because teachers couldn't be relied upon to actually teach their subjects? Or was it some meddlesome "nanny" who decided that even teachers need to be told exactly what to do and how to do it.

Mind you - teaching history without including Winston Churchill would be a complete and total travesty. The man was and continues to be larger than life! I am simply stunned that the British government felt the need to make it a "law" that he be included in history as it is taught in their schools.

One wonders how the populace manages to make it through a single day. Unless all those cameras watching them are also sending out instructions on what they must do next. Wow.

Posted by: Teresa in Education at 06:46 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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April 24, 2007

Seminars...

I went to an all day seminar today. Left the house at 7am and returned at 6pm so it was a long day of listening. After returning home, I cleaned up my emails, threw together some dinner, beloved husband and I cleaned up the kitchen, we went for a walk, wrote my 24 post, and now I just have one more post I want to write.

This is the second seminar I've attended in the last month. Both of them have to do with Computer Security. Naturally different specifics, but falling under that umbrella.

Today's class was fun, the man presenting was enthusiastic and interesting. He encouraged quite a bit of interaction among the attendees (which was a good thing in this case - it doesn't always work). But there is one thing about both of these seminars, presented by vastly different people, that I'm finding to be very irritating.

Neither of the 2 presenters have any solid idea of the laws surrounding the areas they are talking about. In other words, they are presenting the mechanics of what you have to do to achieve a certain result in their area of expertise, but they have no idea what the law says you have to do to be in compliance. None!

Unfortunately, with the various data privacy acts, Sarbanes-Oxley, Gramm-Leach-Blighly, among others, computer security is having lots of laws waved around and everyone is confused... including those who are teaching classes and who I expect should have a passing idea of the basic law in regard to their specialty. Perhaps I'm expecting too much.

During the course of these seminars many people throw out many of their own views on what they believe is the law. And even then, you seldom get consensus among the group. For that matter the teachers admit they don't know the laws and say "anyone know what the law is in regard to this?" Sorry - but that type of sloppiness makes me want to scream!

While I thought today's presentation had some very useful information, I'm beginning to get ticked off that these people don't find a lawyer, pin them down, and get some general answers. Things like "financial industries must keep certain types of records for such-and-such amount of time". OR "ISP's must keep log files for "this" amount of time."

Many of the people attending, work for companies that have a legal staff. They are able to check these things with their legal department... I can't do that. So, I have half-baked information from whatever anyone threw out there. Naturally, I don't consider that to be definitive.

The problem is, I don't even know where to look for answers to these things. Maybe I should go to law school... cause I'm about to the point where I don't want to attend a seminar unless they have a lawyer show up who can give us some real answers and not just guesses.

It's not quite a waste of time, but it is annoying.

Posted by: Teresa in Education at 06:15 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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March 13, 2006

Can You Hear Me Now?

I came across the latest craze in education today. One that is being touted as yet another way to help kids learn. And what would this be you ask? Why Surround Sound of course!

Now let me state right from the start... I am NOT talking about children with hearing impairment. I know people who have children with impaired hearing - that's an entirely different problem and one that has them scrambling for solutions at times... No I am here to talk about kids with supposedly normal hearing and the claim that they are unable to hear the teacher speaking in a fairly small room.

The Baltimore County school board has set aside $400,000 in its proposed budget to install and test "sound enhancement" systems - wireless microphones and speakers designed to distribute a teacher's voice evenly around the room. At least seven schools in the Baltimore area are already using it, and others in Maryland and across the country are investing in the equipment.

Proponents say the technology can help children hear lessons over the shuffle of papers and other classroom noises. They say it can also ease the strain on teachers' voices.

I am nearly speechless in the face of this idiotic assertion. And if I lived in the school system spending that kind of money on a sound systems for classrooms - I'd be asking hard questions the next time the schools say they don't have enough money for some other project!

After all - teachers unions have - for the past 30 years or so been screaming about the need for smaller classrooms sizes. I would venture to guess that most (not all) class sizes in this country are between 20-30 students. With some classrooms heading up to 40 in especially impoverished areas (however any school that can't pay teachers... certainly can't afford sound systems! So I'm not speaking of them).

If the teacher has difficulty projecting his/her voice - maybe he/she is in the wrong profession or maybe needing to work individually as a tutor rather than a classroom teacher. Now please tell me... with a class that size, and generally a room just large enough to hold them, why can't they hear the teacher?

Because they aren't paying attention! Their world is full of so much noise constantly - they simply tune out the sound of the teacher's voice. How many kids are in school with the constant hum of background noise... then they go home to a house where there are TV's and stereos on at full volume (sometimes in competition), from the time they get home until they go to bed? For that matter - how many live in homes where there is a television and or stereo on all night long? How many kids don't know the meaning of the word "quiet"? As in - the classroom is quiet.

Instead of trying stupidly expensive high tech ways... how about a $0 low tech way... When you want to talk to the class - and give instructions - kids need to put things down and LOOK at the teacher. What a concept! Stop messing with stuff in your desk, stop jumping up and running across the room to get junk out of your coat pocket. Stop shuffling papers and LOOK at the teacher. You'd be amazed how much most kids can hear when you make them pay attention to you!

In this case, someone has convinced the school administration that they "need" this gadget. It is a particularly neat sales job. They have convinced these people that they must spend money on sound systems to make school better. They must install equipment that is going to break and need maintenance (not to mention batteries). The person who sold this must be in hog heaven - their ship has come in my friend.

Woodholme Elementary School Principal Maralee S. Clark said she used $13,000 from the school's equipment budget to install the systems in 10 kindergarten and first-grade classrooms and the media center.

Clark used it as a selling point when recruiting teachers for the Pikesville school, the county's newest.

"I didn't want my teachers not to have that advantage," Clark said.

Well there you go - it's settled - this is all about the perks. The claim is that the kids learn better - I want a controlled study to show me that this is true. So far I don't see one. I see a claim by a Principal with a vested interest in an investment she made. I see a Principal looking to advertise that she can attract teachers she wants to her school. I don't see anything that shows - without bias - that this sound system helps the kids.

Sorry, but when you're spending my money and have constant claims that I don't "give" enough of my hard earned income to pay the school system... I want more than a slick sales presentation.

Posted by: Teresa in Education at 01:06 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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March 10, 2006

It Runs Both Ways

Patrick Welsh has written an op-ed piece in the USA Today that should get him completely ostracized from every teaching institution in America by the end of the day. You see, he thinks some of the blame for poor performance in schools should be laid at the feet of the students - not completely on the teachers...

The sad fact is that in the USA, hard work on the part of students is no longer seen as a key factor in academic success. The groundbreaking work of Harold Stevenson and a multinational team at the University of Michigan comparing attitudes of Asian and American students sounded the alarm more than a decade ago.

Asian vs. U.S. students

When asked to identify the most important factors in their performance in math, the percentage of Japanese and Taiwanese students who answered "studying hard" was twice that of American students.

American students named native intelligence, and some said the home environment. But a clear majority of U.S. students put the responsibility on their teachers. A good teacher, they said, was the determining factor in how well they did in math.

There are many problems with schools and they seem to always get worse, not better. But I believe Mr. Welsh has a point - problems are seldom caused 100% by one party when there is a group involved. So, while there are bad teachers, kids who have classes with outrageous amounts of homework, curricula that is badly designed, mainstreaming of students, etc etc, etc. At some point we do have a problem with the students themselves.

After talking to any number of high school students who have told me they basically slept their way though grades 9-12...(and no I'm not talking about their sexual habits - I'm talking about sitting in class in a daze and paying no attention at all) I am never shocked when all their vaunted plans for college fall through in the first semester.

The question is - how to motivate them to do better, how to challenge them, and at what point do you tell them to suck it up and get to work? It's a difficult proposal all the way around, but student participation in making their grades better simply can't be ignored just because the system itself has problems.

I wonder though if this op-ed piece will have people driving past his house and throwing Molotov Cocktails or the burning of him in effigy at a local protest. At the very least I can see them smearing his name in scandalous stories all over the front page of the NYT. After all the man is a heretic - not following the party line. It's a dangerous path to take.

Posted by: Teresa in Education at 08:16 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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December 28, 2005

Hi My Name Is Barbie...

My blog daughter Mathcog Idiocy has proposed a discussion on whether or not Math is Hard. She points to a very short post on Ars Mathematica that simply says "discuss" and mathematicians proceed to give their point of view.

Since my point is off at a tangent I thought I would post it here.

Now you must understand, I have not reached the higher branches of mathematics I have a minor in Applied Mathematics and I was 2 courses shy of a double major in Computer Science /Applied Math - but I didn't have the time or energy to finish the last 2 classes way back then.

What I found - returning to school as an adult student is that (for me at least) math simply required concentration on my part. Very diligent concentration - I had to make every class - I did all the office hours I could - I did all my homework (even without the incentive of a homework grade). When I did all this - I did very well in the math classes. I am NOT by any means a natural mathematician... I worked damned hard at it. The thing I am most proud of was my second test in my Calc 2 class where I got a 100% - I so wanted to frame that baby and hang it on my wall! I loved Calc 2!

Now here I will repeat myself for the umteenth time (sorry but it still annoys me so much it makes my head nearly explode). When I decided to go back for my CS degree I had to go back and retake College Algebra and Trigonometry. I had taken those classes way back in high school and then had to repeat them in college the first time I was there. (they were my math credit for my Nursing School degree... I should have known then that Nursing was not quite the thing for me... but I digress)

When I went to enroll in those 2 classes - the counselor at the Community College said "are you sure you want to do that - math is hard"!!! Yes, she actually said this to me. I wanted to bite her... but instead I just smiled and said, well don't worry about it, just sign me up for the classes. She said, "well maybe you should just take one of these". As I clamped my finger nails into the palms of my hands I said, "I've already taken these classes 2 other times, I think I can handle it, just sign me up".

I continue to wonder how in the hell we EVER have women who major in math subjects with counseling like this!

After the refresher semester at the Community College, I moved on to the University. I had looked at all my options and decided to go with the Computer Science degree and the theoretical emphasis. Mainly because this looked like the one most likely to tell me how everything worked - down to the nitty gritty. If you know the basics - you can always learn the applications that are built from it. Well, the guy who was the head of the department (at that time CS was a fairly new major... maybe about 5 years old or so) was a math PhD. He would get together with groups of students before they entered the program and talk to them about the differing types of emphasis.

After the group discussion, which seemed to be aimed primarily at younger kids (I was 32 had a husband 2 kids and a dog - not the traditional student), he talked to each of us individually. When he got to me he said, "are you sure you want to do the theoretical emphasis? The math is hard you know. You might like something such as the application emphasis more"!!! This from a man who was a Math Professor! I just gritted my teeth and said, "oh I like math I think I'll be okay" and then I had to walk away.

I could only attend school part time because of the kids so it took me a total of 5 years to finish 2.5 years worth of work. On asking people in every class I took... I never found one other person that had been told "math is hard" by the department head - not the girls and certainly not the guys. There weren't any other housewife types like me and none in my emphasis! (I am paranoid and begin to wonder if the word STUPID is tattooed on my forehead and I just don't see it...)

Back to the post on Ars Mathematica... one of the commenters (PeterMcB) says...

Teaching undergraduate computer scientists has led me to the belief that if maths is hard, then computer science is harder. While it is true that mathematics CAN require abstract thought, not all mathematicians are good at the kind of abstract thought required to be a programmer.

This simply blew me away! I always thought programming was so very much easier than any of the math I had to do. (mind you I find it nearly impossible to write a program with pencil and paper and I have a very difficult time following a printed out program - put it on a computer... I'm good to go) Sometimes the concept of how to logically code a program was difficult - but it is logical and as such a programmer can outline what they want the program to do, and then write that program in the language used in the class. I wrote programs in Fortran, COBOL, C, Pascal, Assembler (IBM and PC)... maybe one or two others I don't remember right now. It was simply a matter of getting the correct language oddities into the correct places - once you had a pattern in your head of how the logic worked.

In the end - math and programming both have their difficulties. For me the math difficulty is that I don't retain what I don't use - so all those math classes wouldn't help me a bit now - I don't use Calculus for anything or Linear Algebra for that matter. I think the only thing that makes math "hard" is when someone is not the least interested in learning about it. Once you decide you don't want to learn - you certainly won't learn.

Math is Hard... poppycock!

Posted by: Teresa in Education at 07:03 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
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June 15, 2005

The Land of "Everybody Is Special"

Once upon a time being the valedictorian of your high school actually meant something... that was then, this is now.

One high school — 44 valedictorians

Yes, the Pacific Nut-West strikes again, a Seattle High School has 44 valedictorians and they're all very special people... just ask any of the parents or the school staff.

This year's 406-member graduating class at Garfield High School features 44 valedictorians. Forty-four students with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages who, over seven semesters of mostly honors and Advanced Placement classes, have never earned less than an A.

Not to belittle the accomplishments of these students, but when I graduated from High School (lo these many moons ago) there were 463 students in my class and we had 1 each - valedictorian, salutatorian. Now I realize it's coming up to nearly 30 years ago since that point... but you can't expect me to believe that kids have gotten that much smarter... I've talked to many kids over the years - it just ain't so!

I am quite sure there are probably 5 students (tops) who could possibly be rightfully vying for the honor - there are always a certain small number of students who will work their butts off and really are smart...

But they can't fool the kids with this kind of mediocrity.

"It's definitely a sign of egregious grade inflation," said Nathan Pflueger, one of Garfield's 4.0 seniors.

and

Sophie Egan, senior-class president, captain of the girls track team and another valedictorian, points out that Garfield doesn't have a weighted grading system, as do many districts outside Seattle.

Yeah, it must make some of the students just cringe when they see someone getting A's in basketweaving and it counts just as much as their own A's in AP Calculus! (But we all know that all students are special - right? and basketweaving can be very difficult!)

Then there is the inevitable conundrum... who gets to speak? That's one of the primary honors of being the valedictorian.

A plan to have the valedictorians elect two speakers was shot down after Principal Ted Howard talked with class officers and other seniors. The consensus, Howard said, was that the school's smartest kids should have their moment in the spotlight.

At graduation ceremonies Monday at Qwest Field, 35 of the valedictorians will give a brief, inspirational quote. The other nine opted not to speak.

OMG - shoot me now!!! That ceremony is going to take HOURS!!! Heaven forbid you actually make a hard choice - heaven forbid that graduating seniors find out that life ain't always fair!

Now if you read the whole thing... you will finally get the the real reason there are so many valedictorians and why all of them get to speak...

"After special education, the biggest number of school court cases is around the selection of valedictorians," he said.

Ah yes, the ubiquitous lawsuit the American way to cow any school. The best way in the world to promote mediocrity. It's very sad that people think this is the way to make their lives better... all it does is make the high achievers angry and the low achievers feel guilty. Because we all know when we truly deserve an honor, just as we all know when an honor is being handed out like candy.

So, go read the article - find out about "national grading experts" and tenths of points and how none of this matters...

If you've seen the movie The Incredibles you know that "when everybody is special... no one will be".

Posted by: Teresa in Education at 01:14 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
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June 13, 2005

I Need to Keep My Job Because...

Apparently the Washington DC Metro has decided to give it's workers elocution lessons. I have never ridden on the system, but according to the article, the operators announce the stops... badly. This causes many headaches for travelers, who are trying to figure out exactly where in the city they might be.

On the Metra trains in Chicago - they have mostly gone to automated systems on the trains themselves. It works FAR better than the live announcements ever did. With the live announcements, you had to contend with things like - poor pronunciation, speaking too fast, bad sound system, each announcer holding the microphone too close or to far from their mouth... etc etc. We still have to contend with really bad sound at the stations - but on the trains themselves the problem is mostly taken care of...

So, naturally the reporter asked one of the Washington DC Metro workers about putting in an automated system.

Tabatha Hawkins, one of 20 elocution students and an eight-year veteran of Washington's Metro, doubted recorded messages could take the place of people on Metro.

"I think having the operator make the announcement makes it a little more personal, makes people feel comfortable," Hawkins said in an interview during a class break. "If I'm on the train and I just hear a taped announcement, how do I know if someone is really sitting there on the train?"

She needs more than elocution lessons I think...

Posted by: Teresa in Education at 05:42 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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