L.A.Times Reporter Might Have Messed up the Math — Will the Ancient Astronomers Come to the Rescue?

WOW!

You won’t believe the revolutionary discoveries that modern astronomers have found, by carefully decoding old astronomical tablets written on tablets, in cuneiform, as long ago as 700 BC in modern-day Iraq!

You might not be surprised that a science reporter and various commentators reporting on the story – including myself – may have got the math wrong.

This is not just clickbait – the historical research was very dedicated and quite clever, and it shows that all the  years I’ve tried to to study and learn Arabic, astronomy, Babylonian, calculus, Chinese, French, geometry, Hebrew, Latin, mathematics, Russian, Spanish and Turkish might actually pay off one day, when I grow up! (*)

What’s the scoop?

In a nutshell: Researchers read and translated a bunch of ancient and more recent records of eclipses of the Sun and Moon, from cultures all over the world, over a period of 27 centuries. They compared those results  with what modern software and computers calculate they should be if you simply went backwards in time at a rate of precisely 24 hours per day. That meant studying lots of obscure records written in Chinese, Babylonian, Arabic, and Latin, as well as in modern languages.

The researchers were quite impressed at how accurate the Arab and Chinese records were, even though their instruments were much cruder than what we have today. (Obviously, no telescopes, no electric clocks, etc, etc…) The records from the Roman empire and early Mediaeval Europe, however, are apparently not nearly as good (200 BC – 600 AD) as the Chinese and Arab ones were.

cuneiform-astronomy

After the invention of the telescope a bit over 400 years ago, records became much richer. For example, observers could record the time, to the second (or even better), when a star would get blocked out by the Moon and then eventually re-appear on the other side.

(David Dunham , though retired, is an expert on this.)

Bottom line, according to the newspaper reporter: If it’s noon right now, and you could somehow go back in time precisely twenty-five centuries ago to exactly where you are standing or sitting, then everybody else back then (about 500 BC) would see the time as the equivalent of 7 PM, because the earth is turning on its axis ever so slightly slower today.

Revolutionary, I told you! Not joking, not exaggerating either!

But wait a second – how much would that be slowing down per year? The article doesn’t spell it out, but 7 hours is 420 minutes, or 60*420 = 25200 seconds,. If we divide that by about 2500 years, you get 10 seconds per year!

Wait a second, that doesn’t sound right at all! These days, if the earth really got slower at a uniform rate of 10 seconds per year, many of our cheap quartz watches and clocks are so accurate that we would actually notice the difference!

Let’s go back. The LATimes reporter, Deborah Netburn, wrote:  “the amount of time it takes for Earth to complete a single rotation on its axis has slowed by 1.8 milliseconds per day over the course of a century” – which is not very clear.

A commenter on LATimes website, named “It is me Here” wrote:

The time discrepancy described as “It may not sound significant, but over the course of 2½ millenniums, that time discrepancy adds up to about 7 hours” is not 7 hours. Over 2500 years it amounts to: 1.8 (milliseconds) x 365 (days per year) x 2,500 (years) = 1,642,500 milliseconds, that equals 1,642 seconds that equals 27.38 minutes, not 7 hours.

 

Did you get that, and do you agree? If not, let’s go back a little further, to the  abstract of the original study report which says:

New compilations of records of ancient and medieval eclipses in the period 720 BC to AD 1600, and of lunar occultations of stars in AD 1600–2015, are analysed to investigate variations in the Earth’s rate of rotation. It is found that the rate of rotation departs from uniformity, such that the change in the length of the mean solar day (lod) increases at an average rate of +1.8 ms per century. This is significantly less than the rate predicted on the basis of tidal friction, which is +2.3 ms per century.

(my emphasis – gfb)

 

So, would we really be 7 hours slow if we went back?

Maybe, maybe not.

Let’s think about it differently:

Since 500 BC, it has been about 25 centuries. According to the study, every century the earth slows down by about 1.8 milliseconds, which isn’t very much. 25 * 18 milliseconds is 450 milliseconds, which is a bit less than half a second. So does that mean we have to add up all of those 1.8 milliseconds by 365 days

That’s not much at all.

(BTW, why does the earth get slower? One source of the slowing down is simply the friction of the ocean tides. If you’ve ever been to the ocean and paid attention, you know that the gravitational pull among the Sun, Earth and Moon raise and lower a WHOLE lot of water all over the world, twice a day. That takes a HUGE amount of energy and a lot of it is dissipated in friction, which slows things down. But there are others.)

But here is a different way of looking at it still, as a trapezoid: the left-hand parallel side is about one-half second shorter than 24 hours – the length of a day in during ancient Babylonian days. The right hand parallel side is exactly 24 hours long. In between, there are 2,500 elapsed years.

Let’s pretend that each of those years contains 365 days (let’s agree to ignore the effect of leap years for right now). If the shape were a rectangle, then that would mean that the earth had not slowed down at all, and if you went backwards in time from now by 2500 years it would be exactly the same date, same time.

slowing-of-length-of-day

Apparently, it’s not. The lost or extra time is the part I show in this next diagram:

slowing-of-length-of-day-2

 

That little pink section is a a long skinny triangle with its right hand end 1/2 second per day long, and the base is 2500 years long, or 912,500 days. The area of a triangle is 1/2 * base * height, and so we use 1/2 * 1/2 * 912,500 and get 228,125 seconds lost (the ‘days’ units cancel out), or about 3802 minutes, or 63 hours, 22 minutes, which is 2 days, 15 hours, and 22 minutes off.

Not sure if I’m right or not, but would appreciate comments.

Here is one of the figures from the paper:

intercalation-revolution-of-earth

(*) Note that I don’t claim to be fluent in all of them. Far from it! Guess in which of the languages ones I can reed perdy guud and which ones I can at least stumble a conversation in?

 

Published in: on December 8, 2016 at 4:39 pm  Comments (4)  

If US Students Are Doing Worse After 15 Years of Test & Punish (NCLB, RTTT, ESSA, etc), Then By All Means Do It Harder and More Vigorously!

You probably saw the results that American students actually did a little worse than in previous years on the international math/reading/science test known as PISA, and are falling behind their international peers. If you didn’t, here are a few links: here, here, and here.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed that since 2001, the American public education system has been laboring under various ridiculous laws like ‘No Child Left Behind’ which mandated that by 2014, every single student in every single subgroup in every single school would magically become ‘proficient’ on American tests that are similar to PISA, or else their teachers and administrators would be fired, the schools would be shut down, and their education would be turned over to private charter operators.

Of course, not all American students became magically proficient – that was not possible, just like not everybody can run a 5 or 6 minute mile, no matter how many coaches you fire. However, many, many schools were shut down, many teachers and principals were fired, and private charter operators have taken over the profits from educating more and more students.

Two states stand out from the rest: Michigan and Massachusetts.

Michigan, the home of incoming EdSec Betsy Devos, has turned over the education of its poorest students to lots of charter and voucher schools — and if you look at the results, they are terrible. Detroit appears to be the worst of all cities tested, in fact. (See graph below) Therefore, she (and many other ‘reformers’) want to extend those efforts to all 50 states.

Massachusetts, however, has a serious cap on the number of charter schools. Its citizents recently voted down a proposal funded by people like DeVos to remove that limit and open up dozens of additional charter schools. May I add that Massachusetts has the highest NAEP scores in the nation? * And teachers who are generally union members? Quoting from one of the Post articles, our current secretary of education, who thinks that the solution to everything educational is more charters, more testing, more standards, and more vouchers:

“King pointed to Massachusetts, where students excelled on the PISA test, as an example of how states can get education right.”

In other words, if you do everything that King and Devos recommend, then you might guess that your test scores will go DOWN. If you do the opposite of what they recommend, then it looks like scores go UP.

math_tuda_barchart1-2015

  • Although Boston is not #1 in scores of all large separately-tested cities, Massachusetts as a whole is in fact #1 on the latest NAEP. Don’t believe me? Look it up here.

 

 

“Schools Matter” on Democrats’ Public School Betrayal

Jim Horn (I think) here excoriates the heads of the AFT, NEA and Diane Ravitch for helping sell out public school students, their families and their teachers to the corporate and financial oligarchs. Is he going overboard?

I know for a fact that Randi Weingarten is playing a very complicated double game: she personally negotiated the terrible contract in DC that started the give-back of pretty much all teacher rights in return for a mythic ally high salary that very, very few teachers will ever stick around to collect.

Is Horn going too far? Read it, and comment. I’m posting the whole thing.

Schools Matter

DeVos Will Make Democrat’s Charter Plan Easier to Sell

Posted: 05 Dec 2016 07:55 AM PST

A few years back Diane Ravitch was forced to admit openly what the opponents of testing accountability knew when No Child Left Behind became law: the ridiculous goal of 100% percent student proficiency in reading and math could never be met, and the fanciful imposition of such a pipe dream would wreak havoc across the entire K-12 education universe.

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By the time Ravitch finally came around to acceding the dangerous fantasy that she had loyally promoted along with her fellow charter and voucher supporters at the Hoover Institution, almost half the schools in the U. S. had already been labeled as failures, and a reckless and corrupt corporate feeding frenzy had been set into motion by Ravitch’s free market chums. Tutoring companies were draining billions in federal dollars by cramming poor children for tests they would never pass; the scandal-ridden Reading First gang was shoving its antiquarian reading techniques nationwide to really bad effect; alternate teacher certification scams had been federally incentivized; charter schools, both virtual and physical, were springing up like mushrooms in cow paddies after a rain, and a whole new industry of sponsored fake education research by corporate foundation “think” tanks had become an acceptable occupation for under-employed academics.

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During the seven years since Ravitch’s lucrative conversion experience, Diane has made it clear that she maintains one foot solidly on the side of the corporate education reformers who brought us the NCLB disaster. It took her until 2013 to admit her stubborn wrongheadedness on Common Core, even while maintaining even today her support for “voluntary” national standards–whatever that means. Today she maintains her enthusiasm for shoveling Core Knowledge into the heads of children, just as she remains a supporter of ridiculously high NAEP standards that have been used by “reformers” for years to bludgeon the public schools for their low scores.

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In early 2015, her crucial support for NCLB 2.0, which is better known as ESSA, made her culpablility undeniable. This was followed by a year of propagandizing for the longtime charter supporter, Hillary Clinton, while pretending to be the most determined foe of school corporatization. Diane’s blog was used to soft-pedal Weingarten’s autocratic choice of Clinton over Sanders, just as it was used to obfuscate Hillary’s supportive position on corporate welfare charters. And it was her political soulmate, Randi Weingarten, who put the final flourishes on the Democratic platform, which clearly supported charter schools while pretending to do the opposite.

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Her recent outlining for Jay Mathews the kind of charter schools she would support signals that she is ready to swing both legs onto the side of the charter fence. Along with the NEA’s Eskelsen, AFT’s Weingarten, and the troglodytes running the DNC, Ravitch is clearly signaling surrender on charters to Team Trump, even before the first inaugural dance.

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Ravitch, as lead propagandist for the corporate unions, will use the Betsy DeVos nomination to make the Dem position of supporting “non-profit” segregated no excuses charters seem most reasonable in comparison. It is not a coincidence that Ravitch is suddenly playing footsie with charter spokesman, Jay Mathews.

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The ESSA, which could not have happened without NPE, NEA, and AFT support, will continue intact, thus allowing Trump, too, to appear reasonable in letting public schools die a slower death than Sister Betsy would have preferred. And thus the bipartisan dismantling of public education is likely to continue on schedule. The biggest change we are likely to see in Washington are the corporate Democrats from the Gates Foundation heavily reinforced by the corporate Republicans from the Walton Foundation.
Oh yes, don’t forget to send your next donation to NPE. Ravitch and the corporate unions need your support to buy a whole new coat of whitewash.

What Exactly Are the Differences between Democrats and Republicans on Charter Schools?

According to this column by Carolyn Leith, not really all that much. I thought this is worth reading. The source is here

Last year, I wrote an open letter to Senator Patty Murray pleading with her to reconsider the lavish financial support charter schools were slated to receive in the soon to be re-authorized ESEA.

My argument:

The Supreme Court has found the Washington State Legislature in contempt for not fulfilling its duty to fully fund basic education.

The federal government made this situation even worse when it allowed aid to states to expire in 2012. This money was being used by states to keep our public schools running.

Given the precarious state of public school funding in Washington State, I’m confused by your willingness to include generous funding for charter schools in the ESEA.

Not only did the Supreme Court rule Washington State’s charter law unconstitutional, but charter schools have a track record for all kinds of financial scandals. Don’t believe me? Just google “charter school scandals” and take a look.

We can’t afford to have any dollars diverted from our classrooms. Any dollar lost to scandal is one not being spent on the 1 million public school students in Washington State.

The rest is history.

The ESEA sailed through Congress and with President Obama’s signature – became law as the ESSA.

In November, Patty Murray – supporter of the TPP and co-author of the ESSA – skated to another term with 59% of the vote.

The only kink was Trump’s victory and his selection of Betsy DeVos to be the new Secretary of Education. THAT was a buzz kill.

Suddenly, Democrats and progressives (whatever that means anymore) couldn’t stop talking about charters and the evils of privatization.

AWKWARD.

Here’s the thing: Democrats are just as into charter schools as Republicans. The only difference is the language they use to sell the idea to their supporters. Democrats talk about gaps while the Republicans complain about the public education monopoly.

Don’t believe me?

In September, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, John King, sent out a press release announcing $245 million in new grants for charter schools. $245 million !?!

“Ensuring that all students have access to an academically challenging and engaging education is critical to preparing them for college and career success,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “Innovative charter schools are continuously developing new and impactful practices to close achievement gaps and provide all students with the skills and abilities they need to thrive. We are proud to support these efforts along with strong charter school authorizing and accountability, particularly given these grantees’ commitment to communities facing steep academic challenges.”

(Did you see the word gaps?)

Selective Outrage

I’m done with Democrats who only activate their moral compasses when a Republican is President. I don’t have the time or patience to support an organization that puts scoring political points over principles.

Remember when Hillary Clinton made big headlines by trying to sell NEA members on the lesser of two evils argument that non-profit charters were a vast improvement over the garden variety charter school?

Think about it: The Democratic Party’s candidate for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton, was campaigning as a supporter of charter schools — to an audience full of teachers. You can’t be more pro-charter than that.

But now – with a Republican President and a potential Education Secretary who LOVES all things charter – Democrats and their progressive minions are beside themselves. Outraged, even.

Sorry to be a downer, but I can’t help wondering where all of these VERY concerned Democrats were a year ago.

Oh, I remember, they were in Congress, working with the charter lobby to re-write the ESSA, so privatization supporters could get EVERYTHING on their wish list.

It’s Worse Than You Think

Now, we come to the really bad part of the story. The ESSA – constructed in a bipartisan manner – is a doomsday device for public education AND it’s the law of the land.

Here are the ESSA’s three arms of destructio

  • Accountability measured designed to create turn-around schools which are ripe for charter conversion.
  • Innovative assessments to usher in online learning software, ELOs, and “anytime, any place learning”.
  • Infusion of big federal dollars so charters can push out resource starved public schools

It appears the school privatizing lobby – within the Democratic Party – was so sure of a Clinton victory, they rushed to pass the ESSA – never considering the possibility of a Clinton loss.

Well, it happened.

Instead of the happy face of privatization offered by the Democratic Party, we’re faced with a Betsy DeVos who can’t wait to push the red button and could care less about human suffering or the rubble left behind.

Charter Lobby Victory

The ESSA gave the charter lobby everything they wanted and then some. Take a look:

Specifically, changes to the Charter School Program (CSP) include the following:

The CSP now includes dedicated funding for the replication and expansion of high-performing charter schools. In addition, state grants can also be used for the same purpose.

The state grant program can now be administered by governors and charter support organizations in addition to state educational agencies.

The state grant program prioritizes funding to states that provide equitable resources to charter schools and that assist charters in accessing facilities.

The state grant program provides schools with additional spending flexibility for startup funds. For example, they will be allowed to use CSP funds to purchase a school bus and make minor facility improvements.

The state grant program includes new protections to ensure funds go to charter schools with autonomy and flexibility consistent with the definition of a charter school.

Charter school representatives must be included in Title I negotiated rule-making and must be included, like other stakeholders at the state and local level, in the implementation of many federal programs.

CSP recipients will have more flexibility to use a weighted lottery to increase access to charter schools for disadvantaged students. CSP grantees will also be permitted to use feeder patterns to prioritize students that attended earlier grades in the same network of charter schools.

And other provisions that affect charter schools include:

  • New and expanding charter schools are required to receive timely allocations of Title I allocations and to be “held harmless” in the same manner as other eligible Title I traditional public schools.
  • The highly qualified teacher requirement has been repealed. Charters are free to design personnel systems and hire staff that meet the unique needs of their school.
  • States are required to administer annual reading and math assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8, and once in high school. Science assessments are required once in each grade span: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12.
  • States must hold all public schools accountable for improving student achievement of all students, as well as all subgroups of students.
  • Schools are also accountable for adjusted four year and extended cohort graduation rates.
  • LEAs have flexibility to use Title I funds for school improvement to increase the number of high-quality charter schools serving students attending failing schools.
  • New provisions to demonstrate compliance with the “supplement not supplant” requirement include additional flexibility in aligning federal program funds with their educational programs.

What can we learn from all of this?

Neoliberalism – and school privatization is straight out of the handbook – hurts people and the public institutions humans depend on.

The particular political leader pushing the neoliberal agenda doesn’t matter. Some will appear progressive, others conservative. It doesn’t matter.

Blind partisan loyalty is sucking the legitimacy out of our political process.

This has got to stop.

When your political team embraces part of the neoliberal agenda, you need to speak up and say “NO” – just as loudly as when the other team does.

Otherwise, we’ll continue to be rewarded with dumpster fires like the ESSA.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

What if Finnish Teachers Taught in the USA?

You have all heard that FInland does the best job in the world at getting high scores on tests like PISA without burdening their students or their teachers with extreme workloads. Finland does not have long hours of homework for elementary kids, and they don’t require the daily filing of rigidly formatted, complex lesson plans for teachers. Finnish teachers are selected from the very best of their university classes, and have enormous amount of control over what they do, which they plan with their peers.

So what if some of these Finnish teachers came and worked here in the US?

Now we know, thanks to an article in The Atlantic.

A couple of quotes, from three such teachers. One said,

“If you asked me now, my answer would be that most likely I would not continue in this career.”

Another:

While teaching in Finnish schools, she had plenty of leeway to plan with colleagues, select curricular materials for the principal to consider purchasing, and influence decisions about schedules and responsibilities.

Today, with 16 years of teaching in U.S. public schools under her belt, this ESL teacher feels that she lacks a career in teaching. She described it as a rote job where she follows a curriculum she didn’t develop herself, keeps a principal-dictated schedule, and sits in meetings where details aren’t debated.

And another:

“I teach six classes a day with a one 45-[minute] ‘planning’ period,” she said. “My classes are at three different proficiency levels, and I have four minutes between classes to prepare for the next class. At the same time, I am expected to stand in the hallways to monitor students as [they] transfer from class to class, and to check my email for last-minute updates and changes because of ongoing testing or other events.”

All of those tasks, and several others, wear her down: “I feel rushed, nothing gets done properly; there is very little joy, and no time for reflection or creative thinking (in order to create meaningful activities for students).”

Muja concluded her response with a quote from one of Pasi Sahlberg’s articles for The Washington Post, “What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools?”

Sahlberg, an education scholar and the author of Finnish Lessons 2.0, answers the theoretical question in his article’s title, writing in part: “I argue that if there were any gains in student achievement they would be marginal. Why? Education policies in Indiana and many other states in the United States create a context for teaching that limits (Finnish) teachers to use their skills, wisdom and shared knowledge for the good of their students’ learning.”

Why ‘School Choice’ is actually a Bad Choice

Read Steven Singer on this, inlight of what we already know out Betsy DeVill Devos.

https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/top-10-reasons-school-choice-is-no-choice/

Some Ways to Fight Fascism (and other forms of Extremism)

I got this from Kathleen McCormack Perez:

Tuesday, on Facebook, Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder shared the following powerful thoughts:

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.
1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.
2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.
3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.
4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.
5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.
6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.
7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.
8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.
10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.
11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.
12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.
13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.
14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.
15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.
16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.
17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.
18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)
19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.
20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.
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Published in: on November 26, 2016 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Private Profiteer Schools on the Public Dole” – Valerie Jablow

Privatizers in charge of public schools – the sad cases of Antwon Wilson, Betsy Devos, DFER, and many others, from Valerie Jablow at EducationDC dot net:

Meet Our New Public Education Personnel: Just Like the Old Ones (Only More So)

An Immodest Proposal

If you look at the lingo used to justify all the horrendous crap being imposed by “Ed reform”, you’ll see that it’s all couched in lefty-liberal civil rights language. But its results are anything but. Very strange.

Q: Can you cite some examples?

GFB: Yes. From the TFA website:

“Everyone has a right to learn. But in our country today, the education you receive depends on where you live, what your parents earn, and the color of your skin.

“That’s a serious injustice. And in the national movement to right  our contribution is the leadership of remarkable people.

“Our people—diverse and passionate—start in low-income classrooms, where the stakes are highest. We help them become teachers who can dramatically expand students’ opportunities. But our teachers don’t just teach their students, they learn from them.

“They gain a better understanding of the problems and the opportunities in our education system and use those lessons to define their path forward. Many stay in the classroom. Others leave. Both paths matter because to set things right, we need leaders in all areas of education and social justice united in a vision that one day, all kids will have access to an excellent education.”

GFB: However, the way TFA works in practice is that the kids who need the most experienced, skillful teachers, instead get total newbies straight out of college with no teaching experience, no mentoring, and courses on how to teach whatever subject they are they are assigned to. Their five weeks of summer training are mostly rah-rah cheerleading and browbeating. Their only classroom experiences during that summer are a dozen or so hours teaching a handful of kids, **in a subject or grade level totally different from whatever they will be randomly assigned to**.

What underprivileged students do NOT need is an untrained newbie who won’t stick with them. If anything, this policy INCREASES the ‘achievement gap’.

Q: I’m sorry Guy, but none of this poses a solution. Paying the teachers more is not the answer. I know this because I would quit my engineering job in a heartbeat to teach. I honestly would. And I would do it for 1/4 the pay. But not under these  conditions. Not with “father education” telling me how to use fancy calculators to educate kids. Not when you take what I love about math and turn it into garbage. The paradigm sucks, independent of the lousy pay.

GFB: That’s yet another reason to oppose Michelle Rhee. She and her allies have figured out how to micromanage teaching down to the minute and to the very sentences teachers are required to read — from a script. Yes, she and Jason Kamras and Raj Chetty and the other billionaires friends have made it that teachers have no say whatsoever on content or methodology.

If they are not on the same page exactly, down to the minute, they can get marked down, harassed, suspended and fired.

Want to teach under those conditions for twice the pay? Me neither.

It’s not “Teach Like A Champion” as Doug Lemov puts it: it’s teach like a robot.

Q: Plus, their answer to teaching is to integrate technology. They think that if they use technology, everybody will be prepared for the “real world”. Unfortunately, the technology they use isn’t utilized in the real world. So…useless. Somebody needs to tell them this!

GFB:  That’s often true. However I think the teacher should be the one to judge how much technology to use and when. Occasionally we should show them really OLD technology like carving quill pens from turkey feathers, or making their own batteries from copper pennies and galvanized iron…

But you can’t do that with Value Added Measurements and rubrics testing whether you are on the Commin Core Crapiculum to the minute.

I wasn’t really giving THE or even A solution. I was objecting to the solution we are having imposed on us right now. If you want proposed solutions, here goes:

  1. Get people who don’t have actual, extensive teaching or research experience out of the command and control centers of education except as advisors.so, no Michelle Rhee, Andre Agassi, Arne Duncan, Billionaire Broad at the helm.
  2. For our poorer kids, make sure they have free, high quality wraparound services of every kind from the moment their mother notices she’s pregnant.
  3. So for example good well-qualified dentists, ophthalmologists, psychologists, general practitioners, and other doctors should come to each school and check eyes ears nose throat etc and give immunizations to every kid, no more than a single hour of class needs to be missed. If they get hurt on the playground or suddenly vomit in class, it’s really taken care of, right away.
  4. There should be all sorts of remedial help available for kids AS SOON AS help appears to be needed: eyesight, hearing, balance, coordination, mental math, memory improvement, spelling, reading, writing, walking, emotional difficulties, etc. (Right now, the provisions of ADA and IDEA are not funded, so school districts have an incentive to NOT diagnose those with deficiences or learning disabilities, because then they would have to take care of them. Charter schools for the most part just pretend that there are no IEPs.)
  5. Every kid gets a lot of ‘gross motor’ outdoor activities – not just team sports but also things like wilderness hikes, camping, horse care and riding, farming, boating. And music and drama and arts of all sorts – not just for the talented few, but everybody. Lots of after-school activities of these sorts.
  6. Teachers (and parents) should select their principals from among the ranks of the teachers. The principal should also teach, part-time.
  7. Teachers should have at least two years of education theory (and human psychology) and a full year and a half of student teaching, and at least a college major in their area, under experienced mentors. Teachers should be given help o0n how to defuse tense situations and child psychology, and should be chosen from the ranks of those showing
    1. academic promise and
    2. the ability to empathize and
    3. the ability to explain patiently and clearly.
  8. Classes should be much, much smaller. If 12:1 is good enough at Phillips Exeter Academy with their Harkness Tables, why not at Malcolm X ES in far Southeast Washington DC? And if it’s a hands on activity like a chemistry lab or using compasses & straightedges or making birdhouses, get an assistant or two so that it’s more like 3:1.
  9. Let the teachers wrangle over curriculum. State level is fine. County level is fine. School level is fine. To hell with these state-wide standardized tests and curricula, be they bubble type or click and drag.
  10. Actual hands-on vocational training that leads to actual jobs should be available to all who want it, and corporations must engage to hire those grads at decent rates of pay and with promises of additional training.
  11. State-college or  state-university higher education needs to be much, much cheaper. Student debt, like all other debt, should be dischargeable upon bankruptcy, and should be payoff able by many kinds of national service. (Exact provisions TBD, but teaching should definitely be one of those forms of national service. Payments and interest in limbo for the first X years, paid off at Y percent per year, fully paid off after Z years. Exact values of X, Y, Z are TBD.)
  12. Teachers should be paid well enough that they don’t need to get second jobs. Pay in DCPS is not the problem. Working conditions are the problem.
  13. I think that 3-4 hours of personal contact time with kids per day is enough. Planning for each class and heading papers can easily take 2x the amount of class time. So each paper turned in by a student should be returned the next day, marked intelligently.
  14. Since the bosses have their own organizations (NAM, Chamber of Commerce, ALEC, the Koch Brothers network, Council on Foreign Relations, the Cosmos Club, etc) so should the employees. Teachers’ unions should continue to exist but should be more democratic.
  15. Students should, in fact, be held responsible for their success or failure. It’s not all on the teacher, as it is now. Social promotion for a number of years is OK, many countries do it without bad effects, but there should be some sort of a test, I think, of all sorts: practical (eg drawing something, playing a musical piece, climbing a wall, drilling a hole, writing an essay, doing a proof, viewing something under the microscope, etc) as well as a pencil-and-paper or mouse-and-screen test of some sort. Not just arcane reading and math.
  16.  Those who don’t meet the mark should obviously be advised as to what their options are, and those options should be available and well-funded, whatever they might be.
  17. We should strike a balance between having kids go to their walk-to neighborhood schools and having truly integrated schools where each school has a mix of kids of all ethnic groups and incomes. How to do that, exactly , under our current mega-segregated urban patterns, is beyond me. The superhighways and redlinings of the last 80 years are not going to be overcome overnight, but having kids ride for hours to charter schools where there is no neighborhood connection – that’s not the answer.
  18. Anything I left out?

The Electoral College Should Be Retired or Abolished – Just Like Quill Pens, Buggy Whips, Powdered Wigs, and Slavery

I have just run the numbers, and it is true – the US Electoral College is one of the worst Gerrymanders imaginable.

Five times now, the winner of the total popular vote in the US ended up losing the election (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016). Clinton is now out-polling Trump by quite a bit (61.7 million to 60.4 million), but Trump is unfortunately probably going to win the presidency.

Just how perverse is the Electoral College? Beyond your wildest dreams.

I have just calculated that one party could WIN the presidency with only 31% of the total popular vote, while their opponents could LOSE the presidential election with 69% of the popular vote.

I am neither kidding nor exaggerating.

It comes from the fact that small states and voting territories like WY, DC, VT, ND, AK are wildly over-represented in the Electoral College. In Wyoming, each Elector represents a total population of about 177,000 people. In DC, each one represents 197,000 people. In Vermont, it’s 207,000 people per Elector.

But in large states like TX, FL, and CA, the population is grossly under-represented in the EC. In Texas, there are about 715,000 people per Elector – over FOUR TIMES as many as in Wyoming. In Florida, there are 679,000 people per Elector, and in California there are about 668,000 people per Elector.

The difference mostly comes from the fact that each state has two Senators, regardless of population.

So, if one party is able to win a whole bunch of smaller-population states with 51% of the vote in each one, and the other one wins the rest of the relatively-few larger-population states with a lopsided 90% of the vote in each one, it is possible for the first party to get to 285 electoral votes by only getting 37 million votes, while the opposition could get 83 million votes but lose the election because they only got 253 electoral college votes.

In a country with about 330 million people, the winners could get by with the votes of only TWELVE PERCENT of the population!!!

That is just plain perverse: Party A gets outvoted by a TWO-TO-ONE margin and still wins the presidency!?!?!?

It is time that we got rid of the electoral college, just like we got rid of buggy whips, blacksmiths on every corner, candlestick makers, and white powdered wigs. And slavery.

For the sake of this completely lopsided hypothetical election, I am assuming that the losing side got 90% of the vote in the following states: PA, WA, VA, IL, NC, NY, GA, AZ, CA, FL, and TX. That would give them a grand total of 253 electoral college votes – not enough – but a popular vote of over 83 million people. The winning side would win all of the other states by 51% to 49% margins, giving them 285 electoral votes but less than 37 million actual votes.

This cannot be tolerated any longer.

=======================================

Notes:

  • For the sake of simplicity, I am treating all of Nebraska and all of Maine as single states.
  • Don’t think that 90% votes are impossible. Here in Washington DC, Trump apparently got only about FOUR percent of the vote. Not 14%. Not 40%. But four per cent.
  • I am using the proportion of the population in each state that voted either Democrat or Republican in this last election as the baseline.
  •  Write me a note (in comments) if you want to see the entire spreadsheet and I can post it on Dropbox.
  • The idea for this column isn’t original, but the calculations are my own, and the numbers are based on this source and this one. I don’t recall what source I got the idea from, unfortunately, so I can’t give them credit. If you know who came up with this idea, please let me know.

 

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