Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is Barak Obama The Anti-Bush?

I don't know about you, but I didn't have time at work to listen to more than ten minutes of the live Q & A. But I like the format. I can't imagine a more different president than Obama. He's like the anti-Bush, like Bush was the Bizzaro President to Obama's Superman version.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Take A Look At The Canopy

A Monday Kind Of Day

Found this at the end of a short article on kids taking a "field" trip to the boys restroom. No doubt, the quote should lighten your Monday:
"I'm OK with urinals," said Chessy. "It's just another kind of toilet. It makes things easier for boys, and boys need all the help they can get."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Something You Wouldn't Have Heard From GWB

The folks of the Bush Administration were experts at deflecting and playing the blame game, despite their insistence that we not play it. Shoot, it was not for us to play, but when it came time to deflect responsibility, the W, Rove and Co were straight up experts.

In a clearly decisive position, Obama, plays quite differently. By stepping up, you see, there is power to be had by assuming the responsibility:
“Washington is all in a tizzy over who’s at fault,” Mr. Obama said. “Some say it’s the Democrats’ fault, the Republicans’ fault. Listen, I’ll take responsibility. I’m the president.”
Even if GWB uttered these words, he and his crack team of propagandists were so good at deflecting responsibility and blame that W's words were not trustworthy. Moreover, we knew W's words were empty based on his follow through and lack of action.

Obama and his team, in direct contrast, are brilliant. Now let's hope he has a chance to make good on his word. The proof, indeed, will be in the pudding.

The republicans, who voted against the stimulus and are now praying for failure so they can re-win their seats to Congress, have to be squirming in their boots at this point.

Monday, March 16, 2009

AIG Top Dogs Set To Get Giant Buckets Of Bonus Money

Welcome to George Bush's America, where the people who lead borrowers down the primrose path to foreclosure are set to reward themselves for one of the biggest failures in corporate America amounting to the biggest governmental bailout in history. Shall these folks be allowed to get their bonuses, or not?


Blog on friends.

Blog on all.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Avoiding the Mahem of the Irish Bars on Tuesday, Here's a Dose of Traditional Irish

Micho Russell died a few years back, and we are all worse off for it. He's the whistle player here:

The Bothy Band Kicked Ass when they were together, their music still fills the set lists of many a trad session:

Altan has been on the circuit for a great long while, and I've seen them live twice. Kick ass smoothness:

And Mary Bergin, perhaps one of the best whistle players of all time. Any time I need an ego check, she humbles me:

A second dose of perfection:

The attraction of traditional Irish is that many people can do it, with a bit of practice, can become quite good:

Lastly, these guys are taking it to a new rockibily level and are playing the Great American Music Hall on Tuesday - get your tix now, they are bound to sell out.

Not only is the band super hot, their box player, Rene, makes playing the accordian look super hot!

Blog on friend.

Blog on all.

And, Erin go Bragh

Friday, March 13, 2009

Colbert Is Insightful As Well As Incisive

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Three Pronged Solution For Education in America

Given that Obama and his team have finally seriously broached the subject today, let's take a look at my three ideas for changing education in America. It's a three pronged approach, but there are additional facets to explore later.

First - the cost of education is too expensive. Why? Because the administrative overhead is extremely out of balance, particularly at the executive, top-end level. Thus, idea one: Cut the top first - eliminating the super-level of bureaucratic administration starting at the System or Superintendent's office.

Saving many millions of dollars by cutting those offices and redistributing it to the schools will generate a great investment in the front lines; where the education takes place and with the students. In the mid 1800s, where our modern systemic structure emerged, the most educated person in a school district, indeed, was the Superintendent of Schools. Kids were taught by young, unmarried women who received all their direction from this Superintendent. Today, the teachers could suffice as the superintendents of most school districts in the 1800s. Principals often have Ed.Ds or some long litany of educational credentials. What was the last good thing your Superintendent did that affected the daily education of a student? If your answer is, like many, you have no clue, then why are we spending the enormous overhead to support this bloated infrastructure? If there are administrative staff who will be displaced, send them out to the schools to help with the day-to-day operations, where the kids are.

Cutting the top first works at the collegiate level as well. Cutting the State System Offices - for example the CSU Chancellor's office - will save the system a great sum of money. Redistribute the funds to the colleges and universities in the system. Each college and university has their own governing boards, independent of the CSU dignitaries. The CSU maintains it's own expensive board. These systems are redundant. Again, if there are administrative staff that will be displaced by closing down the Long Beach operation of the CSU, redistribute them to the various campus and have them help in teaching or administrating locally, where the students are. If you don't add value to the student experience, then you are in jeopardy of losing your job.

Second - we need to expand the academic curriculum so that it harmonizes with the culture and needs of today's students and families. Thus idea 2 - introduce a year round calendar that engages students and teaching staff for a full year, with some time for a good break to rejuvenate for a family holiday (hopefully harmonizing with a corresponding work vacation).

Back over 150 years ago, we were a largely agrarian nation. This when the school systems and district systems were created. The calendar, reflected the nation at the time, and the needs to sustain the population. Indeed, children were needed to work the family farm over the summer. Aside from a large chunk of the mid-west and some other agricultural geographies (e.g. Central Valley of California), the nature of childhood doesn't involve plowing the fields, picking rock, or being involved in animal husbandry.

Contrarily, there is no substitute today for both parents working in the urban environments in many States. Most families are comprised of parents who don't work on the farm, but are otherwise gainfully employed year round. Moreover with the farms becoming more and more absorbed by major business conglomerates, and modernized, farm life these days is a year round affair. To think that students should be let loose for an extended summer break, to help on the family farm, or for whatever reason is a quaint, and antiquated notion. Why not move the school calendar - with some well placed extended breaks not more than a month at a time - to a year round format? This will decrease the length of time it takes for people to graduate provided schools don't take the opportunity to fill up the curricula with more, rather than focusing on creating efficiencies in an effective curriculum.

Third - the idea of life-time employment in any industry is suffering a swift demise in this economy, but why should it be protected in academic settings? Thus prong 2 - invert the tenure rules and decouple it from any form of supervisor/evaluative measures for teaching staff.

Tenure evolved over time, mainly during the mid 1900s as a direct reaction to the threat to faculty of being fired for speaking heresy on a campus if the President didn't like the findings of your last study. There was also a threat of prosecution by the government and in particular the communist witch hunts, mainly familiar to us as McCarthyism. It has evolved from a pure protection of academic freedom to a de facto personnel policy, a decision point typically five to seven years after initial employment where the person receives an up or out vote.

Today, a person's freedom of speech, and more importantly, the protection of Academic Freedom (separate from tenure as a vehicle for this protection) is well grounded in the legal system. Tenure has become obsolete. Moreover, tenure offers no equal protection for the people who need it the most - the junior faculty who are trying to obtain tenure. In fact, the policy effectively grants tenure to the people who need it the least - senior faculty with a well established publication and teaching record - and does not provide it for the people who need it the most - the junior faculty member who may otherwise be plowing into new and innovative ends of the knowledge development. And as a result, we get isomorphic tendencies in both the development of new knowledge and the propagation of old antiquated teaching practice. There is no protection for innovations in both research and pedagogy for all the new folks entering the field are afraid that if they don't fall into line, they will not be granted the holy grail of tenure.

What we really should do is, instead of the current practice, give tenure to new faculty for a duration not to amount to more than 5 or 7 years. Once you reach that point, you get a decision as to if you should remain as a qualified teacher, and you should stand on your own record. Once you reach that point, the meritocracy should kick in. If you have been doing well, publishing and developing new veins of research, and teaching in effective ways, you should be retained, but not promised lifetime employment.

Any high quality faculty member should have, by then, cultivated a means by which you would not need tenure and you stand on the quality of your past and continued work instead of on the promise of what you might do - which is what we see in tenured ranks around the globe. There is a great deal of deadwood in the tenured faculty ranks. People cling to the status as if it was their only justification for employment - as in, "I'm tenured, you cannot touch me. I'll do whatever I want." Which many times over means, hell, no, I'm not going to teach differently or offer a new course, or take on any responsibility that might require more work on my part.

This practice leaves our schools, colleges, and universities stagnant and tenure serves not as a facilitator of but roadblock to innovation and creativity, particularly in some of the oldest disciplines. America does not run in a siloed environment. Students and parents should insist that their education is not offered in a siloed environment as well.

Well, there you have it. Let me summarize. We could greatly improve our system if we attacked the system as we know it using three prongs (all three tend to be sacred cows, but shoot, this is a blog and what fun is if if we can't slay a few of those every so often).

Prong 1 - Cut the bloated administrative overhead, starting with the top levels first, and flatten the organizational structures by funneling the saved funds direct to the schools where the real action of teaching and learning occurs.

Prong 2 - Expand the school calendar to extend it across the year so that it no longer reflects an old-world, agrarian mentality. Yes, students (and teachers and administrators for that matter) need substantial breaks, but not three months over the summer. In fact, we could finish up educating our students in a much more compressed time frame if we were both efficient and effective with our curricula.

Prong 3 - Invert the tenure model to give it to the new folks who more need the protection and those who need it the least are given the liberty to stand on their own records and work to continually improve and advance. Tenure as a de facto personnel policy and surrogate for accountability and supervision in America should be abolished. Instead, we should be actively promoting the improvement of our teaching faculty, and it should not stop after the first seven years of employment once, as is customary, tenure is granted. Indeed, there is proven research that suggests that faculty productivity post tenure declines, very rarely rising to the same levels of productivity demonstrated before hand. The days of deadwood faculty leaning on tenure as the only reason and rationale for their continued employment are over.

Tenure should, in no way and in no uncertain terms, be the only means of supervision of professional teaching staff. However, as it sits Tenure as a principle and a policy currently stands as the only means of holding teachers accountable, unless your school or college has post-tenure review; a discussion of which could constitute a whole other post. Never mind figuring out what actually qualifies as "high quality" teaching, and how to wrangle a system that rewards for merit.

Blog on friends.

Blog on all.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

No Matter The Outcome, No Harm Done To Straight Marriage

Look, here's the fundamental burden of proof not offered by Ken Starr or any of the other Prop H8 supporters - where's the harm if two men or two women marry each other? Regardless of the outcome of the California Supreme Court case we already have positive proof that same sex marriage neither diminishes the institution of marriage nor harm existing heterosexual marriages. The very fact that 18,000 or so couples have been married in the window of opportunity offered by justice and the heterosexual community has, as of yet, not offered one shred off proof that their marriages have been harmed by it aught to be proof positive that their argument is false.

Really, we are in a surreal time where the bigotry of the slim "majority," is forcing it's values on the liberties of a minority. This is why the constitution exists - to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority.
It's the moment when the anti-marriage-equality forces might want to coast downhill, to revel in their courtroom comeback, to finally savor their 52.47% victory at the polls last November. To the most smug among them, I will be able to say this:

I'm still married.

A $50-million election battle, two high-court showdowns, and what do the pro-Proposition 8 folks have to show for it? California still has what is likely the largest population of married same-sex couples -- an estimated 18,000 -- anywhere in the world. That's 18,000 raspberry seeds stuck in their teeth for years to come. California won't be a gay-marriage-free zone again unless we all die or move. If they believe Proposition 8 hollows out my marriage, well, my marriage hollows out their political victory.
Really, shouldn't the rhetorical mashing and mincing of definitions be irrelevant when it comes down to it? What's the harm if two old ladies want to get hitched? How does it hurt heterosexual marriage if Phylis Lyon can actually claim she was able to marry her life long love, now deceased?

It's time to stop standing on bigotry to foist a relic of puritanical values upon a people who should be allowed to marry if they wish. Really, if you don't believe in gay marriage, don't marry some one of your same gender. But, simply because you believe something so strongly doesn't make your position correct, or right (we learned that the hard way in Iraq).

I ask one more time - where's the harm & what is it about heterosexual marriage that needs protection? A very legitimate argument to be made is the exact opposite position - that when you open up the legal system to allow gays, lesbians and transgendered people to be married, heterosexual marriage is strengthened, not harmed. Ultimately, the irony of the yes on H8 crowd is that they suggest that they are "protecting" marriage by preventing marriage. Is that really a tenable position no matter how strongly a person believes that gays should not be married?

Blog on friends.

Blog on all.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Case Closed - Who Wins?

If you have been watching the case for equal rights being made this morning, you know that it's now in the hands of the CA Supreme Court. Let's hope the good guys win this one. Perhaps this will sway your thinking on the matter.

Of course, you can plow through the mountain of material on this case on your own, but here's a slice from the NCLR blogger on site:
a decision upholding prop 8 will have on same-sex couples and families, answering that “having their families singled out on basis of characteristic bearing no relationship to their ability to contribute to society marks [same-sex couples] as second-class citizens.” This gets us back to the core of this case, and the core of what is wrong with Proposition 8: no minority group should be singled out in the Constitution, on the basis of a characteristic like sexual orientation, race, sex, or religion, without at least receiving the procedural protections that the Constitution provides through the revision process.

If Prop 8 is allowed to stand, it's clear who the losers will be. What's not clear is will the people of America have lost or won? I know where I sit on this question. What say you?

Blog on friends.

Blog on all.

P.S. Here's a fun clip - Enjoy:

Is Forest Regeneration Possible?

Found this on the TED location.


Blog on friends.

Blog on all.