Friday, November 26, 2010

Reindeer, 2.5 Doz. Hell's Angels, and a Mitt full of Chinese Badminton Players

Thanksgiving's traditional morning run yesterday was on the chilly side, but bright and sunny. Typically, I've been counting homeless folk on this day as a very informal measure of how we are doing on the home front in comparison to all the other social endeavors such as the multi-billion a day habits we have in Iraq and Afghanistan. This year the count promised to be rather different, but in the end, finished off with a modest number of homeless folk counted.

On the panhandle, I spotted my first two folk, one cozied up next to his shopping cart, reclining on a mess of cushions basking in the sun near the DMV. The other was underneath the DMV building overhang. And, those of you familiar with our park, know that I wasn't even in the park technically at that time. On normal, non-holiday weekends, you can see anywhere from 3 to about a dozen homeless encamped in various locations on the panhandle. Thanksgiving morning I couldn't find any. I thought, perhaps, this year would be the year where there was a noticeable drop in homeless folk out and about.

I got well past the panhandle, following my traditional Thanksgiving set of trails in the customary counter clockwise direction. No homeless folks on the usual benches or under their typical trees, sleeping. The first sign of real life in the park was about a half to full dozen Chinese badminton players hitting birdies about, getting exercise near the chess playing area. Unusual, I thought to my self, but not unheard of. I've seen a similar group in a similar location at a similar time in other parts of the year. Could be a club or bunch of neighbors gathered for the usual morning repast of badminton exercise. Looked like fun.

The next signs of life I saw in the park were about dozen or two of Chinese line dancers in formation across the street from the rhododendron grove. They seemed to be enjoying themselves being led by an older gentleman booming 1980s synth-pop tunes and doing some kind of hustle, but with nary a smile among them. Perhaps that comes with dancing for exercise versus the plastic nature of competitions like Dancing with the Starts.

Looping back toward the Academy of Science, of all things, I noticed a new paddock on the North side of the building. Inside the paddock were harnessed up reindeer - two. Good looking animals, seemingly well cared for. They looked like the same ones they usually have out at the zoo this time of year. No doubt, here for the season or children to get educated about what real reindeer are all about.

Even so, no homelessness baring my first two sighted well before the actual park. As I looped around I made it to the meadow near the Sharon Building just past the tennis courts with two sets of doubles drama unfolding, and there, low and behold, were five homeless folks, and what looked like a flock of aging yuppies (blue jeens and sweatshirts on almost all of them) looking like they were up to the good work of helping the nearly non-existent homeless. I kept running. In years past, I've seen about two dozen homeless in this same location.

As I exited the park, I saw the usual pack of about 5 homeless on the steps to the McDonald's sipping on cheep coffee, munching on various sausage muffins. As I ran down Haight Street, I counted a handful more homeless, meandering about with shopping carts or backpacks, looking disheveled and unshaven. Not a lot of women, in the bunch, mind you.

As I continued to the mid-Height area, I caught my first glimpse of the usual set of Hell's Angles milling about in front of the usual cafe sipping lattes and generally seeming like in a good mood. I counted well past 24 Harley-Davidsons parked wheel to wheel. So, I'm guessing there was something like 30 or so folks with more incoming as you could hear the thunder rolling up Haight once I got past the flock of Angels.

Surprisingly, there were zero homeless to report in the Buena Vista park, although I could see what looked like a tent from the trail I was on. No verifiable persons inside as I usually just go for the obvious. In all, counted 1.5 doz homeless. Down from years past, and substantially less than big burly men driving very expensive motorcycles all with Hell's Angels emblazoned on their backs.

Have a great remainder to your Holiday folks.

Blog on friends. Blog on all.

Friday, September 03, 2010

An open letter to SFUSD Superintendent Carlos Garcia

Dear Superintendent Garcia,

I was going to copy your Associate, but I seem to have misplaced his card and I would appreciate it if you could forward this email to him. While I had a chance to talk with him at the tail end of the meeting, I had to leave to go over to Everett for the session there before talking with you.

First, thank you for taking your time to meet with the Second District PTA. It's always nice to interact with people leading the SFUSD. As I am the PTA president of McKinley Elementary, many of our families are deeply concerned about the new feeder program, and I had some follow up questions.

1 - I like that there will be 4 million dollars coming from the SIG to infuse into Everett. When you have the plan outlined as to what that money will be used for, I'm sure that the various families entering Everett would like to have a look at it (the sooner the better). We want to see what kinds of improvements are planned as many of our children will matriculate through Everett.

2 - What is the plan to sustain the changes implemented over the next four years once that money evaporates? In five years, the heavy fiscal burden will shift, but to where? It would be important for people with children now in Kindergarten to know that they will not be taxed or asked to make up the short fall in some way. How will the four years of four million dollars be supplemented with another sustainable revenue source so that Everett will not be heavily dependent upon the PTA for raising the million dollars a year to continue whatever programs are in place at that time?

This is akin to McKinley's loss and draw down of STAR Funding over the last two years. As STAR funding evaporated, our PTA has had to take up the slack and fund various initiatives that were otherwise covered with STAR funding.This was very disappointing and felt a bit like a bait and switch as the programs & staff in place that drew many families into McKinley were no longer supported by any funding. Fortunately, our McKinley PTA is very healthy and we were able to resuscitate many enrichment programs that families came to expect under star funding. With the Everett situation, it would be critically important to not only know the SFUSD pans for the next four years, but what will you do to continue to support the school beyond that time frame in a fiscally responsible way.

3 - When I was talking with your assistant superintendent (I think that's his title), he mentioned that with the 4 million dollars going into Everett over the next few years, the SFUSD was planning to do some things that will allow District staff to experiment and try out new approaches. What might those be?

4 - Given that the SFUSD is already hosting & fully funding several educational experiments in the form of the various charter schools, what is your plan to infuse any best practices into Everett and other mainline schools across the SFUSD?

What we have is a disconnection between what the promise of charter schools are and the learning that is supposed to move back into the mainstream schools. While the City and it's taxpayers have been supporting the various charter schools, and allowing them to invent new ways of delivering education, there hasn't been any corresponding transference of learning from those best practices back into the mainstream schools that I'm aware of. This seems to be a collapse of the two way street promise of charter schools - in other words, there appears to be learning and growing at the charter schools, but there's no transference back to mainstream schools.

5 - Finally, if we can't learn from existing experiments at charter schools, how do we expect to improve what we have existing? It appears to me that we could save time, energy and resources, by simply replicating charter school best practices at mainline schools. If there is a plan, which I think you wouldn't operate without, then the sooner it is opened for viewing, the less backlash you will see from the public.

The Everett forum on the feeder program, on the same Tuesday evening as our second district reception, was at times caustic and some times sane, but I'm afraid the messages promulgated by the parents & guardians assembled will be dismissed as rants from an ill informed public. We are dependent upon you for disbursal of accurate information and plans, and as with all change, it's better to opt for frequent and informative missives rather than one time forums that come after policies are put in motion.

One other observation from the Everett evening. It appears that there is a special interest based on the feedback I heard from families sending their children through the different immersion programs. They are a loud and vociferous group, and justifiably disturbed on the prospect of having their children funneled from an immersion school of their choosing, into a school with none. Perhaps the SFUSD should reconsider the funnel pattern to allow this special interest to go to the usual schools that they traditionally matriculate with after elementary school. There is an existing, subliminal, quasi-feeder program already in operation which gets those in immersion programs fed to the right immersion middle school.

Perhaps like the groundskeepers at a new campus are wise to let the students trample the grass and then put in sidewalks, perhaps there are more natural patterns for those in immersion programs that should be honored. It may reduce the flak, but my finer point is that we shouldn't let those who are the most loud dictate the direction for the whole operation. It's debatable as to if the immersion program is really not just a native language program for students who experience English as their second language (which if you observe the bulk of the immersion students, might there be an overabundance of native Chinese or Spanish speakers in them, for example? This is not a fact based question, but something I've wondered for a while).

Suffice it to say, at the Everett program on Tuesday evening, there were some heated opinions launched at your staff, but in the mix, were also some cooler heads. I would hate for any reactions to be knee jerk in the wrong direction that offer concessions to any one group for simply the fact that they are the most vocally vociferous.

I would be happy to talk about this email or any aspect of your plan over coffee any time. I work at Powell and Market and could easily meet you at Blue Bottle on the Mint Plaza. If you have time, I will bend my schedule to meet yours.

Regards and best of luck solving this concern as all our children's fate is in your hands.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Joke From The Internet: "Who's Really Lost?"

A friend forwarded this joke from some where:
A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him,
"Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, "You're in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level.
You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.

"She rolled her eyes and said, "You must be an Obama Democrat."
"I am," replied the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct. But I have no idea what to do with your information and I'm still lost.
Frankly, you've not been much help to me."

The man smiled and responded, "You must be a Republican."

"I am," replied the balloonist. "How did you know?"

"Well," said the man, "you don't know where you are or where you are going. You've risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air.
You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem.
You're in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it's my fault."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A New Promise For American Children: An Open Letter To Those Controlling Budgets For Public Schools

Today's pubic education funding calamity was long in the making by us, and our collective governments (local, state, and national).  Yet, even in light of an overly exuberant push to bail out failing banks & other companies with copious taxpayer dollars, we appear fully ready to accept this crisis in education funding as if it is a done deal.    It doesn't have to end with the assured collapse of our entire set of public education operations from the bottom (elementary schools)  up (Colleges and Universities). Let's all make "A New Promise To America's Children."

When we turn to place blame, the fingers should not point too boldly at any one person.  The crisis for public funding for public goods such as education and other social services has deep historical roots, firmly growing and fertilized by greed.  Why else would it be okay for failed bankers to receive record bonuses while teachers receive pink slips?  This artificial, man-made crisis may have begun with the new era of conservatism foisted on us by Ronald Reagan and his ilk.   When, in 1984, Reagan decided to raise the drinking age and simultaneously shrink the dollars available for financial aid to college students and ushered in the closing of various public asylums, we witnessed a shift in priorities and values that went fully unchanged and off the rails culminating with G.W. Bush's eight years at the helm.  Instead of legislating for justice, the "majority" went whole hog legislating for morality.  The trouble is, morality is subjective.  Justice is not. Egalitarianism can be measured, as evidenced by a persons' actions (how she or he votes for various legislative propositions, for example) juxtaposed with how he or she spends her or his money and time.

Frankly, I'm less disturbed by our government than I am disgusted by the good people of our State.  Our government is us.  We are government.  Those who would sling the poisonous darts of blame at our elected representatives might be better served Michael Jackson's ubiquitous advice and look in the mirror.

It appears that that our short sighted and greedy, self-centered (perhaps full evidence of the maturation of Reagan's "me generation")  approach to living life in our communities is selling our future short.  Essentially, today's disastorous approach to funding public education across the board is working to throw our collective children "under" instead of placing them respectfully on the bus.  Rather than invest in long term prosperity by paying for high quality education for all, the budget for public education is no where near adequate.  Not only is the bus we are tossing our children under rusted, undetectably yellow with age, but we have sold the wheels to China to enable the shipment of the transmission to Iraq to drive unarmored Humvees over IEDs that were not there before we got there.

Fundamentally, when we toss the children under a broken down, rusted, burned out bus and expect them to get out from under it themselves, we know our value system is morally bankrupt.  And, the great experiment to legislate morality has collapsed; our children bearing the full weight of our errors.

What's the answer? Unfortunately, it does not fit into a sound bite suitable to sell advertisements on various talk shows (a la O'Reilly, Beck, Stewart & Colbert) or what passes for "news" (shoved down the masses throats by the likes of Murdoch at Fox).  The answer is not "smaller" government but right-sized government with the proper priorities backed up by values steeped in justice, not simply pushing a morality play to tease the political system for whatever political advantage (which only serves to cleave our Country even further).  Our government is distracted by things like "don't ask, don't tell," while it should be more interested in ensuring our children have the right number of teachers, who go to school in a buildings that are not crumbling down around them.  The answer is not less money for schools and more money for prisons guards or bankers who continue to screw with our economy.  The answer rests in a better investment in high quality education, not the false choice between pink slips or furloughs.  How much did AIG execs earn from their work over the course of 2009?

We all intuitively understand that there is a substantial difference between an equal opportunity for education and an equal opportunity to an equal education.  Today's budget does not reflect even a commitment to a basic level of quality education.  The collective effect of this budget does more than just monetary damage to our public schools. It demoralizes the very people entrusted to energize our children for a prosperous future full of the skills necessary for ensuring a passion for life long learning.

While we could live with a few less banks and bankers, we cannot survive as a society without high quality educational operations (and you don't get something for nothing).  These are drastic times that require dramatic action.  We are not getting any help from a people who would rather unload millions of dollars to stop same-sex marriage instead of investing those dollars sending children to great schools.  Let's together, all make a promise.  I call this "A New Promise to America's Children."

In this promise, we put down our partisan differences.  We work together to fix what is broken, not with an aim to affect curriculum that dictates a particular morality, but toward improving and sustaining our schools rather than closing them down.  We promise to stop spending money buying politicians even despite the recent SCOTUS decision that unleashes capitalists to effectively buy influence ordinary people cannot afford.  Let's promise, instead, to invest in better teaching and more educational enrichment that improves schools instead of bland, standardized tests that squash and kill enthusiasm for education and learning.  Let's promise to commit to greening our facilities so that we bring our infrastructure for public schools into the new millennium, such that children want to be there instead of needing to hold their noses and close their eyes simply so they can use the restrooms.  How many of you would like to go to work in some of the schools that children go to every day? 

Let us promise to not be greedy, but cultivate capitalism with a conscience that supports public education as an investment in their future work force rather than treats students and schools solely commercially; as as if they were only potential future customers.  Let us promise to not throw our next generation of leaders under the broken down bus, minimally, because they will remember how we have treated them when we are aged, needing their care, and dependent upon their good will to maintain our quality of life.

The New Promise to America's Children is about supporting education above entertainment.  We should be about instilling passion for learning, and providing the customized care necessary to meet students where they are at developmentally and functionally delivering the kinds of education they need.   This rarely means standardized testing as treating all as if they were the same is an inherent flaw to that approach.  As Ken Blanchard said long ago, there is nothing more inherently unequal than the equal treatment of unequals.

Good education is costly &  class sizes that work for all; expensive.  Just ask why parents that send their children to private schools are willing to shell out funds larger than the many a university's tuition.  But in America, were many believe the freedom isn't free, we must regroup and extinguish the mindset that brought us to this brink.

In the words of one of the Sherman Six, we must not waste a perfectly good crisis.  We must take this opportunity to reshape our whole approach to public education. At the base is redesigning a sustainable funding pattern that doesn't rise and fall with the whim of politicians and the sinful economic damage caused by greedy people selling such things as credit default swaps (which by the way are still legal financial vehicles) and other unsound economic practices that produce high yield for a few, and large damage for most. 

Let's invert the conversation. Instead of blame, let's discuss what makes public education great.  What should we stop doing? What should we start doing? What should we tweak to improve? What's working really well?  The job of our government leaders are to fund what works, not cut what's already thread bare.  Instead of slicing education from the top down, let's figure out how to build high quality schools and build a budget from there.  We already know what it really costs to deliver what we currently deliver.  Our New Promise to America's Children should involve building a new, improved system from the ashes created by the practice that has led us to this point.  It starts at the grass roots.

We can begin at the school level, and design an operation with a budget that works. Send the bill on up (instead of the top down driven S.O.P), and further that bill to our legislators.  If they are unable to fund great public schools, let's vote the bastards out and find some that can.
  • Message to our legislators: what is your new promise to America's children?  If you fail to support improved funding of our public schools, you face a vote against you in the next election.
  • Message to the corporate leaders whom we patronize: If your spend on political leaders and lobbyists is more than your investment in public educaiton, expect us to boycott you.
  • Message to school leadership: Don't give up the fight.  Your constituents are pissed & we are not going to accept a passive approach to fixing what's wrong with the current situation.  Action is what we demand.  What are you doing today to improve the plight for schools across the board?
Who's with me?

Blog on friends. Blog on all.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Whoo Hoo - over 100K page views!

Out of curiousity, I hit my site meter today. Found out I've got over 100K page views.

Total 100,195
Average Per Day 14
Average Per Visit 1.2
Last Hour 1
Today 16
This Week 98

Don't Misunderestimate Me (an original poem by moi)

As our little Miss Muffet
Sat astride her tuffet
snarfing her strudel
sipping Cabernet

I, the decider
Sat down beside her
Asking favors &
Could she come out to play

Wryly, Muffet replied
What I've spied
Is a government that lied
Misunderestimating me all the way

Thursday, March 04, 2010

My Two Cents to Our State Senators - Sent on the 4 March Day of Action


I work for the California State University system at San Francisco State. I'm also the PTA president of my sons' elementary school.

I'm very disappointed with the existing climate for funding in public education across the board. It appears to me that the good people of California have abandoned public education as a public good. This is clearly demonstrated by the massive cuts to fund education at all levels.

Frankly, it's the responsibility of good governement to fund education to excel, not simply to function as a placeholder (or glorified babysitter) for students. I suggest we invert the budget process as we know exactly how much great schools, colleges and universities cost. We compose the budget at the grass roots level, you fund it. Not the other way round, where you parcel out whatever meager funds and require the schools and colleges to deal with it.

As students, parents, faculty and staff are preparing to raise public awareness of the destructive effects that budget cuts have had on public education, workforce development, and the state economy, I am writing to implore you to support Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal that includes the restoration all monies to public education. This will mean great sacrifice, to perhaps even your salaries. But if you want a talented pool of adults to emerge from our great schools, you have to fund it.

I was at the Town Hall meeting in February, and was encouraged by many of the ideas put out there in terms of how to raise funds for public education. This should also be wrangled for the Community College as well as the CSU and the UC.

Because people suggest strongly that they don't want more taxes is no excuse for the crumbling and dismantling of educational operations across the board. I won't accept it. Living in this great State as well as the United States doesn't come for free. To go from tops in the nation to foisting the budget calamity on the backs of our students is irresponsible and an indicator that the government doesn't have it's priorities properly set. I'm angry, not because I work in the system, but because the current fiscal situation basically risks our future outright.

Your actions speak loudly. Make them count by advancing the cause and voting appropriately otherwise we won't vote for you. Reducing the 2/3rds requirement to make budget decisions seems wise. Fixing the corporate landlord loophole in Prop 13 also wise. Leno's idea of a 1% surcharge on all entertainment dollars also seems wise. How can we have a lower dollar expense than Guam on arts education when we live in the entertainment capital of the globe?

The numbers are ugly and you cannot put lipstick on a pig to make her look snazzy enough to kiss. Any way you slice it, we have to begin to appeal to the good people of our great State, and suggest to them that the burden of responsibility rests with the people. It's your job to lead us, and I'm not shirking my responsibility to hold your feet to the fire.

Simply because a California resident doesn't have kids in a public school or attending one of the outstanding state universities doesn't mean that s/he shouldn't care about the climate for public education across the various systems. In fact, we all should care more because the system churns out creative and inventive adults, that will hopefully result in fantastic employees for the foreseeable future.

Continue in the direction we are headed, and you might as well start investing in more jails. And I know which investment I would rather make. Schools and education improve society: not more prisons. Perhaps now is the time to consider a complete inversion of our budgetary priorities - convert jails to schools, and educate the inmates rather than simply incarcerate them. Then you may find that education is the key remedy to many ills.

Blog on friends. Blog on all.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Is the Academic Apocalypse Really A-Comin'?

Don Heller wrote a provocative piece today at his location, indicating that we may be on the verge of an Academic Apocalypse:
I'm sorry to report that, after sitting through part of the hearing this week, it is unlikely that this Joint Committee is going to be able to resolve the problems facing higher education in California.  It is clear that the fiscal constraints facing the state are unlikely to be removed without large-scale changes to the political structures there.  This would include changing laws and initiative petitions that have restricted the ability of the legislature and governors to raise the tax revenues necessary to support a world-class higher education system.  It would likely also require changing the earmarking of parts of the state budget to purposes such as K-12 education and corrections, both of which leave little flexibility for funding higher education when federal mandates such as Medicaid spending are taken into account.
For some reason, I was not able to comment on the blog, but I do have a response. I'm posting it here for posterity:

Next time you are this close, do ring me up. I would love to connect over coffee, lunch or a beer - or something stronger as the situation warrants.

The grim reality of the situation in California reflects the abandonment of public education as a public good - across the board - by the good people of California. Really, for example, the public schools below the collegiate levels are being forced to talk about suing the state to gain back some funding to adequately support our schools - It's truly sad that, essentially, we have to sue ourselves, and the only people who will win will be the lawyers (no doubt salivating over billable rates and monster fees). As to if the children will win eventually would be pure speculation at this time.

Perhaps we have a redundancy problem - the bureaucratic infrastructure across just the CSU is enormous. The choice between a 10% pay cut spreading the malaise across all campuses last year is symptomatic of people not willing to make hard decisions. We could have closed 1.5 campuses instead of cutting salaries, and saved the money to pay people to do 100% of the job at 100% the salary. Instead, we are doing 100% of the job with 10% less time and money to do it. It's unfair and harmful to the students.

Unfortunately, the legal structure of the state prevents us from actually fixing this situation. Might we actually think of a solution that takes advantage of the situation? What would that be?

I have been suggesting a five tired (not all steps are related) approach:
  1. Reduce bureaucratic infrastructure and close the CSU Chancellor's office except necessary functions like IT and CSU Mentor application process. Push out the resources to the campuses and have them serve students directly. If you don't have a skill that can serve students directly, you are put on furlough for the duration.
  2. Close the lowest serving campuses and allow those facilities to be rented out or sold off to the highest bidder to generate positive cash flow (for example, CSU Monterey Bay, and moving the Cal Maritime Academy to SDSU).
  3. Invert the tenure process where new hires have tenure for the first seven years (essentially protected to build their academic repertoire), and then you stand on your own record. Presently, those who need tenure don't have it, and those who have tenure don't need it. In that way we can carve away the slack in those who are fullly tenured, but are not pulling their weight - essentially doning the least amount of work for the most amount of pay.
  4. Allow administrators with the credentials to teach courses that have been typically taught by adjunct guns for hire - in that way, it improves the ability of administrators to serve students beyond their administrative functions.
  5. Admit only the number of state subsidized students to the max capacity (whatever the state budget allocation allows), and then charge full market rates (what it really costs to deliver high quality education) for students who are a) out of state students, and b) people who still want to come to the college, but didn't submit their applications early enough, or are not the cream of the application pool. In this way, we could accept the max capacity number of students, and get the proper amount of dollars to fund the courses they take. It seemed odd to me that we would restrict admissions at a time when people really wanted to come back to school to upgrade their skills or change up their careers. There are a large number of people that could have afforded the full rate and would willingly return to school at the full cost. Instead, we cut them out as if there was no room in the classrooms.
Of course, these are radical solutions, which really didn't see the light of day. No one from the CSU Chancellor's office, the University or the State has been asking for my advice. But, radical times require frame breaking change. More of the same only gets you more of the same. And, that's the very definition of lunacy - doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tenure Causes Anger & Murder

If you have been distracted by the lousy Olympic "coverage" by NBC and not noticed the latest news of people being killed at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, you would not have discovered that supposedly the murder was perpetrated by a professor who was denied tenure, twice.
The Associated Press reported that a biology professor, identified as Amy Bishop, was charged with murder.

According to a faculty member, the professor had applied for tenure, been turned down, and appealed the decision. She learned on Friday that she had been denied once again.
Here's my comment to that article:

To blame a de facto personnel policy for causing consternation and illicit behavior is misdirected. The woman, while innocent until proven guilty, should be held accountable for her actions. The why is less relevant.

We do have a problem in higher education, which is intractable and hard to solve. As I often say to my children, and I learned from my old High School science teacher Mr. Barns, "where is it written that life is fair?"

Really, the process of earning tenure is inverted. Those who need it, don't have it. Those who have it, don't need it. If Universities were truly places for discovery and inventiveness, those who are stretching the boundaries of what is known deserve more protection.

Instead, junior faculty members who are fresh out of their Ph.D. programs, or a smidge into an academic career are forced to bend to a "jury of their peers," to conduct research & submit articles and that will be "approved," for publication. This invariably gets us more of the same, or incremental advancement. Those who bust new ground are pushed out by the gate keepers, even if their discoveries are valuable and contribute - no matter that they don't produce a PRJ article.

I suggest we give tenure to new hires at Colleges and Universities, and give only for 7 years. Once you reach the 7 year mark, you should stand on your record. If it sucks, you get terminated. If it's good, you don't need the protections tenure offers. In that respect, it's all fair, and then you stand on your merits. How good an instructor are you? What value do you add to the field? Have you contributed to the advancement of new knowledge? If you don't excel in any of those areas and a number of others, you should be put out to do something else that you may be better at.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Another Thing To Put On Your List Of Things GWB Would Never Have Done

Would George W have stood in front of the Dem Caucus any time in his 8 years as president, unscripted? Doubtful. Props to Obama:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Prop H8 Gets it's opening review in court today

Initially, the whole case was to be broadcast via youtube. Now we have to wait and read the texts. What can you do. Here's one link to opening statements:
At the end of the day, whatever the motives of its Proponents, Proposition 8 enacted an utterly irrational regime to govern entitlement to the fundamental right to marry, consisting now of at least four separate and distinct classes of citizens: (1) heterosexuals, including convicted criminals, substance abusers and sex offenders, who are permitted to marry; (2) 18,000 same-sex couples married between June and November of 2008, who are allowed to remain married but may not remarry if they divorce or are widowed; (3) thousands of same-sex couples who were married in certain other states prior to November of 2008, whose marriages are now valid and recognized in California; and, finally (4) all other same-sex couples in California who, like the Plaintiffs, are prohibited from marrying by Proposition 8.

There is no rational justification for this unique pattern of discrimination. Proposition 8, and the irrational pattern of California’s regulation of marriage which it promulgates, advances no legitimate state interest. All it does is label gay and lesbian persons as different, inferior, unequal, and disfavored. And it brands their relationships as not the same, and less-approved than those enjoyed by opposite sex couples. It stigmatizes gays and lesbians, classifies them as outcasts, and causes needless pain, isolation and humiliation.

It is unconstitutional.
I've yet to hear an argument that is believable as to why gay marriage harms heterosexual marraige. In my view, allowing two people, consenting adults, to marry no matter their sex, elevates the institution. And, I have seen with my own two eyes, some gay married relationships that are shining beacons of what's good about marriage.

By comparison with some of the loathsome marriages I've seen in the heterosexual community, I stand by my conviction. Allow gays to marry. There's no harm, and in fact their example may fix what's broken about heterosexual relationships.

Here's the link to the court web location for official updates.

Fox News Is Fair AND Blanced?

Here's how you know that Sarah Palin and Fox News should not be trusted. They say:
"I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News," Palin said in a statement posted on the network's Web site. "It's wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news."
Right. And I'm Jesus Christ.

It shows that there is no end to the warped set of values that would place Sarah Palin in such a highly paid post. I would have been scared even more if she became a teacher, that said. Just wondering when we will they start paying teachers what Sarah will be making, or if we just don't want to for fear of attracting such people to scar our children?

The audience and advertisers will dictate, but I have to say, I'll be monitoring those who advertise on her show so I know what not to buy. Boycotting Sarah Palin now become a whole lot easier.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Just Another Day At The Office

While you are grinding it out in your cube, just think: If you could only just hang with Levi without getting dusted, your office might look like this too:

Levi Leipheimer Time Trial Training from Roger Bartels on Vimeo.

Or, if you could hit the big air like Shaun, like this.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

More Whining From the Choir?

Found this interesting article authored by an academic, this morning.
Teachers change lives and careers, not just writing styles, says bestselling author and editor Janis Kaplan, recalling her professor at Yale, William Zinsser. “Theoretically, books can change lives. But practically, it’s great teachers who do.” Sadly each year many such teachers pack up their briefcases and reenter the job market as consultants, real estate brokers, or a hundred other non-academic professions.

Exactly why they leave is hard to tell. Some say money is the problem. Certainly a person seeking wealth should never become a teacher, for there are few bonuses and pay incentives for even the best in the field.

Speaking as a teacher of over 30 years, I feel that even if we increased professors’ salaries by 15%, it still wouldn’t pay those dedicated men and women what they deserve for educating the next generation of America’s doctors, lawyers, clergy and CEOs, for ours is the prime profession: We teach all the other professions. Without us, civilization would wither on the stem like an autumn rose.

Here's my response:
When you say "Without us, civilization would wither on the stem like an autumn rose," I become skeptical. Society is resilient. If teachers don't teach, people would learn how to learn on their own. The apprenticeship model worked long before there was a formal organized, regimented, industrial education complex. Clearly, "because we don't get paid what we are worth" is an argument to be made, but not without the "you get what you pay for caveat." What the market will bear is how professional athlete salaries are always justified. But clearly, societal values are warped when entertainment is substantially and exponentially rewarded over education. Rather than whine about poor quality teaching (on the student/customer side), or poor salaries (on the faculty side), what we should focus on is how to remedy what's truly wrong with the educational enterprise; that it's not structured from the ground up to entice and spur learning more than it is to act as the gate keeping function by squashing enthusiasm for expeditionary and intrepid exploration of both the truth and development of new knowledge. Toward that end, perhaps the evolution of the internet will make all formal education obsolete, but until that day, we will need great teachers to spark enthusiasm for learning. The argument can be made that learning is best facilitated by great teaching. In the end, proof of learning is only obviated by the evidence of change and improvement. And in that respect, if there has been no change but negative change in how teachers are viewed and valued, might we not only have ourselves to blame?