Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Drilling in Alaska

Question for everyone out there: I want to know whether you think, as Senator Ted Stevens does, that drilling in Alaska in the ANWR is vital to national security. I don't want to know whether you think it's a good idea; I don't want to know whether you think it will bring jobs to Alaska; all I want to know is whether or not it's vital to national security and fighting the so-called war on terror.


Monday, December 19, 2005


The title of this article is "Google blamed for jump in high-tech pay." I think that's a strange choice of words and represents the executive point of view only; I doubt any IT engineer whose pay has gone up significantly in the last 5 years is cursing out Google (unless, of course, they're a rival into whose bottom line Google is cutting.) I think more neutral language would have been appropriate, like "due to" or "credited with." The opposite extreme would be "Google praised for jump" or something like that.

Am I a nit-picker, picking pickable nits?


If redhurt were a congressman, would he talk like this?

"I want this underlying bill. That's what I want," Tancredo blurted. "There are so many f------ egos involved in this already."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The democratization of knowledge?

This post is going to fail to live up to its title, because I don't have anything profound to say. I just thought that this article was pretty impressive. Thoughts, anyone?

Friday, December 09, 2005

More on education, accountability and privatization

Read this post over at the Christian Kantianist if you haven't yet, comment on it, then come back here and read this post. And give me my freaking sweater back.

I have two comments I want to make, and I think they deserve their own post.

First is the issue of accountability. I think that when we talk about holding teachers accountable, we're really conflating at least two issues: the broad, abstract question of "To whom are teachers accountable?" and the procedural, pragmatic question of how we measure teacher success and what we do with the results. This comment is concerned with the former.

Secondary school teachers are accountable to their students, to their students' parents, to their peers, to the chairs of their departments, to their school administrators, to their county administrators, and to every taxpayer in their jurisdiction. The parents of every single one of my wife's students have her e-mail address and her cell phone number. The students can come during her office hours and during scheduled tutoring times to get tutored or to discuss classroom approaches. Her department is responsible for making decisions among themselves about the way they want things handled, the equipment and supplies they want, and the ideas they have, and presenting those decisions to the rest of the faculty and the administrators. She is evaluted several times a year by her boss, an assistant principal, and those results are seen and discussed by different groups of teachers and administrators at different levels. On multiple back-to-school nights each year, parents and other members of the public are invited to discuss the progress of the students or educational issues in general.

In what other area is the system set up with more apertures for the public to influence it? What civil servants have more transparent lives than teachers? barnabas18 asked "Why wouldn't schools like the accountability of teachers needing to perform to earn their money?" They do like it, because in good schools, it's already in place.

Second is the issue of government, the view of government that is espoused in posts like this one. standingout's questions, while legitimate and provocative, presuppose "government" as a distinct entity from "the people." This view allows standingout and others with his views to say things like this:

"The government needs to gradually give our society back to us."

I believe I can cast doubt on this distinction with an example. Just up the road from me in Montgomery County, MD, a heated and important debate is taking place on the role of schools in teaching about sex and homosexuality. (Catch up here.) Initially, this seems to support the view of standingout and barnabas: that schools, as a government institution, have the power to go against the will of the people by shoving certain curricula and ideas down our throats whenever they want. But, a close read of the WP article proves that view completely wrong.

The school is merely the place where this debate is happening. It's incorrect to view this as a debate between the school and the people. On one side of the debate are students, parents, teachers, administrators, and elected officials; on the other side of the debate are...students, parents, teachers, administrators, and elected officials. They're merely having this debate in the context of curriculum:

"Jim Kennedy, a Montgomery County parent and member of -- a group that supports comprehensive sex education in the county's public schools, including discussions regarding homosexuality -- said it's important for kids to understand what homosexuality is, in part because they may be struggling with issues of sexual identity."


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tuesday round-up

The New Republic: the Civil War and the Iraq war.

NYT: The New Berlin Wall.

The rise and fall of Randy Cunningham.

Someone stop this man. Please.

Redistricting and racism.

The education/privatization debate.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Talking about my generation

My company just received a glossy flyer in the mail. On the front is a picture of a school bus, with the words "Today's student...tomorrow's consumer" next to it. On the back is this text:

You can speak to
School Bus early message.

School Bus Media is currently offering a limited number of opportunities for wholesome, motivational branding in a captive environment never before available. Every day thousands of students from 6-18 years of age make the trip to the classroom. Now you can teach them with your product or service, through positive messaging, before they even get there...and again on their way home.