Tag: education

Michigan Judge says the state has no obligation to educate kids

This is crazy. I wonder if the judge even thought about the potential consequences of his ruling.

I’ll explain a bit.

If you don’t educate the kids then they have no prospects for employment beyond subsistence and poverty wage jobs.

Now I’ve long known the desire of the moneyed class is to create of us serfs. But what they don’t realize is that some of those serfs – they occasionally rebel.

The other thing is we’ll see rates of property crime go up. I’m sure the rich will just love the raids on their castles.

And one other little thing – the U.S. is armed to the teeth. Do you think some groups are going to sit silently by and let the rich just get away with what is essentially the murder of the economy?

And don’t the rich bastards understand that they made their money on the backs of those serfs. So for example when everyone is poor who will be able to afford the homes, cars, electronics, food, etc. ? Nobody – and what good will all that money do for the rich then? It will become a diminishing pool over time.

And it sort of surprises me the Geek Group in Grand Rapids didn’t lobby this one. I mean prime of their mission is education.

The Roosevelts on PBS – and what’s wrong with politics today

So I’ve been watching the PBS Series on the Roosevelt family. And one part of it struck me.

Both Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt came from old money  and understood the concept of noblesse oblige. In fact the last time we saw similar in the United States was John F. Kennedy. Everything after that not so much.

So the problem – is the Nouveau Riche – or more to the point their descendants today. I’m speaking of course of the Koch brothers and others like them in congress. They come from their parents money and so have no sense of noblesse oblige. Instead it’s that 80’s mindset of greed is good, of the Paris Hiltons, and the brats of the rich. It’s all about them and fuck everyone else. That is exactly what’s wrong with the United States. And of course the corporate interference in government vis a vis money is speech is a big problem too.

But the thing to keep in mind about the rich brats – there are a whole lot more of us than there are of them. It’s just how do we motivate the rest of the population of the U.S. to rise up against them? At this point they’ve no captured both houses of the legislature at both the federal and local levels.

And of course the Tea Bagger/Tea Party is being lead along by corporate interests – and will in fact vote against their own self interest.

Why is that the case? I’ll explain – we don’t really educate kids in the U.S. One thing we leave out is the critical thinking skills. Fortunately for me – I received a pretty good education in Catholic schools for the first twelve years. And it included what I would call back then subversive critical thinking skills.

But I am aware that public schools in the United States are controlled by political whim. And it is in the interest of the Plutocracy to keep the kids just smart enough to do the job, but not smart enough to wonder why. So I think at the foundation if we want to get the country back, we have to start with education. Give kids the ability to see through political double speak and the corporate plutocracy will end.

Common Core observations

So I’ve written about Common Core before – I see it as standards. But then I only reviewed the common core for mathematics in Rhode Island. I assume they’re the same everywhere.

The logical engineering side of me says standards are good. Much of my life has been governed by certain standards be they my amateur radio activity or programming computers.

So I don’t necessarily see why Common Core is a bad thing. In fact I know there is wide variation in what is taught in schools all over the United States. I see Common Core as a move to rectify that.

But talk to someone in education and they go off. They talk about the differing abilities of students and how common core forces everyone into the square, etc. And sure I agree – some kids will excel while others don’t have the cognitive ability to do so. Some kids might be able to do the Common Core work faster and want more but the educators say it doesn’t offer them any other options.

I’ll counter that last part – it’s up to the educators to identify the bright ones and give them something more challenging. If little snowflake breezes through the whole of the math core, give snowflake a little advanced math – maybe linear systems, pre-cal, calculus, etc. It can’t hurt. And it should be part of the educational repertoire. Yes you’ll still have to teach to the standard, but you can in fact teach BEYOND the standard.

So that argument falls flat.

Why I still say we should teach kids how to program computers

I just watched an interview of Steve Wozniak of Apple fame.

Now I’ve related before that I once did a program review at a public high school in Rhode Island. We got to evaluate two classes at each school.

I happened to get the class where they were teaching the kids the MS Office suite, and that day they were doing a payroll spreadsheet in Excel. The teacher had given them all cheat sheets for the tax calculation.

So I asked the teacher – why not do a formula to CALCULATE the tax. You can do it in any cell by entered =({cellID}*3.1415)*.02499, or you can say =VLOOKUP(item,source). Or you could have a Visual BASIC routine that calculates the tax in column D.

The teachers answer was that it was computer programming to to that, and to program a computer you need a lot of math.

I thanked the teacher. But what I wrote in my report was that the most math you need to program a computer is MAYBE the first few weeks of Algebra I. But more to the point, you need to understand different numbering systems. There’s binary of course, either 1 or 0 and none more.

Then there’s octal – 0 through 7 it’s base 8. So how would you write 9 in octal? It’s 11 or 1 in the 8’s column, plus  1.  Let’s do 0 through 10:

Decimal    Octal

0               0

1               1

2               2

3               3

4               4

5               5

6               6

7               7

8               10

9               11

10             12


You see where it’s going, right? Instead of the maximum being 10, the maximum is 8 per column. And the columns go 1, 8, 16, 32… 

This leads us to hexadecimal. This is base 16. Symbols run 0 through 9, plus A through F, where A is 10, B is 11, C is 12, D is 13, E is 14 and F is 15.

For this example I’m going to go form 1 to 20 in decimal and show the hex (short form) value.

Decimal     Hexadecimal

0               0

1               1

2               2

3               3 

4               4

5               5

6               6

7               7

8               8

9               9

10             A

11             B

12            C

13            D

14            E

15            F

16           10

17           11

18           12

19           13

20           14


And so on.


It’s really quite easy. So let’s teach the kids how to program. You do not need advanced math for that.

Tech: So much for Udacity

I may have mentioned that I signed up for Udacity courses. It’s a site spearheaded by Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford professor involved with the autonomous vehicles in both the DARPA challenges.

I signed up for CS101 which is their intro Python class that will ostensibly give the skills to build a search engine. I know a bit of Python already and was really looking forward to this in order to expand my Python skills.

I also signed up for CS373 – Writing code for an autonomous car. That takes the Python even further.

But even though my logon works on Udacity, I cannot access any of the course content. I tried using Firefox 3.6.22, 3.6.27, and 10.0.2 with no success. IE8 also failed to load course content and so too Google Chrome 17.0.963.56m.

So maybe it was my computer itself, nope. Other flash and javascript based sites work just fine.

So I fired off an email to their support people. I told them that in IE8 it would not load. They shot back with this:

This is a common problem if you have any of the following running: adblock, flashblock, noscript, httpseverywhere. In order to view the site you must have these disabled.

Now note I had said IE8. They probably looked in their apache logs and found I’d tried to access with Firefox.

So I decided to try it from my cell, and the Safari based browser there cannot access the Udacity course content.

The last email I sent them was that I’l revisit Udacity in a few months once their javascript code straightened out.

I can’t fault them too much, if you hit the Udacity site you see they put the Beta tag right on the header. So I’ll check back in a couple of months to see if things have leveled off.

Education: RI shouts that 4th and 8th graders are proficient in reading*

*But the reality is far from what they would have you believe is the truth.

If you wish you can go the NEAP site and drill down for your state.

I’m going to focus on 8th grade students in Rhode Island since that is where I live. The reason I care about this is that when I get older these are the people that are going to be in charge and if they can’t read, I don’t think we’re going to be very well off since if you can’t read and understand what it is you’re reading, you will not be able to tell when for example corporations write legislation that benefits said corporations and not the people.

So first let us look at the overall RI scores for reading as opposed to National. RI is the lighter shade of blue on the graph:

RI Overall 8th Grade Reading compared to National
RI Overall 8th Grade Reading compared to National

Statistically speaking RI pretty much matches the national standards for 8th grade reading. The rates are abysmal btw. In other words a little less that 2/3’s of 8th graders on a national and RI level cannot read at even a basic level.

Where it gets more interesting is when you break RI down by racial categories, Black, Hispanic and White. A disturbing trend emerges.

RI Breakdown for Black 8th Grade Students
RI Breakdown for Black 8th Grade Students

How is it that 50%, or HALF of Black students are below basic reading skill levels in the 8th grade? This makes no sense whatsoever, ostensibly students speak English as their first language so how is it they’re failing at such high levels? Could it possibly be economic in nature, you bet your sweet ass that it probably is.

But more astonishing, look at the scores for Hispanic students.

RI Breakdown for Hispanic 8th Grade Students
RI Breakdown for Hispanic 8th Grade Students

They’re roughly the same as for Black students. Except some Hispanic students have the language barrier to break through. But even they’ve made some progress, a 9 point difference from 2007 to 2009, more interesting it the 5 point jump in at or above proficient.

If you want my opinion ESL is a joke. They give a child 3 years of ESL and expect them to be fluent in the language. I had three years of high school Spanish and I’m nowhere near fluent though getting better since I started studying Italian.

To expect that a kid is going to be fluent in 3 years is ludicrous.

And just for reference, here are the scores for white kids:

RI Breakdown for White 8th Grade Students
RI Breakdown for White 8th Grade Students

A bit over a quarter of white kids can’t read at a basic level. This goes to economic issues. So long as we have such a wide gap in income, we’ll have poorly educated children.

It’s almost as if this is by design. Imagine if all groups were above the 50% mark for proficient. It would be a very different world. And RI needs to tone down the accolades for itself. They’re doing a mediocre job at best.

Edumacation: Where we need to be

I’m starting to use major headings for blog posts. If you’re not familiar, Edumacation is sort of a Bushism pronunciation of Education.

Over the Labor Day weekend I had some interesting discussions with a friend. He has the unique benefit of having been involved with education for the last decade. I have the unique benefit of thinking ahead to the future needs of this country.

Before I go into this let me outline my educational background because I’ll use it for comparison.

I attended Catholic schools from grades 1 through 12. Chose a private university for my B.Sc. One of the features of grades 9 through 12 was that we were tracked. You fell into a .1, .2A, .2B or .3B class. Most of my classes spanned .1 and .2A, most of which were the math and science subjects. Only thing I got .2B on was a western civilization class.

Catholic schools are more structured and they can be somewhat discriminatory in who they will accept as students. There’s the money thing. My last year at LaSalle Academy was $2,000 for the year it is now $11,900 per year, or almost $50,000 for four years. My B.Sc was on $24,000. Catholic elementary school comes to a total of $5,000 per year. Projecting out, if costs remained fixed (Which it won’t, when I was at LaSalle it got more expensive each year!) it comes out to $90,000 for 12 years of education. If you’d done public schools it would cost $132,000.

But schools like LaSalle Academy also have another way of weeding out the undesirables. There is an entrance examination. Matter of fact when I was a kid I took the entrance exams for both LaSalle and for Classical (Providence’s premier high school). Got accepted to both but for some reason chose the Catholic school. Weird I know, it was kind of a revenge thing.

In a way I’m supporting a voucher program that would kick say $1,000 a month for eleven months. It would be spectacular. 12*11*1000 = $132,000 but like I said the Catholic schools would be $90,000 so 12*11*n = 90,000 where n is equal to $681 a month.

If I had a child, even though I’m a flaming atheist, I’d want that child in Catholic schools. I think I’m good enough to counter the religious indoctrination. I may have the problem another friend of mine had. His 8 year old son announced to a nun that religion was “bullshit”. That got him expelled from the school. I’d teach a child of mine the art of subterfuge when it comes to religion.

But the point that my other friend and I discussed was this:

We test kids at several points during their primary and secondary education so we absolutely know their capabilities. In order to fix public education we need to add a discriminatory element. Not discrimination by race or ethnicity, but discrimination based on cognitive ability.

The kids who test poorly could be shunted into a vocational track while those who have higher level skills would be shunted towards higher education.

The only thing I have to say about this is that even with the standardized testing we’ve done, there’s still a problem. The language barrier is one, since some of the kids in schools don’t use English as a first language. So you’d need some way of compensating for that.

You’d also have to seriously enhance the educational environment. This means teacher evaluations, and changing union rules so that we can rid the system of bad teachers. Take NYC as an example. It’s a real pain to discharge a non-performing teacher. Granted they also need an objective adjudication division too. Maybe a panel made up of their peers, or some such.

The nugget of all of this is that not everyone can be a rocket scientist. But if you can’t be a rocket scientist, maybe you can be an engineer or technician that helps build, maintain and diagnose issues with the next generation of space exploration vehicles.

So it was the religious and the uneducated (Prop 8)

Those are the two common demographics that are emerging from the Proposition 8 fight in California. The people who voted against equality and enshrined hate into a constitution were either religious, uneducated, or both in my view.

Religion tends to enforce utter faith in the words of the Bible and of the pastors. It scorns education in general since those who created the current monotheistic religions knew that once you applied the test of critical thought, religion flies out the window. I think that’s why the great classical era is so interesting since they had a panoply of gods to worship. It kept their minds a bit sharper, didn’t allow for one god to run the whole show.

It is why I say that I’d be happier if organized religion were to disappear tomorrow. I’m tired of my life being overruled by those who wave a Bible in my face. A single book does not an education make.

But this is also why we’re seeing fights to insert creationism into science texts in many states, as well as the open persecution of anyone who doesn’t toe the abstinence line. The of course there is the anti-abortion crowd, the anti-gay crowd, and their ilk.

The ones that scare me most are the Dominionists. Do they really want to live under Gods Law? Death penalty for what things like adultery, no divorce, no shellfish, no mixed fabrics, men required to wear beards, a woman who is undergoing menstruation is determined as unclean and has to stick to the prohibitions in Leviticus. These are people who want to wind the clock back to the 50’s, not the 1950’s but the 50CE era. They want to apply a harsh desert theology to modern society. My guess is that we’d see precisely the clashes we’re seeing right now.

The reality is that they want to control what OTHER people say and do. A return to the Puritanism of the early settlers of the U.S. For even back then the rules really didn’t apply to the men in power. Remind you of anyone today, maybe Bush & Co?

It’s time for we thinking people to stamp out religious ignorance. I know it is a tall order but I think we have the momentum to shut down the ignorance once and for all. As I always say, the churches have had a minimum of six millennium to try and get it right and they’ve failed miserably.

Google Comes out against Proposition 8

Some good news out of Google HQ, they’re coming out against California’s Proposition 8.

This is utterly amazing to me that a company as large as Google is would come down on our side. As many times as I’ve faulted Google for their blog policies, etc. sometimes they do something that pretty much washes away their sins.

This is one of those occasions. I feel a bit badly about leaving Blogger but I do enjoy some of the features of WordPress so I won’t be going back soon. But to my friends on Blogger, now you have a reason to forgive some of Google’s transgressions.

It’s common sense here. One thing about the Google blog posting by Mr. Brin that occurred to me is interesting. Google is a company comprised of highly educated and motivated people. I’ve noted that the more educated one is, the more socially liberal they are later in life. This also seems to be very prevalent in the sciences and engineering fields, and not so obvious in the business and soft sciences fields with the exception of psychology.

So those that are for Proposition 8 are the uneducated and ignorant masses. Consider that only 27% of U.S. adults hold B.A. or B.Sc. degrees and you have your answer. The rest of them depend on their church or pastor to educate them, and we all know that those pastors have an agenda.

I see this regularly with my father. I’ve caught him in some outright ridiculous shit that I can trace back to his pastor and his pastors affiliation with white supremacists groups.

That’s the other thing, white supremacists. If you’ve studied anthropology in any way, shape or form you have to know that we white people aren’t in any way superior to any other race. In fact race is a human creation.

And if you really want to make a white supremacists head pop, just mention that our distant ancestors more than likely started out on the African continent and had skin that was quite a number of shades darker than ours. It’s actually been genetically proven at this point.