Sunday, November 30, 2014

Obama Immigration Action

I am busy with the most vexing of seasonal problems, the annual fight to make all of my Christmas light strings actually light.  The most problematic is that beautiful "pre-wired" Christmas tree.  After years of struggling, I am finally removing the strings and starting over.  Which in itself is a challenge because the Chinese folks that put them on were very thorough.

So please feel free to discuss your holiday challenges.  Or you may find this article and the comments worthy of further discussion.  The typical commenters and myself have been having a good time with the topic.  And as usual we went a bit astray.

MinnPost Obama Immigration

By the way, since I was busy visiting family and forgot earlier.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Weekend !!!

Comic 1    Comic 2    Comic 3 (immigration)  Comic 4

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

China and Censorship

In many ways I think the government of China is doing some really good things for it's citizens:
  1. Though draconian in some ways, the one child law stopped an out of control unsustainable population growth rate.  This has helped to increase the size of their middle class.
  2. The government has spent a huge amount on excellent high speed trains and other infrastructure.
  3. Most of the citizens I work with seem just fine with their current form of government, which I assume means they are "not too unhappy" with their lives.
One must remember that just 30 years ago China was very far "behind the times" and today they have pretty well caught up , and working hard to pull ahead. (ie other than that air pollution problem...)  As one of my peers and I noted, China pretty much was technologically stagnant for nearly 50 years as the rest of the world progressed.

 The one thing that I have a hard time dealing with though is their blockage of web sites.  I apologize for not commenting or posting during my trip, however I could not access my blog which is hosted by a group within Google.

And I did not have time to take Jerry's advice to take a river cruise from Shanghai to Chongqing.  That is apparently a 9 day cruise.  It would be beautiful though.  Going from the Chongqing airport to the customer who was somewhat out of town was very scenic.  Chongqing is different from the other Chinese mega cities I have been in because it is built around some small mountains that are heavily covered with forest. (ie kind of like the Appalachians)  Therefore it is rather spread out and has more green space.  And as the last time I was there, they are putting up 30 story apartment/condo buildings everywhere. Thus my pet name for China... "The Land of 1 million Tower Cranes"

It looks something like these pictures I found on line.
Pic 1   Pic 2   Pic 3

And if you have visions of a backward China, check out the nice shack I had to stay at...  It was really roughing it...Hotel Hengda  The worst things about it was that it had 0 English speaking TV channels and I was only there 1 night, therefore I assume most of it's client are usually Chinese as they were during my stay.


Ps. Back to the topic of my post...  Apparently the Chinese government is telling it's citizens that the Hong Kong rallies are being sponsored by us Americans for some reason...  And those folks are likely to believe it because they have been raised on this type of misinformation since birth...

Friday, November 14, 2014

SCOTUS and Gay Marriage

Well for better or worse I leave for Shanghai & Chongqing tomorrow, so I will leave you with one of our favorite topics to discuss.  It has been a hot topic at MinnPost again due to the rural folks kicking DFL politicians out of their districts and with the potential SCOTUS case.

MinnPost How GOP Conquered Rural MN
MinnPost Same Sex Marriage will likely become a Supreme Court case

My simple views and questions are:
  • Rural citizens voted for the amendment to ban same sex marriage.  Soon after, their elected DFL representatives ignored their clear voice and voted for a bill to make it legal.  Of course they were not going to get re-elected and they shouldn't be.  They are elected to represent their district.
  • There is at this time no way to tell if a person is gay or straight, except to ask them. Whereas sex, race, disabilities, age and the other typically protected/constitutional status markers can be determined through records, observation, testing, etc.
  • Since there is no way to tell (yet), there can be no real classification of an LGBT person.  Pragmatically, there are people who live the LGBT lifestyle. I do believe that in time research will identify the factors, however at this time they have not.
  • Now religion is a very specific lifestyle / belief system that does have constitutional protection.  That was a very sensitive topic when the country was formed.
  • It seems to me that the same sex marriage proponents are arguing that all adults have the constitutional right to get legally married, and that it is illegal to keep any adults from getting married just because they live a different lifestyle or have different beliefs.
  • In summary, if adults want to get married the government must sanction those wishes.  Even if the majority of people in their state disagree with that lifestyle or belief system.
Center for Public Justice: Same Sex "Marriage" is not a Civil Right
Gay Marriage ProCon
Slate Same Sex Marriage is a Constitutional Right, Not a Democratic Issue
PEW Forum Constitutional Dimensions
WP Inverted Equal Protections
Gay Marriage Bans in 4 States Upheld

Personally, I think it should be left to the States and their citizens/governments to resolve this issue.  Definitely not to the Federal courts.  Thoughts?  And be polite...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Give to the MAX

Well folks, Give to the MAX day is upon us again. So pry open those wallets and give deeply to support the causes that you think deserve the help. Yes that means using your money, not someone elses.
Give to the Max Day

Odds are good that I will be supporting PRISM and Seven Dreams as usual.
Seven Dreams Foundation
Banaadir Academy (Laurie's School)

However I am torn about Parents United, I do find their legislative updates useful, and sometimes appreciate their perspective. However they seem to be highly "Education MN" friendly. Meaning they seem to want to raise funding and rarely mention raising accountability or eliminating tenure. So they may get the lump of coal this year, however I'll take some time to read their recent information before making a final decision.
Parents United

Finally, I should give to MinnPost and MPR, since I enjoy the content they provide.

So who else do you think the other readers and I should consider giving to this year and why?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Common Core and Mandated Process

So Jerry says that Common Core mandates how Teachers teach.  Of course, there is no source or proof provided:
"The problem comes in when the zealots start to mandate HOW we must teach these standards. I would wager I can teach addition without that cumbersome, mind-deadening drawing of squares that CC requires. I think teachers are smart enough to figure out how to teach and teach best when given that authority. If a master teacher or principal can evaluate and then guide young teachers into these "best practices" sooner, that's great. If through good student evaluation we identify better best practices, that's continuous improvement, and if those student evaluations help us to concentrate on those who are struggling or even modify our approach to do so, that is exactly what's needed so we have "no child left behind."

It was rather funny, a few days ago, when discussing some of the changes in the math curriculum, a teacher asked me, "what do we do about the tactile learners?" I had always smirked at the notion that there were different kinds of learners until I ran into (and eventually overcame) an extreme example at work, and so I now immediately relate when somebody tells me about children who are similarly hampered by some "one-size-fits-all" instructional technique dictated by some bureaucrat who doesn't understand that kids are not all the same "size." " Jerry
Ed Week Many Ways to Subtract
WP Common Core Math
Edutopia Visual Learning
Hechinger Report Math Problem
Common Core First Grade Math

I am wondering if people are:
  1. identifying real problems with common core
  2. trying to make mountains out of mole hills
  3. showing their personal resistance to change (sonny... it was good enough for me when I had to walk to school uphill...  both ways...)
Personally I am thinking 2 & 3 are the winners.  To me it looks like the Common Core describes what concepts children should know by what year.  The curriculum gives ideas regarding how to accomplish this, however it seems both leave how that is accomplished to the Teachers.


Tenure Turned on It's Head

Beth has a link to a video you need to watch.  It is a fascinating concept.

MinnPost Young Teachers Most Protected


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Minneapolis Teachers / Schools Conundrum

Beth posted an interesting article at MinnPost.  It discusses Sunday's article in the Star Tribune that details how many of the "highest performing / senior teachers" reside in the schools that have have the fewest unlucky students.  Whereas the schools with the most unlucky students tend to get more of the new / poor teachers. It also includes a letter from Supt Bernadeia Johnson to the Teachers...

I left a few comments there, including these:
"The article says:  "School administrators, union and district officials say high-poverty schools often have the least experienced teachers. Those schools generally have the most openings when more experienced teachers move on."

How did you extrapolate this to "Edina teachers are miracle workers and North teachers are vile scum"?

The reality is that seniority allows Teachers to choose where they teach, therefore they move out of the most challenging schools when given the opportunity. And the silly "steps and lanes" comp policies limit the ability of Districts to pay Teachers more to stay in the more challenging schools.

If districts actually had the freedom to pay Teachers on their performance and the difficulty of the position. Good Teachers at North would be paid more no matter how many degrees they had or how many years they had worked in the district." G2A

"Excellent coverage !!! What I found most interesting were the following. I am very curious if they "fired" any tenured teachers or just those in the "probation" status. That "catch them early" seems telling.

"Minneapolis Public Schools fired more than 200 teachers last year over performance issues, more than any other year in recent history."

"District officials would not talk about dismissals at specific campuses.

“We catch them early,” Nordgren said. “We don’t let them go 20 years being ineffective.”" G2A

"How old are your kids and do you speak with parents that have older kids? Some teachers get all praise, some get mixed reviews based on the style of the other parents.

But sometimes there is consensus that a teacher is just disorganized, communicates poorly, can't control the classroom, etc. And then you will wonder why the Union puts that employee's job before the welfare of your kids." G2A

Nascar, MN and Communists

It seems like a good time to retell my friends NASCAR driver story...

"In the 1960's my grand father was eating in a diner in Ohio when a famous NASCAR driver came in.  They started to talk and the driver asked my grand father where he lived.  My grand father replied that he was a citizen of Minnesota.  To which the driver responded, "Oh you live with all them Communists...""

Well we may not all be communists, however we have again shown that a majority of people in the Twin Cities metro support more government involvement in our lives, higher government spending and higher taxes. I say this because Hennepin county alone pretty much ensured Dayton's win over Johnson.  Politico Results Maps: Minnesota

On the upside, the GOP took back the MN House !!!  So hopefully we can slow the tax and spend spree that the DFL led during the last 2 years.

Other thoughts?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Election Crystal Ball

Since I am way too busy enjoying the sun shine, I'll keep this short.  I have no idea what is going to happen on Tuesday.  What do you think will happen in the State and National races?

Will the Liberal voters show up at the polls in this mid-term election?
Will the Conservatives show up and stand the polls on their heads?
Have people just given up and don't care?
Will the GOP control the Senate?
Would it make any difference?

Real Clear Politics 2014
Star Tribune Politics
MPR Politics
MinnPost Politics