Entries Tagged 'Politics Blogs' ↓

Kavanaugh confirmation

Republicans are weighing their options — either re-open the Kavanaugh background file, or act on their own self-interest, which is their highest value. Also, they are accusing Democrats of trying to stall the hearings for a supreme court nominee. I love irony.

 

Public school educators are played for chumps

I just watched Diane Feinstein during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. She may be right, and she may have strong arguments for what she says; but it is futile. We are in this situation because democracy does not work without an educated electorate.

Public school purposes have been hijacked. Educators now focus on value-added scores, correct answers on multiple-choice tests and closing test-score gaps. What a waste of time — 5 hours each day, 180 days per year.

Whatever you do, don’t model and teach the six virtues of the educated person (sarcasm). Public school educators’ responses?

Update on “chumps:”

This morning’s headline in the AC-T was,

Showing signs of improvement: After all-time low, Buncombe schools boost grades on annual report card.

30-minutes later, I read former governor Bev Perdue’s “NC Spin” column headline describing scores across the state:

School performance grades down – listen to our teachers!

The second headline explains some of the good news in the first headline, but you have to understand norm-referenced testing to see the causal relationship. Fewer test questions answered correctly by the whole student population (the poorer test performance reported by Perdue) moves the bell-shaped curve to the left. Evidently, many Buncombe County students percentile scores were higher than they would have been the year before — not because they answered more questions correctly (although they might have), but because the whole curve was moved to the left.

Twenty minutes later, I read another “NC Spin” column, this one by Phil Kirk, former State School Board chairperson, legislator and cabinet secretary. He made the following claims about the principal salary scale in NC:

For as long as we can remember, principals were paid primarily based on how many years they had served as principals, degrees and the size of their school.  It didn’t matter in terms of pay as to whether the principal was outstanding, mediocre, or weak…..hard to believe but that was the tradition even though it makes no sense and is not supported by any credible research.

Just as the legislature is wisely moving away from paying teachers based solely on how long they have lasted in the profession and how many advanced degrees they have, pay for principals is now based partially on growth in student performance.  What a novel idea to reward effectiveness!

He then described one of his definitions of “effectiveness:”

Because Governors Hunt and Easley gave me the opportunity to serve as Chairman of the State Board of Education for six and one-half years, I visited 750 schools in all 115 local school districts. While I don’t claim to be an expert in educational leadership, I could generally size up the effectiveness of the principal after about 15 minutes of touring the school with him or her and listening and talking about their daily challenges, successes, and disappointments.

Then he described a different definition of “effectiveness:”

As BEST NC says, “Research suggests that a full quarter of a school’s impact on student learning can be directly attributed to the school leader. . . “

Of course a principal might have an effect on student learning. In some schools it may be strong; in others it may be weak–just as longevity in school administration might improve a principal’s effectiveness, and other times it might not.

Which is it former State School Board Chairman Kirk? Is principal “effectiveness” demonstrated in a 15-minute walk-around, or is it demonstrated in student test scores (which is what BEST NC means by student learning)?

This is why the social science paradigm for improving schools and making policy is a dead end. It all depends on your definition of “effective.” In this example Phil Kirk has two conflicting definitions. He uses the definition that supports his biases, and then he uses another for his other biases. There’s not much “science” in that.

 

 

 

Senator John McCain

Let’s look at how low the bar has to be set to find a member of either party who did something that was morally right, instead of what would get him/her re-elected. Senator McCain, one of the Keating Five, is being praised and honored for not agreeing with a woman who said Obama was a Muslim.

Furthermore, according to a David Ignatius column (8/28/2018):

McCain had the self-knowledge to understand that he wasn’t very good at waffling. He explained: “Every time I did something because I thought it would be politically helpful, it turned out badly.” As an example, he cited his pandering to southern conservatives during
the 2000 South Carolina primary when he said flying the Confederate flag at the state Capitol was a state issue.

But this is not about John McCain. It is about where we set the bar for politicians’ moral behavior and intentions. A man who admits to doing what is politically helpful is being praised because he was a maverick once in a while. Why doesn’t the media follow McCain’s maverick example and point to when he lowered the bar, too?

Or is the bar so low that nobody can lower it. Here is my summary of recent coverage of John McCain’s career:

We lost a “great” man. There were times when he did not lie, cheat, steal, pander, obfuscate, distort, or denigrate others to get himself elected.

BTW–Now we know that McCain was not tortured by the north Vietnamese for five years at Hanoi Hilton. Instead, based on the perspective of his own political party, he was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. How could he remain a Republican after the Bush administration? Oh — I forgot. He had to get re-elected in Barry Goldwater’s state of Arizona.

New laws are not the solution

I am listening to coverage of the Santa Fe High School mass shooting, which occurred this morning. I hear NRA-endorsed legislators say that stricter gun laws are not the solution.

Here is a news flash — no law is a SOLUTION to anything. Instead, every law is a statement of what we stand for. So, explain your stance on mass shootings. I already know what you don’t stand for. What do you stand for in the aftermath of another school shooting?

 

 

Who are the snowflakes now?

I was reading through the article entitled, Liberals, You’re Not as Smart as You Think, by Professor Gerard Alexander (University of Virginia, political science) in the May 12, 2018, New York Times opinion section:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/12/opinion/sunday/liberals-youre-not-as-smart-as-you-think-you-are.html

The following three paragraphs seem to capture the author’s main point.

Consider some ways liberals have used their cultural prominence in recent years. They have rightly become more sensitive to racism and sexism in American society. News reports, academic commentary and movies now regularly relate accounts of racism in American history and condemn racial bigotry. These exercises in consciousness-raising and criticism have surely nudged some Americans to rethink their views, and to reflect more deeply on the status and experience of women and members of minority groups in this country.

So far, so good – racism and sexism have been part of American culture — do you think? From here it gets squishy:

But accusers can paint with very wide brushes. Racist is pretty much the most damning label that can be slapped on anyone in America today, which means it should be applied firmly and carefully. Yet some people have cavalierly leveled the charge against huge numbers of Americans — specifically, the more than 60 million people who voted for Mr. Trump.

In their ranks are people who sincerely consider themselves not bigoted, who might be open to reconsidering ways they have done things for years, but who are likely to be put off if they feel smeared before that conversation even takes place.

I get it now. Remember that “snowflake” thing – it doesn’t apply to liberals, it applies to Trump voters. I can hear them whimpering right now – “I was going consider the possibility that my life has benefited from white privilege, but since you called me a racist, I won’t consider that possibility, and I will vote for Trump again.”

Here is another paragraph from Alexander:

Pressing a political view from the Oscar stage, declaring a conservative campus speaker unacceptable, flatly categorizing huge segments of the country as misguided — these reveal a tremendous intellectual and moral self-confidence that smacks of superiority. It’s one thing to police your own language and a very different one to police other people’s. The former can set an example. The latter is domineering.

“Domineering?” – I guess those sensitive, Trump-voting snowflakes are melting fast.

Professor Alexander appears to be trying to help liberals. But does he really want to describe Trump voters this way? The “deplorables” was bad enough. Now he says they are sensitive, whiney people, whose judgment melts in the heat of political debate — especially when liberals think they are superior.

Who knew all those crusty Trump voters were such snowflakes?

 

Bill Bennett — Conservative intellectual, hypocrite, or both?

According to Bill Bennett (1998):

Our current president seems, by a large quantity of evidence, to be possessed of several improper proclivities, sexual and moral in a large sense, and one begins to suspect that each episode is not an isolated failing but rather a symptom of something more fundamental, and quite relevant. Chronic indiscipline, compulsion, exploitation, the easy betrayal of vows, all suggest something wrong at a deep level—something habitual and beyond control.

Bennett (1998) used those words to describe President Bill Clinton in, The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the assault on American ideals. Naturally, I was interested in reading what The Book of Virtues author had to say about a president who violates norms of decency, honesty, and other American ideals.

I want to comment on just one of the arguments against the Clinton presidency in Bennett’s 154-page book. In describing the feminist defense of Clinton, who was an adulterer and liar, Bennett calls their position “consequentialism.” Or, as he explains: “To nonphilosophers, this is known as ‘the ends justify the means.’”

He wrote,

For feminists, the end that earns (almost) unwavering support is the president’s commitment to the feminist agenda – expanding child care, providing toll-free domestic abuse hotlines, supporting the Family and Medical Leave Act, and above all, backing abortion on demand. (Notice the straw man — a lot of feminists do not back “abortion on demand,” but back reasonable contraceptive and abortion services.)

And he wrote,

Feminists are quite open about this. . . Call it breathtaking hypocrisy, or call it a sellout of principle, but so speaks the sisterhood.

Feminist support for Bill Clinton demonstrates why one strong argument against utilitarianism is its limited utility. By showing themselves to be intellectually dishonest and unserious, feminists have not only destroyed whatever credibility they once had, they have given a very public very green light to sexual predators.

Fast-forward 18 years.

In August, 2016, Bennett started his blog this way:

People often ask me how I — a so-called conservative intellectual and author of “The Book of Virtues”- can support and vote for Donald Trump. I have many good reasons, but nothing on the home front is more important than the Supreme Court.

If that lead triggered your interest, read the whole blog. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/08/23/what_a_clinton_supreme_court_would_mean_for_america_131586.html

Bennett’s argument for a Trump vote perfectly matches the feminist argument he ridiculed in 1998. Feminists argued for “expanding child care, providing toll-free domestic abuse hotlines, supporting the Family and Medical Leave Act, and above all, backing abortion on demand.”

In 2016 the Bennett blog argued for the Trump agenda related to immigration, religious liberty, transgender bathrooms, the second amendment, the EPA, and abortion. Was his blog “breathtaking hypocrisy,” or a “sell out of principle?” Or was he intellectually dishonest in 1998, when he ridiculed feminists for doing exactly what he recommended in 2016?

Bennett wrote about this, too (1998; pp. 66-67):

Nixonian ethics are wrong because moral precepts are real; they are not like warm candle wax, easily shaped to fit the ends of this or that president, or this or that cause. We do not–or at least we should not–subscribe to the notion that laws apply only to presidents (or causes) we disagree with, but can be suspended for those with whom we agree.

I love irony.

 

Trump University Settlement

Donald Trump has settled for $25,000,000. Of course there is no admission of wrong-doing; but I have a different take on this. I call this being a loser; and I don’t like losers. Donald Trump — you are such a LOSER!

(Remember Donald — imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.)

 

As of tonight, Pence has all the power

It’s Friday night, October 7, and Mike Pence is the most powerful person in the world. With the video of Donald’s locker room talk being played over and over, Pence can give Trump the following ultimatum:

Either you step down as the Republican Presidential candidate, or I will quit as your running mate.

Trump is powerless. He can continue to run for President, but even he must know he cannot win the election after his running mate abandons him. Or he can try to save face by saying it was all rigged, and let Pence be the Republican Presidential nominee.

Either way, Donald loses. I love irony.

(BTW — You read it here, first.)

Saturday update:

The CNN website has several stories about whether or not Trump will quit the race and who has called for him to do so. Two headlines are Trump to WSJ: Zero chance I’ll quit, and Utah Republicans out front in opposing Trump after recording.

Other stories say Republicans can’t force Trump to quit, and Donald says the same thing in published reports. Nobody, however, discusses the ultimatum described above. Pence can’t be forced to continue as the running mate. If he quits, Donald becomes the laughing stock of presidential elections.

Instead, Pence said he cannot defend Trump’s remarks and he wants to hear what is in his heart at the debate on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 12 update

Still no ultimatum from Pence.

Cut the Crap, Mike Pence

Just call Donald and say:

Either you step down as the Republican Presidential candidate, or I quit as your running mate. Conversation over. (click)

“Rigged” irony

If he does not win the presidential election, Donald Trump said it will be because the political system is rigged. From the day of his birth, Trump has benefited from the rigged system we call capitalism. Here is my suggestion for how educators can teach about the extent to which capitalism is rigged.

We all played Monopoly as children. Teachers should teach economics by having students play Monopoly for short periods over the course of the year. Instead of starting with the same amount of Monopoly money, however, each student would start with the amount of money in inverse proportion to his/her family’s wealth. Poor students would be given the number of dollars that corresponds to starting as a wealthy family; and students in wealthy families, would be given the number of dollars that corresponds to starting as a poor family. Then — roll the dice.

Where are the economics professors interested in creating an algorithm teachers could use to make sure poor students get the Monopoly advantages experienced by wealthy families and wealthy students get the Monopoly disadvantages experienced by poor families? I am giving this idea to anybody who wants to create the algorithm. The profits are yours.

Furthermore, students would learn a lot from this data-driven approach to teaching. I love irony. (The irony, of course, is that no superintendent or school board would allow this game to be played, even though it is a “data-driven” approach to learning — what they claim to want.)

Trump Dilemma

Republicans are wringing their hands over the Trump candidacy. It has nothing to do with the candidate’s unfavorables, rhetoric, style, personality, or business record. It has to do with polls that show he will lose battleground states and the election.

The Republican party has two options. Divide the party by dumping Trump (and losing the election), or divide the party by keeping Trump (and losing the election).

If I am wrong, and Trump is elected, the American electorate will have demonstrated the three vices taught in our public schools:

  1. intellectual incompetence (Don’t think for yourself.)
  2. fear of truth (America may not be the greatest country in the world.)
  3. pride (first of the seven deadly sins).

Update (post election):

I was wrong. Let’s see what happens in the next four years.