The Written Peace: Open Forum of June 10, 2007
And by the way, for those of you who have watched that ten-minute snippet in the previous post, contemplate that level of roaring diatribe going on, not for 10 or 15 minutes, but for three hours. Fortunately for the hapless students, I do give 10-minute breaks at the top of every hour. They seem to appreciate those, especially smokers and those with less than robust bladders.
I am glad I was able to share with you the part of that first lecture where I had my ritualized hissy-fit about how the U.S. Constitution grants no rights to the People. What to this day still shocks me is how many students look in total amazement at the Establishment Clause and the Separation Clause: they're right there in plain black-and-white, and some students even comment on the disjunction between what they're seeing with their own eyes and how it's all been framed for them in the media and even in their high school government classes as some kind of disputed idea. Many of the schools in this area have faith-based "teachers" come in to give the abstinence-only sex education classes, and those church ladies who pretend to be actual educators are not averse to dropping in religious nonsense that has no place whatsoever in a public school. That, at least, is what I hear, especially from eighth-graders, for whom this targeted marketing campaign seems to be the most intensive.
My favorite line, by the way, in that part of the lecture is always where I thunder, "No, this isn't a 'Christian nation' any more than it's an Islamic nation, a Jewish nation, a Buddhist nation, or a Zoroastrian nation!" I think that helps them sort of see how far any Right-wing, fundamentalist crap is going to get with me in that particular class.
Being a corrupting force in modern America is edifying.
You might recall that a few days ago my "Quoth the Dark Wraith" noted the Center on Education Policy, which just released a report declaring that student math scores have been rising under No Child Left Behind. Dispensing with the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy walking around on stilts in that tripe masquerading as analysis, I summarily dismissed the entire stupidity of the study by pointing out that, no, students are not coming to college any better prepared in math than they have been for years. This NCLB nonsense does not work other than to self-validate through forcing teachers to spend entire school years getting students ready for those idiotic tests. The students are coming out of this new education fad every bit as bad off as they did with "New Math," except that the new way is to terrorize them with Do the Test Well or Be Damned to Hell. That's really making for college students with a good attitude toward math, as if they didn't have a sour enough attitude before the standardized test flogging they're getting now.
Yes, I'm on a rant, and I'll tell you why. This is the last semester I'll be able to run a developmental/remedial math class by what is called "discovery learning" methods. By the end of the first day, the studentsvirtually all of whom are woefully deficient in technical algebraic manipulation skills and even basic arithmetic knowledgewere having the time of their lives. They were working in groups; they were doing goal-oriented problem solving; they were having to write out explanations of how they were proceeding through the steps of their work-out procedures; and most important of all, they were enjoying it. On Thursday, we did "body graphing": that's so they could learnusing themselves as points on lines laid out on a giant grid I'd set up in a big auditoriumall about slopes, x- and y-intercepts, and equations of straight lines. At one particularly strange juncture we did the "Slopey-Pokey"; toward the end, we passed cupcakes in rise-over-run fashion to see how slopes work. The students think these kinds of hands-on math classes are pretty cool.
And you know what? Those students are learning. The problem is, they are learning at a pace that is not lock-step, and their growing knowledge base, while extraordinarily cumulative, is at once non-summative, not right away with this method, anyway. Developmental studentsthose whose "problems" with math go beyond math problems (and that includes a whole lot of students)as well as many remedial students do not get anything out of obsessively goal-oriented pedogogy that promotes mathematicians' preferred skill sets, which I should point out remain to this day largely unchallenged. To that last point, why in God's name should a student majoring in history, sociology, or even business, for that matter, have to own a Texas Instruments TI-84 calculator, which costs well over a hundred dollars? Even for that business student, a graphing calculator is a waste of money: no business person is going to walk into a board meeting and hold up a calculator to show a bar graph of the quarterly sales figures. Yet, still, we not only require that all students own either a TI-84 or its more muscular brother, the TI-89, we require that use of the calculator be integrated fully into the curriculum. Why do we do this? It's not only because we wildly fear looking like a school full of technological Luddites, but also because we could have the pencil-pushing accreditation jockeys do something really bad to us.
I suppose I should admit that what I've been doing for years works only when it's done properly, with a veritable scientific precision entirely hidden from the students who are its beneficiaries. It has to be done by those who know what they're doing, and certainly not by the self-precious, tenured faculty who see what looks to them like a shiny toy that makes them bawl, "Mine! I can be a fun person, too, y'know," which is inevitably followed by the ruination of the program. That's what happened with my discovery learning program, which is why it is now dead. It's the same thing that happens with a lot of good ideas in education.
In macroeconomics, there's a famous truism: Bad money chases out good money. In education, the version is thus: Bad pedagogy chases out (and then shoots) good pedagogy.
No, make that GRRR.
Okay, to be honest, it probably helps (or maybe doesn't help) my perspective that I really suck at math. For God's sake, do not repeat that: I've managed to clock more than two-and-a-half decades teaching math (among many other things) without one college at which I practiced my craft finding out. The last thing I need at this late stage of the game is to have one of mine enemies in academia find out the honest, ugly truth about me. I already had my office taken away from me since, as I knew was going to happen after they gave me that Faculty Member of the Year Award, my allowed hours working there (teaching and doing maintenance stuff) were reduced back down to where they're "supposed" to be for someone of my status. They could still take away my department mailbox. That would hurt.
Anyway, I should get off the subject of education, at least the kind that goes on in institutionalized environments like schools and colleges. There's plenty of work to do out here in the Blogosphere. Considering the pay isn't all that much less and the working conditions afford me a chair, I think this is the preferred environment for the new century. I should have thought of this long ago. Then again, I kind of miss not being able to roar with my vocal cords out here.
I need to welcome a few of the newly registered commenters here at The Dark Wraith Forums. Alley Cat just registered but has yet to post a comment, so I herewith encourage the plunge into our community of discourse. Lynn at ZelleBlog is now commenting somewhat regularly here, and I would encourage you to go over and see her at her own blog. Labrys is new, I think. So is Lisa from Ranger Against War. We have a few others, new and old, who have yet to comment, among them Weaseldog of Weaseldog's Lair, although he doesn't seem to be getting my confirmation e-mail messages.
And a special "Get Well Soon (and I mean it)" goes to our good canine, blackdog of Big Brass Blog, who had some grueling medical issues just awhile back. The man has been through the wringer over the past few years, although that seems to be not at all uncommon for folks around these parts. I'm sort of hoping it's not some contagion associated with visiting this Website. I'd hate to have to go to a full quarantine, at least until I add the extra space to the lounge and dining areas at this hotel.
As it is now, all is good. It's late, the crowd is relatively unrowdy, and we have plenty of coffee and snacks in the backroom, provided, that is, Peter of Lone Tree and Mr. Goat haven't been back there doing body surfing in the potato chips bin again.
Say what you have to say on the topics of the day or on whatever else interests you. And always remember that George W. Bush and his ilk will be gone from the White House 590 days from the date of this post. That's not all that long.
Okay, yes, it is a long time from now... but it's not forever. It's just going to seem like it.
The Dark Wraith should probably buy more liquor for the cash bar.
Sheesh. (Okay, OKAY.)
My name is Al. A number of you already knew that, though. Given that some troll thought he had important information to provide, along with threats, the information behind his weak IP proxy will be shared with law enforcement, as well as with an old attorney friend of mine who's about as vicious as anyone you'll ever want to meet. (And I do dearly love the fellow for that fine quality.)
I had been planning for some time to get Registered Commenter status set up here, and so I shall now enable it. You can choose your username and password via this form. The MySQL database is such that, unfortunately, your username can be only a maximu of sixteen characters in length, but spaces are permissible, although I don't think really weird characters (you know, like Chinese, Klingon, and Sanskrit) will work, although I can't say that I've ever tried that. The field for the e-mail address is what will be used to authenticate you with a message sent there. Once you respond to that message, about an hour later (enough time for me to run the match to ensure that the e-mail address is authenticatically related to an IP where it was originally set up), you will become a Registered Commenter. The several layers of authentication ensure that no dangerous individuals find their way in here. Your e-mail address will be hidden from comments you make if you so choose, and that e-mail address will not be shared with anyone under any circumstances. If it sounds terribly intrusive, it is; however, it's not nearly as much so as typical authentication procedures in the workplace or in reputable online commerce.
This is all somewhat temporary security, temporary because I do not know how long I shall continue to blog. The health problems about which I wrote last week are rather more severe than I had hoped, but about as bad as I had feared. Fortunately, I shall choose not to hear any more about what's wrong, and that will keep me from getting really unhappy.
The form will remain as a permanent link in the left sidebar. Register if you like. I hope every one of you who has been a commenter of good will and some degree of duration will do so.
The Dark Wraith cruises into the late afternoon.
The Written Peace: Open Forum of May 10, 2007
By the way, those video series, which have become a semi-regular feature here, are part of an on-going effort in which I am trying to build some degree of multi-media presence for Dark Wraith Publishing. I am mindful that they are popular only to a relative handful of the long-time readers here, but they are actually capturing a growing audience on the Internet via YouTube and that strange, word-of-cybermouth virality that has attended the pop culture side of the Information Age.
Some of you might already have noticed that, at the bottom of the main page and the individual article pages, I have embedded a graphical link to "Revver" videos of the lectures. Revver is a service somewhat different from YouTube; perhaps the most important difference, aside from better video quality and several formatting options, is that, under certain circumstances, a publisher of videos on Revver can actually earn revenue. The trick is that a viewer has to watch the whole video and then click on the ad link at the end. The good news about this is that most of the ads aren't all that bad; the bad news is that this revenue-sharing method favors very short videos, ones that will hold viewers' attention no more than half-a-minute. My videos, unfortunately, are painfully long by flash video standards. Because of the YouTube restriction that videos published there can be no longer than 10 minutes in duration, I've made that my usual benchmark, with most of my lecture clips being between seven and ten minutes long. Even though the chances of generating much revenue at all (so far, I've earned 70 cents) are minimal, it's better than the no-chance-at-all way YouTube is run. Google was just the right company to acquire YouTube: yet another way to have others do most of the work while thinking they're getting a freebie from an eternally generous provider that's making all the money and gathering a nearly monopoly position in certain markets.
The videos I'm producing are part of a learning experience. They'll get better; they'll get more polished; and eventually, they'll be marketable on their own as DVDs. Stand-alone marketability won't happen for a while, though, and even if they eventually earn me some degree of commercial success, I swear to you that I won't let it go to my head, at least not to the extent that I become a politician or, far worse, a mainstream media talking head. (For one thing, I know for a fact that I wouldn't be able to maintain proper decorum if I had to sit next to some Right-wing nutjob on a news show.)
Domains for Sale
Speaking of marketability, next month, I'll be holding a private auction to sell my two domains, truth2008.com and truth2008.org. The minimum bids are not something I would care to publish here lest I give friends the impression that I'm a robber-baron, which I might be, but I'd prefer not to give that impression. This past semester, I was granted a temporary status that allowed me to work more hours than would normally be permissible under state laws and collective bargaining agreements (of which I was not, and would not be, a part). With the end of the semester coming next week will come the end of that brief arrangement, one in which I was earning at a rate better than my usual twenty thousand dollars a year. The Faculty Member of the Year Award I just wonsomething I mentioned here awhile backwas more or less nothing but a kiss of death, a faint pat on the head to make me feel good about returning to the trench. Still, it will make for a nice certificate I can put in my Valuable Papers box I keep in the back of my Jeep.
Late next week, I'll post a picture of me in full regalia holding the certificate (appropriately redacted, of course) I'll be given at the school's commencement ceremony.
My cynicism is running a bit on the high side tonight, and that is entirely inappropriate. Last week was scary. For several months, just about every morning in the shower I was having a brief spell in which I felt like I was going to black out. I would have to just stand very still and ride out the episodes, none of which lasted more than a minute and every one of which ended with a rather rapid recovery of normal breathing and heart rate attended by an altogether odd weakness in my legs and knees. By Tuesday of last week, my throat was hurting terribly, my windpipe ached awfully when I'd breathe in smoke or anything else acrid, and I had a couple of spells where I was scared about allowing myself to fall asleep lest I never again awaken.
Those are usually signs that something is wrong. Call me an alarmist if you will, but I tend to get all kinds of worried about death, given my past history with the Grim Reaper's unfortunate habit of repeatedly showing me that departing this life is almost always something less than swift, painless, and noble.
Part of my little package of rewards for being allowed more hours of work was that I briefly had medical insurance. Unfortunately, it's the requirement that employers like mine provide such insurance that makes it nearly impossible to get as many hours as I had. My hat is off to the good, liberal forcesthose in the unions and those in the state legislaturethat so responsibly choose to have hundreds of thousands of people underemployed or unemployed just so a small gathering can have darned good medical coverage.
The funny part about it is that I would have been out of my mind to go to a doctor or to an emergency room for my condition: they would have been more than glad to turn me into a basket case of X-rays, MRIs, endless tests and whatnot, all to the professionally responsible end of making yet another person a semi-permanent member of the medical/pharmaceutical dependency lifestyle, and all to the personal end of bankrupting me after my medical benefits terminate at the end of next week.
It's all enough to drive a perfectly stable person to a Libertarian political convention. That, or a faith healer.
Solving the Problem, Even When the Solution Is Worthless
Anyway, I stopped all use of tobacco, I cut my daily food intake to about 800 calories; and I upped my weight-lifting regimen to 90 minutes a day.
Oh, yes: I also stopped feeling sorry for the pathetic state of my life. The downside of that new-found energy was that I once again had to deal with the annoying truth that there are so darned few people to blame for personal problems. God! but that's irritating.
I need to get rid of the mirrors in my apartment.
From Here to Infirmity
What lies ahead for all of us might not be particularly good, and much of the bad can be laid at the doorstep of the neo-conservatives, the politically charged fundamentalists, the worthless Republicans who appeased them, and the still-pathetic Democrats who could not find the way to stop all of the madness before it had set this nation upon an irreversible course of degradation that will surely cause much unneeded suffering in the decades and years to come.
All of that does nothing, however, to diminish the need for a personal fortitude and the persistent renewal of erstwhile vows to live on without excuses for individual failures. We really do have a fight to engage, and we must take upon ourselves that work without fear of a country that remains every bit as spiteful today as it did the day more than fifty million of its adult citizens saw fit to elect a vicious, hateful, ignorant, venal man like George W. Bush as President of the United States of America.
The weatherman just reported that storms are coming this way. I think they'll be here sooner than we think.
But for the Time at Hand...
Say your peace tonight. This is an open forum, and I'll be hanging out here in the hotel lobby, hoping to see some old and new faces pass through. If the crowd gets rowdy, I suppose I can turn on the jukebox and play some kicky tunes from a few Gothic groups I've heard recently.
That should set the appropriate tone. Maybe we can start a betting pool on which Bush Administration official will be the next to tell the subpoena issuers in Congress to go pound salt.
And before I forget, I wanted to tell you about my new word: if you've forgotten to respond to an e-mail message someone sent you, don't say, "Aw, geez! I forgot!" Instead, you calmly explain that the original message that was sent to you got "Roved," which means, according to the Dark Wraith Cyberglossary, that the message was accidentally deleted and that the accidental deletion was actually intentional.
And, no, the e-mail messages from some of you I haven't answered weren't Roved. I've honestly been busy, and some of that distraction was because I was being vexed by this fellow wearing a tacky black robe with a hoodie and accessorizing with a big scythe.
The whole outfit really worked for him, but I never bothered to tell him that. It would have just encouraged him.
The Dark Wraith turns up the house lights for the evening's festivities.