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Measuring Teaching

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.03.15

538 trolls us with The Science of Grading Teachers Gets High Marks. It seems ideologically driven, but semi-sound. The main problems that I have with it are: 1) The assumption that standardized tests are a good measure of learning (as opposed to coming with trade-offs - have we cut arts and recess? are we measuring if a teacher is neglecting the worst students who suck up disproportionate resources?), and 2) That they don't say how it correlates with peer evaluations of instruction, and 3) These things are inevitably used to cut funding to school systems. Why don't we study how scores change if you double the budget of a school? As well as the shortcomings mentioned in the article.



 

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Auburn, Nebraska

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.03.15

Ol' Buzzkill Thorn sends along "You're One Of Us, Now". It is a harrowing read. During the Katrina crisis, a small town in Nebraska offers to host a family. The Williams, a NOLA family of seven, ends up heading out to Nebraska.

The town of Auburn, population 3,200, had provided them with a car, a four-bedroom house, job leads and free medical checkups. The Ladies Club stopped by with homemade casseroles. Goodwill delivered jeans and pearl-snap shirts.
"You're one of us now," a city councilman had written to them, even though no one else in Auburn was black, Southern, urban and poor. "We're a close community that leaves no one behind in a time of need. You'll be taken care of here."

This sounds great! A few wacky miscommunications upfront will make for fond memories later, and we'll be all settled in.

During their third week in Auburn, the dealership had replaced their new Expedition with a used minivan, explaining that the Expedition had been a short-term loan. During the fifth week, their oldest son had been sent home from school for wearing a Bob Marley T-shirt. "A drug culture we don't embrace here," the administrator's note had read. During the seventh week, the city had asked them to start paying rent on the four-bedroom house, $520 a month, which they couldn't afford on Troy's salary as a machine operator. During their eighth week, vandals had carved "Niggers" into the Halloween pumpkins on their front porch, and they had gone for the first time to see the police.
The community newspaper published all police activity each week in a section called "The Docket," and soon the Williams family had become regulars. There was Andrea, ticketed for speeding 7 mph over the limit. There was Troy for failing to pay the trash. There was Troy again for driving under the influence, his first offense.

It has been an awful decade. Thorn also wrote "It seems like it might be a complement to some of the discussion BTWAM is kicking up." I'm reminded of the intersection between racism and economic deprivation. Poverty is very much the mechanism for keeping the Williams from getting their footing in Nebraska.



 

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People Are People

Posted by Ogged
on 09.02.15

Have you seen the picture of the dead kid washed up on the beach? Police writing ID numbers on refugees' arms? What's up Europe? We'd like to sell you a wall.



 

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Murder

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.02.15

Lurid Keyaki writes: May I suggest a post on the NYT article about the rising urban murder rate (focusing on Milwaukee, which saddens me)? I find it pretty chilling to think of the intense rage provoked by Internet arguments spilling over into real-life shooting, because that is one effectively limitless source of rage. (When push notifications come to shove?) Still, from the end of the article:

Along the streets on this city's North Side, residents said the problems reached far deeper than guns or fights on Facebook.
"Everybody's struggling out here, trying to stay afloat, with no jobs, no opportunities," said Bethann Maclin, whose 13-year-old daughter stays mostly inside these days. "The violence won't end. Where do you start?"

So in that sense assigning causality for this particular trend is (probably) beside the point. Either way you look at it, though, it's bad.

(I apologize if the heated discussion of this topic leads to gun violence among commenters.)



 

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Oliver Sacks

Posted by Ogged
on 09.02.15

Wow.



 

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Riff for me

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.02.15

Lately I keep making the joke, when saying goodbye, "Hate to see you go, but love to watch you leave." Mostly I make the joke to myself, because the lecherousness is funny in the least appropriate contexts, like after smalltalk with the Heebie U president, with an eyebrow waggle, or my humorless uptight colleague.

Anyway: that phrase should spawn a thousand riffs, like a lady in the sheets or how I like my coffee. But I haven't been able to really nail down the pattern.



 

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Kentucky

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.01.15

E. Messily says: somebody explain how the whole jackass-county-clerk lady in Kentucky is able to just ignore/defy the law with no consequences. She's elected so she can't be fired? But surely there is some mechanism for dealing with elected officials who just refuse to follow the law and perform the tasks they were elected to do, right? I'm trying to think of an analog and mostly failing, I assume because it's such a stupid situation. Like, if a congressperson just refused to pass laws or.. no wait, that one happens all the time.

Anyway the whole thing is infuriating. I can't decide if I think it's good or bad that she's getting to parade herself around in national press all the time.

Heebie's take: I have a guess! Her boss and her boss's boss both support her.



 

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Old People Pop

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.01.15

This is something I've often thought:

This is something I had already noticed, but working with elderly clients has made me notice EVEN HARDER that most pop music is for young people...I noticed it particularly while driving home from a visit with a client, hearing Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud." Is my 86-year-old client going to identify with "And darling, I will be loving you until we're 70"? Will that seem romantic to her? Will she sing it sentimentally to her 88-year-old husband? No. In fact, the song suddenly seems ridiculous. Wow, ALL THE WAY until SEVENTY??? And THEN what? Divorce, I assume, or death. Gosh, when you're THAT old, does it even matter? This song is for people who can't even IMAGINE an age like 70, people who were born when some of my clients were ALREADY 70.

We are specifically talking about commercial radio music, not your obscure weirdo music.

My friend Surely has pointed out that COUNTRY music is helping to market to this niche. I have actively tried to like country music, but I just DON'T. I like pop music, and some pop-alternative. Maybe the occasional country cross-over: I do love Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise," though I liked it even better when Nelly got involved. And that's not the type of lyrics that I'm talking about anyway. How many of us are going around in bikini tops lookin' for the fast life in some guy's truck? I need something with more of an "Old Navy crewneck"/minivan feel. "Yeah when I first saw her with that comfy tee on her / She was walking right down that grocery store aisle."
I promise if someone tries to exploit this market, I will buy the songs.

Please excuse the author's tendency towards excessive capitalization. If you can get past that, she's really fun to read.



 

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Guest Post - Dupont and C8

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.31.15

Ydnew writes: This caught my eye yesterday. Sad story, but the little victories might be enough to stay optimistic. Or maybe we all will get cancer and not live to see the global warming apocalypse.

In which Dupont possibly comes off worse than even coal mining companies in terms of callous indifference to public health. Yes, it's longform. It's also very depressing. The short version? Dupont factory contaminates the drinking water of an entire town and surrounding areas. Employees have children with birth defects. Everybody gets cancer. Or ulcerative colitis. Dupont lies and obfuscates. The victims win legal battles through luck and smarts. They also alienate their neighbors, who worry that Dupont will move the site elsewhere and leave economic devastation behind. Dupont lies, obfuscates and continues to profit. Dupont (almost certainly) wins the war. Quotes:

"It was like God reached out from the sky and tapped into my brain," he recalls. The plaintiffs would use the $70 million health and education fund from the settlement to pay people $400 each to participate in the epidemiological study. Deitzler knew that Appalachian residents wouldn't take kindly to outsiders probing into their health. . . . The response was overwhelming. Tens of thousands of people piled into pickup trucks, church buses and minivans to make the pilgrimage to Brookmar's trailers. "We have families of five dragging their three kids kicking and screaming, and the parents are saying, 'Yes, you're going to get stuck in the arms--that's $2,000!'" one local said. . . . By the time the project wrapped up in the summer of 2006, roughly 80 percent of residents in affected water districts had participated. This made it far more likely that the panel of epidemiologists would be able to correlate C8 exposure with particular diseases. "I think it messed up a lot of people at DuPont's lives that we devised this wild system," Brooks told me. "These hillbillies threw a rock in DuPont's machine."
Despite everything he has been through, Wamsley does consider himself fortunate in one respect: He is the only designated C8 tester who is still alive. "It looks like DuPont might have known this chemical was dangerous and used some of us as guinea pigs," he says. "I believe God kept me alive to tell their stories."

Better living through chemistry.

Heebie's take: OMG I was already going to post this. I read it, absolutely slackjawed, over the weekend. It's horrifying.



 

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BTWAM, Part II, Section I

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.31.15

Below is Minivet's response to the second section of TNC's book. I'll append Roberto Tigre's this afternoon. Enjoy!

Update: Now fortified with added Tigre Power! See below.

Minivet writes: The part on Prince George's County is especially interesting because it gets into the Dream as Black people buy into it. At the same time, it's also the part I feel least qualified to follow - like I'm butting into a private conversation between other people. PG is almost the jewel of the Black upper-middle class world, and TNC contrasts its Black leadership with its especially violent and investigated police force, and the suspicious death of his classmate Prince Jones. The threads drop off and pick up in a way that can be difficult to follow, but he seems to be indicting Black political and aspirational culture for buying into the same Dream with the same racial hierarchy implications as the rest of the U.S. does ("I knew that these were theories, even in the mouths of black people, that justified the jails springing up around me" - and a recent defense of Joe Biden I saw pointed out that the Congressional Black Caucus on balance supported war-on-crime bills like his 1994 one.) He connects it to the Black political narrative of stoic struggle, together with the insistent forgiveness, respectability, be-twice-as-good, and all that. Prince Jones is the final example against twice-as-good. (Not to be finger-pointing; obviously the logic of respectability is much more ferociously enforced on the white side.)


read more »



 

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Jamycheal Mitchell

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.30.15

Via E. Messily, another death in police custody. This one is more probably homicidal negligence than brutality - he went off his meds and starved to death. Especially horrifying though because he was being held on charges of shoplifting from a convenience store, though.

I'm kind of wondering what made this one stand out enough to publish - it's the type of thing that must happen all the time, right? Does this contribute to the Guardian's count of people killed by police so far this year? I assume not, because their tally stands at 775 and that can't possibly include people who die of untreated illnesses while in jail or prison. Or maybe "police custody" ends at sentencing? That would make sense.



 

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