Re: I Have A Dream

1

No shit, eh? I know why the temporarily caged bird gripes mildly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:23 AM
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Yep. Client meeting in half an hour.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:24 AM
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I was off last Monday (annual leave) and will be off next Monday (Time Off In Lieu for a Saturday project) but I'm working this Monday. Had a meeting with two lovely women where scones and mince-pies were served.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:26 AM
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I have never been to a meeting where mince pies were served. I need to move to the UK, immediately.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:28 AM
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Why did Dr. King have to be born in January, anyway? It's like he took no notice of the fact that there is no public holiday in August, when we could really use one. And don't get me started on those pricks Washington and Lincoln.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:29 AM
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Last night, we burst another cherished ideal for Jammies when we told him that, in one of the most disgusting instances of racist appeasement in our recent history, many Southern states accepted MLK Day as a federal holiday only by also designating it as Confederate Heroes Day. The poor lad.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:30 AM
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I have never been to a meeting where mince pies were served.

Nor I, after twelfth night. Were they very stale?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:31 AM
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People who want MLK Day off should work at a stock brokerage, except not in one of those hi-power 90-hours a week quantitative analyst jobs. Unless they like money. Which, if they do, what do they care about MLK anyhow?

6: the most disgusting instances of racist appeasement in our recent history Man, by the time I get to Arizona...


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:43 AM
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Jammies took to rocking in the corner, it's true. And praying to Mother Theresa, which led to a whole 'nother conversation...


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:48 AM
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Was the phrase "Time Off In Lieu" created for the sake of the acronym?

Becks, I feel you.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:48 AM
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And praying to Mother Theresa, which led to a whole 'nother conversation...

Won't get him far. Didn't she turn out to have been an atheist all along?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:49 AM
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9: wait, so you guys get to hang out with Mai Tai and Kraab just like whenever? Just like it's no thing? Geez! Talk about privilege.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:50 AM
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I am wondering whether shivbunny will be boratting me today: "so, what, this is the holiday where Americans celebrate shooting black people? no wonder no one likes you."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:54 AM
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Won't get him far. Didn't she turn out to have been an atheist all along?

Much worse. Corrupt and committed to keepping poor people poor. According to Fontana and Apostropher mostly, and, I think, Chris Hitchens?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:54 AM
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13 see 6: It's the holiday where only some American states celebrate shooting black people. Some states can't handle even that positive a spin on it, so instead they celebrate ululating hicks fighting to preserve the god given right to shoot black people.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:58 AM
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5: Talk about a lack of planning; what's with those guys? Come to think of it, we could just legislatively move someones birthday to August. If it was good enough for Jesus to have His Birthday moved, it's good enough for them.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:00 AM
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The nation could join as one to celebrate my birthday. Or Newt's. I'm not fussy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:04 AM
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Happy Birthday, LB!


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:06 AM
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non-fussiness is an admirable trait but unlikely by itself to earn you a national holiday

hate to break it to you


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:07 AM
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Television ad spots on my birthday are more expensive than any other day of the year. Because I am so beloved.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:08 AM
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I heard the "L" in MLK stands for Lizardbreath.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:09 AM
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18: It's in August, when a national holiday is truly needed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:09 AM
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for Lizard Breath

Happy birthday!


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:15 AM
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People who want MLK Day off should work at a stock brokerage

Or work at a university! I get MLK day off and lots of vacation time. Downside: very little pay (compared to the private sector) and miniscule raises.

But there's also that heartwarming feeling that comes from knowing you're helping the next generation of stockbrokers and i-bankers who will go on to support the Republican party.


Posted by: pasdquoi | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:15 AM
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Oh, that's adorable!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:18 AM
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13: No; MLK was shot on 4 April.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:19 AM
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re: 16

'Our' Queen has two birthdays. Just allocate MLK an extra one, in August. There's a precedent for the whole duobirthday thing.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:19 AM
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I don't get today off but most of my clients do so I get to do a lot of catching up. I find this situation cancels itself out on my highly scientific personal joy-o-gram.

I advocate a national holiday for all birthdays of everyone. It would make remembering them so incredibly easier.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:19 AM
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24: As much fun as the larval stockbrokers and i-bankers are the larval physicians. The best part is when someone who has barely made a presence in the term and manages a D in the course emails you to say how they "have to" get into medical school and "need" you to make extra credit work for them so they can improve their grade. And then their mom calls, which is even more fun.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:21 AM
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29: Oh dear, that must really bring out the sadist in you.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:25 AM
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And then their mom calls, which is even more fun.

Ask what she's wearing.

Happy happy, LB. To Newt as well.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:30 AM
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People who want MLK Day off should work at a stock brokerage

Or a conservative Republican law firm. Many of my partners are so conservative that they think I'm a closet liberal. We are closed today. What's wrong with your employers?


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:32 AM
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Boo. My gym's closed today, too. This holiday sucks.

But happy b-day to LB and Newt!


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:33 AM
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I feel bad. It's not LB's birthday, people. I started this nasty rumor.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:34 AM
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I think it is just that all law firms and investment firms are off today. Universities are only kind of off, I have class later today though none of my law school buddies do.

If you really like holidays, screw stock brokerages. Find a bond trading firm. For some reason, the bond exchanges in the US have a couple more holidays each year.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:34 AM
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31, 33: See 22.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:35 AM
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My employer gives us the choice of taking today or Washington's birthday as a holiday. As observances, today would have been a better holiday, but for tedious pragmatic reasons I'm working now.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:35 AM
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I think it is just that all law firms and investment firms are off today.

I beg to differ, as, I think, would LB.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:36 AM
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Argh argh argh. I'm in the office solely because I was told to be here to attend this client meeting -- I wasn't actually told what conference room it was in or anything. And when I got in, and emailed the partner in question, I got no response. So I wandered by his office, and I was disinvited to the meeting without being told about it -- "I didn't want to overwhelm the client with too many people."

Honestly, I don't mind working (well, I mind it some, but I'm not going to complain about it). But just fucking with me is unnecessary, right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:38 AM
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40

That is total bullshit, LB.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:40 AM
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MLK was shot on 4 April.

Though, contra Bono, it wasn't in the "early morning" but around 6 pm.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:41 AM
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That is total bullshit, LB.

YEAH! QUIT LYING, WOMAN!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:42 AM
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40: why don't you believe her?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:42 AM
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pwhatever.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:43 AM
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As a small consolation, LB, allow me to wish you and Newt a happy birthday!


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:43 AM
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Don't beg teo, it's unseemly.

LB --- that sucks. It's worse than unnecessary; it seems to me there is really isn't any vaguely positive interpretation. You're either being put in your place or so genuinely disregarded that your time is though of no consequence. Assuming the partner didn't think they had emailed you or whatever.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:43 AM
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29: Ah yes. I just had one of those. I am single handedly keeping this student from graduate school by them a good grade. I am a menace! I am unfit for my job! Complaints will be made!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:43 AM
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er, "by giving them"


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:44 AM
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47: What I love is how it is almost invariably a student that was already doing badly at mid-term, but did they approach you then? Of course not.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:45 AM
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You're either being put in your place or so genuinely disregarded that your time is though of no consequence.

Yeah, this particular partner treats everyone like that -- it's not directed at me more than anyone else. Malicious and nasty, but evenhanded. But no longer working with him will be a pleasure. (The glacial government hiring process has lurched forward again. While I don't have a sense of timing, I am now firmly counting my chickens.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:46 AM
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"My father proofread this and he says it's an A."
"I'm sure he was a great help, but he's not running this class."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:46 AM
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Mine did well! Just not perfectly! It is criminal, people. I need to be stopped.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:47 AM
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Yeah, this particular partner treats everyone like that

This sort of thing probably keeps me from some career paths; I literally will not take this sort of thing from anyone (an individual instance might fly).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:48 AM
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34: Happy birthday, leblanc!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:50 AM
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Speaking of MLK, let me wholeheartedly recommend the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis to anyone who hasn't seen it. Very impressive place.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:51 AM
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I have to say I love spurious grade complaints even though they take a little time. It's amusing to see the hopes crushed. Last semester gave me the chance to say "it's not that my standards are too harsh; it's that this was the worst paper in the class, and, in fact, the worst paper I've seen all year."

The student then did me the favor of complaining about my grading standards on the evaluation form, which is awesome, because the committee sees my grading patterns and knows that they aren't too harsh. It's as if the student had written I M DISGRUNTLED: PLZ DISREGARD at the top of his form.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:51 AM
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51 I had one father "helping" with his son recently. He sent a long email explaining how qualified he was to do this.

52 Oh those ones too.... "If I don't get at least B- in this course I'll lose my scholarship/major/whatever". I'm always tempted to just say "guess you should have thought of that a while ago then".


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:51 AM
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53: I'm pretty strongly predisposed to not starting fights that I'm not going to win. I can get away from this guy by quitting, but I have absolutely no leverage with which to object to ill-treatment. Could be worse. I've got a friend here who unfortunately reacts entertainingly when abused, and the partners she works for have spent the last two years turning her from a competently functioning lawyer into a twitchy basketcase. She can't quit without losing her visa (she's Scottish, but doesn't want to go back there). At this point, I'm wondering whether she's going to hurt herself or someone else when she finally snaps.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:55 AM
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I'm always tempted to just say

"...less begging, more fellatios."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:55 AM
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re: 57

I've never had one of those second ones. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what I would say.

re: 51

My wife is studying some philosophy stuff for a course she is taking. I am having to bite my tongue a bit when she's showed me her tutor's comments.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:55 AM
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For many years, it seemed like we were the only ones open in DC on MLK. I took to calling it Confederate Flag Day. It was sparsely attended. We have the day off now.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:55 AM
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That's awesome FL. Sometimes it can be fun. Sometimes just a pain in the ass. I had one who filed a formal complaint about the grade with the deans office without ever talking to me or the department. A real `I know how to work the system' loser. His grounds was that I had changed the marking scheme part way through the term ... which was true, I changed it in their favor.

It was a pain in the ass. Enough phone calls & emails to sort out that even the small joy of telling him that he still failed (and was formally warned not to abuse process again) wasn't really worth it...


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:56 AM
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It's as if the student had written I M DISGRUNTLED: PLZ DISREGARD at the top of his form.

My worst evaluation kept coming back to the fact that he wouldn't have failed if I'd allowed them to use calculators like a real, good precalculus teacher would.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:56 AM
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58: Oh, your method is much, much more sensible, I'm sure. I'm just unable to pull it off. I'm sure I'd just be fired in dramatic ways, which regardless of how well I engineered it, would probably hurt me far more than them.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:59 AM
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60: I admit it's hard when my sisters have enrolled in an undergraduate philosophy course and their TA is just plain wrong on basic points, but I have stressed to them that "my sister could do your job in your sleep" is not a point likely to win them much.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:59 AM
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Obviously, MLK Day ought to have been put on the anniversary of the MOW.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 9:59 AM
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At this point, I'm wondering whether she's going to hurt herself or someone else when she finally snaps.

Someone else, surely. Beware if she comes in wearing woad.

re: LB's story about shitty partner.

That happened to me with some teaching [when I was still teaching]. Another tutor cancelled one of my tutorials without telling me. I cycled 4 miles in the pissing rain to teach, waited an hour and then went home. Only to find out hours later that she'd told the student not to attend my tutorial [as the student was 'stressed' and needed a rest] but hadn't bother to inform me.

She didn't apologize either when I sent a flurry of emails about it. It was a huge amount of mental effort not to use the word 'fuck' repeatedly in the correspondence.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:00 AM
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63: A colleague has a little folder of emails from one student. They start off ok, but by the end of the term include thinly veiled (and laughably written) death threats. It's really quite something.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:00 AM
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I for one look forward to LB working in DoD's GC office.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:01 AM
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When my wife was a 1st year undergrad she had to write an essay on some topic in the history of medecine and made a passing reference to Galen. It came back circled - "Who?"


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:02 AM
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re: 70

Yes, my wife wrote one of her papers for a music topic and mentioned that an instrument on the record they were supposed to analyze sounded like a harpsichord. The tutor's marked version circled 'harpsichord' and asked 'what is this?'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:04 AM
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My current job doesn't give us today off, but I cleverly got around that fact by getting sick. Woo, 103.5-degree fever!


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:07 AM
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She didn't apologize either when I sent a flurry of emails about it. It was a huge amount of mental effort not to use the word 'fuck' repeatedly in the correspondence.

Oy. From a peer, I would have had a difficult time not taking it from email to a highly unpleasant face to face discussion of how that was never going to happen again, right? Possibly involving woad.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:07 AM
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72: Hey, with bonus druggy-feeling-semi-delirium, maybe!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:08 AM
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re: 73

Well, since I was/am a grad student doing adjunct teaching [although at the time I think I was on a formal 'sabbatical' from my degree and had a full-time lectureship] it probably wouldn't have been good for my reputation. That was sheer cowardice, though. She certainly deserved me coming down to her office and telling her where to fucking go.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:13 AM
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74: No maybe about it. The fever was actually yesterday (and taking an Aleve dropped it right quick), but I still feel crap enough that there's no way I'm going to work. Unfortunately, I seem to have infected Magpie, who *does* have today off.

Note to self: when feeling ill, don't wait to take temperature.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:14 AM
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Hey, this is the week when I become an anecdote by the way!?! My kid's teacher apparently lost her temper with the class and shouted at them. Well, happens to us all, stressful job &c, but on the other hand, she lost it at a class of six year olds, and that is not OK, particularly not in our nice little touchy feely middle class infants' school. So I'm going to have a little chat with her and tell her to cool it. I can just *see* myself appearing in the Guardian Education supplement, rewritten up as one of those terrible precious parents who constantly undermine the teacher's authority. On the other hand, I hate teachers.


Posted by: derauqsd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:19 AM
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How do you make yourself heard in a class of 6 year olds if you don't shout?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:22 AM
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Good heavens. The woman actually shouted at a room full of six year olds? Clearly some terrible error was made in the hiring process -- failure to check properly for the odor of sanctity, perhaps.

(Seriously, WTF? Losing it frequently is one thing, but unless you're using that characteristic Welsh understatement, and 'shouted at them' meant 'obscenities or threats of violence', getting bent out of shape about this seems premature.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:24 AM
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I am now firmly counting my chickens

Yay LB!

One of the things that ticked me off at my last job (and made me really blase and uninvested) was being told to give a student who had earned a D--a high D, mind you, but a clear D, complete with chronic non-attendance--a C "because it's pretty close, and he won't graduate otherwise, and he's already registered for the ceremony." By my department chair. In front of the student.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:25 AM
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re: 77

Well, happens to us all, stressful job &c, but on the other hand, she lost it at a class of six year olds, and that is not OK, particularly not in our nice little touchy feely middle class infants' school.

Times have changed since the 70s.* I remember one teacher for whom screaming at kids was pretty much the default mode.

Perhaps you could tell her that you will be keeping a behaviour chart, and that if she gets too many sad faces on it, she'd better beware?

* stressing, it's a good thing this is no long routinely acceptable. I'd be less worried about a one-off.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:26 AM
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I think when PK's teacher told me once that he'd lost it and yelled at the kids, I said, "yeah, I know what you mean."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:30 AM
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71: Goodness, and I got cross at a professor (though a real one, not some measly TA) for not knowing the difference between an epigraph and an epigram.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:31 AM
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he glacial government hiring process has lurched forward again.

Hey, congrats LB. I didn't catch that you'd finally gotten some good news on that front.

My favorite grade complaint recently was very straightforward: this OK grade looks really out of place next to all my other good grades. I didn't know what to recommend other than getting more mediocre grades so it wouldn't be lonely.


Posted by: spaz | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:31 AM
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It's really really sad to me when people do poorly in my class, because I make it so ridiculously easy. I assign tiny little papers with really explicit directions and let them rewrite anything they want and take extensions at any time. Not getting at least a B in my class is a sign that someone either plagiarized or is totally on drugs.

One of the latter students got a B- due to a completely fucked-up paper, for which he'd missed the directions and turned in some crazy stuff, and despite a pretty good final paper, also deeply screwed the exam and ended up with a B-. I offered him rewrite options which he refused. I thought he should feel lucky that I saved him from a C.

He took his totally fucked-up paper to his favorite instructor, who told him that he was a genius and I should be able to see past my own instructions to give him A's. She got him so worked up about it (additionally, she hates me, for other weird reasons) that he went to the department to challenge the grade and seek an independent evaluation. He did so in extremely nasty terms, arguing that I was a fraud. It was determined that his paper was really, really bad, much worse than I'd said.

In the end, because I am a loving and nurturing person (and also one who hates knowing someone wants me dead), I let him rewrite the paper from scratch and recalculated his grade. This ended up being a good move, because I saw him every day last semester on campus and his hateful glare eventually turned into a sheepishly friendly hello.

Gawd, I hate them sometimes.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:33 AM
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I argued at length with my fifth grade teacher when she said there were five oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Artic, and Antartic.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:33 AM
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Dsquared's children go to school to escape from the uncontrolled rage. They don't go there to find it.

It took them till age three to figure out that they weren't named "Tony Blair" and that they hadn't done anything wrong.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:34 AM
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How many five year olds' teachers could you take in a fight?


Posted by: Zippy | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:36 AM
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"Arctic"! "Antarctic".

That's from geometry, mis math teacher! And the first "c" in each word is to be pronounced! And the second one too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:36 AM
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his favorite instructor, who told him that he was a genius

God, I hate hate hate when people do this. Do not intervene in someone else's grade dispute! It's not your job! Your opinion isn't relevant!


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:37 AM
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""Antarctic"!"

"Miss Math Teacher!"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:37 AM
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How about the e-mail argument where the kid asked me, "Why'd I fail? I passed my midterms."

I said, "Well, your midterm average was a D, you failed the final exam and your homework was a 38%."

Then we got into a long back-and-forth about his goddamn homework average. As if he could produce enough evidence that the homework grader had misgraded his homework that I would have a change of heart. For a while, I kept gently nudging him back to freakin' F on the final.

Finally I said, "Look, bring in your homeworks and we'll re-calculate your grade," and he said, "I threw them all out. I guess I have to re-take your stupid class. THANKS."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:38 AM
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Times have changed since the 70s.* I remember one teacher for whom screaming at kids was pretty much the default mode.

yeah, that's why I hate them, probably.

the kids were scared of her. Not just mine but several others. They've managed to go through the whole term with their previous teacher without being scared by anyone, and they are a nice bunch of kids. Maybe one day they are going to have to get used to unpleasant bullying behaviour from adults, but not today and not tomorrow either if I can help it. And so the awful parent goes off and harasses the poor ickle saintly underpaid hero of the classroom, who was just trying her best to work within a tragically underfunded system and protest against the iniquitous bureaucracy, in the form of yelling at six year olds.


Posted by: derauqsd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:40 AM
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"Arctic"! "Antarctic".

When I first read this, I thought "Oops, I included extra c's."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:41 AM
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Finally I said, "Look, bring in your homeworks and we'll re-calculate your grade," and he said, "I threw them all out. I guess I have to re-take your stupid class. THANKS."

Hilarious. "Now I have to retake this class, just because I failed it, for which I blame you."


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:41 AM
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"OK grade looks really out of place next to all my other good grades."

They have a well-developed esthetic sense and probably choose the prettiest answers in multiple choice tests. Very high design-IQ -- there are multiple inteligences, you know. Give them an A.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:41 AM
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the kids were scared of her. Not just mine but several others.

Just the nelly kids, or the regular kids too?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:42 AM
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Dsquared doesn't want his kids to turn out the way he did. They will be positive, loving people.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:43 AM
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"Now I have to retake this class, just because I failed it, for which I blame you."

Even better, the anti-calculator kid had to change his whole major because I didn't let them use calculators. I really ruined his life.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:44 AM
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Even the ones who were not phased by the Somalian, Kurdish and Kosovan wars.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:44 AM
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Yes, where precisely would you put these children on the question of 'being a big girl's blouse: yes or no?'

Eh, if they were frightened, rather than vaguely sheepish about how badly the class was behaving when she lost it, you might be right. Like most things, it depends on the circumstances.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:44 AM
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Even better, the anti-calculator kid had to change his whole major because I didn't let them use calculators. I really ruined his life.

What was he planning on majoring in before?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:45 AM
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My sister had a teacher in third grade that shouted at her because she cried in school. Every day for about three months. This didn't have the effect the teacher probably hoped for, as it ensured my sister developed a mental block towards school she hasn't quite overcome, and places the teacher in the category of people who really could be met with a baseball bat.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:46 AM
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Heebie seems surprisingly unregretful about ending the career of a potentially-great mathematician. I suspect that envy was involved.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:47 AM
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D2's kids were frightened because they're coddled little monsters whose daddy shouts at anyone who dares correct his precious darlings. In a decade, they'll be whining at Heebie about not letting them use calculators.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:47 AM
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Einstein, for example, did poorly in math during his early years. Fact.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:49 AM
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101, 103: Yeah, although I'm generally inclined to sympathize with teachers, there are definitely cases where the teacher is in the wrong, and I'm inclined to believe that d^2's is one of them.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:49 AM
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101: they're nice kids. There are some children of asylum seekers in there who have clearly had a tough life, but they're not thugs and every other teacher has been able to deal with them easily, except this new one. My own kid is a robust little chap (he wasn't the target of the shouting, but he was the one who told me about it), and to be honest I believe him. Even if I am totally in the wrong I don't care, because when it comes to unfairly picking on people the scores will still be about 1,000,000;1 in favour of teachers.


Posted by: derauqsd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:49 AM
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What was he planning on majoring in before?

He didn't say. This was precalculus, and all the sciences require at least calculus, so I'm guessing he switched to the humanities, which require any math course.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:50 AM
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The Internet, ummm, anti-immigration activist Steve Sailer has a proposal to move MLK day to the Friday before Labor Day, to commemorate the I Have A Dream speech. That would offer a four-day weekend, unique among holidays. All of America would then love MLK with a deep and abiding August sort of love not possible in January. It's a good idea:

http://www.vdare.com/Sailer/050116_mlk.htm


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:50 AM
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I'm guessing he switched to the humanities

Gee, thanks, Heebie.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:51 AM
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re: 93

Of course, the tawse was still in use when I was at school.* They phased it out the year before I started my O grades.

* rapidly descending into Monty Python 'Yorkshireman' territory.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:52 AM
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It's a good idea

Perhaps, but Sailer's still an odious racist.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:52 AM
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Heebie seems surprisingly unregretful about ending the career of a potentially-great mathematician. I suspect that envy was involved.

Look, if he doesn't want to take his exams submerged in the pool while listening to Mmm-Bop on repeat, he's free to fail the course.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:52 AM
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Oooh, even better would be to move MLK Day as suggested, preserving the summer-ending three day weekend, and moving Labor Day back to May Day where it belongs. That'd be perfect.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:52 AM
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Gee, thanks, Heebie.

Or sports management?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:53 AM
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#103: Exactly, see - if you catch teachers when they're young enough and inexperienced enough, and discipline them firmly but lovingly, you can iron out these types of misbehaviour before they turn into real social problems. I blame many of society's problems on mollycoddling, smothering parents like BPhd who are always "oooo noooo, myyyyy little darrrrllling teeeeecher can do no wronggggg", letting them get *totally* out of control.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:53 AM
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Look at you people. Still wishing you could shove the blacks around.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:53 AM
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115 is a great idea. Now that the cold war is over we can go with May day again.

listening to Mmm-Bop on repeat

Mmmm-bop is a great song. Love that song!


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:54 AM
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99: On the other hand, I've had several kids fail my intro class, change their major, then come back a year later and thank me.

Like AWB, I'm mostly sad when they fail --- my intro classes especially are ridiculously easy to pass if you do the work. But there is a fair bit of work to do, and most will fail if they don't do it. Sometimes coming out of highschool, they think you're kidding when you tell them they need to put 12 or 15 or whatever hours into this course every week out of class. A fact I repeat, oh, every lecture or so. Some of them never believe me.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:54 AM
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113: Anything he or Vdare offers up in the spirit of racial harmony? Suspicious! He probably just wants it elided into Labor Day so we forget all about it, like Lincoln and Washington's birthdays and Presidents Day.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:55 AM
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Look at you people. Still wishing you could shove the blacks around.

It's for their own good.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:55 AM
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Do not intervene in someone else's grade dispute! It's not your job! Your opinion isn't relevant!

This is making a lot of sense from your guys's side of things. Now I have some more respect for one of my favorite professor's decision to remain very circumspect when I came to him about my final exam in another class. It was really frustrating at the time, since the original professor refused to even hear my arguments.

I still hold a bit of a grudge against the original prof though, who for a number of reasons I believed to be unfit to teach basic finance at our school. Fortunately, he's "decided not to go for renewal of his contract" as an adjunct at the end of this year.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:55 AM
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Speaking of teachers and my mollycoddling them, I should go finish the felt board math scrabble game I'm making for PK's class. I need to get it done so I can rewrite the writing curriculum I'd done for a newspaper project (then the district reformatted everyone's computer and it got lost), and I need to get *that* done because the kids were looking forward to it before the break and because if I don't, I'll never get around to the art curriculum I said I was going to develop.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:56 AM
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re: 124

I hope you're being paid for this.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:57 AM
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Einstein did teach himself calculus when he was 12, but besides that, I mean.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:57 AM
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re: 126

12 is no big deal. There's lots of places in the world where I'd imagine calculus is standard curricular stuff from around that age.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:58 AM
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123: Yes, there is no place for other instructors in this.

At a previous university, a (tenured, full) professor I know was enmeshed in a grade dispute that ended up in court. What fun.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:58 AM
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125: Nope. In fact, I realized (too late) that I've probably spent almost as much on supplies for the felt board (felt, fusible interfacing, paint pens) as it would have cost to just buy the goddamn board game I'm using as inspiration. Oh well, lesson learned for next time.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:59 AM
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Fuck Steve Sailer with a sharpened green card.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:00 AM
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re: 129

I know parents want to help (their kids and others) but isn't curriculum design something that someone should be getting paid to do?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:01 AM
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Because of stories like AWB's in 85, I like to tell students that they have the option of having their paper regraded by one of my colleagues, but that his or her grade--whether higher or lower--will be the final verdict.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:01 AM
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124: no wonder teachers are so bloody ignorant these days, they get everything spoonfed to them. One day this teacher's going to have to make his/her[1] own felt scrabble game and won't know how, because he/she[2] never learned to do it properly. And then you'll be sorry.

[1]Only kidding.
[2] ditto.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:01 AM
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As long as we're bitching:

I have a kid this semester from Kosovo, a math major, who was emphatic that he wanted to take intro math courses this semester, while he worked on his english. Which was fine by me. I warned him as strongly as I could that he'd find the material more basic than he was expecting.

Except now he's in my precalculus and calculus classes, and he can barely suppress his giggles that we're going over such basic, obvious material, and he keeps asking questions using all kinds of crazy vocabulary that he pulled out of his ass, and I've probably told him five times last week that that question is outside the scope of today's class, and why don't we go over it in office hours. Either take a different class, or shut up and respect the fact that the material is new and difficult for everyone else.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:02 AM
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Combining the post topic with the evolved topic, I couldn't make much sense of the Rosa Parks story when I was first taught it in elementary school because the back seats were the primest real estate on the school bus. Nobody wanted to ride behind the bus driver, where you had to behave.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:03 AM
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Yeah, but it apparently wasn't on Einstein's curriculum.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:03 AM
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12 is no big deal. There's lots of places in the world where I'd imagine calculus is standard curricular stuff from around that age.

Totally. And in physics, they start going over E=MC^2 around that time, too. Einstein wasn't all that special.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:05 AM
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131: Yes. But we've had this discussion several times. It's great that B is helping, but it's beyond ridiculous that the school district expects (tacitly or otherwise) curricula to come from the parents.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:05 AM
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I've heard that you shouldn't surprise Kosovars with prank gunshots, because in their culture shooting guns at people is regarded as impolite.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:06 AM
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Except now he's in my precalculus and calculus classes, and he can barely suppress his giggles that we're going over such basic, obvious material

Next time he pulls this, tell him if he doesn't shut up you'll call in an airstrike on his desk.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:07 AM
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I couldn't make much sense of the Rosa Parks story when I was first taught it in elementary school because the back seats were the primest real estate on the school bus.

I had a teacher who moved south in the 50's. On her first trip to the laundromat, it was totally empty, and there were two signs over each of the tables marked "Whites" and "Colored". So she started sorting her clothes accordingly.

A while later, a black woman came in and gently explained the signs to her.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:07 AM
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134: Just flunk the motherfucker and get him sent back to the war zone, Heebie. America can't be a doormat for foreigners with all their "math" shit.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:08 AM
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Next time he pulls this, tell him if he doesn't shut up you'll call in an airstrike on his desk.

The effectiveness of this move probably depends on whether he's Serbian or Albanian.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:08 AM
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128: Even though I was positive that I was in the right, this was a winter quarter class. So by the time I got my final exam back and could prove where the points were lost, the spring semester was already starting and I was too busy to bother creating the necessary paper trail to take to the Dean and so on...

Much easier to realize the unfair grade still wasn't terrible and call on the ever mighty forces of apathy.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:09 AM
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139, 140: careful now! less of this sort of thing! an 18 year old from Kosovo would have been five at the time of Srebenica. This would not be ancient history to him at all, and we have enough suicide bombers to be going on with without alienating a few more.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:09 AM
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The effectiveness of this move probably depends on whether he's Serbian or Albanian.

Should I be able to tell by looking at him?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:09 AM
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Either take a different class, or shut up and respect the fact that the material is new and difficult for everyone else.

You should pull him aside and note that most of your students are crippled by being raised in Texas.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:10 AM
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141 is both awesome and heartbreaking. It was hard as a kid to understand Jim Crow laws because it just seemed so bizarre. The Song of Innocence says: Two doors? Two water fountains? What the fuck was wrong with these people? (The Song of Experience says, cynically: yeah, why didn't they just move to the suburbs like everyone up North?)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:10 AM
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113, 121: Sailer is odious in his way, but not a real hater. E.g. his respect for MLK in the linked article -- MLK is one of the most hated figures in the white racist subculture. He holds down the left wing of VDARE, which has a number of the real hater types (I don't suggest following the links at the top of the Sailer article). He often has interesting ideas too; if he wasn't so compulsively hung up on race and IQ (i.e. not a racist) he'd be a really good thinker.

Moving MLK day to summer would I think be a win, the remembrances would still take place but they would do so in a joyful, relaxed, and celebratory atmosphere instead of a gloomy winter day. Of course, when you think about the fate of both MLK and the causes he championed you might think a touch of gloom is appropriate in remembering him.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:10 AM
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Should I be able to tell by looking at him?

Albanians are Muslim, if that helps.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:10 AM
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Albanians have the creepy pink eyes, Heebie.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:10 AM
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141 is awesome/horrifying.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:11 AM
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12 is no big deal. There's lots of places in the world where I'd imagine calculus is standard curricular stuff from around that age.

Mmmmaybe, but where were you thinking of?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:11 AM
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146: No, you find out by calling an airstrike on his desk.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:11 AM
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You should pull him aside and note that most of your students are crippled by being raised in Texas.

This was basically the explicit warning I gave him ahead of time.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:11 AM
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My big line last semester was pretty successful, and I think I'll use it again.

When I have a student who, for whatever reason, stops attending or is a total flake on assignments or doesn't follow directions and then comes to me asking to pass the class because "I totally need this to graduate" or whatever, I say the following:

"Okay, then I'd like to receive a plan and schedule from you about how you plan to go about earning a passing grade in my course. My plan for you to pass the course is outlined in the syllabus, and I can guarantee that everyone who follows the basic guide of the syllabus will be able to earn a passing grade. Since you have not been able to follow my plan for passing the course, you need to devise your own plan for meeting the same objectives. Please email me by tomorrow with your schedule and plan for meeting the course objectives."

In exactly zero cases did I actually receive such a thing. But it was a great relief, as I was teaching a very difficult poetics class that had been listed as fulfilling a college-wide liberal arts writing requirement. I lost ten students in the first two weeks when they realized it wasn't a Dead Poets Society meeting and that writing about poetry isn't all about one's personal feelings. Then, a month before the end of the class (which people truly struggled to pass, even when they were there every day), five of them reappeared to ask me to just pass them, because, like, they're graduating and their moms will kill them if they take another semester to finish.

That kind of shit makes me see red.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:11 AM
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146: Serbs say that you can tell by smell.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:12 AM
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re: 153

Well, I started on it at 13 or 14, iirc. I assume that there are places with more math-centric/science-centric curricula than ordinary bog-standard Scottish comprehensive schools.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:13 AM
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149: I dunno, man, "left wing of VDARE" isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. Though Yglesias does link to him a lot for some reason.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:13 AM
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perhaps I'm just jaundiced and prudish, but the war crimes-related genocide jokes really aren't working as well as one might have hoped.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:14 AM
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149 was me.

I always have a sneaking sympathy for con-artist students trying to get away with being lazy, perhaps because I was such a student myself at times. Who is the professor to interfere with all the wonderful things they're learning about sexuality and the pursuit of pleasure? Aren't these important lessons too?


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:14 AM
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155: CA had an older Russian student in one of his philosophy classes (can't remember which) who spent the whole time scoffing and snorting and *correcting* him, because she had learned it all before in Russia. Dialectical Materialism 101, Dialectical Materialism 102, Contemporary Issues in Dialectical Materialism . . .


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:15 AM
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Dead Poets Society has a lot to answer for. How did the man who made Walkabout and Picnic at Hanging Rock came so close to sucking all the fun out of a dirty old queen like Whitman? It can't just have been Robin Williams, can it?

I think anyone who is exposed to that movie should have to go read Tobias Wolfe's "Smokers" and Robert Courmier's The Chocolate War, then think very carefully about what they've done wrong.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:15 AM
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141: My mother was an Air Force brat, moved every two years and lived all over the world as a kid. Anyhow, after being raised in the most integrated institution in American society, they got stationed in south Alabama in the early 1960s. She told me about driving past an ice cream shop that had a Whites Only sign and spending a moment trying to figure out what kind of ice cream store wouldn't have chocolate before it dawned on her.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:15 AM
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So, precalc and trig at 12 or 13, algebra at 10 or 11? That's a lot earlier than US schools, unless you're using the word 'calculus' to cover a broader range of subjects than I would.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:15 AM
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Math is one of the areas where I think the standardized curriculum is no good. I think that this is pretty widely true -- most kids are capable of American college work by 16, if they'll ever be, and lots of them by 14 or even 12. But more so in math, where some people just seem to take off like a rocket.

I recently found that even the harder math achievement SAT doesn't test for math past calculus. Something like 10% of the students taking that test get 800s.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:16 AM
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161: "Wonderful lessons, but not part of the content of this course."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:17 AM
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159: Yeah, and his scouring about for various long-lost relatives of Obama is franky creepy.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:17 AM
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Frankly! Grr!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:17 AM
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Aren't these important lessons too?

Absolutely, just not ones you should get class credit for.

Particularly with the lax US/Canada approach to high school, you tend to see a number of reasonably bright students who feel entitled to skate. Then need a bit of a kicking.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:18 AM
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165: I think they can only do that in places where the kids get stratified into diffent tracks, based on early testing, much more than they do here.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:18 AM
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I was involved in a project to write a textbook to teach regular ol' kids algebra in 5th grade. It really is a subject that's taught far too late.

I mean, think about middle-school math. What the fuck do you actually learn? 3rd grade you learn multiplication tables and long division, 4th grade you do fractions, and then 5-8 grade.. what? And then you take Algebra in 9th grade. So wrong.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:18 AM
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I'd contribute to fund dedicated to getting Robin Williams back on drugs.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:19 AM
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But more so in math, where some people just seem to take off like a rocket.

Yeah. Math, at the up-to-and-including-calculus level, is a small subject. If it's coming easily to you, you can learn a ridiculous amount in a very short time. Most of my students in Samoa learned nothing from me, because I was a terrible teacher and they were entirely uninterested. But I took a couple of kids from not much more than basic arithmetic through basic calculus, because they were smart and interested and just hadn't been taught before they got to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:19 AM
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Sex and drugs and satanism are the content of my Brit Lit course. I beg them to please fuck around and screw off so they'll have the first clue what we're talking about in class, but they all live with their moms and are prudes. They don't get any of the sexual innuendo in anything because they are all prim little virgins.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:20 AM
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even the harder math achievement SAT doesn't test for math past calculus

I don't even think it has actual calculus on it, more like pre-calc kinda stuff. And yeah, there were a bunch of people I knew who got 800s.

Same thing with the old SAT II writing test though, I remember talking to multiple people who scored 800. It was like, what was the fucking point?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:20 AM
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163: I don't know, snark. Go check with your wife. Your no-doubt valid points aside:

ROBERT SEAN LEONARD WOULD HAVE LOVED ME AND I COULD HAVE SAVED HIM!

(Every nerd girl I know thinks this.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:20 AM
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re: 165

Trig and precalc stuff at around 13, yeah. Algebra, I can't remember. 12 or 13, definitely. Proper calculus, I was definitely doing by 15, but I can't remember whether it was introduced in the Higher or in the final year of the O level exams [which I sat at 14].

Bear in mind, I had left school and started university [studying maths] by the time I was 16 and I wasn't accelerated in any way, that was just the way it worked out because my birthdate happened to fall when it did.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:20 AM
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Math is one of the areas where I think the standardized curriculum is no good.

Yes, but given a large class size and shortage of teachers and resources, it's the only option that I can see.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:20 AM
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(Every nerd girl I know thinks this.)

Are nerd girls particularly lacking in gaydar?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:21 AM
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177: I could have made his deskset fly.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:21 AM
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172: Exactly my experience. I had 3 or 4 years of pre-algebra. I still wonder whether I wouldn't have developed a bit of math aptitude if I hadn't stood still for 3 years.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:22 AM
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180: Gaydar: Immaterial and not even a little dissuasive, perhaps even compelling, to overly romantic teenaged nerd girls.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:23 AM
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Oudemia, I want you to think very carefully about what you've done wrong.

The program of math education in America is ridiculously fucked up. My perspective here is skewed because I was in an advanced math program (I was doing differential equations and linear alebra my junior and senior years of high school), but there's no reason that most middle schoolers can't get algebra, basic probability, and a little bit of calculus -- differentials, not integrals -- by 8th grade.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:24 AM
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Exactly my experience. I had 3 or 4 years of pre-algebra. I still wonder whether I wouldn't have developed a bit of math aptitude if I hadn't stood still for 3 years.

Poor Emerson was a victim in his own way.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:24 AM
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Heebie, it's your fault and you know it!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:25 AM
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Ummm, like Barbie said, math is hard, people. It's just that most people don't really learn math, they just learn a set of quick tricks for solving textbook problems. I thought I was very good at math and had evidence to back it up. Then I hit real math courses and realized....uh-oh.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:25 AM
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I took accelerated math and it was a relief. Elementary school math was a bummer. So in 6th I took pre-algebra, 7th algebra, 8th geometry, 9th advanced algebra, 10th precalc, etc. No reason to slow that down.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:25 AM
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war crimes-related

Should be "war crimes–related".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:27 AM
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186 to 179, but 185 works.

When I took college math I didn't find it especially difficult, but I wasn't at all interested and didn't even make a minimum effort. I thus have a literary understanding of number theory and calculus, berbal summaries without all the pointless equations. I got a gentleman's C-minus.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:27 AM
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I got to college and discovered I was bad at calculating but good at proofs.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:28 AM
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but there's no reason that most middle schoolers can't get algebra, basic probability, and a little bit of calculus -- differentials, not integrals -- by 8th grade.

Oddly enough, middle-school math was paced about right for me. I got mostly Bs and As. I was definitely not the smartest kid in the room, and no one tried to move me ahead by any means.

I did better in 9th and 10th, and then I sort of hit a math growth spurt around 11th-12th grade, where I started to really get the hang of everything.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:28 AM
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I always get a little lost in these conversations, because we took MATH from 7th through 11th grade -- skipping merrily from topic to topic, some geometry, some algebra, some analytic geometry, and so on, every year. Presumably the treatment got more indepth as we progressed, but I just remember being bored out of my skull. And then calculus senior year, which was interesting, finally.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:29 AM
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188: I think that that would be an ideal sequence, and it's not really accelerated.

My guess is that Heebie's right, and that we don't have that because we don't have enough qualified middle-school math teachers. Though the magic of the market could solve that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:29 AM
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189: You sure, w-lfs-n?

I thought that one employed the en dash before a two-word noun. pre (en dash) Civil War.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:30 AM
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It is a circular problem: weak middle-school math --> weak HS math --> weak college math --> bad middle school math teachers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:31 AM
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Apparently what snarkout did wrong was to misspell Cormier's name.

I haven't read the book or story or seen more than the last five–ten minutes of the movie, but I'm dying to know what people who have seen the movie have done wrong.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:31 AM
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I thought that one employed the en dash before a two-word noun. pre (en dash) Civil War.

Before and after. w-lfs-n is correct.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:32 AM
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My sister tries to convince her math-phobic students that they don't hate math; they hate their crappy middle school math teacher.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:32 AM
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We finally passed a law here that requires 4 years of high school math. So in two years, the quality of my students should improve dramatically, just because they won't have ignored numbers since their junior year.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:33 AM
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131: Yes. Unfortunately, the situation is this: the school pretty much blew up a couple of years ago, when the parents and teachers who'd developed it left to start a charter school. The current head teacher, who is COMPLETELY DISORGANIZED and out of date on some of the stuff he's trying to do (e.g., the "Native American" [generic brand] crap he does for Tgiving), *and* who is a kindergarten teacher whose idea of art curriculum is "let's set the kids up to do some beading and maybe candle dipping", was the only teacher who stayed on in the public school. The most active parent who stayed on is herself a graduate of the program. Between the two of them, they put enormous pressure on the new parents and teachers to "maintain the school's traditions"--which were all developed over time, obvs., and many of which depended on a kind of parental involvement and memory that left when the school broke up.

Into this situation we've got a first-year teacher, who is getting enormous amounts of shit from every side because, guess what, he doesn't have innovative hands-on curriculum developed for an entire year's worth of teaching in every subject. The current PTO president is pissed off at him because "her children aren't at this school so they can read out of textbooks." I want the guy to succeed, and I want the situation in the school to calm the fuck down, so I'm busting my ass helping him get alternative curriculum developed.

Not incidentally, we have a class meeting on Wednesday, and I'm expecting a lot of the parents to come down on this guy for not doing what *they* want him to be doing in this class. (Part of the problem with this school is that the parent involvement means that parents are heavily invested in exactly *how* things happen in the classroom; another problem is that b/c we're rebuilding the program, our enrollment numbers are low and the parents hold the teachers hostage by threatening to pull their kids from the program if the teachers don't do what they, the parents, want. Needless to say, different parents want different things.) So I'm also planning on saying to the bitching parents, look, folks, here is what I've been doing to help the teacher; it's a ridiculous amount of work, parents *shouldn't* be expected to do all this, but if you want him to have the kind of curriculum that takes teachers ten years to develop, this is what it takes. Otherwise, back the fuck off and let him use the textbooks in reading while he's developing the math curriculum and I'm developing the writing curriculum, and if you want the kids to be doing art, here's the book I'm going to use to develop *that* curriculum, feel free to read it and boil it down to a useable set of lesson plans, and who wants to come up with hands-on science experiments that are age-appropriate and reflect the California and NCLB standards, while we're at it?

All that said, the teacher could stand to be a little better organized--he tends to talk about what he *wants* to do and then find that he doesn't have the time to follow through on it (and he's bad about scheduling meetings and then rescheduling them at the last minute). Then again, the guy got this job in October and got married in November, so his life has been a little crazy. I'm probably way overstepping my bounds (and I keep telling him to tell me to back the fuck off if I'm getting on his nerves), but I kind of feel like since I've got a good 15 years or so of teaching experience, maybe I can help him with the "getting organized and developing curriculum and having a plan" learning curve. But since I don't want to be yet another parent throwing an agenda at him, I'm also making sure that when I suggest something ("maybe in writing, they could spend a month or two doing a class newspaper"), I do the work of developing it myself, instead of expecting him to do it on top of all the other shit he has to do.

Plus I want him to be hired again next year, because he has the right attitude towards the kids and the school--and my kid, dammit--could use some fucking stability.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:33 AM
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Apparently what snarkout did wrong was to misspell Cormier's name.

On the contrary, Wolson, I misspelled Cormier's and Wolff's names. Who's laughing now?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:33 AM
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Sadly, "Wolson" was not done for effect. I think I need to go make a pot of coffee now.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:34 AM
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My completely insane Differential Equations prof in college used to give really embarrassing lectures about me to the class. "Look at AWB, for instance. She's a B student! You wanna know why? Because she can't do arithmetic! She gets the concepts, though, and that's what matters, and she could be a great mathematician some day, while the rest of you are only good at adding and subtracting!"

It's no fun to be hated by your entire class for being the teacher's pet and get a B-.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:34 AM
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We finally passed a law here that requires 4 years of high school math.

The jackbooted liberal fascists crush the hopes and dream of some more good ol' boys. We're going to have a revolution in this country, I tell you. this will not stand.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:34 AM
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I'm pretty sure, oud. It's not war (crimes-related), it's (war crimes)–related. The CMS is confusing: "The en dash is used in place of a hyphen in a compound adjective when one of its elements is an open compound or when two or more of its elements are open compounds or hyphenated compounds (see 7.83).", but, the only examples they give are like yours in that the dash is at the front.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:37 AM
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Then again, the guy got this job in October and got married in November, so his life has been a little crazy.

Since marriage and work are the two worst things ever, yeah, I'd guess it has.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:38 AM
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pwnd because I showed self-doubt.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:38 AM
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208: Yeah, I looked it up too and decided you were right (Teo helped!), despite the examples.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:39 AM
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206: See, that's why I could never do philosophy at the pro level.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:39 AM
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WTF is wrong with textbooks?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:39 AM
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Confidence, ben, confidence. What it's all about.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:39 AM
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138: The school district--nor the school itself--doesn't expect it. *I* expect it, if parents are going to have hissy fits about the school not teaching the way they think it should. If you want the school to be doing something, then pitch in and help.

If your responses are to send your kids to private school and/or homeschool, then you've either got enough money or enough time to improve the situation for all the parents and kids who don't have those options, not just your own precious genius.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:40 AM
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I'm not sure about accelerating the curriculum in math by too much, though it certainly should be somewhat faster. There are spurts in learning capacity that occur around the late teenage years that I think are pretty necessary before digging into higher level math.

Now, the basic algorithms and ideas behind calculus can be taught much earlier. And they were assumed knowledge in the UK for math majors. But I bet it's a very rare 12-13 year old who could really understand limits, convergence, epsilon, and all those related concepts that are necessary for an actual, non-calculation-based, understanding of calculus.

Basically, I think you can teach math up to the high school level and some mechanistic calculus in much less than 12 years of schooling. But then you'd just have kids sitting around bored in math until they can start on the advanced stuff that most people have trouble with. Why not have a couple boring years in the middle instead (though fewer than the current assumed 4-6 years, admittedly)?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:40 AM
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What's so hard to understand about epsilon? It's, like, really small. No, smaller than that.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:42 AM
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I bet it's a very rare 12-13 year old who could really understand limits, convergence, epsilon, and all those related concepts that are necessary for an actual, non-calculation-based, understanding of calculus.

I dunno, those don't seem like super-hard concepts for kids to grasp.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:43 AM
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I am AWB in 188 and 204. In fact, I actually did go on to study math and be a pretty good mathematician.

I remember one day where I had written a proof on the board in my analysis class and had written a and my teacher was like "see that? Don't be so convinced you can't do math! Even some of the most BRILLIANT students are DYSLEXIC!" Nevermind that I'm not actually dyslexic, just careless.

I'm sure I've told this story before, but my high school math teacher was constantly on me for being lazy and not doing homework and making careless mistakes, until the end of my junior year when we had to do a research project and I came up with all this interesting stuff and he was like "um, whoa."

The idea that good at math = can make calculations drives me nuts. I can't count the number of times I hear shit like "but weren't you a math major??!!?!" when trying to calculate the tip.

I'm like yeah, motherfuckers, I learned all this in Advanced Counting.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:43 AM
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211: A lot of the parents at this school are hippies and resent the idea of *any* kind of pre-packaged curriculum. Don't fucking ask me. I'd rather there was more hands-on science than just reading the book, but for *reading*? The stories in the Harcourt-Brace seem as good as any other stories. Last week I overheard the 2nd graders reading about the Shackleton story, for god's sake.

Needless to say, I went home and brought back a large poster of the Endurance, a video of the story, and the coffee-table book, complete with awesome photographs--hoping that they'd make the "textbook" presentation (which did have shitty illustrations) more interesting and actually demonstrate to the kids (and maybe parents?) that the stories in the book do, in fact, have some relevance to the world outside the classroom.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:44 AM
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PK's doing some pre-calc stuff now, in 2nd grade.

Okay, break over. Back to the felt board.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:44 AM
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You studied combinatorics, leblanc?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:44 AM
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I bet it's a very rare 12-13 year old who could really understand limits, convergence, epsilon, and all those related concepts that are necessary for an actual, non-calculation-based, understanding of calculus.

You don't really need to understand all that stuff. Understand limits is important, but you don't really need to know what the epsilon shit is all about. I certainly didn't in HS and I did fine when I took calculus in 11th grade. Then when I got to college and took analysis I was like "ohhhh, that's what that's all about!"

Sigh. I miss math.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:45 AM
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PK's doing some pre-calc stuff now, in 2nd grade

Like, that "This is a function, but we're not going to use the word 'function'" stuff? I don't know that I'd call that pre-calc, really.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:46 AM
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I found combinatorics to be extremely dull, actually, even though I inadvertently ended up writing my whole thesis about it.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:46 AM
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Is anybody fluent in Italian and reasonably informed regarding Itallian soccer leagues? I'm trying to figure something out.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:46 AM
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There's also room for a whole lot more probability and statistics than anyone gets in high school, and that would be really useful for producing generally well-educated people. And I can't see anything that would make it particularly not age-appropriate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:47 AM
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I don't think 188 is accelerated. An accelerated by ideal curriculum would get a solid amount of linear algebra and differential equations in by 12th grade. That's what you need for mathematical modeling. Also, even non-accelerated HS math curriculums need to get a solid stats unit in -- right now I think it's mostly elementary probability.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:48 AM
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Oh yeah, a very large portion of my Intro to Prob. and Stats class I took in college (for math majors) could have been taught to high schoolers. That is a really good idea, actually.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:49 AM
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214: Basically I think that there should be no boring years anywhere. As I said, I suspect that grades5-7 or so really hurt me.

I also think that math should be taught to ability-level, like sports and music. I'm not in favor of tracking, because it's so often used ro resegregate students by race or class, but I think that bright students should be taught to their ability, and also that American schools seem to waste about two or three years for everyone.

I do know people who are opposed to ESL-bilingual ed. because they believe it's used to segregate. They are non-native speakers and I think they have a case.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:49 AM
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The sequence in 188 was accelerated at my school. We had 10 students in 8th grade taking geometry, the rest were in pre-algebra, with a few others in algebra, and another 30% of the class in something called "8th grade math" which was even lower than pre-algebra.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:50 AM
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213: I am not arguing for private schools, but something is broken with a public system that needs the parents to design the curriculum in order to provide a good education. What you are doing is great, and better than pulling PK out to private school given the situation you have, but if I were running another school district hoping to emulate the successes of yours I'd want funding for the teachers, not a hope that there were enough highly educated parents with sufficient free time on their hands who wouldn't mind volunteering.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:51 AM
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Math = can make calculations

Heebie is good at calculations. That's why her Texas school hired her. But calculations are hard for good ol' boys.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:52 AM
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221: Yeah, you don't need to understand really any of those theoretical underpinnings to do what most high schools consider to be calculus. You also really don't need to understand any of it to apply calculus in physics, basic statistics, or any of the other myriad uses. But it's a very limited, algorithm-based view of the subject.

Admittedly, that's pretty much all math is before calc/analysis and the basic college algebras.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:52 AM
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More teaching of statistics would definitely be good, since it's very important and not that difficult.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:53 AM
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229: if I had a kid and they weren't taking algebra by 8th grade, I'd pull them out of that school. Home-school if necessary. Algebra is, like, a basic life skill.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:53 AM
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I do think there's a lot to be said for having a fluent grasp of a subject on a algorithm-based level before worrying too much about the theoretical underpinnings. It makes grasping the underpinnings a matter of "Oh, that's how it all fits together!" rather than "Neat, but I don't know what the implications are."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:55 AM
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What B. decribes is common in California, I think. The tax revolt wrecked what had been the best school system in the US. Parents do all kinds of things to ameliorate the situation, but a lot of schools are trashed.

It's funny, too, a lot of people use the post-tax-revolt California "failing high schools" as evidence justifying more attacks on schools and teachers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:55 AM
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I sometimes wish I had taken more math in college. I was always good at math, but it wasn't very relevant to my major and there were so many other subjects I wanted to take.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:55 AM
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From what B's described it sound as a lot different from the public schools I attended, mostly in that it sounds like there's a choice about which elementary school PK could attend, as opposed to it being decided just based on where you live.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:56 AM
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It's funny, too, a lot of people use the post-tax-revolt California "failing high schools" as evidence justifying more attacks on schools

That's the standard playbook, isn't it -- trash government and then use the failure as an excuse to trash it even more.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:57 AM
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I dunno, those don't seem like super-hard concepts for kids to grasp.

IME limits, convergence (at all, let alone the different kinds), etc. are difficult concepts at any age. Most students never actually get them.

Or you can take the approach Von Neuman took: "In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them."


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:59 AM
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238: My impression was that it is based mainly on location, but that transferring between schools is pretty easy and routine. That's what my school district was like too.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 11:59 AM
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I dunno, those don't seem like super-hard concepts for kids to grasp.

From what I've heard of people who teach Analysis, they're pretty damn hard concepts for even college students to understand.

I'm also basing a lot of this on the kids I knew who were all entering my math & science high school at vastly different knowledge levels. There were a fair number of kids who had already done "calculus" by age 14 at a reasonable enough level to do calc-based physics and pass the calculus entry exam, but who quickly found out that they were not good at actual math. Even the top kids there were still waiting until 16, 17, 18 before they could do proof-based parts of our multi-variable calc classes or any of our linear/abstract algebra classes. The number theory class was pretty low-level, but still only taken and passed by the older kids.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:01 PM
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242.a is correct.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:02 PM
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I am beginning to suspect that I was one of the kids who never really understood these concepts.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:03 PM
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One of my problems with college math is that as soon as I had an intuitive grasp of the concepts I lost interest in the details. I read math like literature. That way doesn't work. You really need to go through the proofs too. I actually like number theory and calculus, I just wasn't interested in the specifics.

Yeah, I know, you can't read literature that way either, etc., etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:06 PM
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241: Transferring was almost unheard of, unless they drew the bus routes in such a way that the child was being bused across town to one school when she lived across the street from another. Probably because it was a small town and there was no real reason to, as the elementary schools were pretty much all the same.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:06 PM
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I, like teo, think more math would have been good. I tested out of any requirements for math and sat in on the first few weeks of whatever the first post-calculus math class was and was pulling Bs on the assignments and quizzes, but it was a lot of work, yo. (Hey, they have past catalogs online! Math 203, Analysis in Rn I. Actually I think I took a class at UCI that did multiple integrals and line/surface integrals, hm.)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:06 PM
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My high school had an entire math track that allowed students to take the required three years of math without taking geometry, advanced algebra, or precalc/trig. It was "Math 1," "Math 2," and "Consumer Math." One of my friends was on this math track and I was sort of freaked out by it. Like, really? You don't even want to learn geometry, which is fun? Even my mom, who's shit at math, liked trig.

I took calculus my junior year and ran out of math to take. There just weren't teachers to do anything beyond that.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:06 PM
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I was advised not to take calculus in high school, for the record. We did not think I'd be capable.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:09 PM
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If you want the school to be doing something, then pitch in and help.

Progressivism in action folks. That would be a no.

Algebra is, like, a basic life skill

makes you wonder how so many people survive, doesn't it? Including at least 80% of all Africans.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:09 PM
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Another vote for 242.a -- the only time I got a C in college was in complex analysis, because none of the Hilbert space stuff we were doing made intuitive sense to me. Algebraic geometric: yay! Topology: yay! Analysis: not so much.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:09 PM
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My high school had an entire math track that allowed students to take the required three years of math without taking geometry, advanced algebra, or precalc/trig. It was "Math 1," "Math 2," and "Consumer Math."

My high school had a similar sequence. I did the honors sequence, though. Two years of calculus.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:10 PM
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I found combinatorics to be extremely dull, actually, even though I inadvertently ended up writing my whole thesis about it.

Funny, I love graph theory and the such. Probability and really clever counting arguments were always some of my favorite math. I think a big part of it was also that I always loved the basics of any new area of math, when you're learning the first set of major theorems and the new structures and methods of proof/thinking peculiar to the area. Once I started getting into the very developed portions of an area, the proofs seemed to get much longer and much more dependent on symbol manipulation. Less dependent on the pure concepts or clever new ideas. That's where I always got bogged down and unwilling to put in the work. So combinatorics was a very "hurray!" area for me at the end of my degree.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:11 PM
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ahh, the unaccountable tag-eating monster strikes again. "Progressivism in action" was meant to refer to the idea that anyone complaining about the quality of the education their child was getting was under some presumptive obligation to drop everything and help the teachers. Nope. If people are whining or demanding the undeliverable, then that's another matter, but teachers don't have any more special claim on our time than any other service sector workers. Ditto doctors and policemen, both of whom also believe that we have a civic duty to do their jobs for them.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:11 PM
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121: Anything he or Vdare offers up in the spirit of racial harmony? Suspicious! He probably just wants it elided into Labor Day so we forget all about it, like Lincoln and Washington's birthdays and Presidents Day.

Agreed. Not to mention that no one said anything about moving Robert E. Lee Day or whatever it's called in various states to August, so the CSA would now get its own holiday.

Sa/iler argues that MLK day is neglected because it's in mid-January. But first of all, how would moving it to a new, unfamiliar day help? And second of all, it's one of only three federal holidays devoted to a particular person (I think), with less history and tradition behind it than any others, so how much recognition would he expect it to get?

149: He often has interesting ideas too; if he wasn't so compulsively hung up on race and IQ (i.e. not a racist) he'd be a really good thinker.

And if cats had opposable thumbs, they could open cans of food on their own.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:12 PM
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makes you wonder how so many people survive, doesn't it? Including at least 80% of all Africans.

If you don't know the quadratic formula, can you really call it living?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:12 PM
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Hey, I had to kick up a hissy fit to be allowed into BC rather than AB Calculus. There was standing in the department head's office for a protracted conversation consisting of "I don't think BC Calculus is appropriate for you."

"Are you advising me not to take BC Calc? In which case I'm signing up for it. Or are you telling me I may not sign up for it? In which case that's fine, when are you available to meet with my parents to discuss this further?"

"I don't think BC Calculus is appropriate for you."

She eventually folded. Annoyed the heck out of me, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:12 PM
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I went to high school in California pre-Prop 13, and it wasn't any better than the schools around here are right now. Or AWB's school, as described.

I'm going to try again, with lower standards: does anyone sort of read Italian, and have at least a vague clue about Italian soccer leagues?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:12 PM
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My big problem with high school mathematics as practiced in the US and Canada is that it really encourages & rewards what I call a `pattern matching' approach to things.

I get students who simply cannot reason their way through basic problems unless you state them the way they expect, who have `done' calculus, but that means they remember (sometimes) that the derivative of x^2 is 2x. Who have no real idea what a function is, think a `proof' is something related to geometry, don't understand trigonometric functions. They have a series of rules they can follow to do algebra to some limited degree, but again only if they start off in the `right' place. Ask them to set up anything, they are lost. Ask them simple but fundamental questions, and they are lost.

I'd much rather they threw calculus out of high school entirely actually, if they aren't going to do it well. Revamp the entire curriculum, throw out some repetition. Add a focus on applications and simple problem solving. Add some prob. & statistics (very basic), give them a taste of discrete math.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:14 PM
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i just use free translators if i need italian to know


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:15 PM
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Heebie, if you'd listened you probably wouldn't be living in that Texas hellhole.

Some of the conceptual difficulties young kids have with math might just be because their teacher had the same difficulties and taught that way.

Math, music, and poetry are three areas where very young people do important work. Many of them are almost autodidacts.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:15 PM
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Italian


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:16 PM
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254: I don't understand the distinction you're making between "complaining" and "whining."


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:16 PM
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222: I meant pre-algebra. My bad.

230: Again, the problem is that *this particular school* is one that was created in response to parent demands way back when, and the *entire idea of it* is to teach kids in small groups, to have hands-on learning, etc. Which is hard to do with a ratio of 1:20. It's a *voluntary* program, and I like the fact that it exists in the public system, and I, personally, am invested in keeping it there for my kid and because I think it's a pedagogically sound model that should be open to all kids (hence, public--not charter or private). If I were in charge, I'd be pushing for more funding, too, but that's not going to happen; if parents like me want a lot of hands-on learning and small group stuff in the primary grades, we're going to have to help out (and also lobby and vote for a better funding situation).

236: Prop 13 fucked a lot of shit up, yes. But I don't think CA schools are significantly worse than schools elsewhere. What we do have here are some really unique challenges--a lot of immigrants (in some schools there are kids that speak like 12 or 20 different languages other than English), a very mobile population, a *very* consumerist society (so schools have more to do here, I think, than they did in Canada or Seattle in getting kids to focus on something other than the latest and greatest commerical whateverthefuckitis. And of course there's NCLB, state standards, blah blah. *And* a really, really high cost of living, so one suspects that parents are probably less available than they might be in other places. Certainly than they were in Canada and Seattle, though my experience in the latter was obviously before PK was actually in school.

238: Every school district I've lived in since PK was born has had some version of school choice. You're assigned to your local school, but you have the option of choosing another school if you like. In many cases that means figuring out transportation, of course.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:17 PM
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Progressivism Fascism in action, folks.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:17 PM
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249: At least you went to high school properly. I did a side run around it and ended up with a math-for-trades course. Where they decided I wasn't very good at it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:17 PM
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Complaints demand action; whining is just self-expression.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:17 PM
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I'd much rather they threw calculus out of high school entirely actually, if they aren't going to do it well.

I'd be totally for this. Introduce probability, or groups, or sequences and series.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:17 PM
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259: The best teacher I had in calculus was a guy who lazily taught physics who offhandedly mentioned that all calculus was calculating slopes, or areas under curves. It was like being struck by lightning. That's what all those symbols meant?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:18 PM
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I'd rather there was more hands-on science than just reading the book

I taught in an elementary school for a few years where the whole school used the FOSS curriculum for science. And it was great! Entirely based on experiments and being actually scientific- for the pre-reading and writing crowd, you record your hypotheses and predictions by drawing pictures. But, I think, kind of expensive for very many students in a classroom.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:18 PM
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258: Yo. I can kind of puzzle out Italian. If nothing else, you've piqued my curiosity.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:18 PM
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269: Yeah, we tend to try that tack also although it isn't correct. The problem is if your students are wondering why they would ever want to do that, you still have a lot of back-filling to do. That, and some of your students are going to need a better grasp of what is going on.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:21 PM
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254: Fine; stand on principle that teachers aren't entitled to our help. Given that we in the states have also decided they're not entitled to middle-class salaries, job autonomy, or control over what they teach and how they teach it, let's all stand around and complain about what a shitty job their doing while those of us who have the means yank our kids out of the public school system and then bitch about how expensive education is.

I give a shit about public education. I have the time and the money to afford to fucking help. I think I have a *social obligation* to do *something* other than bitch about what other people *aren't* entitled to. Sue me.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:21 PM
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Come to think of it, Sally's complained of being bored in math, and has asked if I could get her some more interesting materials so she could move ahead on her own. (She's no kind of prodigy, just bored by her current math class.) Does anyone know of a respectable, say, 4-8th grade math curriculum I could buy workbooks for? I poked around some on my own, and got puzzled -- a lot of stuff only seemed to be for sale to schools, and things I could buy one copy of looked to be of dubious quality.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:23 PM
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makes you wonder how so many people survive, doesn't it?

A basic life skill in an advanced society where most people manipulate concepts for a living.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:24 PM
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271 -- Is your email valid?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:24 PM
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267:

D-squared: Cursing the darkness since 1973.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:25 PM
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I also agree that probability and statistics is much more useful for the average person than number theory and calculus. I've been waiting all my life for the time when I'm filling a barrel with one pipe while simultaneously draining it with a second pipe of a different diameter and pressure.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:28 PM
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276: Yep. I make no promises, though.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:32 PM
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I was appallingly innumerate until I was about 13; then I realised I really needed to Kill The Monster and checked out books of problems from school to pound through at home. Our curriculum made it to differential equations by GCSE (16). I liked trig, but kept well away from calculus until macroeconomics confronted me with it. (Further, RAF selection tests like to throw lots of speed/time/distance, 1-in-60 and other RoTs at you really fast so I was determined to nail them. But that's another, highly embarrassing story.)

It was blogging that introduced me to proper statistics. If there's anything mathematical that should be on the basic curriculum it's got to be stats; H.G. Wells said that in the future, an ability to understand stats will be as important as reading and writing. Just on the principle that people try to deceive you with them so often.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:32 PM
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Email sent, Josh.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:35 PM
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LB, get her this, maybe with the advanced tile set. It's the game I'm trying to reproduce, at a slightly easier level, in felt.

I suppose you could just write numbers and operators on the back of scrabbile tiles, actually, assuming you already own scrabble.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:35 PM
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Here (US/Canada) at least, the lack of basic stats education is shameful. I'd argue that a bit of probability should be done also, for similar reasons. And what might loosely be termed `problem solving', by which I mean an elementary ability to take information, organize it, and solve something from that.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:36 PM
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I've been waiting all my life for the time when I'm filling a barrel with one pipe while simultaneously draining it with a second pipe of a different diameter and pressure.

You do this every time you go through airport security. That's why it's so damn frustrating.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:37 PM
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280: You know, I keep on meaning to do something about my lack of anything beyond the most basic of statistics. Maybe if this job comes through, and I'm not so cranky all the time, I'll start dragging myself through MIT's Open CourseWare stats classes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:39 PM
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anyone complaining about the quality of the education their child was getting was under some presumptive obligation to drop everything and help the teachers

I didn't say that. People who complain about the quality of public education are under an obligation to (1) find out if their complaints are actually valid; (2) make it possible for teachers to do a better job by advocating and supporting public policies that support education. If current public policies are shitty and you are worried about the short-term situation b/c you have a kid currently in school, you can yank your kid out (which is what a lot of people do) or keep your kid in and do what you can to support your school directly (which is what I'm opting to do because I am philosophically opposed to yanking my kid from public school).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:40 PM
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Under US circumstances, I suspect Dsquared would act like a US parent. Lesser-evil all the way.

My son's school was actually not bad. One girl got a 2 or three years of college math by the time she graduated.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:42 PM
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I'm sure I've griped about this before but one of the reasons I ditched my math major was a professor who announced on the first day of class, "Most of the students in this class are chemistry majors so I'm going to be teaching to them." Uh, thanks. I don't know what difference that made but there were a lot of examples that had to do with electrical resistance somethingorother that left me at sea.

The final straw was the professor who said, when I showed up with my homework during his office hours and asked to go over some specific questions and then asked for more explanation when he simply rattled off whatever he gibbered in lecture, "I just don't think you're trying hard enough." Motherfucker, it was the second week of September and I was there with specific questions during the appointed hours. I walked into the final exam with a sports bottle of rum and coke and popped the top when he handed out the exam.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:45 PM
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288: ouch. Bad teaching can do an awful lot of damage early on.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:46 PM
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282: I'm really looking for workbooks. Sally has a lot of Garbo-esque "I vant to be alone" going on, and educational games (like, where you have to let your little brother play too, or at least can't prevent him from being in the room) tend to fall flat. Something she can chew through without anyone else bothering her about it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:47 PM
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LB, please let me know if you find something really good. I occasionally get asked about stuff like that, but at that age I really don't have a clue what is available.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:48 PM
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LB, I wish I had some advice for you, but I don't. That said, the idea of your cute-as-hell daughter strutting around broodily, proclaiming "I vant to be alone" is amusing the hell out of me.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:50 PM
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282: I'm really looking for workbooks. Sally has a lot of Garbo-esque "I vant to be alone" going on, and educational games (like, where you have to let your little brother play too, or at least can't prevent him from being in the room) tend to fall flat. Something she can chew through without anyone else bothering her about it.

It's not a workbook, but she might enjoy some of Raymond Smullyan's books, particularly To Mock a Mockingbird and Alice in Puzzle-Land.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:51 PM
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Next time he pulls this, tell him if he doesn't shut up you'll call in an airstrike on his desk.

Just be *very* careful not to inadvertently give the coordinates of the Chinese kid's desk.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:51 PM
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It's surprisingly confusing. I figured going to Amazon and searching on Elementary School Mathematic Workbooks would give me a whole bunch of stuff, but I ended up just getting confused. I suppose I need to find some homeschoolers and talk to them, but homeschoolers scare me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:51 PM
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I worked for this program, which teaches algebra and pre-algebra to young kids, and their curriculum is great, but you can't seem to just buy the damn books.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:52 PM
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Also, there's got to be, like, an educational supply store or something like that in NYC. I remember when I was 5 or 6 I went with my mom to one of those and we bought a whole bunch of math workbooks during my "School is sooooooo booooooring" primadonna phase.

Who am I kidding, the primadonna phase never really ended.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:53 PM
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That's probably it -- I need to be able to flip through the books before I buy them.

And Snark -- thanks for the Smyullan suggestion. I remember liking those.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:55 PM
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LB, you might check some of the items on this page.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:56 PM
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I haven't read above, but you might ask Sally's teacher. I'd bet they've run into a similar problem before.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:57 PM
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Drove out Long island this morning to see my gf's gramma in a nursing home. Steve Harvey was playing a long excerpt from the drum major speech. Late MLK; he rails against the war and says that when he dies, don't say I got a nobel prize, say I fought for justice. Go Steve Harvey!


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 12:57 PM
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careful SCMT, you're sending LB to the liberal fascists, you know.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:01 PM
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The teacher will give LB organic honey!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:03 PM
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Sally has a lot of Garbo-esque "I vant to be alone" going on, and educational games (like, where you have to let your little brother play too, or at least can't prevent him from being in the room) tend to fall flat. Something she can chew through without anyone else bothering her about it.

Sally is a girl after my own heart.

If you don't find anything appropriate in a Math workbook, let me know; I know a couple of booksellers who specialize in books for home schoolers.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:04 PM
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Check yer mail, Napi.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:05 PM
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Back to math education, I took algebra in 8th grade, geometry in 9th, algebra 2/precalc in 10th, calculus in 11th, and more calculus at the university when I was in 12th. (Yes, I was a dork.)

I almost wasn't allowed to take calculus in 11th because, while I had a high enough score on my school's qualifying exam, my A2/precalc teacher didn't feel I'd fully mastered conic sections. I'm still bitter about this and feel that conic sections are bullshit anyway.

Heebie, as a math professional, are conic sections bullshit?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:08 PM
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LB:

I really enjoyed Math for Smarty Pants, by Marilyn Burns, when I was a kid. It's got cartoons and other seemingly overly-kiddie-things, but give it a chance--I think it's surprisingly challenging and good on concepts.

Similarly, but (obviously) covering different subject matter, I still really enjoy Lewis Carroll Epstein's Thinking Physics. It emphasizes a conceptual understanding of a range of physical principles, and starts from absolute scratch--excellent, in my opinion, for both kids and non-specialist adults. And it's fun, dammit.


Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:11 PM
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Eh. I just bought a randomly selected series of workbooks off the website LeBlanc linked. If I like them when I get them, I'll tell you guys which ones I bought.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:11 PM
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306: Actually conics can be quite useful both in a practical sense and as a tool to learn about exploring a family of functions (as well as thinking about projections on to lower dimensional spaces).

They come back again with homgeneous co-ordinates, and a number of topics in phyics.

How they are taught at that level might be BS, I don't know.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:12 PM
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Thanks, Josh.

Speaking of organic honey, I'm not sure I've been anywhere that people are more enthusiastic about their honey than they are in Yemen. One more reason to be suspicious of hippies, I guess.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:13 PM
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306, of the conic sections, was me. My browser just decided to lose all of my cookies.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:15 PM
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310: Are you including Poland? I've met more than one incredible honey snob from Poland.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:15 PM
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311: As I noted, conics aren't b.s., but it does seem an odd reason to hold you back.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:17 PM
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I've never been to Poland, but now maybe think I ought to go. The previous record holder was Uvalde. Have you had the honey from there?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:17 PM
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OT griping again. After having been disinvited from the client meeting this morning, the partner in question told me to stick around -- after the client meeting, he, I, and another partner were going to meet to talk about next steps on the case. That conversation was at eleven.

I just emailed to ask when we were meeting, today or later in the week. The response was "Today". I have replied by asking if he has any sense of what time that would be likely to be. Asshole.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:18 PM
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Yemeni honey also has al Qaeda connections. Fact. Polish honey? Possibly radioactive.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:20 PM
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314: No, but it sounds intriguing. I must say the stuff I've had from Aix is pretty good, if a bit lavendery sometimes.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:20 PM
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Oh, LB, that sucks.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:21 PM
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318: Given that I'm pretty committed to quitting at this point, it's not a major problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:23 PM
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315: Being oblivious about other people's time is a really rude expression of privilege.

More OT, and on the theme of privilege: Today I heard about a teenager who, while studying about the candidates' positions as part of his homework, went around his parents' house asking staff members their opinions on gay marriage.

Part of me thinks its important for teenagers to be able to hear from real adults who don't necessarily share their parents' or teachers' beliefs. But most of me thinks that this was an intolerable position to put those staff members in -- so what if you've been hired as some rich family's housekeeper or bill-payer or nanny? You're not obligated to share your personal beliefs with their kid.

(Yes, sure, they could have lied. But I'm thinking about the kid, and whether somebody could have said something to him like, "I know you just want to go and ask Mary and Johanna their opinions, but it's really not appropriate to ask questions like that when you're in a position of power over somebody else.")


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:24 PM
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320: This must be a difficult line to discern as a kid, because you probably don't realize the amount of power imbalance. Or maybe you don't care.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:26 PM
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It's! It's! It's, darn it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:26 PM
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319. True, but it sucks today at least. So let us commiserate that far.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:26 PM
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321: Oh, I think the kid was completely (innocently) oblivious. I'm just thinking, he's 14 or whatever, and the adult in question (who was helping him study) could have said, gently, Hey, buddy, this is something to be aware of.

If we're going to have rich people, I'd rather have them be enlightened rich people, is what I'm saying.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:28 PM
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It also invalidates the study to ask questions from a vunerable population. (staff, employees, etc)


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:31 PM
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It also invalidates the study to ask questions from a vunerable population.

If he keeps this up he'll never get published.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:33 PM
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326: One non-word for you, Teo: Freakonomics.

(but I'm still smiling)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:37 PM
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50: LizardBreath -- congratulations!


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:43 PM
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320: On the other hand, the kid can now claim to have moral superiority because he's actually talked to working class people, and thus understands the Mind of the Electorate well. Snarf.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:48 PM
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329: The David Brooks of the future.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 1:49 PM
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1.) In college we always had MLK day off, and there were some observances in the school's church, but it was also the day after the last day of reading period, which meant that final exams started the next day, so very few people treated it as a holiday.

2.) I did AB Calculus in highschool. I really regret that we didn't do BC calculus. We had plenty of time to do it. It's just that I went to a school that believed in coaching people to get really high scores on external tests. We spent a lot of time reviewing.

3.) Napi--I know a smattering of Italian, but I know nothing about Italian soccer leagues, and my Italian has declined considerably. I really wish that I could work in a field that employed my modern language skills.

4.) I've always thought that grade-grubbing and challenging the teacher were really obnoxious behaviors, but I had a classmate who got a C or something on and expository writing paper, went to the head of expository writing and got the grade changed to an A. She is much more successful than I am, so who knows what the most effective strategy is.

5.) I do think that it's a good idea to bring in extra graders if things are wildly off. A friend of mine had her two thesis graders give grades that were so very far apart that a third grader was brought in.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 2:18 PM
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A friend of mine had her two thesis graders give grades that were so very far apart that a third grader was brought in.

It seems to me that for that kind of thing you'd need a high school student at the very least.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 2:25 PM
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Geometry was briefly non-arbitrary when we got to the part about conics correlating with what he had already memorized about parabolas and whatnot, but that came too late for us to see it as anything other than a coincidence.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 2:25 PM
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Steve Harvey was playing a long excerpt from the drum major speech

Aw yeah.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 2:38 PM
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Under US circumstances, I suspect Dsquared would act like a US parent.

and if I was a cat, I would probably lick my own arsehole because I wouldn't be me, I'd be a cat.

I am happy to do my volunteering bit if it's not too inconvenient - I am, frinst, volunteering to tell Ms Shouty to turn it in, on behalf of all the other parents who lack my unique skillset for the job. But (and this is a political line in the sand for me), what I do, I do off my own bat, not out of any bogus "social obligation". Which means I forswear the seemingly-innocent pleasure of regarding myself as morally superior to others who do less volunteering than me, because I don't know a damn thing about their lives - what I find a minor inconvenience might for them be an outright impossibility. Even if someone's reasons for not doing any volunteering at all seem to me to be trivial - like maybe they are spending all their spare time getting really good at WOrld of Warcraft, for example - I still don't stand in judgement on their failure to meet their social obligations because

a) I haven't tried living their life, so I don't know if my blanket generalisation about what people ought to be doing is remotely applicable

b), equally importantly, this way I can be sure that they don't get to go round randomly imposing "social obligations" on me over their own little personal hobby horses.

and because of that, I don't make any generalised statements of obligations beyond basic tenets of honesty and compliance with the law, and I don't make any generalisations about who can and can't say what they like (as long as they're saying it in good faith) about the provision of any public service at all.

I'm passionately committed to a politics in which people don't go around putting "social obligations" on one another, not least because it seems to me to be just about the only way in which there's a future for life on this planet.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 2:42 PM
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It's not a workbook, but she might enjoy some of Raymond Smullyan's books

My experience with them is that they were more entertaining with someone else reading the puzzles to me, than reading them myself -- it both eliminated the temptation to cheat, and allowed more of a feeling of accomplishment -- "I solved the puzzle." rather than "I made it through a page and a half, and that's only the first puzzle of 20 in this chapter."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 2:46 PM
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I'd actually appreciate a more developed statement, not that I don't enjoy your random blasts in every direction. This statement seems pretty libertarianish, not what I'd have expected.

B's opinions are genuinely random, so an argument between you and her will probably end up like Alice in Wonderland croquet anyway.

I think that B's point of comparison was people pretty much the same as herself who could volunteer but didn't for some yuppieish, libertarian or New Age reason. Just guessing on the basis of where she is. (Not Stockton).

Just yesterday I had to explain that what someone had said about how to respond to Goldberg was valid in the context of American politics, even though in much of the world you'd only have to say that Goldberg is a lying idiot. That's our fate here in these United States, and we are not liking it.

Same way, people living in areas where the schools are being trashed either homeschool, go private, volunteer, or watch the process of diseducation being performed on their kid for 12 years.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 2:52 PM
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Ironically, D2, one of the reasons I'm spending as much time as I am on my kids' school shit is because I'm trying to help the school become stable enough that the active members of the PTO will stop expressing their panic by bitching about how *other* parents don't volunteer enough, and "this school is a co-op, and they signed up for it, so!" My point is that parents who legitimately don't have time or money should be helped by those who do, rather than our pulling our kids out and putting them in private school (if we have money) or homeschooling (if we have time) and then self-righteously saying that if those other parents actually cared, they could do the same.

B's opinions are genuinely random

John's opinions about my opinions are genuinely dismissive.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 2:59 PM
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I'm on bb at BWI, so I can't check, but if 334 links to the "asian drum major" bit from Clerks, ima smack w-lfs-n in the teeth.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:07 PM
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re: 337

Not speaking for dsquared, but the 'I Shit on the Progressives of the World' manifesto doesn't read libertarian.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:11 PM
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After viewing the title of the linked file, 339 looks much less likely. I apologize for doubting you or your teeth, gentle, peace-loving ben.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:12 PM
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335 seems mostly unrelated to B's arguments in this thread. Which, to be fair, are less arguments than descriptions-of-the-world-as-it-is, at least in her particular school and community. It's an internally consistent picture, though -- she's not arguing that All Parents Must Do X so much as saying that she is not irrational, given the choices in front of her and the values she espouses, in doing X.

My perspective on this is perhaps colored by my experience that the"it's not my job to make it better" is the chief argument of people whose subtext is "It's not my job to make poor/non-white kids well educated." I'm emphatically not saying bigots are the only ones who make that argument, but it's guaranteed to come out when you're talking to them.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:15 PM
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B's point of comparison was people pretty much the same as herself who could volunteer but didn't

Actually my point of comparison isn't my neighbors, it's mostly the "general attitude" aka sometime strawman that a lot of people who are well-educated and well-off will talk about how they would never send *their* kid to public schools. I'm touchy about public schools, and about teachers generally.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:18 PM
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This statement seems pretty libertarianish, not what I'd have expected.

I always forget that not everyone intuitively understands this bit when I go off on these rants. The missing piece of the puzzle is the tax and benefits system. We've invented a fantastic thing called a market economy, and another fantastic thing called progressive taxation, and between them, jiminy, there ain't a problem we can't solve. So many, so very many of the things that wind me up about otherwise good people, have their roots in trying to reinvent the wheel, coming up with all sorts of tupenny ha'penny schemes to solve a problem that obviously ought to be solved by writing a cheque out of (formal or informal) general taxation[1].

I'm also opposed to voluntary labour because I think it's basically a form of scab labour. To set up a system that can't function without large contributions of unpaid work is to will the ends without simultaneously willing the means to pay for it, which I think is a dishonest way to push progressive schemes. To then extract that labour which nobody's willing to pay for by social pressure has all the disadvantages of scab labour, combined with the disadvantages of a chain gang. Milton Friedman was right on a number of occasions when he said that a public good is something that a politician (broadly defined) wants, but doesn't want to pay for.

My point is that parents who legitimately don't have time or money should be helped by those who do

Nah, no sale. Depends far too much on the word "legitimately", which depends on making what I consider to be an illegitimate value judgement over what constitutes a valid excuse. The lass at the end of the street is well-educated, intelligent, rich and has lots of spare time. She could help out a load round our community if not for her post-natal depression. Who's volunteering to decide whether she's got a more "legitimate" reason than the bloke who's trying to become a concert pianist? Not me.

[1] with, of course, a large dollop of what Zizek's talking about in his riffs on the obsession with "authenticity". the habit of mind that thinks that writing a cheque in an impromptu progressively-banded whipround instead of everyone doing their two hours voluntary work round the school is "cheating", is the same habit of mind that has people decide to not have gears on their bicycles - ie, fucking stupid.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:18 PM
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Also what Witt said. Plus, I mean, it's *public education*. Isn't it all of our jobs to make it better, if it's flawed? Just as it's all of our jobs as citizens blah blah to help maintain any public good?


Posted by: u | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:20 PM
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My perspective on this is perhaps colored by my experience that the"it's not my job to make it better" is the chief argument of people whose subtext is "It's not my job to make poor/non-white kids well educated."

My perspective on it is coloured by the idea that there are people who are employed to do this stuff, and that perhaps we should pay them to do it. And once we stop paying people to do it and rely on volunteerism and the good-will of parents, we naturally end up with poor kids suffering. Poor kids aren't the ones with parents who are going to do curriculum design on the side.

This isn't anything specific about any one individual's choices [you do the best with what you've got]. But I'm deeply suspicious of any moves that take public service work away from paid employees and give it to volunteers.

[on preview, I second dsquared's comments re: scab labour]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:20 PM
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344: Would you say, then, that there is (or should be) a social obligation to pay one's taxes?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:20 PM
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re: 345

Nope, we pay our taxes, and out of our taxes, people are paid to do this for us.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:21 PM
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Attention Brits: B's not saying that volunteer work like hers is superior to adequately funding the public schools through taxation. Quite the contrary, in fact.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:22 PM
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We've invented a fantastic thing called a market economy, and another fantastic thing called progressive taxation, and between them, jiminy, there ain't a problem we can't solve.

You know, I'm more or less with you here, but I'm also pragmatic. At present, the public education system in the U.S. is heavily dependent on local property taxes. Which are in their own way progressive, and IIUC part of the market economy.

So those two factors alone are not getting us there, otherwise we would not have the massive inequalities that produce the kinds of situations B is describing.

What I am missing? (This is a genuine question; my econ knowledge is nil on the formal level.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:23 PM
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re: 349

I don't think anyone said she did.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:23 PM
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351: So what's at issue?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:24 PM
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re: 350

You change the system of school funding. Or apply pressure on the federal government to supply additional funds in areas of greater needs, or on the state legislature or any one of a number of things that might make for adequate school funds.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:25 PM
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344: The thing is, D2, we in the US *don't* have a progressive tax system or a strong sense of social entitlement to government benefits. We have the opposite. Which includes, here, the idea that public schools are shitty and I'm going to take *my* kids out, and devil take the rest of you.

So what I'm saying when I say, dammit, if you have the time and money, invest some of it in public education, assholes, isn't addressed to people who have already made that investment by establishing a government that supports public ed. I'm talking to people whose ridiculously inflated standard of living includes the idea that concepts like "the public" or "social good" are basically no more than a way for the government to take *their* hard-earned tax money and spend it on stupid, lazy people.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:25 PM
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350: In fairness, no one here has argued that they're putting their kids into private schools or that B is doing anything wrong, either.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:28 PM
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346: Absolutely agreed. I'd add that not only are people paid to teach, and therefore we should pay them to do it (which in a US context means "I pay your salary, you obey my orders") but that people are trained and paid to teach, and therefore we should get the fuck out of their way and *let* them do it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:28 PM
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post-natal depression.

Isn't all depression post-natal? Who could be unhappy in the womb?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:29 PM
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My perspective on it is coloured by the idea that there are people who are employed to do this stuff, and that perhaps we should pay them to do it. And once we stop paying people to do it and rely on volunteerism and the good-will of parents, we naturally end up with poor kids suffering.

Dude, ttaM, I am most definitely not mythologizing some lovely situation in which it is desirable that volunteers do this work. But I think we have a wildly different idea of how it's been done in the past. I think it's either a) not been done at all, or b) been done by volunteers. You appear to think that it was once done by municipal employees.

Going forward, you can make the argument that doing volunteer work is just bailing out a system that NEEDS to fail publicly in order to demonstrate that yes, more tax money really is needed. I don't want to make that argument, in part because it's been failing miserably for a lot of people for at least 40 years and I don't notice that it's improving a whole lot.


Posted by: witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:29 PM
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354: Right. The point is that in a US context (which is what we're dealing with) the usefulness and even legitimacy of a progressive taxation system is very much not a universally shared assumption (though we do actually have one). As a result, taxes are too low to adequately fund all the social services people want but there isn't political support for raising them. In that context, volunteerism by those who have the time and money to do it is one way to close the gap.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:30 PM
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353: Yep. It's a long, hard haul. I suppose on one level I *am* being the selfish, my-kid-first parent, in that I'm spending my time on PK's school rather than on lobbying the state legislature or writing impassioned editorials about school funding or what have you.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:30 PM
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What you say is intelligible but you've never said it before in my hearing. Grafting socialism onto a market economy is pretty much the social democratic dream, and basically what I support, but at the moment it's an unattainable ideal around here. Whether it's actually attainable or just a double market/state utopia, I don't know. Most of the existing societies where I would choose to live if I could seem to have a mix of market / welfare state / voluntarism-family-and-public-goods.

Even the more socialist capitalist societies like France and Sweden seem to depend on a higher degree of family and neighborhood solidarity and general conventional consensus about what's done and not done than will ever be possible around here. American family ideology and sentimentality about place is not actually matched by strong families and communities.

Except right where I live, and the social capital around here could kill you.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:31 PM
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359: I don't think volunteerism closes the gap. It helps in a small, very local way--which matters--but the gap is bigger than that.

I also really don't think that "public schools" in general are actually bad. Some are in one crisis mode or another, and most are dealing with inadequate funding, but they do surprisingly well, considering.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:33 PM
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You change the system of school funding.

Um, right. I agree. Several states have done this in the past few years (reorganized school funding so it is done on some statewide basis with complex formulas for how it gets distributed, rather than based on local taxes going back to a local community). But dsquared seemed to be implying that progressive taxation and the market economy were going to solve this thing and I was pointing out that in actual fact they aren't enough. Unless the argument is that local property taxes are not progressive. Hence my footnote about my economic ignorance.

Also, what teo and B are saying.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:34 PM
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I agree with both parts of 362, of course.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:35 PM
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but that people are trained and paid to teach, and therefore we should get the fuck out of their way and *let* them do it.

we don't extend this extraordinary level of trust to policemen, generals, accountants, priests or doctors - what did teachers ever do to earn it?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:35 PM
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we don't extend this extraordinary level of trust to policemen, generals, accountants, priests or doctors

We don't? There are training requirements and licensing standards and such for all of them (as there are for teachers as well), but they still get to do the actual work with quite a bit of autonomy.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:37 PM
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Who could be unhappy in the womb?

Russians.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:37 PM
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(It tickles me that we are having an argument about educational inequality in the MLK Day thread.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:38 PM
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B., sorry to be so dismissive. I'm only just now figuring out your system, which is a.) to troll occasionally for fun, or to take very strong positions you half-believe, b.) to be militant and out there on women's and sexual liberation issues, c.) to be generally liberal on most issues, and d.) to be pretty centrist on quite a few issues. But how a, b, c, and d fit together I have not figured out.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:38 PM
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But dsquared seemed to be implying that progressive taxation and the market economy were going to solve this thing and I was pointing out that in actual fact they aren't enough. Unless the argument is that local property taxes are not progressive. Hence my footnote about my economic ignorance.

I believe the answer is that the tax rates are too low and need to be raised. He's not saying that the market and the tax system can solve all problems just by their very existence.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:38 PM
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365: We don't? We pass laws telling doctors exactly how long to spend diagnosing each patient, what questions to ask in what specific words, which equipment and scholarship is approved by the state and which isn't, giving them minimums and maximums on number of patients seen per day? If a doctor makes a diagnosis or writes a prescription, she has lay people coming into her office the next day telling her that actually the diagnosis should have been X, and the prescription is entirely the wrong dosage and probably the wrong drug, too? We have elected officials writing legislation demanding that doctors collect statistics on how many of their patients are ill, how many get well within a month, and how many stop coming to the doctor, and then refusing pay to doctors who treat more sick patients or have patients who stay sicker longer?

Because those are the kinds of conditions teachers work under here.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:42 PM
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I realize I'm belaboring the issue here, but tax rates are too low and need to be raised is not the primary problem I'm identifying. In Major Urban Area X (Baltimore, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia), the problem is that the system as it is set up cannot be improved by merely raising the existing, extremely unequal local property taxes.

And this brings us back to the issues you started to touch on in 359. We don't have a shared social assumption about the ends, much less the means.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:44 PM
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367: true. Dsquared, is this lady Russian?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:45 PM
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re: 371

Actually, this may be a two countries divided by a common language thing.

Since analogues of pretty much everything you list there does happen here [re: doctors].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:46 PM
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In Major Urban Area X (Baltimore, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia), the problem is that the system as it is set up cannot be improved by merely raising the existing, extremely unequal local property taxes.

Not local property taxes. Federal (and state) income taxes. Granted, this would involve changing the existing funding structure rather a lot, which is why dsquared's formulation isn't quite right.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:48 PM
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371: if you're up for a world in which teachers carry a ton of malpractice insurance and their pupils have full legal redress against them, let's kick out the jams!


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:48 PM
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We pass laws telling doctors exactly... what questions to ask in what specific words
I believe some anti-abortion laws do precisely that wrt fetus being a person, feeling pain, etc., despite the fact that the statements are unproven or questions of morality.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:48 PM
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Incidentally, dsquared, hope you're here, is that one area where public goods seem necessary is in the information economy, at least if there's going to be any equality or democracy. If you only get as much truth as you can afford, you're pretty much doomed if you're broke.

This isn't an imaginary problem, most Americans depend on "free" media paid for by people with axes to grind (and even the top newpapers rely musch more on advertisers than they do on subscribers, though they need the latter to get the former). This has a lot to do with American political degradation, including the fact that public schools and will probably continue to be underfunded forever. (And I would say "forever" even if my antidepressant were completely effective).

I remember someone arguing somewhere, about bubbles perhaps, that there are certain kinds of economic knowledge which is true, but impossible to profit from, so that the knowledge never gets out there since no one can do anything with it and since it actually is often possible to profit from misinformation.

So anyway, I think that the free market of ideas is a very dodgy concept when taken literally, and I really think that it should be taken literally. And I also think that a decent society requires a high proportion of public-good pro-bono information-production-and-dissemination voluntarism. I don't think that either the commercial media or the university system are working or can work without some off-market truth.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:50 PM
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Further to 371:

New York City has embarked on an ambitious experiment, yet to be announced, in which some 2,500 teachers are being measured on how much their students improve on annual standardized tests.
The city's pilot program uses a statistical analysis to measure students' previous-year test scores, their numbers of absences and whether they receive special education services or free lunch, as well as class size, among other factors.
Based on all those factors, that analysis then sets a "predicted gain" for a teacher's class, which is measured against students' actual gains to determine how much a teacher has contributed to students' growth.



Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:50 PM
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374: They do here, too. Doctors get more respect than teachers, but you'd better believe that things like patient care, liability, &c, whether a patient can be accepted for a referral, whether a referral is necessary, whether an X-ray or strep test is necessary, how many days before surgery a consent form can be signed, are not all up to the doctor's control.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:51 PM
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Dude, ttaM, I am most definitely not mythologizing some lovely situation in which it is desirable that volunteers do this work. But I think we have a wildly different idea of how it's been done in the past. I think it's either a) not been done at all, or b) been done by volunteers. You appear to think that it was once done by municipal employees.

It goes both ways. In some cases where there are funding cuts, volunteers do step into fill the gap. In other cases, there never was anyone who did that job, and volunteers fill the gap.

Perhaps my views are irreversibly coloured by the UK, but I can think of lots of examples where local authorities have stopped funding certain services with the assumption that individuals would end up doing them for themselves, or that volunteers would step in.

Further, in a lot of cases, those same local authorities have then tried to compel people to carry those things out.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:52 PM
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371: We pass laws telling doctors exactly how long to spend diagnosing each patient, what questions to ask in what specific words, which equipment and scholarship is approved by the state and which isn't, giving them minimums and maximums on number of patients seen per day? If a doctor makes a diagnosis or writes a prescription, she has lay people coming into her office the next day telling her that actually the diagnosis should have been X, and the prescription is entirely the wrong dosage and probably the wrong drug, too? We have elected officials writing legislation demanding that doctors collect statistics on how many of their patients are ill, how many get well within a month, and how many stop coming to the doctor, and then refusing pay to doctors who treat more sick patients or have patients who stay sicker longer?

HMOs do every single one of those things. Doctors are very, very seldom free agents any more. They've started to unionize; they're really labor rather than professionals now.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:53 PM
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371: I've read a lot of blogs by NHS doctors saying that those are the kinds of conditions that they have to work under too.

I can't tell whether w-lfs-n is just being a wiseass, but...

Isn't all depression post-natal? Who could be unhappy in the womb?

Post-natal is used in the UK to refer to what we woudl call postpartum depression. I also think that Britons call prenatal care ante-natal care.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:55 PM
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I can't tell whether w-lfs-n is just being a wiseass,

Standpipe knows.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:56 PM
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I also think that Britons call prenatal care ante-natal care.

Antenatal care? You mean an abortion, right?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:57 PM
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Post-natal is used in the UK to refer to what we woudl call postpartum depression. I also think that Britons call prenatal care ante-natal care.

Why don't those archaic motherfuckers in the colonies learn to speak normal English?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:57 PM
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Perhaps my views are irreversibly coloured by the UK, but I can think of lots of examples where local authorities have stopped funding certain services with the assumption that individuals would end up doing them for themselves, or that volunteers would step in.

See, in our country, they stop funding the agencies but continue to pretend that the agencies can perform the services. This is so that people think an agency's inability to fulfill its promises is the result of some sort of incompetence inherent to government, rather than the result of not being funded or prioritized properly.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 3:59 PM
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re: 387

There's a fair bit of that goes on too.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:01 PM
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I'm willing to concede that ttaM and Dsquared's incomprehension is due to the fact that they fail to understand how messed up the US is. Our quaint, backward colonial subjects are just stupid that way.

You thought Thatcher was bad! She just talked bad. We are bad, man, totally fucked! Don't mess with us.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:02 PM
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That may be true for ttaM, but dsquared's lived here.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:09 PM
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I certainly think I have a fairly good understanding of how messed up it is, at least on an intellectual level -- we do live in a world saturated by US-centric media, after all.

I have no idea what it's like to live in it, though. Never even been there for a visit.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:11 PM
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You ought to come some time. It's an interesting place, at the very least.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:15 PM
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re: 392

People keep telling me that, but, honestly, I'm not interested. I don't mean that in a bad way, just that I have limited time and money, and there's lots of places closer to home -- and so less costly in both time and money -- that I'd like to see first.

Perhaps one day.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:20 PM
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Send ttaM to Houston or Miami for a month. Send him to Wyoming. Let him get tight with the folk. Send him to Cincinnati. Send him to Colorado Springs. We'll break that idealistic motherfucker.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:20 PM
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393: ttaM just wet his pants. He's whimpering in the closet. These United States scare him. Our colonials are afraid to experience the degradation at the hart of the post-modern age.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:23 PM
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393: Yeah, I can see that. It's an awfully long way, and travel's so expensive these days.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:23 PM
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394: Have you been to any of those places?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:24 PM
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Send ttaM to Houston or Miami for a month. Send him to Wyoming. Let him get tight with the folk. Send him to Cincinnati. Send him to Colorado Springs. We'll break that idealistic motherfucker.

I'm thinking ttaM could take the torch from Louis Theroux and revive the Weird Weekends show.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:28 PM
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Wyoming, but none of the others. Wyoming has drive-up liquor stores, or used to, in case the driver is too drunk to walk safely. So does Montana.

I was just trying to show ttaM the depth of the problem, not to sell the US to the world.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:33 PM
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New Mexico used to have those too, but there was a big fuss about them a few years ago that I think ended up with them being shut down.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:34 PM
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382: HMOs, yes. Not, however, the federal government. And I think we're all in agreement here that having HMOs micromanage the practice of medicine is not a good thing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:36 PM
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I really think that independent professional doctors are history. Any form of socialized medicine will apply rules too, though possibly they will just be applied in the fee schedules rather than in micromanagement of individual doctors.

Anyway, your hypothetical question fails, because a high proportion of doctors are micromanaged in this country, to the point that many are extremely bitter.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:39 PM
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I really think that independent professional doctors are history.

I agree, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing (depending on who they end up working for).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:44 PM
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LB, you impatient woman, these maths books are pretty good - this is an older version of the ones they actually use in Singapore, which are so popular with American homeschoolers they printed their own editions, with US money an dimperial measurements. We use some from the current version, a series called My Pals Are Here.

My kids have also been recently enjoying a book called "The Number Devil" - it's kind of "Sophie's World" but for maths.

Will email you if I think of anything else useful.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 4:46 PM
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(The glacial government hiring process has lurched forward again. While I don't have a sense of timing, I am now firmly counting my chickens.)

Yay LB!

(Yeah, I'm late. I have (a) the day off, and (b) a much gentler sort of winter than most of you, so just got back from kayaking.)

And I think we're all in agreement here that having HMOs micromanage the practice of medicine is not a good thing.

I'm pretty skeptical about that one. Maybe I'm just reading the wrong stuff, but my impression is that the large chunks of medical practice suffer from too much professionalism (aka reinventing the wheel all the time because it's more interesting that way) rather than too little.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:08 PM
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#390: you can't blame this on me. It was working fine when I lived in Oklahoma. On the other hand, I did go to a reasonably normal school in a middle class area, not a set-up-to-fail under-resourced cooperative, which I tentatively suggest may be the result of a rather cruel psychological experiment on "how hippies cope with failure". They do that sort of thing at Stanford University IIRC.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:16 PM
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Dsquared, B's kind of co-op school is a function of the trashing of the California public schools. A friend of mine who works as a public school teacher says that everyone he knows sends their kids to private schools, and the private schools aren't that great either. Others home-school, which is insane-making but sometimes has great results (if the parents are viable and not certifiably crazy). I very strongly doubt that B's school is a hippy experiment in nature; my guess is that it's people who want to stay in the public schools either on principle, or because the other options don't work for them.

In Norman? College towns aren't necessarily part of the U.S. My tour suggested above didn't include no college towns.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:22 PM
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401. B, I know you've experienced the worl's largest HMO: TriCare. Federal and very big on tracking what happens when to whom by whom.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:28 PM
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Dsquared: a normal guy from a normal school in Norman. Situation comedy material. Premise: he ain't really totally normal.

Was this normal school technically speaking, or was it just normal in the sense of "OK".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:31 PM
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My tour suggested above didn't include no college towns.

Colorado Springs?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:34 PM
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Greeley Colorado should be on the tour. Qutb loved it there. (Hi NSA! [waves])


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:36 PM
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409: Would work better if he were from Normal, Illinois.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:37 PM
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Well, yeah, but it was included because of the important deposits of religious fanatics. It's a pretty thin selection -- Bible and tech schools, branches of real universities, the Air Force Academy, and miscellaneous.

A bible-college town is the diametrical opposite of a college town.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:39 PM
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Miscellaneous. Since 1874.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:40 PM
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Mr. Emerson might be surprised to learn that they have colleges in Wyoming. One anyway. There's also Rice. And a slew in Miami. And we'd best just not mention this whole thing to the Bearcat who sits next to me at the office.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:41 PM
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These days the Air Force Academy is by far the most influential institution on the character of the town, of course.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:41 PM
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I think that "college town" implies a certain density of colleges in a town. So Boston is, but St. Louis or Houston probably isn't.

And by and large, in idiomatic English, military academies count negative on the college town algorithm.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:44 PM
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These days the Air Force Academy is by far the most influential institution on the character of the town.

I was going to say Focus on the Family, but these days there's not much daylight between the two.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:45 PM
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"Miami: where the nuns wear guns". Need I say more?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:45 PM
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I generally think of "college town" as referring to a smallish town with a single college or university that completely dominates the town. Ann Arbor, Chapel Hill, Laramie. Not Boston.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:46 PM
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417: I wouldn't describe Boston as a college town, just a city that's dominated by education. When I think of college towns, places that come to mind are Northampton and Williamstown, Amherst too. Burlington, VT is kind of an overgrown college town, because it wants to be one, but it's really too big.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:48 PM
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420: so having several dozen colleges or universities that completely dominate the town doesn't count, now? Sheesh.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:48 PM
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I was going to say Focus on the Family, but these days there's not much daylight between the two.

Not just these days. I was talking to my mom about this the other day and she said she thought it was probably the air force that brought the fundies into Colorado Springs in the first place. It used to have a reputation as a fairly liberal, independent-minded place.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:48 PM
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Me too, but Boston has such a density that it counts. But not New York City or Minneapolis. I wouldn't count Colorado Springs, for the reasons I gave.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:48 PM
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421 to 422.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:49 PM
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422: No. Boston isn't a "town" of any sort.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:49 PM
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425: she's a partisan. It's totally a college town.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:49 PM
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Not Boston.

Teo used to manage Spinal Tap?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:51 PM
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Ann Arbor, South Bend, State College. It's not just prominence of the university, but that every thing around there depends on the university and the students even if they're not formally employed by them.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:52 PM
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I mean, everything in Pittsburgh was bought by UPMC, but Pittsburgh ain't a college town, even if sections of it have that feel.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:54 PM
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Cala gets it. Boston's a big city with a lot of colleges in it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:54 PM
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You motherfuckers, Boston is the college town. All the others are lame imitations. And according to my son, the people there are the unfriendliest he's ever met. The townies don't like the students, and nobody likes the Tufties or Jumbos or whatever they all themselves. A bad two years.

Portland Oregon: by no means a college town, possibly less higher ed than any American city that big. A few liberal arts colleges, Last Chance U (my alma mater), and a pretty good med school and research institute.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:55 PM
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I dunno 429 is an okay description of Boston. I mean, what's the other industry?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:57 PM
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The townies don't like the students, and nobody likes the Tufties or Jumbos or whatever they all themselves. A bad two years.

Try being a townie from a town the other townies don't like. The only reason I like it here now is because I escaped for ten years.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:58 PM
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431: Exactly. All big cities have lots of colleges, too. Boston's got a lot of good ones, but its fortunes don't depend solely, e.g., on the football team.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 5:59 PM
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So just because we have an idiotic devotion to our pro sports teams we can't be a college town? Whatever.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:00 PM
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Portland Oregon: by no means a college town, possibly less higher ed than any American city that big.

No way, man. El Paso's about the same size, for a start.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:02 PM
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I mean, what's the other industry?

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:02 PM
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Actually, Boston has a lot of quaint colonial bullshit too, like England and Scotland and whatever that other little country is over there. Boston barely even figured out the nineteenth century, much less the twenty-first. But you know, Ivy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:03 PM
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It's just a size thing. Boston's got too much else going on to count as a college town. It's got to compete against places where when the football stadium is full, it's the third largest city in the state. Alumni count as an ethnic group. That sort of thing.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:03 PM
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Nah, nothin's going on in Boston.

I defer to El Paso. A friend of mine says that Rosa's Cantina is still open, and by and large white people don't go there.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:05 PM
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El Paso's effectively a suburb of Juarez, which is gigantic and very polluted.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:06 PM
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Alumni count as an ethnic group. Awesome, Cala.

Boston still has a sizeable component of the mutual fund industry, and there's some biotech. Sadly Gillette no longer exists as an independent company.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:07 PM
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some biotech

This I count as part of the "college town" calculus. Arguably mutual funds, too, what with Harvard Business School, but that's not as strong a case.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:10 PM
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No way, man. El Paso's about the same size, for a start.

Also Fresno.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:12 PM
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Mutual funds too.

I hear that South Boston still produces comic Irishmen, street punks, Catholics, etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:12 PM
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I'm going to have to redo my research. I think that I was counting S.M.A.s rather than cities proper. Fresno and El Paso don't seem right.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:14 PM
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I think Ithaca might count as a college town, but I've never been there.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:15 PM
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Ithaca definitely counts as a college town.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:17 PM
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I think Ithaca might count as a college town, but I've never been there.

I can't think of anything that would qualify as a college town more than Ithaca does.

Portland also has a large number of small colleges. Indianapolis has more people than Portland and probably a lot fewer college students, though IUPUI is a big campus.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:18 PM
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Portland also has a large number of small colleges.

Yeah, Portland definitely seems to belong on the "more" rather than "less" end of the education-oriented city spectrum.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:19 PM
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I've never been to Portland, though, so I don't know how it works in practice.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:20 PM
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I've never thought of Portland, OR as a college town. I'm told that Ames, Iowa is.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:27 PM
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444: Boston also has a sizeable software industry. By your logic, though, sounds like all of the Bay Area would count as a college town. Certainly all of Silicon Valley at least.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:28 PM
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450: Oxford? Cambridge? St Andrew's?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:29 PM
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454: it's a borderline case.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:31 PM
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To expand on 456, the reasons the software industry has thrived in Silicon Valley aren't as directly tied to the local educational institutions; without MIT the Massachusetts software industry would have never started, and if it was gone it would be nowhere again in a hurry. Silicon Valley is more self-sustaining.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:34 PM
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After living in Boston, then Amherst, and then Boston again, my sense that Boston is a college town was completely gone. Sure, there are colleges and students here, but it's not overrun by them and beholden to them in nearly the same way. 10% of the population is very different from 60% of the population.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:34 PM
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The UK doesn't have college towns; it has University cities.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:35 PM
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Having a biotech industry does not a college down make, even as a contributing factor.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:35 PM
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I say we take up a collection to send Tweety to Amherst.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:36 PM
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458: see, I would describe Amherst as a "piece-of-shit town in the middle of nowhere"; whole different situation.

461: way ahead of you, man. Already done my time there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:38 PM
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I would describe Amherst as a "piece-of-shit town in the middle of nowhere"; whole different situation.

And this is irreconcilable with "college town" how?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:39 PM
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I say we take up a collection to send Tweety to Blue Hill or Geneva Avenues.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:40 PM
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Also, if you think Amherst is in the middle of nowhere you've clearly never been to Ithaca.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:40 PM
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I kind of enjoyed Amherst. Well, really, I enjoyed being across the street from an awesome beer bar. I suppose my girlfriend was in school at the time, but that wasn't really important as long as I could get my mug of Cantillion.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:41 PM
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Take up a collection for Tweety? I thought he could buy and sell us all for his amusement.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:42 PM
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Amherst is kind of a piece-of-shit town compared to Northampton.

Pffffttt!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:42 PM
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465: Damn, I thought State College had pretty much every other college town beat for "middle of fucking nowhere". Ithaca looks like some stiff competition though.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:43 PM
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466: actually there's a great beer store, too; in general a great beer town. I was just bitter because I had no car and was underage.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:44 PM
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I'm going to come down on Teo's side on this one. Boston is a city that is home to several fine universities (as well as a larger number of mediocre ones), but it is not a college town. A college town is the service sector appendage of an institution of higher education: Athens, OH; College Park, PA; Ithaca, NY; Gainesville, FL. The borderline case is Durham, NC.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:47 PM
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Ithaca looks like some stiff competition though.

It really is surprisingly hard to get to.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:47 PM
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Lafayette, Indiana isn't a college town. I don't know why that is.


Posted by: Zippy | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:49 PM
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Oddly enough, while western states are much more spread out and thinly populated than eastern states, the colleges in them tend to be in or close to the main centers of population, so the most isolated college towns are mostly in the east. (Possible exception: Lubbock.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:50 PM
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Lafayette, Indiana isn't a college town. I don't know why that is.

Maybe because West Lafayette fills that role?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:51 PM
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Possible exception: Lubbock

Another arguable exception: Vermillion, South Dakota. It's 40 miles to Sioux City, Iowa, so reasonable people can disagree about whether that constitutes isolation.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:58 PM
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Maybe because West Lafayette fills that role?

You'd think, but not really.


Posted by: Zippy | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 6:58 PM
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Another arguable exception: Vermillion, South Dakota.

I thought about that one, but as places in South Dakota go it doesn't seem particularly isolated.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:00 PM
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as places in South Dakota go it doesn't seem particularly isolated

Now that's damning with faint praise.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:02 PM
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I'm sure they're happy to take what they can get.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:04 PM
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Isolation isn't a requirement, but it helps meet the other ones. I think KR has it right: employers are either the university, or services aimed at undergraduates or football guests, e.g., cheap T-shirt shops, hotels, coffee shops, bars that don't really card, and that's it for the town except the university bookstore.

Just being a small burned out town doesn't suffice: Bethlehem, PA isn't really a college town.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:06 PM
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Portland has 3 liberal arts colleges: Reed, Lewis and Clark, and U. Portland. Nothing much else. Reed is very good, L&C is pretty good, UP is OK. Medium-rank medical school research center, low end "urban univeristy". Not a college town:

Boston: college town all the way. Reality is going to bite you motherfuckers in the ass.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:06 PM
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A college town is the service sector appendage of an institution of higher education

Also, it is a town, and not a large city.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:08 PM
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Portland has 3 liberal arts colleges: Reed, Lewis and Clark, and U. Portland. Nothing much else. Reed is very good, L&C is pretty good, UP is OK. Medium-rank medical school research center, low end "urban univeristy". Not a college town:

You have got to be fucking kidding me. If we're making this a binary division, then sure, Portland isn't a college town, but there are plenty of cities around the same size as Portland that have no liberal arts colleges and maybe one regional state university.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:09 PM
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469, 474: Pullman?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:09 PM
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Ooh, Pullman's a good one. Moscow too, for that matter. Pretty damn isolated.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:11 PM
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483: 23rd largest in the US, baby! Doesn't even rate worldwide.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:13 PM
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23rd largest in the US, baby!

That's just because there are a lot of cities the same size, and you don't seem to be counting the suburbs where most of the colleges are.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:14 PM
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My mistake was not specifying S.M.A. rather than city. Portland is the #28 SMA in the U.S., and almost all the others have more schools.

My original formulation was "largest S.M.A. in the U.S. without a pretty good university.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:15 PM
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489: Now that I'll buy.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:16 PM
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Our team name at trivia: I Drink Your MLKshake.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:17 PM
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488: the MSA is a statistical fiction! Boston stops at the edge of the Charles! Cambdrige is illusory!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:17 PM
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Okay to find comity with you pedantic bastards: Boston is not a college town in the same manner as, say, Bloomington, but it is a city uniquely (for this country) dominated by institutions of higher education.

But what fun is that formulation?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:18 PM
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"Cambdrige"?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:19 PM
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Cambdirge is a melancholy place, god wot.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:20 PM
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but that wasn't really important as long as I could get my mug of Cantillion.

Cantillon on draught? Holy fucking Christ I wish we had that here.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:22 PM
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483 gets it right.

Also, I note that Emerson is minimizing the significance of the college with the most undergraduates in Oregon, which happens to be located in Portland. Also there's apparently colleges called Concordia, Cascade, and "Walla Walla University", and three art institutes.

Doesn't compare to Indianapolis.

493: Yes, it's unique.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:24 PM
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Lafayette, Indiana isn't a college town. I don't know why that is.

Bloomington slashed its tires and left a note saying that Indiana wasn't big enough for the both of them.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 7:54 PM
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Another team: MLKTHXBAI


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:00 PM
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MLK IT FOR ALL ITS WORTH.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:03 PM
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Not to drag all the fun away from arguing about what constitutes a college town, but I note that Harry at Crooked Timber has a new post up describing the latest development in his (and others') efforts to educate the Wisconsin state legislature about school funding issues.

This prompted me to look up a little of the history in WI. Short version: State financing of public schools solves some problems, creates others. Inequality remains.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:25 PM
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I use a much more expansive definition of college town. The universe has not imploded.

When I was a kid, it was said that all there was to Austin was the capitol and 5 home games.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 8:56 PM
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The thread has moved on, but it always makes me laugh when students ask to be transferred to my GA section because they think that since I'm a woman I'm an easier grader. Cause women are nice and cuddly, you know.

Then they get their paper back from me and it's covered in red with a grade fifteen points lower than the original grade given by my fellow GA. At that point they usually switch back.


Posted by: winna | Link to this comment | 01-21-08 10:33 PM
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