Re: Here's an ill-formed plan!

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If you're a tenured prof, it's hard to see any reason to take that deal.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:37 AM
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1: For the good of the country! (Yeah, I dunno.)


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:50 AM
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Credentialing. If the job market really is as awful as it appears to be and/or gets much worse, I could see taking a high school job (thereby proving grad school to be a colossal waste of time). But there's no fucking way I'm going back to ed school and taking all those useless pedagogy classes (from what I hear from my friends who are now teachers, about 1/100th is useful, the rest bs. If they could distill it down into just the useful bits, I'd be there). Unless you got them to wave the credential, this would be a major hassle because I presume that most would feel about like I do about doing those courses.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:50 AM
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Right, you'd have to sell it as volunteerism: look for people who were burned out on scholarship but liked teaching, and were willing out of the pure goodness of their hearts to leave their cushy tenured positions for a decade or so of teaching high school. I can't see anyway to make it appealing out of literal self-interest.

What might be more practical is trying to build an easy slippery slope into high schools for people who aren't going to get tenure-track jobs; adjuncts and such. They've got the subject matter knowledge and the classroom experience, and they need jobs.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:50 AM
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Also, high school teaching requires different skills from university teaching, notably crowd control. Most students in universities are there because they want to be or feel they should be. This is not necessarily the case in high schools.

The idea of an otherwise unqualified 55 year old physicist, used to running seminars with a bunch of fairly interested near-adults, trying to handle a class of mixed ability 15 year olds without a year or so of intensive training, makes my blood run cold. And who would pay for the training?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:52 AM
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all those useless pedagogy classes

This is such an incredible shame. From my limited teaching experience, it's clear to me that classroom teaching, regardless of your command of the subject matter, is a very difficult skill, and it makes sense to require that people have done something toward learning it before you put them in front of a class. On the other hand, I've never heard anyone say a good thing about the actual education classes people have to take.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:53 AM
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High school teaching and college teaching aren't the same animals.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:55 AM
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The idea of an otherwise unqualified 55 year old physicist, used to running seminars with a bunch of fairly interested near-adults, trying to handle a class of mixed ability 15 year olds

We had a chem teacher in my high school like this (that is, I'm not sure what his story was, but he was a middle-aged guy with a doctorate who taught highschool part time and had a research job as well) and he was dreadful. Sweet guy, obviously knew his stuff, but couldn't communicate with anyone who didn't mostly come in understanding it all, and couldn't control the class. I used to translate for him out of sheer frustration: someone would ask a question, he would completely fail to understand it or answer what was being asked, and I'd wait two minutes and ask the same question phrased so that he'd be able to follow it and give a responsive answer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:58 AM
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My wacky sci-tech magnet high school managed to generally get credential waivers and so we did have a bunch of such people from academia or industry. It worked pretty well, but because it was a magnet school, it had a lot of the self-selection for wanting to be there (and, generally, to learn and do the work) that OFE mentions about colleges. But if crowd control is really the problem, then I'm not sure any level of academic aptitude is relevant in the teacher.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:58 AM
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My wacky magnet school was populated by spoiled brats. There weren't safety kinds of crowd control problems, but teachers who weren't pretty darn charming and charismatic didn't get a whole lot of attention out of most of us.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:03 AM
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We had a chem teacher in my high school like this

Huh. The post idea was loosely formed based on a Ph.D.-bearing chem teacher at my HS who was considered very good (full disclosure: I never actually had him as a teacher). Also, amazingly, the shortened version of his name was Dr. Rad.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:05 AM
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So the ill-formedness may be that "good", as needed by the high schools, doesn't match the kind of "good" that is possessed by either college instructors (or, possibly, by ed school graduates either). My bias right now is that I have a friend who is in her second year of teaching math at near-bottom-of-the-barrel schools in LA, and it doesn't sound like anything short of wholesale poverty-reduction and household-stabilization would help. But you might have had a different kind of problem school in mind.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:05 AM
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Well, my guy (known, cleverly, as 'Doc') was dreadful, but of course he's an anecdote.

On the 'high school teaching isn't college teaching' front: that's true, obviously, but isn't there at least some commonality? The consequences for being boring are different -- in high school the kids set the wastepaper baskets on fire, whereas in college they just zone out or cut class -- but aren't the techniques for holding attention similar on some level?

I'd think someone with years of experience standing in front of a roomful of students, even if they were compliant college students, would be starting from a much higher baseline teaching high school than a total newbie.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:10 AM
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My first year of high school I took a science class taught by a PhD who had worked in industry and left under dramatic and public circumstances (a whistleblower). He was a raging jackass and pretty creepy toward the girls in the class. Didn't give me a good impression of non-teachers deciding to teach late in their careers. But then, it's only one example.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:12 AM
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about 1/100th is useful, the rest bs

My mother, who will be retiring from teaching at the end of this school year, agrees with that.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:16 AM
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The New York Teaching Fellows program works somewhat like this, in that they try to recruit people who have already established themselves in some sort of career. A friend applied after about the second or third year of grad school and was declined, she thought, because having an MA automatically put her at a pay scale that was onerous (and therefore more competitive?) for the program.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:17 AM
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Part of the problem is, as nodded to in the post, what 'good' means. High school teachers don't have to be particularly highly educated -- I'm not, and I could (from a content point of view, rather than a crowd control point of view) teach anything you gave me a curriculum for at a high school level. There's just not that much content in a high school class that you'd need to have even an undergraduate degree in the topic to stay ahead of the kids.

But they do need to be intelligent, and they need to be skilled teachers. Looking for high school teachers with graduate degrees is way overkill in terms of subject-matter knowledge, but it's a tempting proxy for being generally clever. (I think using it that way is a bad idea, but I can see the temptation.) And goodness only knows how to screen for being a skilled teacher or having the potential to develop into one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:30 AM
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||

For AWB and the WWBHOD Park Slope parents:

Ms. Reichl would like the White House kitchen to issue regular news releases that describe what the first couple and their daughters are eating. (Then parents across the country could tell their children, "You know, Malia and Sasha were eating salad yesterday. ...")

|>


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:31 AM
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Is there a shortage of high-school teachers, or just a shortage of "good" high-school teachers? Or just a shortage of "good" high-school teachers in "bad" districts? How do you make the existing mediocre-to-bad teachers go away?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:34 AM
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How do you make the existing mediocre-to-bad teachers go away?

Tasers. No, seriously, this is the whole problem -- how to identify poor teachers and hire better ones. It's complicated by the fact that you really can't hire a good teacher from outside the profession: everyone's lousy for their first few years (overgeneralization, but I think it's pretty solid). So turfing out lousy teachers doesn't improve anything unless you hold on to the new teachers who replace them for five years or so, and you've identified which ones were going to be good ahead of time.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:40 AM
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18: I knew it! This is only going to spread.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:41 AM
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2There's just not that much content in a high school class that you'd need to have even an undergraduate degree in the topic to stay ahead of the kids."

Then maybe US high schools are too dumbed down?

I don't think you have to be that intelligent to be a decent teacher.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:42 AM
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I just recently caught up with lost HS friends , and a few have become HS teachers (all pretty sharp, some postgrad degreed, some not, no reorientations from academia).

I haven't asked them about the credentialling/ ed school thing, but that was something I know stopped other friends of mine.

Understanding that somewhat interesting and not just informative lesson plans are necessary is pretty important, as well as interpersonal skills with kids that don't want to be in the classroom. I liked teaching undergrads, personally; every class had a couple of motivated kids, with the rest of the distribution extending to apathy, and that was enough to create good group dynamics. I don't know how I'd do with a class with zero or 1 interested kid and a tail that included hostile ones.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:43 AM
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... From my limited teaching experience, it's clear to me that classroom teaching, regardless of your command of the subject matter, is a very difficult skill, and it makes sense to require that people have done something toward learning it before you put them in front of a class. ...

I don't think this is something that is easily taught in an academic setting. Let them serve as a teacher's aide or the like for a year or two and gradually ease them into it (or wash them out if it is clear they can't handle it).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:45 AM
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High school teachers don't have to be particularly highly educated -- I'm not, and I could (from a content point of view, rather than a crowd control point of view) teach anything you gave me a curriculum for at a high school level. There's just not that much content in a high school class that you'd need to have even an undergraduate degree in the topic to stay ahead of the kids.

I don't think this is true. US history pre-Civil War? Calculus? Botany? How much preparation time are you assuming you would have to learn the material/read the textbook before teaching it? And you don't want to just be presenting the material in the textbook verbatim, you need to send the message that at least one person on earth (you) understands the material and its significance, or else it will just seem like a bunch of pointless memorization.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:45 AM
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13

I'd think someone with years of experience standing in front of a roomful of students, even if they were compliant college students, would be starting from a much higher baseline teaching high school than a total newbie.

I am not at all convinced, if you are sticking them in a bad school their previous experience might be so different as to be an active handicap.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:47 AM
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22: Then maybe US high schools are too dumbed down?

I'm not sure that this follows. Take math -- very few high schools are going to go past calculus, and I don't think there's any need for them to. But to find someone with a fluent, complete enough command of calculus to teach it, you don't need someone with a math degree; you need someone who's taken college level calculus and understood it, and the same applies more strongly to any lower-level class.

And I don't think you need to be extravagantly intelligent, but you have to be able to field unexpected questions on the spot, which takes a certain amount of cleverness.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:48 AM
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After listening to that TAL podcast this weekend about the NYC schools' "Rubber Room," I knelt down and thanked Jesus that I don't teach public high school. For those who missed it, apparently NYC public school teachers who are overheard saying a curse word in the hall or who have an overly emotional moment in class can suddenly find themselves "reassigned" to a crowded room full of other "reassigned" teachers, where they have nothing to do all day for regular pay while someone, somewhere, might or might not be investigating their danger to students, and they can end up there for years, every day, sitting in a chair, waiting to get fired.

I've often said things like this are why I wouldn't step foot in a high school classroom. About half of what I talk about in class is God, sex, and shit (often with a great deal of possibly freaky emotional outbursts) and would most certainly get rubber-roomed in a matter of hours. Everything I know of as good, engaged teaching of literature and language is verboten at the high school level. (Students who study Blake's "The Tyger" with me often report exactly what I remember learning in high school, which is that it's a poem about a tiger, not a theological confrontation with the satanism inherent in mysticism.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:49 AM
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I don't think this is true. US history pre-Civil War? Calculus? Botany? How much preparation time are you assuming you would have to learn the material/read the textbook before teaching it? And you don't want to just be presenting the material in the textbook verbatim, you need to send the message that at least one person on earth (you) understands the material and its significance, or else it will just seem like a bunch of pointless memorization.

Nah, I think LB is right. If there's anything a decade or so of tertiary education ought to have given you, it ought to be the ability to digest and analyze/synthesize a load of information quickly.

I said before, and got shouted down a bit [although some agreed] that I'm pretty sure I could teach undergraduate level courses in most non-science disciplines with fairly minimal preparation time, and that isn't meant as a piece of bragging. I'd expect most people with a sufficiently broad educational base, good general knowledge, and skill in reading/analysis/presentation could do it, too.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:49 AM
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I had a Latin teacher in high school who had a doctorate in Ancient history. This was at a private school where people didn't have to have formal education degrees. I had him for an independent study. I don't know whether he was an effective teacher otherwise. I think he yelled a lot.

The current head of that Department alsohas a Ph.D. in Classics.

I've heard about this sort of thing working more with engineers who decide that they want to be science teachers. I do think that pedagogy training is important but that most of it sucks.*

I knew someone who was already teaching and was going back for a higher degree to make more money and wasn't at all impressed. She said that most of it was either too basic for someone with experience or too theoretical. What she really needed was a class on how to deal with difficult parents.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:49 AM
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19, 20. This is a problem without a solution. Teaching high (or primary) school requires a set of skills that isn't all that common, and probably 80% of the potentially good teachers in the world are already doing it. The rest are in industry or the academy, and they have chosen to be there, so they're not going to move.

It has always been like this. In the days when you could line kids up in rows and hit them with a big stick if they annoyed you, it was less evident, because it was harder to tell good teachers from bad. But the fact remains that there is not enough good teacher material for the number of schools. Period.

A real solution to this would be to question why the consensus exists that the best thing to do with kids is to keep them in school till they're 18. Question that, find alternatives to that, and you can reduce the number of schools, and raise the proportion of good teachers in those remaining. But it would be hard politics.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:49 AM
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17


High school teachers don't have to be particularly highly educated -- I'm not, ...

Um, actually you are. This is like the person making $250000 a year claiming they aren't rich.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:50 AM
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But to find someone with a fluent, complete enough command of calculus to teach it, you don't need someone with a math degree; you need someone who's taken college level calculus and understood it, and the same applies more strongly to any lower-level class.

I understood college level calculus immediately after taking it, but it would take a month or so before I could become comfortable with it again, it having been useful to me for a total of 0 seconds since then.

Also botany. And US history pre-Civil War. "Teacher, why did they think the Non-Itnercourse Act was a good idea anyway?" "I have no idea, but I know when it happened."


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:51 AM
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Everything I know of as good, engaged teaching of literature and language is verboten at the high school level.

You figure?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:51 AM
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Dammit. Should have been "You figure? We read Lolita."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:51 AM
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Further to 29.

Teaching kids [rather than undergraduates] is hard, and the little experience I have of doing it suggests that the skills required to teach semi-motivated undergraduates in small groups, and the skills required to teach 30+ teenagers are really very very different.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:52 AM
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A real solution to this would be to question why the consensus exists that the best thing to do with kids is to keep them in school till they're 18. Question that, find alternatives to that, and you can reduce the number of schools, and raise the proportion of good teachers in those remaining. But it would be hard politics.

In the last 30 years the consensus of US media and government elites has been that kids should be in school till they're 22, and then whenever they worry about being unemployed, unemployable or victimized by age discrimination, just get more and more education. So, good luck.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:53 AM
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re: 37

It's increasingly becoming the consensus here, too. But it's a stupid one.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:54 AM
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32: I've got an undergraduate degree from a couple of very good institutions, but consisting of a remarkably incoherent set of classes, and a graduate professional degree that's not related to anything I'd have to teach. That's a lot of classroom time, but I don't have a coherent specialist education in anything you'd teach in a high school -- any high school class, what I've got is a couple of related college courses, no more.

I've got a heck of a lot of general knowledge, but that's not the same thing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:54 AM
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From my limited teaching experience, it's clear to me that classroom teaching, regardless of your command of the subject matter, is a very difficult skill, and it makes sense to require that people have done something toward learning it before you put them in front of a class

Cookery, singing and piloting passenger aircraft are all also difficult skills, which is why anyone thinking of trying one of these things would be well advised to first spend several hours sitting in a room being lectured about them.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:55 AM
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I could sort of see myself teaching in a college prep summer program. They have those around here, and they don't seem to require the same credentials. There's such a depressingly vast gulf between the writing and analysis skills required for the NY Regents exams and what we expect in freshman composition that the first few months of college can make for some nasty whiplash. (No, a "five-paragraph" essay beginning with a definition of "love" from the Merriam-Webster dictionary that lists plot points from the novel and then says, "In conclusion" and repeats the introduction is not college-level writing. Yes, I understand that that's what you learned to do so you could pass the exam that allows you to get a diploma so you can go to college. No, I don't understand why you were taught to write that way. Yes, you have to stop it right fucking now or you fail my class.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:56 AM
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"No, seriously, this is the whole problem -- how to identify poor teachers and hire better ones."

It's impossible and shouldn't be attempted.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:56 AM
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I understood college level calculus immediately after taking it, but it would take a month or so before I could become comfortable with it again, it having been useful to me for a total of 0 seconds since then.

Well, sure, same here. I wouldn't want to be dropped into teaching calculus tomorrow, but give me a month or so and I'd be able to get it back.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:56 AM
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28


After listening to that TAL podcast this weekend about the NYC schools' "Rubber Room," I knelt down and thanked Jesus that I don't teach public high school. For those who missed it, apparently NYC public school teachers who are overheard saying a curse word in the hall or who have an overly emotional moment in class can suddenly find themselves "reassigned" to a crowded room full of other "reassigned" teachers, where they have nothing to do all day for regular pay while someone, somewhere, might or might not be investigating their danger to students, and they can end up there for years, every day, sitting in a chair, waiting to get fired.

This is what happens when you can't fire teachers. You need some way to get the very worst teachers out of the classroom.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:57 AM
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35: Interesting! Surely not public school, though?

We watched Apocalypse Now and got an interesting lecture on the word "fuck," but even my best high school English teachers seemed hobbled by the creepy limitations set by the Kansas School Board (notoriously conservative, repeatedly trying to shut down the public school system altogether in favor of home schooling and private religious schools).


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:59 AM
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40: They do student teaching in education programs, you know.

By the way, what's up with Crooked Timber? I'm assuming it's not just accidental that no one's commented or posted anything for a couple of days now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:02 AM
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44:

This is what happens when you can't fire teachers. You need some way to get the very worst teachers out of the classroom.

The point of the story was that the people who get sent there aren't, largely, the 'very worst teachers'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:03 AM
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re: 46

Odd. I'm getting new stuff in my rss feed from CT. But when I look at the website, it's static.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:03 AM
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I've been getting a lot of Crooked Timber posts in my RSS feed, but none of them appear on the Crooked Timber homepage. Presumably someone there is aware that this is happening.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:03 AM
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46: They have.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:03 AM
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39

I've got a heck of a lot of general knowledge, but that's not the same thing.

Highly educated doesn't necessarily mean you are a specialist in some very narrow subject, having a lot of general knowledge qualifies. And you don't have to have learned it in school either.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:04 AM
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Cookery, singing and piloting passenger aircraft are all also difficult skills, which is why anyone thinking of trying one of these things would be well advised to first spend several hours sitting in a room being lectured about them.

I would dearly hope anybody piloting a passenger aircraft would have spent a good bit of time being lectured at. There's lots of other training I'd like them to have, yes, but a fair chunk of sitting in a classroom learning about e.g. instrument flight landings, emergency procedures, communications conventions and god knows what else they learn seems like a perfectly reasonable part of a well-constructed training program. Indeed, I would venture to guess that anybody piloting passenger aircraft has spent a quite extensive amount of time in various rooms being lectured at, starting with the first day of flight school.

45: Surely not public school, though?

Yep. Progressive school, blue state, upscale suburb, but definitely public.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:05 AM
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This is in fact something I have looked into a bit for myself (am not in the Academy, but believe that I have expertise level needed for most any quantitative-oriented class). Currently, it is a mixed bag, varying a lot by state. Almost all have something. PA's is not the most flexible.

I know 2 folks fairly well who have tried it (Chicago and Pittsburgh), neither went that well, but for different reasons. The guy in Pittsburgh was technically very good, but had no people/class control/emotional intelligence; it was a tragicomedic travesty (probably the kind of thing that leads PA's to be not so flexible). The Chicago one was harder to judge, but it did seem the individual got a lot of undercutting from other teachers (this could be just their perception).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:05 AM
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The newest post on CT is by Berube. Apparently they have replication problems.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:05 AM
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In my 12th-grade lit class we read Graham Swift's "Waterland", Ian McEwan's "The Cement Garden", and Maeve Binchy's "The Copper Beech", and something else. That was at a prep school.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:06 AM
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Do people learn crowd control, at least, in the supposedly useless credentialling pedagogy education programs?


Posted by: Es-tonea-pesta | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:07 AM
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42

"No, seriously, this is the whole problem -- how to identify poor teachers and hire better ones."

It's impossible and shouldn't be attempted.

If true we should just hire the cheapest teachers.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:08 AM
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51: My point is that if you're looking for good teachers from the point of view of screening for the necessary command of the materials, someone with an education like mine wouldn't show up. The sort of being 'highly educated' that I've got, and that's plenty for teaching high school, doesn't necessarily imply an undergraduate or graduate degree in the relevant subjects.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:09 AM
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If true we should just hire the cheapest teachers.

Or hire the people who want to be teachers.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:10 AM
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re: 56

I don't know about the US, but my ex was a teacher [she taught 5 - 12 year-olds, though]. She spent quite a lot of time on it. Shadowing more experienced teachers, and running lessons while being supervised by more experienced teachers, talking through various possible disciplinary scenarios in seminar settings, and so on.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:10 AM
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The problem with knowing the stuff you teach isn't so much in any one topic, it's that you need to know a lot of them all at the same time. So pretty much any of us could read stuff and come up with a reasonable lecture on the great depression or the causes of the civil war. The question is could you do both on the same evening, while also planning lessons on the silk road, the opium wars, and the role of the judiciary in American government. And that's leaving aside the question of how to plan an interesting lesson on the topics or do basic crowd control.


Posted by: sandreckoner | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:11 AM
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60: Yes, the undoubtedly useful parts of the ed degree stuff is the actual classroom experience.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:12 AM
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44

The point of the story was that the people who get sent there aren't, largely, the 'very worst teachers'.

Almost everybody in prison claims they are innocent too.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:13 AM
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re: 61

That isn't really what actual teachers have to do, either, as far as I can tell.

There are these things called curricula, and these other things called textbooks ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:14 AM
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Almost everybody in prison claims they are innocent too.

I bet they could teach some stuff, boy.

Also, Shearer, you probably shouldn't comment on the TAL piece you haven't listened to. You're sort of embarrassing yourself.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:15 AM
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I was referring to, per (3), "taking all those useless pedagogy classes ", not the entirety of teacher training.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:15 AM
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56: I've heard not. A lot of my students are ed-concentration, and they seem to learn most of that as student teachers. But they all say it came as a surprise.

One of my students said she tried to introduce some of the material from my Brit Lit class into the HS English class she was student-teaching, because she kept feeling like she was so robbed in HS, not learning anything really deep or interesting, but the limitations on what she could and couldn't talk about, and the students' unwillingness to talk about certain things, made her eventually throw up her hands and go back to teaching what was on the general syllabus for the class. It was disillusioning enough that she said she was thinking about getting her PhD so she could do, "you know, real teaching." I told her it was a bad career move, but you can't live your whole life in a job that makes you crazy.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:16 AM
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61: Isn't that a problem of supporting new teachers, and curriculum design? Designing a class from the ground up -- what should be covered in detail in each lesson, making up assignments, writing tests -- is terribly laborious. But there's no good reason all of that work should be done fresh, each year, by the person standing in front of the class. Experienced teachers reuse their planning and materials from prior years, and I don't see any good reason not to help new teachers out with a lot of support along those lines.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:16 AM
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58

My point is that if you're looking for good teachers from the point of view of screening for the necessary command of the materials, someone with an education like mine wouldn't show up. The sort of being 'highly educated' that I've got, and that's plenty for teaching high school, doesn't necessarily imply an undergraduate or graduate degree in the relevant subjects.

I agree that if someone like you doesn't pass the screen the screen is being done poorly.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:18 AM
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65


Also, Shearer, you probably shouldn't comment on the TAL piece you haven't listened to. You're sort of embarrassing yourself.

I live near New York City, I know what the Rubber Room is. I doubt the TAL piece has much I haven't already heard.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:22 AM
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59

Or hire the people who want to be teachers

I am not suggesting we start drafting people.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:23 AM
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I'd think someone with years of experience standing in front of a roomful of students, even if they were compliant college students, would be starting from a much higher baseline teaching high school than a total newbie.

Sort of. The maturity angle is also part of it. My sister teaches high school and she gets from students a lot more showoffiness based on 15-year-old hormones than I would in a typical college class. Also, it's a very different style of teaching: more classes, shorter classes, more emphasis on just-the-facts, &c.

Given that the pedagogy classes are mostly useless, I think it's a shame that they are often a barrier to getting specialists into high schools, but teaching isn't just a matter of getting up there and reciting facts, so I can see why some kind of training is useful.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:24 AM
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70: well, keep at it, I guess. One thing it doesn't have is people claiming to be innocent.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:24 AM
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Yeah, 61 sounds like the life of a community college adjunct in the History department. If you're having to write syllabi for four different classes on totally different eras and approaches to your subject, you're a college instructor. My HS teachers would have, at most, two preps, teaching two or three sections of each class, and they were usually closely related. I was impressed that a lot of my HS teachers refused to use the standard textbooks and had written their own syllabi at some point, but once you've got it down, you just spin it out as many times as necessary. What's got to be awful is trying to maintain some kind of enthusiasm for the material. I've taught the same literature survey about twelve times now, and it's enough to make me stab my eyes out. Switching a few texts out helps a little, but damn, I can't imagine 30 years of this.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:26 AM
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At least in my state, teachers in small schools may well end up teaching 3 or 4 different history classes all at the same time, and so having to prep a wide range of subjects. (5 was overly exaggerated though.) And the high school social studies certification here covers american history, world history, political science, geography, economics and nominally anthropology and sociology.

And sure good support would help a lot, and having the curriculum and textbooks and stuff, and especially an experienced teacher's lesson plans. But most teachers are given the topics they are to cover with little else.

Anyway, I didn't mean to argue that knowing the content was all that was important, just that it is handy to have it down pretty pat so that you can focus on how best to teach it.


Posted by: sandreckoner | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:27 AM
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69: Aw, shucks, that was very nice of you. But my only point is that raising any sort of objective standards for subject matter education in teachers (which I've seen proposed -- not in this conversation, but generally) beyond "has an undergraduate degree in anything and maybe a relevant course or two," screens out plenty of people with enough education to do a fine job.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:27 AM
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But to find someone with a fluent, complete enough command of calculus to teach it, you don't need someone with a math degree; you need someone who's taken college level calculus and understood it, and the same applies more strongly to any lower-level class.

And I would disagree with this; you don't want to be teaching the absolute limits of what you know. Someone who has had only calc I won't understand what concepts become important later on, and even if it doesn't come up in the class, the knowledge needs to be there (on the college level, certainly, and I think I could make a case for high school.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:27 AM
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re: 68

I don't think any sane high-school teacher really does design their curriculum from scratch.

Anyway, the position of someone with say, a philosophy degree, asked to design a lesson plan for a class on the Spanish Civil War is basically exactly the same position as someone with a history degree who didn't specialize in the Spanish Civil war. That is, they need to go off and read the textbooks, look at existing curricula, etc, etc.

It's not like a degree in subject X confers upon you knowledge of all aspects of subject X sufficient to teach them.

Anyway, I didn't mean to argue that knowing the content was all that was important, just that it is handy to have it down pretty pat so that you can focus on how best to teach it.

Yeah, but they get it down pat through the lesson planning and teaching process. Teachers don't come into HS knowing everything about their subject.

One of my friends has a history degree; he wrote his MA dissertation on the restructuring of the Red Army during and immediately after the Civil War. If he and I were asked to teach 14 year-olds about the Agrarian Revolution in the 18th century, we'd be in exactly the same boat.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:32 AM
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46: It's weird. Crooked Timber shows up fine on IE6 and Firefox at work, but is out of date on Firefox at home or on my mobile phone's browser. Forced refreshes are no help.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:35 AM
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you don't want to be teaching the absolute limits of what you know.

I do this all the time. Is it wrong? I mean, if I get an elective in my area, I know a lot more than my students about everything on the syllabus, but more often, I get offered electives in fields I literally know nothing about, or surveys that cover periods I only have a glancing knowledge of, etc. And I end up learning the material by teaching it. By the second time I teach the class, I feel like I'm beyond the limits of what I know, but that first time, I'm really feeling it out with them, and the students seem to enjoy the class a lot more, actually.

Maybe this is different for math, though. My instinct is to say, "Sure, I could teach HS calculus. No problem." But that's an English lit adjunct attitude.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:35 AM
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What 78 said.

And on 77; I know what you mean, generally, and it's not wrong -- you're not going to do a good job teaching something if having passed one class in it yourself is the outer limit of your acquaintance with the subject. But you still don't need anything like as much math as a math major would have to take to be able to teach high school calculus.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:36 AM
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Someone who has had only calc I won't understand what concepts become important later on

What does "later on" mean here? Someone who goes on to take a class in analysis needs to grok the epsilon-delta stuff, someone who wants to be an engineer probably cares more about the boring recipes for calculating things, etc. There is no uniform "later on", and I can't imagine any particular knowledge being calculus that I would want to insist a high-school calculus teacher should have.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:37 AM
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...any particular knowledge beyond calculus, I meant to type.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:37 AM
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here's no fucking way I'm going back to ed school and taking all those useless pedagogy classes

My own experience with ed school... turned me into a lawyer. Shit, there's really useful stuff that can be taught about learning theory, educational philosophy and administration, etc., and credentialing of teachers as professionals makes a whole lot of sense, in theory, if credentialing were based on specialized knowledge of all that useful stuff. But damn, what a 99% waste of time! [/rant]


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:38 AM
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But my only point is that raising any sort of objective standards for subject matter education in teachers (which I've seen proposed -- not in this conversation, but generally) beyond "has an undergraduate degree in anything and maybe a relevant course or two," screens out plenty of people with enough education to do a fine job.

This is a general problem in hiring people to do complicated jobs with high-level generalist skills. There are LOTS of jobs you could do well but probably couldn't pass the initial screen for.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:41 AM
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Also: possibly where you need your bright people who don't have K-12 backgrounds is in the principal's office, not the classroom.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:42 AM
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80: But you're doing that with a background of being a Ph.D. candidate in English. You know how the game works. You also have colleagues and friends whom you could ask. This wouldn't be the case if you were asked to teach, e.g., chemistry 101.

LB, I'd agree you wouldn't need to be a math major, and the sort of thing I had in mind, essear, is whether you're equipped to give an answer when a student asks questions about what comes next, or having a sense of what techniques end up being really valuable for someone who does go on to be a math major. Or just if you have a student who masters the curriculum quickly. I think having had calc II would be helpful.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:43 AM
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I think Cala's point, which there is something to, although I also agree with essear that 'later on' isn't clearly defined and with AWB that there's nothing particular wrong with working through material in the humanities as you're teaching it, works best in the sciences. Someone teaching, e.g., the organization of the periodic table of the elements without any real understanding of what makes it interesting or useful is going to do a rotten job, even if they get all the facts they were supposed to cover in that day's lesson correct; for a high-school chemistry teacher you want someone at least interested in chemistry (or capable of interesting themselves in chemistry) rather than merely someone who knows the facts they have to cover and no more. And you could make a similar argument in history and so forth -- you want a teacher to have some sense of the subject matter as a whole, and how the class they're teaching hooks on to it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:43 AM
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88 crossed with 87.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:45 AM
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Yeah, but they get it down pat through the lesson planning and teaching process.

Ideally, yes. But a lot of my teaching is people who want to be high school teachers, and they tend to get so tied up in the methods and the ideas about how to best teach the class, that they almost forget about the actual material they want to be teaching. So that their initial proposals for teaching a unit (which they give to both me and their educational methods teacher) tend to give an entertaining lesson that doesn't actually teach anything much about the subject at hand.

So maybe this is really an argument against education classes-- even when they aren't useless, they are often a distraction.


Posted by: sandreckoner | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:45 AM
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Almost everybody in prison claims they are innocent too.

Under-appreciated fact: An awful lot of folks in prison really are innocent. The procedures that get a person into prison seem to be a lot more rigorous than the ones that get you into the Rubber Room.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:45 AM
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And you could make a similar argument in history and so forth -- you want a teacher to have some sense of the subject matter as a whole, and how the class they're teaching hooks on to it.

Yeah, but that translates across disciplines fairly well and if you have a fairly well-grounded and broad education, you can go a long way with that sort of thing, I think, before you hit barriers.

I think it does vary between disciplines, though. Joe Humanities isn't going to be able to walk in and teach 16 year-olds physics, and Mary Mathematics probably isn't going to be able to walk in and teach English Lit very well. But within some broad subject groupings, I'd bet people could interchange fairly easily [given reasonable prep time and a non-crazy curriculum].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:47 AM
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But within some broad subject groupings, I'd bet people could interchange fairly easily [given reasonable prep time and a non-crazy curriculum].

Sure, and you still wouldn't have enough good teachers.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:51 AM
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re: 93

Yeah. None of that is supposed to suggest that subject-knowledge alone makes for good teachers.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:51 AM
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Cookery, singing and piloting passenger aircraft are all also difficult skills, which is why anyone thinking of trying one of these things would be well advised to first spend several hours sitting in a room being lectured about them.

The problem is when a very large percentage of that classroom time is spent learning how to paint model airplanes or design logos or identify the difference between a flight attendant and the purser such that any number of potentially good and dedicated pilots decide they can't bear to sit through X more years of the program and decide to become architects instead.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:54 AM
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66: I don't actually think all pedagogy is useless, nor do I think that you should be sent out into the world of teaching without training. (Heck, I actually TEACH a pedagogy course). But, by and large, the experiences of my multiple friends and parents (anecdotal, I know) who have gone through the credentialing program is that they make you take many courses, very few of which have any value in the classroom, and require a significant investment of time and money.

I think it would be better if they had some sort of system where advanced degree + student teaching + passing an exam of sorts (a la the bar exam) would qualify you.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:54 AM
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91: What really creeped me out was the Board of Ed guy saying that the most important thing at all times is thinking about "what is best for the children." After working at a gifted ed camp for a summer, I have learned to fear this phrase like hell. If you're thinking along those lines, fairly innocent adult behavior gets lumped along with molestation and beatings awful quickly. (You hit a kid? You fucked a kid? Get out of the classroom ASAP. You whispered "Fuck!" under your breath to another teacher in the hallway? Come on.) When I was working at the camp, it was part of my job to come up with activities for the teachers to blow off steam at night and on weekends, so I'd arrange for us to watch R-rated movies, go to bars and concerts, have little parties, etc. And the response from the head administrator, to everything from drunken horsing around on the campus at night to mild cursing in the office when no kids were around was, "Is that really what is best for the children, AWB?" Like I'd raped somebody.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:56 AM
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97. Best for which children, is what I always want to reply to this sort of thing. Some children are delicate plants who need wrapping in cotton wool. Some benefit from exposure to a bit of the adult world occasionally and would go mad from boredom without it. Some have a much better idea what's good for them than any pedagogue.

AWB's BoE guy sounds like he needed to get out more. And read fewer textbooks.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:07 AM
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Oh, also, I'm specifically talking about teaching single subjects, in 7th grade up. While my step-father complained just as bitterly about his credentialing program (he's a k-6 teacher, jumped around in the grades as is common), I do think that you need more training in the k-6 fields on how to teach, because so often what you're communicating is not basic facts/arguments.

(And I really shouldn't be allowed to comment on 2-3 hours of sleep before 8 am, because then I make lots of rash statements that I don't fully believe and now I feel compelled to refine).


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:11 AM
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A friend of mine is writing a really interesting dissertation on narratives of child harm, in that if children represent "innocence," then pretty much anything that happens to them that makes them aware of adult life or even teaches them anything can be construed as an act of harm. Part of me wants to see the whole high-school education model as an attempt to "protect" HS kids from learning the kind of analytical skills that could make them into smart, capable adults. When I teach freshmen, I often feel like I've been handed 25 students who see themselves as little kids, and have been taught to feel like learning anything about adult life or thought is an act of irreparable damage. If I curse or bring up the existence of sex or drugs, they all gasp because OMG their HS teachers so would have been fired for harming them like that!

It feels weird that, until they're 18, they're not allowed to learn about anything useful, and then, suddenly, in college, we're asking them to do and think about all these adult subjects they've never been allowed to talk about in any kind of thoughtful or academic way.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:21 AM
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I haven't read the whole thread, but someone brought up the big difference between high school and college: mandatory attendance.

Could the old fogeys be used in some elective capacity? To select for students who want to be in the classroom?

The problem with this, offhand, is that it removes one of the treats for regular high school teachers. The teachers I know would love to teach a group of kids who had been selected for wanting to learn.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:29 AM
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91

Under-appreciated fact: An awful lot of folks in prison really are innocent. The procedures that get a person into prison seem to be a lot more rigorous than the ones that get you into the Rubber Room.

What does an awful lot mean? I would be surprised if it is over 10%.

As for the Rubber Room, it is the result of collective bargaining. The union gets procedures that make it extremely difficult to fire teachers in exchange they allow them to be in effect suspended indefinitely with pay. Of course the teachers sent to the Rubber Room are the ones who aggravate the administrators the most and not necessarily the ones who are the most dangerous to the kids.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:31 AM
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It feels weird that, until they're 18, they're not allowed to learn about anything useful

I stand amazed at your moderation in using the term "weird", rather than something stronger. It's a terrible thing that is done against young adults, and everybody in authority connives at it.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:34 AM
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102 cracks me up. The big reveal: Shearer agreed with everybody all along!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:40 AM
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Except, for some reason, people who write, publish, and recommend 'young adult novels'. Which tend to be ghastly as literature, but are certainly about sex and drugs. I've always found that odd -- you're right about how prudishly kids are treated in general, but YA book publishers seem to be some sort of inexplicable counterforce. It's as if the taboo isn't so much about kids knowing or thinking about sex and drugs, it's that god forbid they should do in an academic setting.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:41 AM
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103: You're right; it's worse than "weird." I'm just so used to it by now that I'm less angry about it than I once was.

At the end of the semester, we had a free day in my freshman comp class, and many of my students asked if we could watch a movie, preferably a David Lynch one since he had come up in class so often. So I was like, uh, sure! Blue Velvet! I said they could leave during the film if they wanted to---I wasn't going to force anyone to watch something that might be a rape trigger for someone, especially outside of a film class---but that I thought it would be an interesting text for the kinds of analysis we'd been discussing. They were excited. Then one girl (no innocent, from what I know of her) raised her hand and asked if we could watch Finding Nemo instead, because that's a great movie.

Cue my most disappointed-looking face and a stern lecture on self-infantilization.

I regularly teach a children's lit course (see "things I teach that I know nothing about") and find that it is the most over-enrolled subject at my college, not because it's easy, but because the students expect that they won't have to talk about sex or difficult moral problems. (Of course, they are disappointed in this respect by my children's lit class.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:49 AM
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106 crossed with 105, but that's exactly the thing. My students have all seen R-rated movies, and I'm sure a lot of them have seen porn. But they almost want to feel bad about it. I.e., it's OK to do drugs and have sex and watch adult movies, but it's not OK to talk intelligently and respectfully about drugs or sex or adult movies.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:51 AM
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and find that it is the most over-enrolled subject at my college, not because it's easy, but because the students expect that they won't have to talk about sex or difficult moral problems.

It's not over-enrolled because they expect it to be easy? I can practically hear my advisees saying, "At least the reading assignments will be short and use small words."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:54 AM
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Except, for some reason, people who write, publish, and recommend 'young adult novels'. Which tend to be ghastly as literature, but are certainly about sex and drugs. I've always found that odd -- you're right about how prudishly kids are treated in general, but YA book publishers seem to be some sort of inexplicable counterforce. It's as if the taboo isn't so much about kids knowing or thinking about sex and drugs, it's that god forbid they should do in an academic setting.

The invisible hand of the market at work!

Seriously, the US has a very strong cultural presumption in favor of freedom to publish and read books that doesn't extend to high school teachers. You also have to seek out a book, while you pretty much have to hear what your teachers say (if not listen to it).


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:54 AM
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This feels connected to an earlier conversation about teenagers and sex, and whether it's wrong for a teenager who's having sex to make their parents aware of it. I remember a fair number of people who seemed to believe (shameless caricaturing of the positions of unnamed people follows) that there was an age at which it wasn't unreasonable for teenagers to be having sex, but at which it was wrong for them to expect their parents to be aware of or 'condone' it.

It's as if adult behavior or knowledge for older teens isn't exactly taboo; the taboo is about communicating it with an actual adult, rather than keeping it in a teen-only world.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:56 AM
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Unless you got them to wave the credential,

waive, dear.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:56 AM
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109: Eh, there's something to that, but I'm not thinking about 'trashy' books, I'm thinking about the Newbury winners; stuff that gets recommended by librarians' associations and such.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:57 AM
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106, 107: Hey, what's wrong with Finding Nemo? I like that movie.

And I think it's ok to watch adult movies, but I'd be a little freaked out by a teacher who played one in class.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:03 PM
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112: Even so. You can tell your kid not to read books about sex, if you're so inclined. You can't tell your kid "if your teacher accidentally lets slip something about sex, be sure you covered your ears two seconds before he did so." So the people furthest out on the prudish/whiny plane end up determining what teachers can say.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:03 PM
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111: Aww, ben, the attention is making me blush.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:04 PM
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This is why I filter almost nothing around my kid. No harm done that I can see. It's almost as if children, like regular people, respond well to having their intelligence respected.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:10 PM
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The union gets procedures that make it extremely difficult to fire teachers in exchange they allow them to be in effect suspended indefinitely with pay

IHHTTALE but suspension with pay is the product of the 14th Amendment. Public employees have a property right in their employment, and so the District has to give them due process before taking away their jobs. If the District wants a teacher out of the classroom immediately, it's got to put them on paid suspension, rather than unpaid.

In most places, a paid suspension is basically a leave of absence. In other places, the District puts the teacher to work in the District office, doing administrative duties. I guess in New York the District penalizes these teachers by locking them in a room with not enough seats.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:14 PM
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self-infantilization

Can anyone explain anti-folk? Went to see Kimya Dawson this weekend, having had 2 min youtube exposure. I don't understand you damn kids anymore, at all. Also, why is the print so small?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:18 PM
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108: In our case, I just don't think that's what's going on. Our students are fine readers; they don't have problems with vocabulary, or even length. (At least, I never get complaints that I assign too much reading or that it's "too hard," despite the fact that a lot of it is difficult stuff.) But they do get very exhausted by complexly emotionally engaging books and anything having to do with sex, which they have a hard time talking about. I guess that's not uncommon for most people, but sometimes, just to understand what's going on in a poem or a story, one has to be able to refer to sex as something that really happens between and among humans, as opposed to a synecdoche for how this world today is going to hell in a handbasket.

I spend a lot of time in class making my students' comments more explicit for them.
"I think Dickinson is... uh... 'enjoying' herself in this poem."
"Right, there seems to be a very masturbatory rhythm and excitement here! In what ways might this be a poem about masturbation?"
You're welcome, America.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:18 PM
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(The point of 119 last is not because I get my jollies off talking about masturbation, but I'm annoyed by the way that using euphemisms for sex acts implies a certain kind of superiority or judgment that the speaker may not even consciously intend. Making it explicit, for me, is about trying to prevent my students from treating sexuality like the thing that always has to be repressed, judged, and kept a shameful secret.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:24 PM
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Is it evil and nitpicky of me that the first thing I thought of when I read LB's assertion that anyone with an undergraduate degree and a couple courses could teach more or less any high school class was "foreign languages"?


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:27 PM
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Finding Nemo is a terrific movie. It also has one of the few realistic film depictions of amnesia.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:29 PM
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121: Heh. The Spanish 2/3 teacher at my high school was the kind who spoke mostly English, peppered with a few somewhat-Spanish words. "Take out your leebrohs!" It was so sad because the Spanish 4/5/6 teacher was totally fluent and was having us write literary-analysis essays in Spanish on Borges stories. Whiplash.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:38 PM
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121: Point.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:43 PM
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It's as if the taboo isn't so much about kids knowing or thinking about sex and drugs, it's that god forbid they should do in an academic setting.

Anecdata: as a bright, shy, introverted student one reason why I would have been just as happy not talking about sex or drugs or crises of faith, or whatever is that I was quite aware that it would have put me at a significant disadvantage relative to the instructor.

I was well aware that I could engage teachers as equals on subjects where the body of knowledge was essentially abstract, but not on areas in which the body of knowledge was life experience.

That isn't to say that HS students lack experience or opinions about sex (drugs . . . ) but that, as a group, they lack perspective and conceptual vocabulary, and that lack of perspective directly translates into a position of weakness in an academic discussion.

That isn't to say that sex etc should be excluded from classroom discussions in HS, but that self-infantilization isn't the only reason why students might prefer to exclude it from the discussion/


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:43 PM
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So wait, AWB. You don't get your jollies talking about masturbation and you don't like Finding Nemo? What kind of freak are you?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:45 PM
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Anecdata: as a bright, shy, introverted student one reason why I would have been just as happy not talking about sex or drugs or crises of faith, or whatever is that I was quite aware that it would have put me at a significant disadvantage relative to the instructor.

I was well aware that I could engage teachers as equals on subjects where the body of knowledge was essentially abstract, but not on areas in which the body of knowledge was life experience.

But putting bright students at a significant disadvantage relevant to the instructor is a good thing, at least if the instructor is any good. I was the same sort of student, and I really never did learn to be much good at learning from my teachers (as opposed to learning from things they pointed me at, which is also valuable but not the same thing). That's a disadvantage in my adult life because I have to learn everything the hard way.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:48 PM
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a position of weakness in an academic discussion.

Heh. I've probably told this story, but I had a somewhat goofy 9th grade English teacher, who at some point in Great Expectations (I think - I can't quite remember the passage) said "Of course everyone sees the significance of the cheese." And the class looked at her blankly. And she looked incredulous and said "Cheese. Cheese! [still blankness from the class.] God, you guys are so naive." And didn't explain what she was talking about, as we sat there hating her and thinking "We're all fourteen, of course we're naive you stupid bitch." I couldn't tell if she was serious, and was just too embarrassed to explain for some reason, or if she was messing with us.

I talked about that class with other kids who were in it in later years, when we were all somewhat less naive (although, given the school, less so than one would have wished), and no one ever figured out what shw was talking about.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:49 PM
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I remember a fair number of people who seemed to believe (shameless caricaturing of the positions of unnamed people follows) that there was an age at which it wasn't unreasonable for teenagers to be having sex, but at which it was wrong for them to expect their parents to be aware of or 'condone' it.

That was me! Your shameless caricature is an accurate representation of my position!

Also, yeah. I read a lot of YA books. Some are brutal.

And now I'm off to lunch.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:50 PM
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NickS, you make a good point as to why students might prefer to leave things abstract, euphemized, and disconnected from life. But we shouldn't let them. It isn't any favor: as I think AWB was trying to point out, it is a disservice.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:50 PM
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126: (a) Of course I get off on talking about masturbation, but not when I do it with my students (Blue Velvet.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:50 PM
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(repost, that was weird)
126: (a) Of course I get off on talking about masturbation, but not when I do it with my students (this fruit, it hangs too low for even you). (b) I didn't see FN and am sure it is a wonderful film in all ways, but it is not a reasonable pedagogical substitute for Blue Velvet.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:51 PM
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Although if you put on Finding Nemo and turn the sound down, and play the audio of Blue Velvet? It explains a lot.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:52 PM
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You've done that?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:56 PM
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But putting bright students at a significant disadvantage relevant to the instructor is a good thing, at least if the instructor is any good.

It certainly can be, though I think it's important to distinguish between the student's power/confidence relative to the teacher and their relationship to the subject.

I realize now that my point was, in some ways, the utterly familiar point that it isn't surprising that teenagers might want to keep some things within "a teen-only world." They may talk and think about those subjects without wanting to invite authority figures into the discussion (or to be invited into discussion by authority figures).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:56 PM
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133 comments on why public schools won't do anything sensible, and no mention of unions?


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:56 PM
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See, if you had seen Nemo, you would have understood that your student was really making a subtle meta-commentary on the ways that parental attempts to shield children from adult realities ultimately place those children at risk.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:56 PM
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128: I had a similar experience when a particularly dorky (but very attractive) prof in my MA program was going on and on about the muff in Tom Jones. We so disbelieved that "muff" meant the same thing either in the 18th century or to our professor that we were all dying from stifled giggles as he went on and on: "He puts his hands inside her muff and tickles its fur..." We got up for a break and were all like, "OMG, if he says 'muff' one more fucking time..."

And we came back and he was like, "Fine, I'll do it for you. The muff is her vagina." Laughing over!

This was such a key moment in my education that I seem possessed by the desire to replicate it as often as possible. You imagine something "dirty" is going on, and it's laughable, and then the prof suddenly takes sex seriously as a subject of discourse, and then you are free to talk about it analytically. Yes, I think it's our job to free our students from their sense that certain body parts or acts are unspeakable or only for joking about.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:58 PM
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Of course I get off on talking about masturbation, but not when I do it with my students

Doing it with your students clearly crosses a line.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:58 PM
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Whoops, redact 139, that was posted before I was pre-emptively mocked in 132.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 12:59 PM
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138: Ah, but it wasn't similar at all. Because (a) we weren't tittering, we were honestly mystified (that is, her tone of voice made it clear that the symbolism she was talking about was sexual or at least 'dirty' somehow, but no one understood it), and (b) she never explained. I'm still cross with her when I think about it; bypassing whatever it was would have been harmless, explaining it would have been pedagogically useful, assuming that there was something actually there, but rolling her eyes at a class full of ninth graders for our lack of sophistication was just messed up.

134: Sadly, no. But I bet it'd be fun!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:06 PM
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Further to 141: Okay, it was similar, in a Goofus and Gallant kind of way. I'm just dredging up annoyance from a couple of decades ago strongly enough that it's coming out all over the place.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:07 PM
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137: Great point, DK!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:09 PM
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Damn, do I now have to read Great Expectations to try and interpret the imagery of the cheese?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:12 PM
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I get what you mean. It would be really annoying to have a teacher act like there's an unspeakable dirty thing going on but you can't possibly get what she's on about. It's like the "thing with the cup." All you really learn from it is that someone has a really bizarre private fetish of some unknowable nature, and also no grasp on what other people might know or think about sex.

I did once make an incredibly dirty joke to a class that basically did the same thing, unfortunately, but the act I was referring to was explicit enough that one could theoretically draw a diagram if necessary to figure out what it was.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:13 PM
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OMG, timely ill-formed thought; I called a couple of local colleges yesterday to find out what I need to do if I decide to get a teaching credential.

Short answer is, start my education all over again. Le sigh.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:20 PM
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144: It's long enough ago that I couldn't find you the passage, and I'm not even absolutely sure it was Great Expectations. I am sure it was cheese, though.

But I don't know if it's worth trying -- this is a problem that had a number of the finest teenage minds of NYC devoting a lot of time to it back in 1984, and we got nowhere. I kind of doubt that whatever she was thinking of was actually in the text in any way that was accessible to other readers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:21 PM
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I called a couple of local colleges yesterday to find out what I need to do if I decide to get a teaching credential.

Their answers might not be the last word, although I have no idea about CA. Many states or districts offer various types of "emergency" or other non-standard routes to certification.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:22 PM
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148: My town isn't desperate enough for teachers for me to do that. If I lived in LA proper, sure. But alas.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:26 PM
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136 meet 102.

More importantly, unless you think that teachers' unions are primarily formed to prevent teachers from mature discussions of controversial topics in HS classrooms, I don't see your point.

Yes, credentialism, blah blah, but the consensus in this thread is that problems in (US) education come primarily from A. the inherent difficulty of teaching as a semi-innate talent, B. the poorly-designed and -executed curricula at teaching colleges, and C. the Puritanism and dumbing-down that infect our society.

Please let us know for which of these the unions are culpable.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:29 PM
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Well that sucks, although at least now you don't have to teach high school.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:29 PM
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B, just sneak into a classroom, teach for a few years, and by the time anyone notices, you'll already have tenure and be untouchable. Easy-peasy.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:30 PM
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Check into alternative certification routes -- I know Illinois, Massachussettes, and according to someone upthread it sounds like NY all have options. (I had looked into it at one point, because despite holding a M.Ed, I am not legally qualified to teach. But then I became a lawyer and my soul shriveled too much to go back.) I have vague memories that NCLB fucked with the states' ability to offer alternatives, and I understand the programs can be very difficult to get into, but don't give up hope!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:31 PM
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I think most districts offer an internship credential, which will allow you to teach. This probably isn't the time to start, though -- districts are having record layoffs right now, which means that the districts will have to go back to the folks on the layoff list when they hire for fall.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:31 PM
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By "internship credential," I mean a program that will allow you to teach while completing your coursework towards a regular full credential.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:32 PM
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The British government has just announced that it would be a splendid idea if people with some work experience in a related field to their proposed teaching subject could get credentialled in 6 months.

So I suggest B comes and rents our spare room for a bit, and then Bob's yer uncle.

But she's better go home to teach, cos British schools are soooo doomed if this goes ahead.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:36 PM
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So a large problem in our schools is not enough talk about sex? That seems unlikely . . . I thought the point of this thread was that not enough talented retirees get an opportunity to teach. The obstacle is credentialism, required by the unions. So ultimately the unions are to blame, that's pretty obvious. The idea that you need to go to teacher's college to learn to teach is wrong. I taught english at a military college and did fine . . . no preparation and no teaching college for me! If I can teach mechanics how to say "Your propeller is on backwards" then I think an engineer can teach high school algebra.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:54 PM
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I thought the point of this thread ...

New here?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 1:57 PM
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The idea that you need to go to teacher's college to learn to teach is wrong. I taught english at a military college and did fine . . . no preparation and no teaching college for me!

If you read a few posts in the thread, you would come across the suggestion that teaching high school is not the same thing as teaching college. Go ahead, see what you think.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:00 PM
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The idea that you need to go to teacher's college to learn to teach is wrong. I taught english at a military college and did fine . . . no preparation and no teaching college for me!

That's right! And I was able to diagnose my shingles with the aid of a mirror, the internet, and a 10-year old, so this nonsense about requiring doctors to go to medical school is just foolish!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:00 PM
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That isn't really what actual teachers have to do, either, as far as I can tell.

There are these things called curricula, and these other things called textbooks ...

Boy howdy, have you never spoken with an American public school teacher.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:00 PM
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161.2 should be italicized as well.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:01 PM
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I visit occasionally. Don't bother to read the comments, though, except when I get a chance to bash unions or illegal immigration.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:01 PM
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I'm with bjk: the problem with our schools is illegal immigration.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:02 PM
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I'd totally move to the UK and teach. I can make my Brit Friend put me up. But I hear it snowed in London not too long ago, so no way.

(Re. unions, I actually think that the one issue is the merit pay vs. seniority thing, and I'm actually glad that Obama made that point recently.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:03 PM
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164: Not as crazy as it sounds. What is the sine qua non (not its easily conflated cousin, the ne plus ultra) of a "good school district"? As few illegal immigrants as possible.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:04 PM
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I visit occasionally. Don't bother to read the comments, though

Give it a try, you might just find that you learn something.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:05 PM
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Credentialism has very little to do with unions, and quite a lot to do with state laws and such, actually.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:05 PM
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167 crossed with 166. Retracted!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:06 PM
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168: Thanks for that. The wild claims were becoming a bit frustrating.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:08 PM
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168: Who do you think writes those laws and makes sure they get enforced? The unions maybe?


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:08 PM
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Credentialism is not per se a bad thing. Ideally, it has the potential to elevate the level of professionalism in how teaching is both done and seen. The problem is when the credentials required seem meaningless and become nothing more than gratuitous hoops to jump through.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:09 PM
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171: Or could it be... SATAN?


Posted by: Church Lady | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:09 PM
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What is it about teachers' unions that makes people lose their powers of reason? (Rhetorical question; please don't answer. But fucking hell.)


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:10 PM
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re: 173

I think you'll find Satan is both a union member, and an illegal immigrant.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:11 PM
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171: Who do you think writes those laws and makes sure they get enforced?

The legislative branch writes them; the executive branch sees to enforcement. Sheesh. Someone's civics teacher must not have gone to a very good teaching college!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:12 PM
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159: I've also taught english to grade schoolers and high schoolers. Again, no extensive training necessary. I've also done some babysitting . . . no training necessary!


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:12 PM
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I've also made a gingerbread house -- look! I'm a real architect!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:13 PM
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I thought there was a consensus that teaching couldn't really be taught . . . how do you train somebody to shout "sit down and shut up"? Beyond the subject knowledge and a passion to teach, I doubt credentializing or "teaching teaching" does any good, except for the unions and the teacher's colleges.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:15 PM
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The idea that you need to go to teacher's college to learn to teach is wrong.

The mention of the military has drawn me into this fray. I do not know what they teach at teacher's colleges, so cannot comment on whether one learns anything useful there, but in my experience, there is a lot about teaching that can be taught. A lot of the training I received as a junior NCO and as a junior officer was about how to train people. Apart from knowledge of the subject matter, there are techniques--lots of them--that can make a teacher more effective.

Does this mean that it is a bad idea to have academics fill in a high school teachers--I think not. On the other hand, I agree with the many comments upthread about how being an academic is not the same thing as being a high school teacher. Teaching is a skill that goes well beyond mastery of the subject matter being taught.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:16 PM
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Someone's civics teacher must not have gone to a very good teaching college been a union member!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:17 PM
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?I thought there was a consensus that teaching couldn't really be taught

see 180. You are at least one short of a consensus.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:17 PM
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181: Someone's grammar teacher isn't going to be please -- wanna try a re-write?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:19 PM
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183: You can't keep giving them second chances, Di, or else they'll never learn that in the real world there are consequences for poor performance.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:21 PM
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184: Good point.

Stormcrow -- please correctly type your sentence 100 times.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:22 PM
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Shit. And now I really wish there weren't a typo in 183...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:23 PM
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I agree with Idealist: A surprising amount of teaching can be taught. The problem is that before you can identify good techniques, you have to have some agreement about what the goals of teaching are. Education doesn't just impart skills, it shapes a person, and because different political factions have a different ideas about what sorts of people there should be, education is a natural battleground.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:25 PM
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Teaching's a skill. Like all skills, it can be taught and not everyone is good at it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:26 PM
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I want to live in bjk's world of all-powerful unions. Be careful, though; we just might force a living wage and a secure pension on everyone.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:27 PM
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being an academic is not the same thing as being a high school teacher

Absolutely true, I'm sorry to say. I wish I could arrogantly assert my ability to teach h.s. immediately, but I'm absolutely certain that I'd kind of suck at it for a year or two while I figured out what the hell I was doing.

Whether or not people bitch about credentialling courses /= evidence that a profession can't be taught.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:28 PM
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The problem is that before you can identify good techniques, you have to have some agreement about what the goals of teaching are.

To some extent this is true -- but there's plenty of scholarship out there about how people learn everything from how to reason to rote memorization. It's sort of like art in the sense that you can teach a great number of techniques while leaving it to the artist to select the most appropriate technique for the particular educational goal.

In fact, the very best teacher ed course I took was on the subject of School Law -- where the course focused not only on what legal principles applied to various situations, but how to apply those principles given different pedagogical goals.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:33 PM
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One small thing that might help education generally: for anti-union parents to refrain from impressing on their children that teachers are incompetent, lazy and overpaid. It isn't conducive to a good classroom environment.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:33 PM
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refrain from impressing on their children that teachers are incompetent, lazy and overpaid

I second this a billion times, and raise you Christian preachers warning students that all their teachers are satanists who want to take their Jesus away.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:35 PM
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117

IHHTTALE but suspension with pay is the product of the 14th Amendment. Public employees have a property right in their employment, and so the District has to give them due process before taking away their jobs. If the District wants a teacher out of the classroom immediately, it's got to put them on paid suspension, rather than unpaid.

I don't think this is correct. Lots of public employees are easier to fire than New York City teachers. And we aren't talking about a suspension of a few days until a hearing can be held, we are talking years and years.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:37 PM
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119

... and anything having to do with sex, which they have a hard time talking about. ...

Lots of high school students don't want to talk about sex for the same reason the guy in the movie "40-year old virgin" didn't want to talk about sex, they don't want to reveal how little they know.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:41 PM
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194: The length of time it takes to get to a hearing may well be a product of the union's efforts to ensure full due process. But the fact that there is suspension with pay pending hearing in the first place is really a 14th amendment issue; and the rubber room invention is a quirk of the New York school system. There are better (more efficient, more useful, less torturous) ways of keeping teachers out of the classroom while they're waiting for hearing.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:42 PM
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183-186:Someone's grammar teacher isn't going to be please[sic]

Someone's grammar teacher already had no illusions.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:42 PM
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127


But putting bright students at a significant disadvantage relevant to the instructor is a good thing, ...

If you want bright students to hate teachers for the rest of their lives maybe.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:43 PM
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all their teachers are satanists who want to take their Jesus away.

I'd like to know what district this is, please. Iris won't be Waldorf forever, you know.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:46 PM
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136

comments on why public schools won't do anything sensible, and no mention of unions?

Perhaps because unions have nothing to do with it. For the most part the problem isn't the schools, it's the kids but teachers make a convenient scapegoat.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:47 PM
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194, 196: I'm actually professionally involved in a third-hand kind of way in legal work relating to the firing of unionized public employees (this, unlike Big Tobacco, I don't feel bad about. Some people do have to be fired sometimes), and the ridiculous lengths of time it takes to do it are more a function of slack management than of negotiated contractual rights. There's nothing about the process people are due that it would be impossible to carry out briskly, it just ends up dragging out because management isn't keeping the tempo up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:47 PM
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they don't want to reveal how little they know.

A problem that has never, ever occurred on the internet.

There's a lesson here, somewhere.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:48 PM
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||

OK, this may be the very biggest WTF in the entire banking crisis:

WASHINGTON - The federal agency that insures bank deposits, which is asking for emergency powers to borrow up to $500 billion to take over failed banks, is facing a potential major shortfall in part because it collected no insurance premiums from most banks from 1996 to 2006. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insures deposits up to $250,000, tried for years to get congressional authority to collect the premiums in case of a looming crisis. But Congress believed that the fund was so well-capitalized - and that bank failures were so infrequent - that there was no need to collect the premiums for a decade, according to banking officials and analysts.
via Atrios

|>


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:50 PM
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I'm with bjk: the problem with our schools is illegal immigration.

I blame ACORN for bussing all those dark-skinned unqualified teachers with tenure into the suburbs.

There's a lot of focus on the skills and abilities of individual teachers. Gladwell wrote an article (New Yorker?) analogizing hiring techers to finding a really great quarterback.

I thought that one of the things that brought the rise of civilization was not that we had more outstandingly talented workers, but that we'd developed systems and methods for helping even the average worker to produce quantities of high quality goods.

So rather than try to find that 1 in 1,000 quarterback, why don't we just take an average quarterback and give her 10 extra blockers and a half dozen more receivers? Unlike with football, with teaching we can change the rules.

That seems to me to be the mistake about credentialism; it focusses on the teacher, rather than trying to change the system in ways that make it more difficult for individual teachers to fail. I thought we'd learned with airline pilots that having wonderful pilots is good, but having systems that keep average pilots from making mistakes is better.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:52 PM
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203: Words fail me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 2:53 PM
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204 is about how I see things. You can support teachers on the job a hell of a lot more than we currently do, and allow almost all of them to perform at the top of their capacity.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:00 PM
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201

I'm actually professionally involved in a third-hand kind of way in legal work relating to the firing of unionized public employees (this, unlike Big Tobacco, I don't feel bad about. Some people do have to be fired sometimes), and the ridiculous lengths of time it takes to do it are more a function of slack management than of negotiated contractual rights. There's nothing about the process people are due that it would be impossible to carry out briskly, it just ends up dragging out because management isn't keeping the tempo up.

Really? If the process allows management to drag things out they generally will. This is human nature. How often do you finish your briefs as soon as possible instead of at deadline?

And isn't it the case that is is easy for management to make small errors that are grounds for lengthy delays?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:00 PM
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203: Remind me to stop by the sewing store on the way home to buy a seam ripper. Mattress needs a little extra stuffing.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:04 PM
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How often do you finish your briefs as soon as possible instead of at deadline?

"Shut up," she explained.

Really? If the process allows management to drag things out they generally will.

I'm not clear what you mean by 'allows management to drag things out'. Any process or no process 'allows management to drag things out' -- they don't have to fire anyone on any schedule at all. In the cases I'm familiar with (not teachers), the excruciating length of the process is something that's as much a result of management dilatoriness as it is of the process due.

Sure, it's human nature to put things off that aren't urgent, but there's a huge difference between "Union contracts make it impossible to fire bad employees in a reasonably timely fashion" and "Union contracts make it annoyingly laborious to fire bad employees, so management tends to be slow about it." If firing people were more of a priority, it could be done faster. If it's not that big a priority, worrying about all the harm union contracts do seems misplaced.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:09 PM
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You can support teachers on the job a hell of a lot more than we currently do, and allow almost all of them to perform at the top of their capacity.

You could also eliminate the two weeks a year that they stop teaching in favor of running what may as well be an intensive bootcamp on how to perform well on state-mandated standardized tests. But that's probably a rant for another day.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:10 PM
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209.1 gets it exactly right!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:11 PM
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||
Emerson preƫmption: I'd do anything for love, but I wouldn't hire a certain someone as an op-ed columnist.
|>


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:11 PM
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212: That's still a massive improvelence over William Kristol.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:14 PM
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they don't want to reveal how little they know.

Something that always works out well in an educational setting!


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:16 PM
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213: As would be a conservative chimpanzee. And then they'd have someone who could rip off Dowd's arms and beat her with them. Always nice to kill two Villagers with one chimp.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:18 PM
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improvelence

Oh shit, I'm going to be saying this for weeks. WTG, apo.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:21 PM
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216: Context.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:29 PM
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215 is great.

You can support teachers on the job a hell of a lot more than we currently do, and allow almost all of them to perform at the top of their capacity.

Hmm. Maybe the two-bird-killing stone is a TA for every teacher in America. And instead of randomly throwing a few student teachers into classrooms for just long enough to get their feet wet and then leave, use the position as an internship* for non-certified wannabe teachers.

The reason I think this is clever is that it will weed out the wannabes who can't/won't cut it without wasting anyone's time (a TA who is smart but a bad pedagogue is still quite useful to a teacher, I would imagine), while reducing the problem of up-or-out.

The scenario: If you want to become a teacher w/o getting a certificate, you need to spend, say, 2 years** as a (decently compensated) TA, plus pass a simple written test. When you sign on, you commit to at least half a year, to minimize turnover (maybe you enforce this by withholding part of the pay until the 6 mos. are over - if you have to leave, fine, but you lose $$). A goodly percentage of these people will wash out, plus many will not become lifetime teachers regardless. Combine this with Yggles' idea, which I like, of rigorously evaluating and kicking out teachers after a ~3 year period (he says that studies support the idea that, after 3 years, you're as good as you're going to get, so that's the time to weed), and you've got a system that creates lots of turnover, but is selecting for more people who are good in the classroom, and fewer with teaching degrees.

Also, I think the TA position is potentially a good one, long term, for someone with just an HS degree - the clicheed teacher who teaches because they like to be in schools and like kids, but not because they're skilled pedagogues. Let them be in the classroom without incurring 50k in debt to get a degree they won't put to effective use.

* Used to be that there were 2 basic routes to becoming an architect: 5 years in school + 3 years interning or 13 years interning. They eliminated the latter route around the time I started school, but I think there was a lot of merit to it. Credentialism aside, I suspect that the knock against it was that, esp. in a CAD world, a draftsman doesn't nec. learn much about being an architect, and it takes a lot of oversight to ensure they're still learning after Year 1.
** I could be convinced that 1 year is enough, but that's not important


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:35 PM
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Two teachers in a classroom! Brilliant!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:36 PM
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I will bravely admit that I don't get "improvelence." Improvement + what?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:38 PM
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THAT'S IT, I'VE HAD IT! SOB. NEVERMIND. I WAS TALKING TO MYSELF, HERE IS YOUR COFFEE.


Posted by: OPINIONATED 12TH YEAR INTERN | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:40 PM
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Used to be that there were 2 basic routes to becoming an architect: 5 years in school + 3 years interning or 13 years interning.

Did I ever mention that my father the architect never quite graduated from any of the many and varied fine universities he attended? He (born 1938) is about the last of the generation who could do that -- work as a professional without a college degree and have no one think twice about it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:41 PM
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220: The correct equation is:

improvement - ment + lence


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:42 PM
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Merit pay for teachers is a terrible idea.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:45 PM
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Merit pay for teachers is a terrible idea.

Well then, we won't give it a raise. See how it works?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:47 PM
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I'm largely with 224, mostly because I can't see how to fairly evaluate 'merit'. Hardship pay, to entice better teachers to more difficult schools, that I could see.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:49 PM
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223: Thanks for nothing, honey.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:51 PM
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Yes, exactly. Hardship pay's an excellent idea.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:53 PM
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227: You're most welcome.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:54 PM
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Oh, man, I need to start working and I don't want to.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:55 PM
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230: See my 209.1.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:56 PM
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I kind of think you shouldn't start school until your eight. That would free up some money.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 3:59 PM
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I kind of think you shouldn't start school until your eight. That would free up some money.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:00 PM
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That would free up some money.

Sweet, then we could budget for seven years of daycare.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:03 PM
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I kind of think you shouldn't start school until your eight. That would free up some money.

So parents would have to pay for three extra years of full-time day care...that would be tough.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:04 PM
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You subsidize daycare, duh. Daycare's cheaper than school.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:04 PM
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Is daycare distinguishable from kindergarten?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:06 PM
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Replacing publicly-supported schools where kids are supposed to be learning with publicly-supported schools where kids aren't supposed to be learning sounds like a good idea, but I'd reserve it for ages 12 to 14 when kids are incapable of learning anyway.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:06 PM
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Is daycare distinguishable from kindergarten?

Yeah, you have to pay for it.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:07 PM
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I guess in the US case it wouldn't free up money for school, but it would free up money for subsidizing daycare, which would be very beneficial.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:07 PM
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I like 238. You wouldn't need even need day care. Put them to work in a factory or in the armed services for two years. Then, after they've worked out their preteenageriness, they can go to high school.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:09 PM
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I started school when I was seven, and I turned out alright.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:13 PM
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209

I'm not clear what you mean by 'allows management to drag things out'. Any process or no process 'allows management to drag things out' -- they don't have to fire anyone on any schedule at all. In the cases I'm familiar with (not teachers), the excruciating length of the process is something that's as much a result of management dilatoriness as it is of the process due.

Well of course management can initiate the firing process at any time but once initiated (as by putting someone on paid suspension) you could require a reasonably quick resolution. But the process is not set up that way.

Sure, it's human nature to put things off that aren't urgent, but there's a huge difference between "Union contracts make it impossible to fire bad employees in a reasonably timely fashion" and "Union contracts make it annoyingly laborious to fire bad employees, so management tends to be slow about it." If firing people were more of a priority, it could be done faster. If it's not that big a priority, worrying about all the harm union contracts do seems misplaced.

It's more like union contracts make it hard to fire bad employees but easy to stick them in the rubber room indefinitely. At that point management has no particular incentive to rush since that might end up with the teacher back in the classroom instead of fired. I don't think this is all that harmful actually, if I remember correctly less than 1% of New York City teachers are in the rubber room at any given time so it is costing less 1% of payroll.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:13 PM
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but it would free up money for subsidizing daycare, which would be very beneficial.

It would be great to have subsidized daycare, even without redirecting the money from the school system.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:18 PM
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re: 242

I started school when I was 4. I turned out alright.

I think we all think our national system is the best.

We should start them at 4, make them finish at 12 or 13 at which time they can go to the dark satanic mills, or dark satanic university.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:29 PM
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I agree with Schneider.

A lot of the training I received as a junior NCO and as a junior officer was about how to train people.

Based on the few living examples I've met, various branches of our military have done an unusually good job of distilling practical ways to teach mid-level leaders how to effectively give information to other people. I am not sure this is "teaching" per se. Well, it's definitely teaching, but the external factors are so different from the public schools that it might as well be a different verb.

The US has an eternal tug of war over what we think the goals of public schooling should be. There are enough passionately held and wildly different opinions that I do not think a military-style distillation would be helpful, because we can't agree on what should be distilled.

Re: credentialing. I have had occasion to spend a fair bit of time on this issue in one state. My experience is that unions don't have anything to do with creating credentials or much to do with enforcing state-level standards. Rather, they use credentials' existence to support their general goals -- just as a nurses union will advocate to say you should only use an R.N. for this task, and not an L.P.N.

Now, it's easy to disagree with this, especially because credentialing is such a blunt instrument that you can find lots of examples of good people being excluded for lack of a credential. But I don't think it means unions created the credentialing problem. (Plus, credentials protect people who might otherwise have to re-prove themselves with every new employer. "Omigod! He has a Russian accent! How can he be smart enough to teach math?")

The main complaint I have about credentials is how doggedly civil servants sometimes work to prevent "undesirable" candidates from making it through the process. I like standards just fine -- I don't want anybody bending the rules for airline pilots -- but my experience of educational standards is that the state puts a massive thumb on the scale in favor of forcing you back to school for a meaningless* teaching credential.

*Going by secondhand report of several trusted sources who were forced to sit through such courses.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:53 PM
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The US has an eternal tug of war over what we think the goals of public schooling should be. There are enough passionately held and wildly different opinions that I do not think a military-style distillation would be helpful, because we can't agree on what should be distilled.

Reason 3,923 why federalism sucks. Yes, yes, laboratories of democracy, yes, yes, adapting processes to local conditions, but if the country as a whole can't come down somewhere on what the goals of public schooling are (both philosophically and on the "a high school graduate should, at the minimum, have passed courses covering these enumerated topics" front), something's just not right.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:57 PM
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"Omigod! He has a Russian accent! How can he be smart enough to teach math?")

I think you have the stereotype backwards.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 4:58 PM
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Y'know why federalism really sucks? Because it means the opposite of what the name implies. I mean, what's up with that? Do the morons in the Federalist Society -- or whoever decides these things -- not know the difference between Jefferson's and Hamilton's views? Totally pisses me off.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 5:07 PM
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Reason 3,923 why federalism sucks.

Federalism would solve the problem of having 501 school boards in my one state, it's true. However, I doubt very much* that it would reconcile the people who believe the purpose of schooling is to promote obedience with those who believe the purpose is to promote curiosity. To cite just one example.

*s/b It definitely wouldn't and I'm cheerfully calling you nuts for suggesting it

I think you have the stereotype backwards.

Unfortunately, not in [small state capital].


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 5:09 PM
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Late to the thread, but I wondered about something: people mentioned that pedogogical training doesn't include crowd control nor parent control. ("Interactions with parents and community members," the subject would probably be called if it existed.) I'm not surprised by that, but I wonder why?

Is it because of institutional inertia? (That is, it's only been in the last 30 years or some short-by-cultural-standards period that teachers have needed to worry about that, and that's not long enough to develop accreditation and scholarship on that specifically and stuff; teaching methods change slowly.) Is it because of cultural inertia? (No one in charge of teaching programs wants to admit that some kids and parents don't respect them; they have to know, but choose to teach only to the eager or are daunted by the magnitude of the problem.) Or is it something else entirely?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 5:22 PM
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I think it does include 'crowd control' if by that we all mean classroom management/discipline -- it's just that it's a hard subject to teach academically.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 5:28 PM
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I don't agree at all that you can be a truly good teacher at the HS level without a deep knowledge of the subject matter. Trudge through a lesson plan and grade quizes with a pre-designed answer key, OK, but not be a really good teacher. There are certain concepts and practices are critical to the entire discipline that get introduced in an intro course, and unless you've operated in that discipline at a higher level you will not be able to identify those concepts and practices, know how to highlight them, what's really important about them, or how to make them interesting.

Imagine teaching a chemistry class and lab without any chemistry background, just having, say, a week or two to read the text before the students got there. Nightmare.

Oh, and if you want a truly paradisical teaching experience try a really good private school. I met someone who taught HS at Sidwell Friends (Malia and Sasha's school) and their job sounded really fun.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 5:35 PM
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251

... Is it because of cultural inertia? (No one in charge of teaching programs wants to admit that some kids and parents don't respect them ...

Nothing new about the lack of respect.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 5:40 PM
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How much of US teacher training is internship?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 5:52 PM
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it's only been in the last 30 years or some short-by-cultural-standards period that teachers have needed to worry about that

No; I think it's in the Laura Ingalls Wilder book Farmer Boy that there is a pretty chilling showdown involving the (young, male) schoolteacher, the class bully, and a whip. I'm pretty sure that control issues have existed for longer than formal education, and parent issues cannot possibly be disentangled from that.

But I think your question is really interesting. In fact, in my observation, teaching-training programs seem to stay far away from the kinds of practical skills that would be very useful to have. (How to communicate effectively with [not "to"] a wide range of parents, how to do an end-run around your bureaucracy when necessary, how to write grant proposals or creatively obtain equipment/opportunities/supplies your school lacks, etc.)

I suspect it's because a) teacher-training schools don't know where their teachers are going to end up teaching, and schools vary SO widely in the U.S., and b) there is a titanic amount of denial about what teachers actually end up doing.

N.b. I have some pretty strong biases on this topic, so you probably shouldn't listen to me on "b".


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 6:17 PM
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How much of US teacher training is internship?

(A) Each state has its own requiremenst for teacher training.

(B) Do you mean "how much" in terms of time or in terms of course units/credits, or what? Many (most?) teacher-training courses include a "student-teaching" component, which usually comes AFTER all of the coursework has been completed, and IME lasts for one semester, occasionally longer.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 6:23 PM
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256.last: Judging just from the conversations I've had with a friend who teaches 4th, 5th, 6th grades, (b) sounds about right. The rather absurd exercises he has to go though regularly in which he must show his work (his lesson plans, student evaluation notes, etc.) to higher-ups suggest that they believe that's an accurate reflection of what he actually does.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 6:35 PM
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That's a terrible, terrible system. You need to get people out there pretty soon, because it might turn out they're not cut out for teaching. And one semester isn't enough anyway. Crowd control and all kinds of skills is something you mostly learn in the classroom, and you should start learning that before you start working.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 6:40 PM
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To add to 256.1, my grandfather used to tell the story that sometimes when the teacher would go to relieve herself at lunchtime, the older boys of the school would throw big rocks at the door of the outhouse all afternoon to keep her in there and to keep class from starting up again.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 6:41 PM
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My sister studied teaching and aced nearly all the coursework, but realized it wasn't for her. If she hadn't gone out teaching kids she never would have before wasting four years.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 6:43 PM
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"I started school when I was 4. I turned out alright.

I think we all think our national system is the best."

I dunno, when it comes to schools every country seems to think theirs is the worst.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 6:46 PM
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My Dad's second wife needed about a month in the classroom as an assistant teacher to realize that her longheld dream of teaching hs math was completely wrong for her. She had focused more on math than on pedagogy, so she didn't lose much time.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 6:47 PM
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I don't see any point in making children sit in classrooms instead of playing and having fun if they don't end up more knowledgeable at 18, and the Nordics always did reasonably well.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 6:49 PM
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Well, you could start them earlier and graduate them younger, as seems to be the practice in Scotland if I understand nattarGcM correctly. Which would you rather, getting to be a carefree preschooler at seven, or being a secondary school graduate capable of being treated as an adult at sixteen? I dunno, but it's an interesting question.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 6:56 PM
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Which would you rather, getting to be a carefree preschooler at seven, or being a secondary school graduate capable of being treated as an adult at sixteen?

Both!


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 6:57 PM
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I don't see any point in making children sit in classrooms instead of playing and having fun if they don't end up more knowledgeable at 18

I've got to say, Anthroposophy is wack, but the Waldorf approach to early childhood is pretty right on, IMO/IME.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 7:16 PM
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266: I wonder if that wouldn't actually work. It's the kind of thing like citizen wages where I want some rich nation somewhere try it to see if it works, just not my nation.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 7:18 PM
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Oh, and if you want a truly paradisical teaching experience try a really good private school.

Or a really good magnet school. Our history and math teachers mostly had doctorates from quite excellent schools (Berkley, UofC, etc.), and they could just have a blast coming up with their own curriculum and teaching motivated kids smarter than any they'd find at all but the most elite colleges. It's not a solution to anything, but it's a sweet gig for those who can get it (and a gig that I'd like to see more of).


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 7:19 PM
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203 makes me wonder: why all this concern with "bad" teachers and their big bad teachers' unions when the American banking system is apparently all but insolvent and may well be on the verge of utter collapse? Shouldn't we be talking about merit pay (or perhaps demerit pay) for bankers?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 7:26 PM
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270: Further to 203 (I know I'm just piling on but ...), from the Boston Globe article referenced:

But James Chessen, chief economist of the American Bankers Association, said that it made sense at the time to stop collecting most premiums because "the fund became so large that interest income on the fund was covering the premiums for almost a decade." There were relatively few bank failures and no projection of the current economic collapse, he said.

"And I've smoked all my life and I ain't dead yet.", he added. (More Bankers Choose "It's All Good", than any other actuarial strategy.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:11 PM
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Shouldn't we be talking about merit pay (or perhaps demerit pay) for bankers?

Been tried, failed spectacularly. It was in all the papers. Still is, for that matter.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:52 PM
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260: yes, but they grew up well prepared for jobs as rock throwers.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 8:55 PM
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why all this concern with "bad" teachers and their big bad teachers' unions when the American banking system is apparently all but insolvent and may well be on the verge of utter collapse? Shouldn't we be talking about merit pay (or perhaps demerit pay) for bankers?

This reminds me of a post I read recently, can't remember where but it was on one of the big liberal blogs, about how so many students from elite school, instead of going into public service, had been drawn to high finance in recent years. The odd thing about the post is that it was critical of what happened in the financial world in a way that implied that the elite students and their bosses didn't run things so well, but then it swung back at the end to say that now that finance is such a mess and not so lucrative, maybe more of those elite graduates will go into other fields, and this would be a good thing because those fields could use more talent.

I'm all for talented people going into public service, but maybe it's time to rethink how talented many of the people who went into finance actually were?

<rant>Also: what's the deal with referring to economist/finance people as smart when it's not really relevant to the question at hand? Like "I'm sure Summers is smarter than me, but [criticism of policy]"? Who cares if he's smarter than you? And yet, for a while it's seemed almost obligatory to note smartness levels when talking about economic issues.</rant>


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:12 PM
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274: Also: what's the deal with referring to economist/finance people as smart when it's not really relevant to the question at hand?

I'm sure there's a good explanation that we just wouldn't be able to understand.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:17 PM
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I'm all for talented people going into public service, but maybe it's time to rethink how talented many of the people who went into finance actually were?

I started forming prejudices on this topic when I found out that people were actually getting hired/given raises based on their SAT scores.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:22 PM
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276: That's insane. So college was there to facilitate making connections, and to signal employability with a degree (content of learning not important).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:29 PM
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So college was there to facilitate making connections, and to signal employability with a degree (content of learning not important).

Water is wet, film at 11.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:32 PM
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278: I knew that was coming. But, in my ignorance of most private hiring practices, using SAT scores strikes me as extreme. Unless they were making people take them again, which would just seem very odd.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:36 PM
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277: Actually for some schools, admission pretty much signaled employability. Let the admission departments of the Ivies and equivalents do the heavy work of sorting 'em out. As CC says, stop the presses.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:37 PM
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Yes, I'm aware of all of that.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:38 PM
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Sorry, I'm just cranky, which I really shouldn't be since I heard good news about going back to school today.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:48 PM
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THAT'S BECAUSE A BIG CHUNK OF FINANCE IS JUST AN AMWAY PYRAMID FOR IVY LEAGUE GRADS


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:53 PM
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274

Also: what's the deal with referring to economist/finance people as smart when it's not really relevant to the question at hand? Like "I'm sure Summers is smarter than me, but [criticism of policy]"? Who cares if he's smarter than you? And yet, for a while it's seemed almost obligatory to note smartness levels when talking about economic issues.

Who says it's not relevant? I think it's relevant.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 9:57 PM
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279

I knew that was coming. But, in my ignorance of most private hiring practices, using SAT scores strikes me as extreme. Unless they were making people take them again, which would just seem very odd.

What's odd about it. Colleges find them useful, why wouldn't employers.

I am assuming it is easy to verify SAT scores. If not and employers are depending on self reporting that would be odd. And there are potential legal issues as with any employment test.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:02 PM
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282: Congrats!


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:10 PM
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What's odd about it. Colleges find them useful, why wouldn't employers.

Colleges are doing a lot more weeding than (these sorts of) employers, so blunt instrument tools like SATs are more valuable. Presumably, after 4 years at an elite college, a prospective employee has more useful data points than his performance on a wack standardized test they took on a random Saturday morning in their HS cafeteria.

And giving raises based on said wackness is just nuts. This person is working for you 60 hrs/week, and you're basing his compensation on some test he took 5+ years ago?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:33 PM
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Thanks. Still nothing official, but good news.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:35 PM
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274: I think it's been pretty well established that most entities in finance were actually acting rationally during the bubble - it was much harder to make money by being right in 2007 than by being wrong, and come 2009, you'd already be unemployed for having failed to make money in 2007.

Point being, while there was clearly stupidity on Wall St (a lot of these folks evidently didn't know how stupid the system was), having worked on Wall St during the bubble isn't prima facie evidence that you would have fucked up, say, civil engineering had you followed that path instead.

Not that I'm unsympathetic to your overall point. I'm pretty nauseated by the obligatory shibboleths about how smart the assholes who are ruining our country* are.

* I'm looking at you, Scalia.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:37 PM
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Good news is good news, and worth celebrating.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:37 PM
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having worked on Wall St during the bubble isn't prima facie evidence that you would have fucked up, say, civil engineering had you followed that path instead.

As opposed to prima facie evidence that you'd have been reasonably likely to cut corners and sign off on a design you knew was bad, so long as a) everyone else was doing it and b) there was some material gain for you.

Overall it seems like pretty good evidence that a number of these guys are exactly the sort you don't want in any position of responsibility that depends on their character, really. Which says nothing to the issue of actually finding good people for that, or designing systems reliant on them.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:41 PM
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287: Hush, JRoth. I'll happily sit the SAT again if there's money in it. I'd have to get a real job, though, wouldn't I?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:45 PM
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287


Colleges are doing a lot more weeding than (these sorts of) employers ...

Really? I thought finance jobs were very competitive.

... Presumably, after 4 years at an elite college, a prospective employee has more useful data points than his performance on a wack standardized test they took on a random Saturday morning in their HS cafeteria.

And colleges can also look at four years of high school grades. One advantage of SAT scores is that they are standardized. How do you compare grades at Harvard to Yale or MIT or Cornell? And nothing prevents you from looking at other things also.

And giving raises based on said wackness is just nuts. This person is working for you 60 hrs/week, and you're basing his compensation on some test he took 5+ years ago?

Lots of places pay more if you have a Phd vrs a Masters (vrs a Bachelors) even if you have the same job performance.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 10:58 PM
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Yay, EB!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:04 PM
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I would also like to send along a good huzzah! to eb. I hope it was a good one.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-11-09 11:22 PM
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Also: what's the deal with referring to economist/finance people as smart when it's not really relevant to the question at hand? Like "I'm sure Summers is smarter than me, but [criticism of policy]"? Who cares if he's smarter than you? And yet, for a while it's seemed almost obligatory to note smartness levels when talking about economic issues.

Heh. Journalists do this a lot about all kinds of people. They always go for the 'he's a genius' [and it's usually 'he'] angle and often on the flimsiest evidence. Or on the evidence of little more than a bit of fly self-marketing.

" "I'm sure Summers is smarter than me...

And of course, the natural response to that is , "I'm sure he's fucking not".


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 1:22 AM
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As far as people going into finance who would have gone into other things, I've never read that as being about the connected Ivy twits, particularly: those people will always find some kind of life-sucking sinecure. Rather I figured it was about people of a scientific or mathematical bent who were lured by the giant dollars and gave basically sound technical answers to poorly formed problems ("How do we squeeze more money out of this, given reasonable assumptions from the last 10 years?") posed by non-technical management. Those people would do perfectly fine if they had been trained as (say) engineers, because the risk management outlook at a civil engineering firm is predicated on much different assumptions (vastly greater cost of loss -- especially given that financial institutions seem like they may well have been pricing in a systemic bailout, and a much more stable underlying system). It was a matter of incentives, greed, and short-sightedness, rather than incompetence per se.

Which is not to say that a lot of incompetents looking for easy money didn't flood the finance world, especially at the lower rungs. Especially on the mortgage side (I know multiple people whose job trajectory has been club promoter -> internet marketer -> club promoter -> mortgage broker). But I never figured those were the people that were under discussion when you hear about talented college graduates forgoing careers in (say) molecular biology.

Maybe I'm wrong?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 1:37 AM
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Imagine teaching a chemistry class and lab without any chemistry background, just having, say, a week or two to read the text before the students got there. Nightmare.

I absolutely could do this. I'm pretty sure that my mum has done it (not with chemistry because she was a chemist, but definitely with some other subject)

I don't agree at all that you can be a truly good teacher at the HS level without a deep knowledge of the subject matter. Trudge through a lesson plan and grade quizes with a pre-designed answer key, OK, but not be a really good teacher.

Much avoidable human inconvenience is a result of defining the "acceptable minimum" at a level above the average.

"I'm sure Summers is smarter than me...

As I once wrote, "Being extremely intelligent is rather like fucking sheep - once you've got a reputation for either, it's extremely difficult to get rid of it. If someone was, at some long gone time in the past, a boy genius or an academic superstar, then they're "incredibly smart" for life, no matter how many stupid things they actually say or do."


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 1:41 AM
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Sure, the first few chemistry labs are easy -- dry ice bomb! Thermite! Napalm! But then what?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 1:46 AM
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people of a scientific or mathematical bent who were lured by the giant dollars and gave basically sound technical answers to poorly formed problems

nooop, Dilbert. This is the Nuremberg defence put up by the quants and risk managers and it is not how it happened. If what they had been asked for was a simple answer to a question already posed, then the whole industry would have been outsourced to India and there would never have been such big salaries in the first place.

They were asked for an answer to the question "Could you give us a useful measure of the risks facd by our business please?", which is a problem-solving question of the type people get paid big money for.

They then absolutely failed in the primary professional duty of engineers. They didn't know how to answer the question given, and so they hashed together a heuristic solution based on techniques they had already to hand, didn't explore the circumstances on which it might fail, and presented it as being more reliable than it was. Top managers trusted their answers because they thought they were dealing with professionals and they weren't.

I have a serious problem with the ethics of the quantiative risk management community, considered as engineers. They operated on the same standards as the First Tay Bridge. If they went back into mechanical engineering, I would not willingly cross a bridge they designed.


Posted by: derauqsd | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 1:46 AM
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The linked commentisfree piece in 298 is excellent.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 1:50 AM
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I'd like to at least be Dogbert.

Anyhoo, I agree that they failed in the primary professional duty of engineers, but if you look at the history of engineering (filtered in my case through Henry Petroski), engineers failed at the professional duties of engineers often enough until a level of professionalization and regularization and licensing and whathaveyou pervaded the industry.

Anyhow I don't think our phrasing of the question is that far off; the answer "no." to the question "could you give us a useful measure of the risks faced by our business, please?" would be unlikely to catapult a green young mathematical mind into the ranks of hedge fund zillionaires.

I absolutely agree that there is moral culpability, and tremendous ethical failures, but I see those as systemic, products of poor training, lax management, and shitty professional standards, rather than as indicative of some kind of fundamental incompetence.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 1:53 AM
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Also, some of the comments in the cif piece are amusingly narked.

"There are too geniuses...."


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 1:53 AM
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I'm annoyed with 302 for various reasons. I should say, I'm perfectly happy to treat anybody currently involved in risk management or quanting (I mean, "quants"? What the fuck? I hate that term.) at any kind of large financial firm is damaged goods and should be shunned (and unemployable) from here on out.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 2:09 AM
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the answer "no." to the question "could you give us a useful measure of the risks faced by our business, please?" would be unlikely to catapult a green young mathematical mind into the ranks of hedge fund zillionaires

yesbut - the whole point about professional status is that you're meant to give honest and accurate answers to questions in your area of professional expertise, even when it's financially inconvenient for you to do so. Otherwise you're just a grubby little businessman like the rest of us.

And IME, the engineering-background quants were unbelievably greedy, for money and status, even by the standards of an industry not noted for Albert Schweitzers. They weren't reluctantly pushed into making these models - they actively promoted them (Felix Salmon is about right with his Wired article about the evangelists of the Gaussian copula industry, though he doesn't really capture the sheer arrogance and hucksterism). They've learned so many bad habits that if I were you, I wouldn't let them back into engineering (even software engineering).


Posted by: derauqsd | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 2:17 AM
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comity!


Posted by: derauqsd | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 2:22 AM
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I would have hoped the idea that engineers are anything other than grubby little businessmen like the rest of us had died with the dotcom boom. It's not like there's some magic engineering pill that makes people square jawed, buzzcut exemplars of honest competence. The profession developed the professional standards it has because whatever railroad baron would pillory you and your firm if your iron railroad bridge collapsed (or in later years, you wouldn't get the big DoD bucks if your missile didn't blow up good). There is definitely a sense in which math/science/engineer/computer nerd-y people are motivated by interesting problems as well as (or more than) money, but, again, the question of whether this propensity necessarily leads to ethical ends would seem to have been well settled by the Manhattan Project. The fact that global financial markets are so heavily interdependent, combined with the fact that everybody, from Greenspan to the traders to the quants to the assholes selling ARMs on outhouses was too diverted tossing the giant bags of money to and fro to wonder what the fuck was going on, means that you have the financial equivalent of every railroad bridge in Britian collapsing on top of the crystal palace, but I don't know that the greed and malevolence of human nature was any greater in this case, nor particularly more abetted by gross incompetence, than in other great disasters.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 2:30 AM
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I'm all for talented people going into public service, but maybe it's time to rethink how talented many of the people who went into finance actually were?

I think you can safely assume that, just as for any given country the number of people who would ever make excellent teachers


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 2:36 AM
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I'm curious to hear more about the copula hucksterism, actually. Reading Salmon's article it seemed sort of blindingly obvious that building a correlation model based on the movements of a (less than a decade old, right?) relatively untested secondary market was a profoundly overenthusiastic embrace of the efficient market hypothesis. But I don't know what I'm talking about, so maybe there's more to it?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 2:40 AM
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Sorry, that should be:

I think you can safely assume that, just as for any given country the number of people who would ever make excellent teachers is less than the number of positions needed to ensure a credentialled adult in every classroom (Special theory of human inadequacy), the number of people in any given field who are as talented as the people hiring would like them to be is always less than the number of jobs apparently requiring talented people to fill them (General theory of human inadequacy).

HTML sucks.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 2:41 AM
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310: "HTML sucks."

GOTO considered harmful.

Eccl. 1:9.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 4:05 AM
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re: 310

To which I'd add some kind of lemma that the number of jobs that actually require talent --- rather than just a reasonable level of basic intelligence, some basic social skills, and a moderate lack of sloth* --- is much lower than we generally like to think.

* come to think of it, that's maybe not that common. Consider myself auto-pwned ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 4:42 AM
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305: the whole point about professional status is that you're meant to give honest and accurate answers to questions in your area of professional expertise, even when it's financially inconvenient for you to do so. Otherwise you're just a grubby little businessman like the rest of us.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 5:00 AM
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It's turtles moral hazard all the way down.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 5:07 AM
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Tacking back to a couple of older topics.

B--if you want to try teaching, why don't youlookinto private schools? I know that's not the population you want to serve ultimately, but youcoulddoit to get a senseof whether that;s something you might like at all.

Teaching credential stuff is all over the map. The California Bar doesn't have reciprocity with anyone,so you have to take the exam to practice even if you havelots of experience elsewhere. Teacher credentialing is so much morecomplicated and they get paid less. I know somebody who had a Masters in Education from an Ivy League school--Harvard,I think--then taught for several years in Northern Virginia. For family reasons, she moved back to Massachusetts, To teach in MA, she'd have to take a whole bunch of classes at her own expense--basically do an entire program. She was already kind of burnt out on teaching special ed, so she's doing something else.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 5:50 AM
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I thought the point of conceding that people were "really smart" was that you could move straight to talking about whether or not they were wrong instead of getting derailed by arguments about whether or not they were smart people. If you start talking about those morons in finance who screwed everything up, you're suddenly in a completely irrelevant discussion of the personal qualities of quants generally. If you focus on what happened, and concede that the people responsible for the mess were personally brilliant (whether or not it's true), you can talk about the subject actually at hand.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 6:00 AM
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re: 316

That isn't the way these things tend to go, though. How often do you see articles in which someone is described as 'really smart' where the journalist then goes into a point-by-point demolition of their world-view? Or of some policy position with which they are identified?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 6:10 AM
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316. In principle I'm sure you're right. But it's a fine line between saying, "These are really stupid people" and "These are smart people who consistently over a long period acted really stupidly". If you're talking about the morons in finance, you're going to have to assert the latter eventually. And that goes for most examples ("Matt Prior is a world class wicket keeper, but he hasn't performed adequately in an international match yet" - Am I really allowing that Matt Prior is a world class wicket keeper?)


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 6:25 AM
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291
As opposed to prima facie evidence that you'd have been reasonably likely to cut corners and sign off on a design you knew was bad, so long as a) everyone else was doing it and b) there was some material gain for you.

Well, true, but isn't that the important part? In engineering, civil or otherwise, rewards are more closely tied to quality work. It's not perfect - quality often isn't apparent until years later and incompetent people can hide in bureaucracies and stuff - but it's closer than on Wall Street, where all the schmucks who got us into this mess got rich and probably won't suffer any consequences at all. Or maybe I should say that quality work is more closely tied to the public good in engineering than on Wall Street. Either way, (b) pushes towards Madoff in the financial sector but Dilbert in engineering.

If there's any private industry where we really shouldn't have to rely on people being good people to prevent things from getting fucked up, it's the financial world. (See deregulations, criticisms of.) Money is based on faith enough as it is, it's too hard to notice when the people aren't good, the incentives are highest there...

Relatedly, I love that the infamous, biggest individual swindler in all this is named Madoff. I pronounce it Made-off, and I don't care how he does.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 7:36 AM
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317, 318: Yeah, I think the intent of acknowledging the 'smartness' of all the finance industry fuckups is as I described, but that doesn't mean it works in practice.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 7:42 AM
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infamous, biggest individual swindler in all this is named Madoff.

I may have brought this up before, but any student of nineteenth century English novels would have known better than to invest their money with a wildly successful financier with a two-syllable name starting with M. Melmotte, Merdle, Madoff... need I say more?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 7:45 AM
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I do think that 319 gets at an important point. Indeed, I selected civil engineering as my off-the-cuff alternate profession because it's precisely the sort of profession that rewards care and conservatism. I've not dealt with one yet who was willing to go outside SOP, no matter how many examples of other places where SOP differed and worked just fine. You all may be right that, historically, there's nothing inherent to the job of civ-E that entails care and conservatism, but in the great here and now, civ-Es are overwhelmingly careful and conservative, because that's where the rewards lie. The rewards lay elsewhere in finance.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 7:49 AM
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322: Are you baiting a w-lfs-n trap with those last two sentences?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 8:02 AM
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Back to teachers:

I just listened to the TAL thing last night, and either it was wildly inaccurate, or the role of the teachers' union in the 'rubber room' phenomenon is very odd. As presented in the story, one of the things that makes being assigned to the 'rubber room' so unpleasant is that there's no visible process -- you're there for an indeterminate length of time, and then either you get sent back to a school or fired. But it doesn't appear that people are waiting for scheduled hearings, or moving through a grievance procedure, which is what I assumed was going on; I'm not sure how this can be.

I suppose I should do some more reading about it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 8:09 AM
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Never mind, "wildly inaccurate" on that point seems to sum it up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 8:14 AM
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323: Tense change, MM.

Never mind, "wildly inaccurate" on that point seems to sum it up.

Et tu, TAL?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 8:29 AM
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Tense change, MM.

Yes, I realize. Which is what makes it such a clever trap.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 8:33 AM
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"Today we're in search of the wild littlebitch. We've set out a tricky tense change with two of the most-misused words in its idiom. Let's see what happens!"


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 8:44 AM
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You can do better than that. "What makes it such a clever trap? The reason is because of the tense change."


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 8:48 AM
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Also: what's the deal with referring to economist/finance people as smart when it's not really relevant to the question at hand?

the legitimating myth of the meritocratic class is that individual IQ is a more important contributer to productivity than collective systems and institutions are.

I don't know that the greed and malevolence of human nature was any greater in this case, nor particularly more abetted by gross incompetence, than in other great disasters.

the point is you had a broad social agreement that greed was a good and beneficial way to organize the financial system, a positive motivation, so the financial system had a greed-based collective culture.

It's positive to idealize engineers a bit right now because they have a professional collective culture that's insulated from personal greed. That may have happened in the first place for prudential reasons on the part of their corporate masters, but that's still OK, the important thing is pointing to alternative collective cultures.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 8:52 AM
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When I applied for a job in those industries, you didn't have to get your SAT score sent to them by ETS, but you had to put it on your resume.

I don't think that you had to mention your verbal score, just the math one. What they were interested in finding out was how well you did mathematical calculations quickly.

I have heard that people at McKinsey go around talking about what their SAT scores were at parties.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 8:56 AM
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the legitimating myth of the meritocratic class is that individual IQ is a more important contributer to productivity than collective systems and institutions are.

Yes, I think that's right; that it's (an egregious) part of the legitimating myth, I mean.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:01 AM
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I like to think of the Unfogged community as a knife to the heart of that myth. All the collective IQ anyone could want, and none of the productivity.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:07 AM
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Of course the original book was, in itself, a knife to that myth. Not that you'd know it from crass latter-day polticians chucking about the word as if it was a positive term.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:18 AM
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333: Yes!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:19 AM
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I like to think of the Unfogged community as a knife to the heart of that myth. All the collective IQ anyone could want, and none of the productivity.

Or, take the meritocratic myth as an axiom, and we learn that the productivity measure should be reformulated. Perhaps cock jokes per capita, pwns per hour, or speed of adoption of new ideas like pause/play.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:24 AM
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I daydream occasionally about seeing embarrassing confessions made in some other venue under the name of "George Washington".


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:27 AM
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I heard once that the only predictive correlation between SAT scores and success in life was that high scorers tended to do better in the first year of college.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:28 AM
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re: 338

I presume also that [per 331] telling people your SAT score at parties is correlated with being a prat ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:38 AM
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337: Don't dream it, be it, LB.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:43 AM
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339: But only if it's a very high SAT score.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:45 AM
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"It's George Washington, father, and my last confession was, um, let's say 230 years ago."


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:47 AM
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I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet


Posted by: George Washington | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 9:57 AM
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telling people your SAT score at parties is correlated with being a prat

being a ... who are you and what have you done with ttaM?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:08 AM
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343: I suppose when one has, like, 30 goddamn dicks, the gruesome consequences of "doing it" with a hatchet are no big deal.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:12 AM
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339, 344: See, you know how annoying people are always saying that avoiding profane language actually increases the rhetorical impact of what you're saying?

Proof that it works.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:12 AM
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re: 344

I'm not entirely sure what you mean...

[I do have grammar blindness with some things, so if it's a W-lfs-nian grammar error, I plead guilty.]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:14 AM
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re: 346

I couldn't use even a fraction of the profanity on-line that I'd use in speech, and the amount of profanity I use in speech these days is a tiny fraction of the amount I used to use.

Even the most profanity laden piece of gritty Loach-style film dialogue doesn't come close to how much people really swear in some places.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:17 AM
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I may have misunderstood dsquared, but I believed him to be pointing out the peculiar way in which you misspelled 'cunt'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:18 AM
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I don't really recall ttam calling people cunts left and right. Maybe you think he does because he's Scottish?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:19 AM
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All those UK people look alike to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:25 AM
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re: 351

There are only about 50 of us. That's why the same actors keep appearing in all those movies.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:27 AM
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It's not so much the avoidance of "cunt" as the use of "prat" which is a really prissy English quasi-swear-word. I don't think it exists in Scottish vernacular at all; someone's obviously been hanging round the Thames Valley far too long. Will ye no go back again, ttaM?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:29 AM
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He's probably sugaring his porridge by now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:31 AM
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re; 354

I always did. In my experience the only Scots who bang on about salting their porridge are middle-aged men who want you to know they're hard.

re: 353

Heh. True.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:33 AM
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So on the Great Expectations front, there's this:

"Mr. and Mrs. Hubble might like to see you in your new gen-teel figure too, Pip," said Joe, industriously cutting his bread, with his cheese on it, in the palm of his left hand, and glancing at my untasted supper as if he thought of the time when we used to compare slices. "So might Wopsle. And the Jolly Bargemen might take it as a compliment."

"Cutting his bread" is obviously masturbation, and the "cheese" is--of course--a PENIS. You people are so blind!


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:53 AM
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355
In my experience the only Scots who bang on about salting their porridge are middle-aged men who want you to know they're hard.

This is the Scottish version of "American Pie," I take it.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:57 AM
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civ-Es are overwhelmingly careful and conservative, because that's where the rewards lie.

Some of it may be rewards, but some of it is training. My school worked very actively to instill careful and conservative as the only possible approach.

My main professor was adamant about showing work and proceding carefully and adhering to standards and doing things the one right way. I asked him one day where he learned that, and he told me that in Vietnam, he defused mines. Yes. Well. That would give one an appreciation for the One Right Way.

I also think it has to do with designing things that will really exist. Flaws will show and buildings will fall and if you're wrong about the physics, there will never ever be an exception from gravity or winds to hide your mistakes and save you.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 10:58 AM
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re: 357

Ouch.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 11:02 AM
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360

Careful -- that porridge is hot.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 11:03 AM
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351: All those UK people look alike to me.

Kentucky—4 million people, 120 counties, 26 surnames.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 11:04 AM
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356: You're not even going to touch the "when we used to compare slices" bit?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 11:07 AM
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Kentucky--4 million people, 120 counties, 26 surnames.

You must be from Indiana.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 11:09 AM
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362: I left that as an exercise for the reader, along with "glancing at my untasted supper."


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 11:11 AM
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re: 360

Aye, but at least it disnae huv sugar oan it. I might hae a scarred todger, but at least ah'm no a jessie wi' a scarred todger .. etc


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 11:13 AM
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363: I got yelled at by someone here when I did a similar joke about West Virginia. And Louisville does not count as part of Kentucky for the purposes of this exercise*, assume population and county numbers are adjusted accordingly.

*But Evansville and parts of Cincinnati and Dayton do.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 11:19 AM
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337:

Indeed.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 11:33 AM
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And Louisville does not count as part of Kentucky for the purposes of this exercise

Parts of it probably do, but it's full of surprises. The last time I visited my parents I was surprised to see that a halal grocery had opened in their not-very-cosmopolitan part of town.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 11:39 AM
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Layton's The Revolt of the Engineers convinced me that engineering pretty much rolled over for the grubby businessmen a while ago, despite having some countervailing professional norms.

Tangentially; are professors a profession? Do they ever actually profess, that is, publicly swear to uphold some explicit code of conduct? I've asked people in grad school and gotten confused looks from all the people to whom 'professional' means 'good desk job' and a sort of amused look from the one professor who probably did know what I meant. I'm feeling slightly cooled out here.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 11:50 AM
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Teachers (and professors) claim to be professionals, but seem bizarrely unwilling to defend their professional status when it comes under attack by bureaucrats. They do have the twin hallmarks of the professions though:

1) providing the service that they think their customers should have, rather than what their customers want.

2) assuming for themselves a special moral status because of the job they do.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 12:32 PM
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370
1) providing the service that they think their customers should have, rather than what their customers want.

There sure are a lot of unprofessional people in professions, then, considering all the lawyers giving illegal advice on request, doctors prescribing medicine that their customers decided they needed when they saw it in a TV ad... This is entirely possible, of course.

2) assuming for themselves a special moral status because of the job they do.

This describes some people in all trades, then. A member of the road crew, for example, has a dirty job but somebody has to do it and if he didn't then no one could go about their normal life.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 1:15 PM
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The other thing about the professions is that they're supposed to enforce some exits, as well as bar some entrances, yes? (This ties into the case of Yoo; I believe one strategy is to get him disbarred as a lawyer, and then fired from the University on those grounds, but you'd think professors of a university would have some ancient creaky system for defrocking one of their own. What's the official case in event of 'dead girl live boy'? Moral turpitude? NLU?)

370, 1): Layton's issue may be that the clients of engineering, the profession, are the public, but the clients of engineering, the career, are corporations.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 2:01 PM
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358: Architects can plant vines, but only if the engineering holds up! One of my many grudges against Frank Lloyd Wright is that Fallingwater apparently only stands because the builder contravened Wright's orders and made it strong enough.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 2:02 PM
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I'm going to violate convention and go back to the original subject, because this interesting article popped up today (courtesy of the teacher friend I mentioned earlier):
No Math Teacher Shortage, Study Says


This is a big part of the problem. There is so much head scratching about how to inspire people to pursue teaching in math and science, when the fact is we would not have such a voracious appetite if so many new teachers did not bail within a few years.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 2:33 PM
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373: How many grudges do you have against FLW?

I assume you know that his interns would also sneak extra steel into his cantilevers.

The odd thing about Wright is that his structural intuition wasn't bad, but he was just obsessed with going beyond the limits of his materials. Fallingwater is structurally very clever; I don't know why he insisted that it be under-reinforced (it's not as if the observer could admire the absence of rebar).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 3:29 PM
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375: Only three big ones. After that, I stopped reading.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 3:38 PM
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extra steel into his cantilevers.

IYKWIM.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 3:41 PM
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373

... Fallingwater apparently only stands because the builder contravened Wright's orders and made it strong enough.

Strong enough not to fail immediately. It would probably have failed eventually. See here (pdf file) . Wright's behavior was quite reckless contrary to portrait of engineers in some of the comments above.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 4:32 PM
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378: I thought that portrait above was comparing conservative engineer types to reckless architect types like Wright.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 4:39 PM
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Fallingwater apparently only stands because the builder contravened Wright's orders and made it strong enough.

Also a problem: indoor mosquitos. Or so I've heard.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 4:43 PM
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the number of jobs that actually require talent --- rather than just a reasonable level of basic intelligence, some basic social skills, and a moderate lack of sloth* --- is much lower than we generally like to think

OTOH, given the level of sloth around here, we're obviously all talented as hell or we'd be standing on street corners holding signs that say "Hungry, Please Help."


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 4:44 PM
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381: Or,

"||

Hungry, Please Help. IYKWIM

|>"


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 4:51 PM
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here is a nyt article on the rubber room:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/education/10education.html


Posted by: Lemmy Caution | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 5:03 PM
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Minneapolitan knows a guy who is an expert on roadside attractions, and apparently a Wright-hater in Wisconsin spent hundreds of thousands of dollars building an completely tacky anti-FLW structure.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 7:01 PM
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Also a problem: indoor mosquitos.

Also a problem: relentless sound of—what else?—falling water. Some claim to find it soothing. But 24/7? I'm sure it would drive me nuts.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 7:08 PM
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384: Apparently there is a gas station designed by FLW in Minnesota, but it is up in Cloquet.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 7:09 PM
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Fallingwater is one of the greatest works of art I have ever seen in person. It's a work of genius.

the number of jobs that actually require talent --- rather than just a reasonable level of basic intelligence, some basic social skills, and a moderate lack of sloth* --- is much lower than we generally like to think

Spoken like a true white-collar slacker. My experience is that most jobs require a good deal of talent, but there is a kind of collective conspiracy to ignore the mediocrity of the average performance. Which I am grateful for and participate in.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 7:18 PM
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Spoken like a true white-collar slacker.

That wasn't my intent at all. Hence the footnote that maybe that combination wasn't actually all that common.

I also didn't mean to imply that lots of jobs don't require job-specific skills. Being good at your job involves being good at something, after all. But I'd resist the notion of 'talent' where talent meant anything more than being not-dumb, and not-lazy, and prepared to learn how to do whatever it is that one needs to learn how to do.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-12-09 7:37 PM
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378
Strong enough not to fail immediately. It would probably have failed eventually. See here (pdf file) . Wright's behavior was quite reckless contrary to portrait of engineers in some of the comments above.

Again, everything's relative. Wright's engineer was reportedly more cautious than him, but even Wright was more cautious than, to totally randomly pick a name associated with a multi-billion dollar bailout of the financial industry, Neil Bush.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-13-09 9:41 AM
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385, 387: I'm with PGD. Or, greatest work of art I'm not sure about, but I immediately and absolutely wanted to move in -- it's immensely appealing as a house. Were I a wealthy person of the era, I would have seen Fallingwater once, and hired Wright to build me something equally beautiful instantly.

And then of course the roof would have leaked and the cantilevers would have failed and I would have been annoyed. Counterfactual rich people can't catch a break.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-13-09 10:00 AM
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It is not all that uncommon for designs on houses and buildings to be overridden by the construction crew when they figure out that the blueprints won't actually work given, e.g., spacetime and gravity.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-13-09 10:26 AM
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I'm totally willing to believe that FLW was a genius; just an evil genius.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03-13-09 12:49 PM
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