Cal State Campuses Overwhelmed by Remedial Needs

Cal State campuses overwhelmed by remedial needs
@ the Mercury News

Few instructors believe the 15-hour Early Start courses will ease the burden for remedial students or the university, said Jim Postma, a Cal State Chico chemistry professor and chairman of the system-wide Academic Senate.

If half the students eligible for the Cal State system are unable to handle college work, he said, California is in bad shape.

“It’s a terrible indictment of the K-through-12 system,” Postma said. “If a factory was building cars and the lug nuts kept falling off the tires, you would do something pretty dramatic about it. We keep adding the lug nuts back to the tires rather than trying to figure out what the problem is.”

Given the number of recent Asian immigrants who are likely applying to California schools, I can see why the demand for remedial English instruction is on the rise. Personally, I’m more concerned about the demand for remedial math instruction. There’s no excuse for the public schools’ failures there.

How Kim Jong Il Starved North Korea

How Kim Jong Il Starved North Korea
@ the Atlantic

Agriculture has always been a dicey proposition in North Korea, where the cold, mountainous terrain is short on high-quality farmland. A normal economy could cope by importing food. But during the 1980s, the North Korean government embarked on a policy of radical self-sufficiency known as juche. Farmers were expected to overcome mother nature and grow enough crops to feed the entire population. To do it, they relied on heaps of chemical fertilizer. But that crutch was yanked away in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The demise of the USSR threw North Korea’s entire economy into chaos, and agriculture was among its most important casualties. Without imports of cheap fuel (self-sufficiency had its limits), the country’s industrial base fractured, and production of fertilizer dwindled. Farm yields plummeted, and the government started a campaign urging citizens to consume less. Its cheery slogan: “Let’s eat only two meals a day.”

It was against this background that the Kim Jong Il took power. The country was at a crossroads, says Marcus Noland, a leading expert on North Korea at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. With the USSR gone, the prospects for a small, isolated, neo-Stalinist regime looked rather grim. The government could have opened up its economy, much like Vietnam did with great success. Instead, North Korea chose to stay frozen in time.

I keep forgetting to ask my South Korean bosses what they think about Kim Jong Il’s death. I’m sure their opinions would be very interesting.

War on Christmas Update

This is the article SABR Matt mentioned in the comments two posts ago:

Merry War on Christmas
by Mark Steyn @ the National Review

This year has been a choice year. A crucified skeleton Santa Claus was erected as part of the “holiday” display outside the Loudoun County courthouse in Virginia — because, let’s face it, nothing cheers the hearts of moppets in the Old Dominion like telling them, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus — and he’s hanging lifeless in the town square.”

*facepalm*

At times, I really hate my neighbors.

Confirming What We Already Know: Middle School Sucks

Study Links Academic Setbacks to Middle School Transition
@ Education Week

While policymakers and researchers alike have focused on improving students’ transition into high school, a new study of Florida schools suggests the critical transition problem may happen years before, when students enter middle school.

The study, part of the Program on Education Policy and Governance Working Papers Series at Harvard University, found that students moving from grade 5 into middle school show a “sharp drop” in math and language arts achievement in the transition year that plagues them as far out as 10th grade, even risking thwarting their ability to graduate from high school and go on to college. Students who make a school transition in 6th grade are absent more often than those who remain in one school through 8th grade, and they are more likely to drop out by 10th grade.

This is just a theory based on my own personal experience, but I think the reasons for the drop in academic performance are physiological and social in nature. Kids at that age are entering puberty, which means a big change in the hormones swirling around their bodies and brains. They become more concerned about the opinions of their classmates, more self-conscious with regards to their physical development, and less able to modulate their emotions. At the same time, the peer group becomes nastier. The kids I teach at work who are in that age range have all reported bullying issues at their schools. Among the girls, the dominant problems are teasing, rumor-spreading, and cliquishness. Among the boys, things get a little more physical. But no matter the gender of the students in question, early adolescents seem especially concerned with enforcing social conformity; if you are the least bit different, you get attacked.

The problem with the middle school model – as opposed to the K-8 model used by most private schools – is that it adds an educational transition on top of all the biological and psychological issues discussed above. Not only do kids entering middle school have to deal with their changing bodies and their changing emotions, but they also have to deal with a whole new school environment in which they have six or seven different teachers and are required to move from classroom to classroom throughout the day. Moreover, when you enter middle school, you’re suddenly forced to interact with kids you’ve never met before, as your typical public middle school receives kids from several neighborhood-based elementary schools. In a K-8 school, on the other hand, the size and diversity of your peer group doesn’t really change, and the between-class transitions are generally not quite so dramatic. The tweens at our parish school, for example, do change teachers throughout the day, but all that involves is moving to a classroom right next door.

So perhaps it is time that public schools drop this whole middle school idea and return to the K-8 model. Such a reorganization might eliminate at least some of the stress middle-graders experience.

Democratic Fairfax Embraces Its Inner Tea Party

Hey! He’s talking about my backyard:

Democratic Fairfax Embraces Its Inner Tea Party
by A. Barton Hinkle @ Reason Magazine

Fairfax is one of the richest counties in America. With a median household income in six figures, it comes in second only to the nation’s richest county, next-door Loudoun. And yet, as reported recently in The Washington Post, the county’s wish list “includes other perennial desires: that Northern Virginia taxpayers see more of the money they send to Richmond, for example.”

“Overall, the county would be pleased if the Virginia General Assembly would stop using Northern Virginia as its piggybank,” continues The Post. Translation: Fairfax does not want to “spread the wealth around,” as Barack Obama put it to Joe the Plumber. But wait – Obama says spreading the wealth around is “good for everybody.” Does the county disagree?

‘Tis hypocrisy in action.

And by the way, isn’t it sad that the richest counties in the U.S. are the counties just outside Washington DC? That’s where all of our missing wealth is going, folks — to comfortable, spoiled bureaucrats.

A Nation of Sissies

I’m starting to really like this Frank J. Fleming guy:

Hey, they still let us drive
@ the New York Post

Imagine if cars hadn’t been around for a century, but instead were just invented today. Is there any way they’d be approved for individual use? It’s an era of bans on incandescent bulbs; if you suggested putting millions of internal-combustion engines out there, you’d get looks like you were Hitler proposing the Final Solution.

Driving is basically a grandfathered freedom from back when people cared less about pollution and danger and valued progress and liberty over safety. They had different equations related to human life then: We could lose 10,000 men in a single battle in a war and call it a victory.

We’re talking foolhardy people who eventually sent men to the moon strapped to a giant rocket that had less computational power than it takes to calculate the trajectory of an Angry Bird. Their kids dangled from jungle gyms over pavement.

Face it: We’re just not those people anymore. We don’t do dangerous things where lots of people could be hurt . . . even if they’re really cool and fun ideas. You can say we value human life more now, but it’s probably more apt to say we’re much sissier.

Ain’t that the truth!

Why Do Hard Lefties Hate Ethical Oil?

Because they’re credentialed idiots, says Michael Graham:

This isn’t about partisan debate. There are legitimate points to debate on the economy and energy policy. But just shouting “No war for oil!” isn’t a debate. It’s adamant stupidity.

By the way, why aren’t we shouting “No war for oil!” anymore? If you really believed that, you’d support domestic drilling and the Canadian pipeline, right?

Instead, the Liz Warren left starts with “No war for oil,” then “No oil from Canada,” “No nukes,” “No coal” and then the inevitable, “Hey — wait! My iPad just died and there’s no electricity to charge it. Where’s my oil?!”

Remember: They’re the smart ones.

Heh. Quite true.

The problem with modern-day public “intellectuals” like the above-mentioned Liz Warren is that they’re never forced to prove that their ideas work. Instead, they are showered with plaudits merely for their verbal virtuosity. As Frank J. Fleming recently observed:

Why shouldn’t you touch a hot stove? There’s no complex, smart answer to that. You’ll get roughly the same answer from Stephen Hawking that you’d get from Forrest Gump: It’s hot, and it will hurt.

But say you were going to argue that you should touch a hot stove. That would have to be a very complex answer, since it defies basic logic. And some people could run with that, talking in detail about pain receptors and the brain’s reaction to stimulus, and come up with a very smart-sounding argument on why touching a hot stove is a great idea.

Others will go further and mock all those ignorant people in the flyover states for their irrational fear of hot stoves and announce, “The most enlightened thing to do is to press one’s face against a hot stove.” Those people are what we call intellectuals.

Similarly, when someone comes up with a well-reasoned argument backed by top economists that two plus two equals five, there’s no brilliant way to refute it. The only response is: “No, you’re an idiot; it’s four.” But if you say that, you’ll be called anti-smart people.

Indeed. And I find that tactic despicable.

Doc Wars – A New Hope

A glowing review of the latest Ryan proposal…now jointly presented with DEMOCRAT senator Wyden (!) as Ryan continues to demonstrate that he is precisely awesome.

Ryan/Wyden Plan Could Save Medicare

The best part is the shrill idiocy in the comments section presented by libertarians and the reasoned response of people who actually know health care economics.

Ron Paul and his band of merry men need to go away and let us work within the system to bring conservative solutions GRADUALLY into the fold.