JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2010/08/in-our-new-spirit-of-cooperation.html (28 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1282535674-598  alan at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 03:54:34 +0000

They're all teaching something even if it's hopelessness and dependency.  

jsid-1282536161-380  Britt at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 04:02:41 +0000


578 million dollars for a school. How did people get educated before there were atriums and organic salad bars and marble statues of a Kennedy brother in the lobby?

jsid-1282538433-972  emdfl at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 04:40:34 +0000

"...sons and daughters of latino immigrants who nevr finished high school..." translation: illegal immigrants.

jsid-1282538508-613  pdwalker at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 04:41:48 +0000

As long as teachers unions continue to protect the worst of the worst, as long as there is no competition to the publicly funded school system, this will continue to be the norm.

jsid-1282617182-688  Markadelphia at Tue, 24 Aug 2010 02:33:02 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282538508-613

Not only do they protect the worst of the worst...they crucify the best of the best.

jsid-1282679573-84  GrumpyOldFart at Tue, 24 Aug 2010 19:52:53 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282617182-688

And yet you support people whose highest priority, trumping jobs, ecology, racial equality, even the rule of law itself, is protecting unions.

Why is that?

jsid-1282539544-904  ExurbanKevin at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 04:59:05 +0000

And on a COMPLETELY unrelated topic (at least according to the teachers unions), L.A. opens a one-half (pinkie to mouth) billion dollar school: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gFaX7HQ8F0dvnvC-r2l5huEACLkwD9HONLRG0

L.A. tax dollars at work! 

jsid-1282569666-652  Guest (anonymous) at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 13:21:10 +0000

"translation: illegal immigrants."

Or they immigrated from countries with poor higher education systems.  For that matter the drop out rate in LA among blacks and latinos is ridiculous even if their parents are immigrants.

jsid-1282577665-244  Sarah at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 15:34:25 +0000

Just about everyone I know who struggles with/fears math is a smart person who can trace his troubles back to a bad math teacher. The quality of the teacher can make a huge difference.

jsid-1282580504-72  GrumpyOldFart at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 16:21:44 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282577665-244

I'm so thankful my dad was a mathemetician. He taught me to look at it as a game. I was doing boolean algebra in the 2nd grade.

What ended my enjoyment of math was a trig prof in college, who couldn't explain any real world application for the imaginary number system.

jsid-1282581363-131  DirtCrashr at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 16:36:03 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282580504-72

I understood everything I was taught in Math, from 1th grade Algebra to the pre-calculus class in college that I failed twice - I just can't execute the mechanical part. 
I can run a problem through twice and get three different answers, call it "diversity" but I make mistakes.  Is is dyslexic?  I missed 5th grade math in boarding school, I needed glasses and couldn't see the blackboard, but we didn't know it until I got tested later.  I did sit next to a hot blond chick though, I guess my attention was divided.

jsid-1282586421-311  Sarah at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 18:00:21 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282580504-72

Grumpy, my dad was a mathematician, too. He taught us algebra in elementary school, and we loved it. To us, math was a game, a tool, a language. If only more teachers and profs approached it with a sense of playfulness, I think few people would fear it so much.

jsid-1282588103-912  DJ at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 18:28:24 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282580504-72

"... who couldn't explain any real world application for the imaginary number system."

Apparently he knew nothing of electronics.

jsid-1282601392-354  GrumpyOldFart at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 22:09:52 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282588103-912

Apparently not.

jsid-1282588549-113  Alpheus at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 18:35:49 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282580504-72

First of all, mathematics is beautiful *despite* having no "real-world" application...or rather, *because* of it.  It's the "mathematics is just a game" aspect that caused me to become a mathematician.

Having said that, mathematics is just *weird* in that everything seems to get used, eventually.  Complex numbers?  They came into being in order to find solutions to cubics--if you allow imaginary numbers, then the formulas work, and they give you *real* answers.

But beyond that, complex numbers are useful for modelling flow (fluids, heat, etc), and as an extension of the reals, they help us to solve otherwise-unsolvable problems.  Additionally, things just make more sense when using complex numbers!  Why, for example, does the radius of convergence of 1/(x^2+1) at x=0 come to be R=1?  It's a complex number property that the radius of convergence is determined by the distance to the closest singularity--in this case, the singularity is at i.

I apologize for the rant...it's even a little off-topic.

jsid-1282591278-412  Ken at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 19:21:18 +0000

Speaking of math, this "value-added analysis" they're peddling in the article seems to be a bit of mystification of the subject, or else just not very rigorous use of language. The dependent variable is the difference between actual and expected performance for the student (unless I am mistaken, a continuous dependent variable). The independent variable, I take it, is the teacher (a categorical independent variable).

The commonly accepted statistical procedures for a single continuous dependent variable and a categorical independent variable are t-test and analysis of variance (ANOVA). Guess those aren't sexy enough names with which to sell consulting contracts. :-$

jsid-1282595797-741  Mastiff at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 20:36:37 +0000


You're giving me flashbacks to a Stats class I had to take with a bunch of innumerate Public Administration grad students. It terrifies me that they hope to work for the government. We could have covered three times the material if it were only us PoliSci people.  >:o

jsid-1282605018-548  Ken at Mon, 23 Aug 2010 23:10:18 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282595797-741

I tell ya, Mastiff, just to be safe I look it up every time I design a study.

jsid-1282609188-110  Guest (anonymous) at Tue, 24 Aug 2010 00:19:48 +0000

The problem is the fact that the vast majority of schools are coercively funded, which largely kills competition and diversity in education.  It rewards bad schools and bad teachers, the same as the good ones, killing the incentive.  End the coercive funding, thereby leveling the playing field, let people decide if, when, where and how to teach, let people decide if, when and where to send their kids to school, and the problem begins to fix itself.  reality is then in control, rather than bureaucrats and self-interested, public employees' unions.

jsid-1282619899-910  Unix-Jedi at Tue, 24 Aug 2010 03:18:20 +0000


Students in her classes would “pass judgment” on the work of their peers (the system worked “brilliantly,” she humbly noted), and students would “lead” the class discussion as well. The professor’s job, it seems, is limited to making sure no one’s feelings get hurt.

Other than the obvious (laziness), what was the rationale for Davidson’s scheme? A supporter of the effort, NYU professor Lisa Duggan, explained. Duggan had employed the tactic in her “Race, Gender & Sexuality in US History” course, where, she claimed, it benefited “students without previous educational privilege,” since they didn’t have to be “judged in the usual way” (i.e., writing research papers, taking exams) while turning off “entitled students who try to skate by on a good prose style.” Evidently, college professors shouldn’t be encouraging “good prose style.”
Fifteen of the sixteen students in the class received grades of A. What did the 16th student do wrong—challenge the ideological preconceptions of his or her peers, rather than following along with the groupthink atmosphere?
In Davidson’s Group of 88 world, everyone is equally “excellent,” and we need not worry about troublesome things like whether students have “good prose style” or study hard enough to do well on tests.

jsid-1282651538-776  Ken at Tue, 24 Aug 2010 12:06:28 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282619899-910

I tell you whut, Boomhauer -- an instructor who handed out 15 As in a class of 16 would have some 'splaining to do, the places I've been. Maybe all is not yet lost.

jsid-1282660988-860  Sarah at Tue, 24 Aug 2010 14:43:10 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282619899-910

There is some value to class discussions where the professor takes a back seat, but not as a lecture style. That's just laziness.

This, by the way, is one facet of the iceberg Mark was asking about.

jsid-1282667765-130  Markadelphia at Tue, 24 Aug 2010 16:36:05 +0000

Socratic Seminar, Sarah?

jsid-1282687663-426  Sarah at Tue, 24 Aug 2010 22:07:45 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282667765-130

Mark, I use the Socratic method in my astronomy classes. But: 1) Socratic seminar means the professor engages the students in dialogue, not sits like a lump while the students duke it out on their own; and 2) I don't have students grade each other. I've been teaching for years, and I recognize a lazy technique when I see it -- every professor is tempted to do something like this from time to time, especially if s/he is burned out or feeling insecure about teaching. But every prof has to resist it, because ultimately it's of little value: students who don't know anything aren't going to teach each other anything.

What I was referring to as one facet of the iceberg is the grades-for-nothing, non-judgmental culture prevalent in many university departments.

jsid-1282696905-560  JebTexas at Wed, 25 Aug 2010 00:41:45 +0000

Last year in central texas ISD, we were not allowed to give less than a 60 on anything graded. So, the Texas Legislature passed a law such that this year we must give the student the grade they earn. No changes. Even the fucking LAWYERS know better than the "Education system".

jsid-1282750100-520  Markadelphia at Wed, 25 Aug 2010 15:28:20 +0000

Sarah, it's up to each instructor to vary their instructional strategies and use whatever tools are necessary to inspire and motivate students. I have used, to varying degrees of effectiveness, the following strategies:

Brainstorming, Cooperative Learning, Demonstration, Guided Practice, Inquiry, Instructional Technology, Lecture, Memorization, Note Taking/Graphic Orgranizers, Presentations/Exhibitions, Problem Based Learning, Project Design, Simulation/Role Playing, Socratic Seminar, Teacher Questions and Work Based Learning.

Too often, instructors find two or three of these and lazily stick with them. That's a big reason why we have the problems we have today. 

Regarding self assessment, if you frame it in the form of peer review and make that something that is assessed as well, it can be effective.

jsid-1282860283-562  Britt at Thu, 26 Aug 2010 22:04:44 +0000 in reply to jsid-1282750100-520

Yeah, but peer review is bullshit. I'm always, in every single English, history, or government class, one of the top students. Everything else is a different story, but if the prefix is HIST or ENG I'm going to be one of the best in the class. Which means I trade papers in peer review with someone who will stop my reading of their paper to ask for definitions of words I used in mine. Or sometimes they just "read" it and say good job. Meanwhile I'm correcting their paper for them. Now, I pride myself on my writing. It's one of the things I do very well because I work hard on it. I actually do research, do multiple outlines and drafts, and seek out the opinion of people who are better then me. Peer review is a waste of time, because I rarely am assigned an actual peer to swap papers with.

Mark, you're wrong (shocker, that). Peer review is another way for instructors to dodge work. Instead of an instructor reading dozens of papers and providing feedback, we just set aside 30 minutes for "peer review" and the instructor can work on his Minesweeper skills.

jsid-1283027582-106  Markadelphia at Sat, 28 Aug 2010 20:33:02 +0000

Well, I've certainly seen that happen but if you want students to gain real world skills, peer review is one of the ways to do it. Good instructors will be a part of the peer review through inquiry and guided practice. Peer review is completely useless if the instructor is not heavily involved. I certainly won't argue with you, though, instrucors are lazy. So blame them, not the technique.

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