Monday, October 13, 2014

The Rybak Gap

Right-thinking Minnesotans are much exercised concerning an issue euphemistically named the achievement gap.  Minneapolis' previous Mayor R.T.
Rybak recently became head of Generation Next, a partnership of education, community, government and business leaders aimed at closing the achievement gap between white and minority students.
Were, ceteris paribus, the test scores of white students to descend, the gap would be diminished.  That would be a Bad Thing.  'The gap' is not the problem.

On my desk sits the October 10 Star Tribune with Mpls. schools fires group hired to fix the academic gap below the fold.  (Sometime after my paper was printed, the Strib decided to re-title the article Minneapolis schools cut ties with achievement gap group.)

Quite clearly the achievement gap attracts worthless rent-seekers alongside the upright do-gooders.

I hope R.T. Rybak has success in improving the academic achievement of underperforming minorities, though from the vantage point of cold-blooded prognostication I am somewhat pessimistic.  Public discourse about the problem suggests it is caused by present-day white people.

To raise the academic performance of any group of low-scoring students would require enthusiastic ownership, buy-in and responsibility-assuming by the minority community itself.  To a significant extent minority leaders and guilt-stricken white liberals insinuate the achievement gap is something current-day racist whites inflict upon good-willed striving minorities--an implicit statement, intelligible to all, that improving the academic achievement of underperforming minorities does not require minority ownership of the problem.

Frank discussion of the achievement gap is virtually impossible, given present-day ideological strictures pertaining to issues of color.  The most obvious question--What is causing the 'widening achievement gap between white students and students of color and lower-income households'?--is deemed so insensitive as to be beyond the pale, not mentioned in Generation Next's faq.

It seems unlikely to me that a problem so ill-defined, ideology-swamped and un-owned can be successfully reversed satisfactorily soon.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Against Government Unions

Replying to this Bloggingheads diavlog, your mostly-dormant blogger just commented:

Conor supports the right of police officers to collectively bargain. I don't think government workers should be encouraged to form unions. We should strive for all our fellow citizens to enjoy equal access to political representatives. If a government-run organization is functioning poorly, write your congressional or state representative, whether or not you are employed by it. Government workers shouldn't enjoy any elevated access to politicians--their employers' designated representatives.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Replying to Sonja

Sonja recently commented:
I can tell you exactly why teachers need tenure. Without this protection, they will fear honestly and accurately evaluating their students. If teachers have no tenure, students and their parents can pressure schools to fire "underperforming" teachers -- defined as those who give Cs and Ds. 
Parents want false, flattering grades on their children's report cards--goes the meme--and are capable of placing enormous pressure upon educators to get such grades.  The only means of responding to this challenge is to grant tenure to teachers.
Next to go is the academic curriculum, in favor of flavor-of-the-month job training and test prep, for the vast majority. Only a small elite will be offered a real education.
I don't see any evidence to suggest that consumers demand an end to real education.
No teacher who can be fired for supporting unpopular views or taking unpopular positions will bother to do so -- and these include the view that you need pure algebra, foreign language study, and great novels, as well as the view that you should work hard for an A. In the end, teachers will become cynics, making whatever noises they need to make to stay on their bosses' good side.
I also wonder why you believe that those who want to preserve tenure should have the burden of proof. Anyone can ridicule the reasons that are offered and imagine they have made their argument. It seems to me that if you desire to do away with tenure, you need to make an affirmative showing that it should be ended. How do you imagine that ending it would be beneficial? There is some reason that highly competent people with a gift for teaching are reluctant to enter the profession, and many wonder whether teaching is still a profession at all. Aren't you concerned about why that has been happening, for decades now? Aren't you concerned that you are proposing to make teaching even less attractive to the best candidates?
Applying similar logic to my own current job:  Mail handlers will forever be tempted to provide faster delivery to packages mailed by their friends.  Postal carriers will be tempted to drive circuitously, tempted by bribes offered by petrol sellers; the only solution to such endemic problems is to grant postal workers tenure, making it very difficult to fire them.

Are you finding Sonja's logic persuasive, gentle reader?

Policies that cost money should have the burden of proof, Sonja.  When an employer removes 'firing' from her motivational quiver--in exchange for nothing--that costs money.  You have been asked to provide some good reason in defense of this costly, incompetence-protecting policy and you have failed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Hats off to PrayTell--they published my recent comment.  A previous post commended praying for James Foley's beheader; I pushed back.  Beseeching God on behalf of Saddam Hussein is indeed praiseworthy in the eyes of progressive Twin Cities Catholics--and so I'm proud I've been able to vocally reject the unjustifiable demands of the One True Church.  Would the right-thinking go so far as to request God smile upon their own child's torturer?  Should it be possible to dedicate a Mass to Hitler?  I'm not getting any response.  A life without any exercise of moral passion is not desirable--I wish I could get the faux masochists to accept.  Whenever a 'morally serious' Catholic intellectual praises the judgment-free life, call bullshit.

Something weird I learned today:

Manitoulin Island--in Lake Huron--is the largest freshwater lake island in the world.  It is so big it has several large lakes within it, some of which themselves contain islands--the largest of which is 82 acres.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Judgment and Justice

Dr. Shawn Carruth, OSB published Judgment and Justice in Give Us This Day--crossposted onto PrayTell, which comes out of the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University.  Responding to Sr. Carruth, I submitted:
The God of the Bible is by no means uniformly forgiving and merciful:  At times His judgment is indeed brutal and he commands his followers to be similarly severe.  (Citations available if needed.)  Separately, the aspiration that all judging and condemning should stop is a call for the abolition of adulthood.  The upright moralist is one who does not set unattainable and/or dubious goals; the upright Christian moralist does not get to rewrite the Good Book any way she pleases, in the interest of jettisoning her God's many repulsive qualities.
PrayTell doesn't seem to allow comments from skeptics:  I submitted a separate comment a week ago and was rejected.  So, here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Jenifer Loon Does Not Deserve Your Vote

Most of Eden Prairie is represented by Jenifer Loon in the state house.  Loon is a conservative anti-abortion Republican with stellar ratings from the right wing.  She is a presentable if boring presence on the local public stage in 55347, where I used to live.

Loon was heavily lobbied by the families of prominent gay constituents and after what she describes as lengthy wrenching personal agony came to the conclusion that--while she herself may continue to view true marriage as solely between one man and one woman--she ever-so-slightly feels that perhaps homosexuals should also be afforded admittance, possibly.

Loon is being challenged in the Republican primary by the viper-tongued rightist Sheila Kihne [ˈkēn:ē].

Michael Brodkorb and TwoPutt ascribe ill will to Kihne's candidacy.

Some Eden Prairie liberals think sensible people should vote in the Republican primary, supporting Loon over the still-further-reactionary Kihne.

TwoPutt correctly exposes the weirdness of Kihne's refusal to call for a repeal of Minnesota's new marriage equality law.  Kihne and Loon both pretend that the Issue isn't gay marriage.

Long ago, Kihne and I were sparring partners among Eden Prairie bloggers.  Her blog was horrible and reflected her semi-literate McCarthyism--she voiced contempt for liberals and banished lefties from her site's comments section.  While severely limiting critics' ability to put questions to her, she openly attacked others for behaving as she herself does.

Democrats should not vote in the Republican primary--as Loon simply hasn't fulfilled her part of the bargain--by intelligently explaining her change of heart concerning gay marriage and by unapologetically defending her new position.

A person who opposes gay rights is being challenged by a cowardly incumbent who is ashamed to publicly admit she changed her mind and now supports gay rights.  That simply does not constitute a morally important distinction.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I Don't Admire Greta Cristina

A prominent representative of Atheism+, Greta Cristina is--as most are--horrible.  And I could be wrong.  To assess my thesis, I would like to consider several of her writings:

Cristina often admits to having severe depression, the inability to experience joy, to having kinky sexual tastes and more.  Cristina requests we embrace her as an anti-McCarthyite hero, but I don't think this is a worthwhile bargain.  Cristina certainly owes no one any apology for having depression, gourmet sexual tastes, et al.  The implicit bargain, unattractively, demands we suspend critical commentary due to the blogger's ostensibly blinding moral courage.  I don't quite see it.

To take Cristina's writing seriously is to straightforwardly ask whether her claimed exemplary moral purity deserves the accolades she requests.  Is it in fact beneficial for mentally ill individuals 'to come clean' with their ailments, within public fora?  I am skeptical as to the value of such publication (I don't at all find it overflowing with truthfulness)--and communicate studious neutrality to Cristina on the topic.  I emphatically refrain from congratulating her on her statements pertaining to her own mental illness:  I don't think they do her much credit; I acknowledge the failed effort.

Today I cringe noting Richard Dawkins has been browbeaten into issuing a PRC-style Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins on threats, bullying, bigotry, and harassment.  How silly; how sad.

To Richard Dawkins:  Maria Callas never performed at Howard Johnson's (a phrase I believe we owe to Camille Paglia)--and you have no business issuing any joint public statement with Ophelia Benson.  I am embarrassed to have to chide you so.

Completely unsurprisingly, the Dawkins grovelling in no way satisfies the Atheism+ expert:  '...And I hope this will get Dawkins himself to speak more carefully about these issues, and to be more careful about whose work he praises and promotes.'  She interprets Dawkins' apology as her own enthronement, as Just Judge.  To the dustbin!

Ultimately Cristina asks that we assess the legitimacy of her exalted social stature as public intellectual.  I flinch not:  She is mostly wrong and merits quite minimal exaltation.  I am interested in considering any contrary viewpoint.