Thursday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Waterless fracking … so now the environmentalists will all be on board, eh?
  2. Gender and the military.
  3. Tactics and North Korea.
  4. Some call Mr Obama a “moderately conservative Democrat” … really?
  5. Gaffes and Mr Romney’s foreign trip.
  6. Johnny can’t read.
  7. So, can you see the Rubicon from here?
  8. On liberal Christianity, a discussion noted.
  9. Manufacturing and the EU.
  10. 63 days remembered.
  11. 100 years ago.
  12. Twain said there were three kinds of lies, how about three kinds of secrets?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Boonton says:

    Johnny can’t read.

    Interestingly the ‘race to the top’ initiative is ignored. In NYC, for example, money was lost because in order to qualify for it schools have to agree to start ranking teachers on results…since NYC and the union couldn’t agree on a metric to use other states got the money.

    I think a more interesting take on education is this that appeared in the NYT on Wed:

  2. Boonton says:

    So, can you see the Rubicon from here?

    Let’s see, what’s this about?

    The House passed the legislation Tuesday night by a vote of 261-116. The bill now goes to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

    considering how the House is dominated by insane Republicans, it seems rather odd that they would be voting to give Obama Ceasar like power.

    Reading the article, we learn that the bill will not require Senate confirmation for some Executive appointments:

    Presidential appointees that would no longer require Senate confirmation under the legislation include the treasurer of the United States and the deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

    “The United States Constitution does not bestow kingly powers on the President to appoint the senior officers of the government with no process,” wrote Thomas McClusky, the senior vice president for the Family Research Council’s legislative arm, in a Monday memo to lawmakers.

    Errr, what does the Constitution actually say?

    [The President] shall nominate, and, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

    So the Constitution says the Senate must have a say in:

    1. Ambassadors
    2. Judges of the SC
    3. Any position the Congress passes a law that says must be approved by the Senate.

    The Senate doesn’t have to have a say in:

    1. Any position they pass a law saying the President can appoint alone. The exceptions would only appear to be #1 and #2 from the above list.

    Remember this nonesense every time a right winger wants to lecture us about how they just want to follow the Constitution.

  3. Boonton says:

    But speaking of algebra, seriously, I wonder what the merits would be of dropping it as a requirement in High School and even for non-technical College majors and instead replace it with with beefed up arithmatic (including requiring people to be able to reason quickly with percents and ratios), statistics and probability.

    Instead we seem to be upside down, with algebra being required everywhere but statistics and probablity as optional electives in many places. In reality I think the case is that by far the latter end up being essential for many questions and problems in most fields (even technical ones) than algebra.

  4. Mark says:

    Why do we have gym class? After all who is going to use flag football after high school? It looked the biggest reason the author gave is “yucky math is hard” … but to quote Mr Kennedy, we do it because it is hard. We do it to build and exercise mental muscles. Prob/stat notions and techniques are taught at my kids high school in the standard course path. What was missing was any simple treatment of error and error propagation.

    I’d actually prefer that more “interesting” geometry and such be introduced. I like the quote “If you’re told Russian poetry is really beautiful, wouldn’t it be problematic if Russian language courses forced you to take 5 years of grammar and vocab before introducing you to any poetry?” Mathematics is beautiful, but you don’t get to the cool beautiful things until you major in it in at a collegiate level. That’s a pedagogical error. There’s lots of neat things in accessible mathematics (I’d recommend Shape of Space as an example or Conway’s Book of Numbers as examples of accessible interesting maths). I like to also pedagogically introduce finite fields early on. But that’s my preference. American maths is too influenced by the French methods of expressing maths, the Russian school which concentrates much more on teach and introduce the maths abstraction through problem solving is better.

  5. Boonton says:

    Why do we have gym class? After all who is going to use flag football after high school?

    It would, of course, not be very good for football if people had to play tackle *before* they were allowed to play flag.

    Statistics and probabilities are pretty hard too. For example, our minds ‘naturally’ want to say if you flipped a coin three times and heads came up each one then the odds are greater that tails will come up on the 4th flip…. Takes a bit of work to understand that the truth is the odds of tails are 50-50 no matter what happened before. BUT of a group of people who scored 3 heads in a row, many will not score a 4th. ‘Winning streaks’ end not because the flipping changes but because of regression to the mean.

    Likewise I’ve found that even people who are pretty decent at higher level math are suspectible to botch some basic things like remember percentages tell you little if you don’t have like bases. This argument gets lost in debates about the deficit quite often. If the deficit in 2011 is 5% of GDP and is projected to be 10% of GDP in 2025 then balancing the budget today doesn’t ‘pay for’ bringing the 2025 deficit down to only 5% of GDP. If you get a 10% raise but then take a 10% paycut you’re not back at the where you started but below where you started!

    I’m wondering if the standard program is biased by history…making the teaching of math roughly trace out the history of its discovery with arithmatic, then geometry (with formalized proofs being introduced via Euclid), then algebra and trig then calculus with stats showing up somewhere after algebra. If it could be redesigned from the ground up might you get a lot better mathematic instincts in people while still being ‘hard’ and a ‘challenge’ to make the brain work?

  6. Mark says:

    Take a look at the Gel’fand series of high school math texts (available fairly inexpensively in paperback and possibly through your library system … here is one). Is that the sort of “system.”

    The French math school was quite formal, postulate, proof, lemma in the manner of Euclid. The Russian looks very different, problems after problem, where you “discover” via problem solving first the motivation for an idea and then through solving problems your work out how things are understood (proof).

  7. Boonton says:

    It looks good, but again its algebra. Is this really the math discipline that students should be cutting their teeth on first as they move beyond basic counting and arithmatic? Maybe the idea of math classes in itself needs to be rethought. Perhaps we should a system where higher maths are combined….perhaps starting with algebra’s concept of variables and solving for an unknown then segwaying into statistics idea of dependence and independence, sampling and averaging then maybe moving into probability and then back to percents in arithmatic. The highly modular set up we have now works with a rather fragmented educational system (if you took algebra at school X, school Y has a pretty good idea of the ground you already covered).