A Mixed Bag; Competence in education; and other matters

Chaos Manor View, Monday, March 21, 2016

“This is the most transparent administration in history.”

Barrack Obama

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.

Under Capitalism, the rich become powerful. Under Socialism, the powerful become rich.

Under Socialism, government employees become powerful.


Various medical emergencies have devoured our time and continue to do so, but we are weathering our way through them. I managed to do some good work on Call of Cthulhu, which is the working title for the interstellar colonization that Larry Niven, Steve Barnes, and I are working on. It was pretty good, and I’m beginning to comprehend how I can work on-line for small stuff, and change to a local copy of Word for larger work, yet still get it to save to both a local copy and upload to the on-line copy, thus keeping them both more or less up to date. If two of us are working on the same document at the same time I dunno what happens. Even though we are working on separate parts; there needs to be some kind of signal to send. “SAVRE your work now, tell me when you have done so, and I have a big save. But if there’s an auto-save? Does it overwite his newest work with the old copy? I need to look into this.

Long time ago, Larry and I would work on what the heck we wanted to, save on a Zip drive, and when we got together it was trivial to merge the two documents; where they differed it showed both the original and the changed text for a given instance. We could choose which we liked. But that was the old Word. They’ve improved the process in the new versions, and so far I find neither Larry nor I have figured out how to do it. I’ll have to do some experimenting, I suppose. I used to like doing that, but then I was getting paid to write columns about it. Of course some of you are paying me to this.

I have many interesting comments on the free trade issue, but they will have to wait until I have a bit of time. Apologies.


If you are at all interested in public education, read this, then see that everyone else you know reads it. It explains very simply one of the major roadblocks to any reform of the public education system.


On the Front Lines of the Teacher-Tenure Battle

I agonized as unionized staff defended a system that protected bad teachers but not children’s futures.


Cami Anderson

March 20, 2016 4:08 p.m. ET

An appeal is under way of the landmark 2014 Vergara v. California ruling in favor of nine public-school students who courageously challenged state laws they said deprived them of a quality education. The ruling by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge struck down California’s teacher tenure, dismissal and “last in, first out” layoff laws on grounds that they violate the equal protection clause of the state constitution and “disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students.”

Opening arguments in the appeal, which began Feb. 25, had me reflecting on the disheartening lessons I learned regarding teacher’s contracts and labor laws during the five years I served as superintendent of New York City’s Alternative High Schools and Programs (District 79).

In 2006 my team and I were charged with improving the lives and academic outcomes of some of our city’s most at-risk young people. About 30,000 students ages 16 to 21, most from low-income families of color, attended our education programs in drug-treatment centers, juvenile detention, in jail on Rikers Island or in the basements of high schools. From the start it was clear that many of these resilient and brilliant young people—trapped in what some call the “school-to-prison pipeline”—had limitless potential, if only they had caring, quality educators.

Not long into my term, however, the ugly reality of the dysfunctional systems working against our students hit me. Far from setting the high expectations our students needed to beat the odds, many teachers and staff reinforced our students’ deepest self-doubts. The young people who needed the best, most motivated educators sat downwind of policies that meant they too often got the least-effective educators.

At the time, most teachers attained tenure after three years in New York. In District 79, most teachers had attained tenure decades before I became superintendent. (Under California’s now-unconstitutional tenure law, teachers achieve tenure even more quickly: 18 months or less.) [snip]

The rest of the op-ed essay gives more facts. Ninety-nine (99) per cent. of the high schools receive a “Qualified” rating in their annual assessments, while fewer that 40% of high school students graduate. It costs $100,000 and takes two years to fire a teachers who habitually show up late, or abuse students, and even if the Superintendent can get a termination through, it can and often is overturned by arbitration.

“More shocking, if a teacher is merely incompetent and delivering mediocre lessons, the process is twice as long and costly, even though, as evidence in Vergara v. California established, the damage to students is equally as devastating.”

There’s more. And of course the California court decision cannot be implemented. It is being appealed, to state courts, and if they do not overturn it, eventually it will reach the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. Meanwhile, the poorer the school the fewer resources they have to resist the transfer of unwanted teachers to their schools; not that it matters much. The upper classes have, for the most part, abandoned the public schools entirely, except for a few favored ones such as Carpenter in Studio City; it is considered one of the best in LA School District. In any event it will be a while before the decision will ever be implemented; I expect it never will be.


A Logic Named Joe: The 1946 sci-fi short that nailed modern tech . The Register


Dig this: 70 years ago Murray Leinstar published a brainstorm –



Published just before I discovered Astounding. Still interesting. But don’t forget “The Twonky”, an AI story of much the same vintage by Henry Kuttner and Catherine Moore. And much darker, of course.


“[Sheriff’s Deputies] wearing bulletproof vests stood alongside a Humvee with a gun turret on top.”
An armored vehicle with a (machine?) gun turret atop it, for a local sheriff to use on the citizens who elected him.
But nothing is wrong in these United States, during this Presidential election.

Protesters block main road to Ariz. Trump rally


Associated Press – Associated Press – ‎Saturday‎, ‎March‎ ‎19‎, ‎2016

Protesters blocked a main highway leading into the Phoenix suburb Saturday where Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump was staging a campaign rally…


The practice of disrupting political opponents’ rallies with thugs is hardly new; it is only in modern times that the disruptors are excused, while those holding the rally are blamed.


CRISPR A Cautionary Easter Update

Dear Jerry:

One of the great tales of exploration has expired at the hands of molecular biology.

Legend has it that a defrosted haunch of mammoth somehow found its way from Siberia to New York to be served at the annual dinner of The Explorers Club in 1951.

Last year, a call for souvenirs of the event went out, and it is now reported that DNA testing has revealed that the dish was actually Mock Mammoth Soup, based on post-pleistocene turtle meat, quite possibly the quality canned product then marketed by Bookbinders fish house in  Philadelphia.

But this discovery pales in comparison to the promise of more exotic fare, now that molecular chefs have got their hands on the new CRISPR gene editing technique :


Happy Easter to all !

Russell  Seitz

Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University 






Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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