Champs (or Chumps?)

Contrary to the claims of success made in this March 22nd Press Release  no programming implemented by anyone has been demonstrated to have a direct impact on childhood obesity in Anchorage. In fact, as the CDC Report data (such as they are revealed) indicate, during the target window obesity actually increased and any changes were likely random and insignificant.

I suppose the niggling bit is how ASD and the State expects to retain the respect of its students when it is publishing such nonsense. Here we are, telling students they need to be critical thinkers, while we peddle porridge suitable for Little Effie and the Hollow Men.

On the other hand, I was very impressed with the work Trey Coker did with NANA. Granted that it was a corporate attempt to buy “hearts and minds”, but it also dramatically impacted obesity by simply radically increasing activity. In comparison, the policy initiatives engaged in by the State and District had the actual effect of increasing caloric density at the vending machines and eventually reducing the funds available for increasing activity.

I am certainly concerned about childhood obesity, but I would have rather seen a press release that told the truth about where we are, than engage in such shallow attempted manipulation of data to argue success of dubious programs (and that heralded “success” means that we won’t change tactics!) Any high school Stats student could run down why the conclusions in this paper (let alone the press release based upon it) are laughable, and yet they are peddled to the public much like we were sold “Mission Accomplished”.

Yes, the reliance on p values has been decried in the academic literature. Yes, the confidence intervals render the results almost laughable. Yes, the variation makes Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 8.13.35 AMany trend line likely an artifact. Yes, the text descriptions, looking at percentage change over base, as opposed to percentage no longer obese, is misleading. Yes, BMI is not an accurate gauge of obesity. And yes, there is no evidence that ANY of the strategies applauded was in fact causally related to any change in the weight of any student.

But, how could anyone engage in selling this hooey to students with a straight face? Do we really think our kids don’t know this is make-believe, or are we in such dire straits that in fact, our kids are just as foolish as their parents?

Clinton Corporate Conservatism: more KKK than CCC?

Some of us are old enough to remember Goldwater’s 1964 Nomination acceptance speech, but whether you were were alive and kicking, or first heard it on the innertubz, few would fail to recognize the speech as the dawning of the post-modern era of extremism. And the line from Goldwater, through Newt Gingrich and to Paul Ryan pegs Goldwater as a godfather of TeaBagger extremism.

Goldwater conservatism, therefore, is not old news, especially in as much as the First Lady of the United States in 1996, who was a Goldwater Girl in 1964, expressed her continuing admiration for Goldwater:

I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with. I don’t recognize this new brand of Republicanism that is afoot now, which I consider to be very reactionary, not conservative in many respects. I am very proud that I was a Goldwater girl.

Now, I can forgive the indiscretions of a young college kid (heavens, I deal with many today who are attracted to the Goldwater analogs of today, but most eventually grow up, mellow out, and appreciate that extremism is unacceptable) though I am certainly put off by it, but the fact that she didn’t laugh at her foolishness 25 years later when she was the First Lady of a country wrestling with the Contract with America (Newt’s plan, and perhaps the first GOP effort to shut down the US Government) is something that should make you sit up and take note too.

But is the title of this essay over the top, a SPLC version of Godwin’s Law (aside from the double entendre on “conserve”, which you have to love, I don’t care who you are)? The John Lewis fiasco made it very clear that Establishment Blacks (what a curious way to refer to those who led the protests in the ’60s) are happy to whitewash (OK, maybe that wasn’t all that funny) Hillary’s lack of civil rights credibility, while others are more than happy to air the Clinton dirty racial laundry. Even Black intellectuals are criticizing Clinton, from Brother Cornell (who most recently called Clinton “the Milli Vanilli of politics” to Michelle Alexander (and the less than impressive Coates). At the same time we have Trump’s apparent acceptance of Duke’s endorsement, and certainly his racially charged rhetoric.  These are the times in which we live.

If one proposes to support Hillary, the question on everyone’s lips today appears to be, “which Hillary” The only folk for which this does not create a pause, frankly, are the likes of Katha Pollitt and other women who will support HRC in the primaries only because she has a vagina. Now, I understand why they would do this, though I find such sexism unfortunate; what I can’t understand is why so many try (unlike Katha, who just up and cops to it) to gussy up their identity politics with arguments that HRC is the true progressive.

Consider Hillary’s history in the broader historical perspective. The 64 election was a watershed for American politics; it is the foundation upon which the most important legislation passed by the US Congress in the past 50 years was passed, from the Voting Rights Act to the first appropriations for the lunar landing program, not to mention the roll-out of enforcement of the 1964 civil rights act (the rage over which fueled Goldwater’s campaign). Goldwater was waging war against “The Great Society”  and everyone clearly understood that (even Hillary, and do listen to Johnson’s speech). For HRC to suggest that she was proud of supporting Goldwater in 1964 is tantamount to her rejecting everything Democrats have to be proud of since Roosevelt left office.

While I am truly horrified by Johnson’s handling of ‘Nam, I am just as stunned by his commitment to redressing the domestic failures so evident but so ignored. For anyone to suggest that they are honoring Johnson’s commitment to social and economic justice in the United States by supporting for the highest office in this country a person who actually campaigned to sabotage the very accomplishments for which we honor Johnson and who 32 years later as First Lady, doubled down on her commitment to the leader of that band of extremists intent on dismantling Johnson’s legislative program, simply boggles my mind. I don’t often resort to emotive language, and I fear I have gotten a bit maudlin here (mea maxima culpa) but I truly can’t imagine how anyone could miss the fact that HRC is probably a bit to the right of Ike…

And, to be clear, Goldwater was adamant that the government had no business banning Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 4.04.50 PMdiscrimination in public accommodation – he had a very Lincolnesque approach – A shonda, ober es iz nit dayn gesheftits (it’s a shame, but its none of our business…) The “right” in the US today is an unholy alliance of those who want to “take government back”, (that is to say they want government to do things, just not the things it has been doing) and those who want to nullify government (that is, they want the right to ignore anything that the government decides to do that they don’t personally agree with.) Unfortunately, the ability of most of those dancing on that side of the hall to discuss anything rationally is severely impaired (not to say that the people on the other side of the hall are all rocket scientists either). But they all agree, no matter their IQ or dogma, that government has no business helping the tired, the hungry or the poor.

If there is anyone in national politics today who wears the mantle MLK JR, seeking social and economic justice for all,  it is certainly not the Goldwater Girl who believes its her turn. Hillary is still very much the fiscal conservative and military hawk she has always been, and it is high time that the United States turned that page over.

Socializing Return, Privatizing Risk, and Gambling with Truth

A friend recently commented on Curtis Wright’s claim

At heart, I’m a Nietzschean. The world either does contribute to our capacity for being strong, healthy, self-creative human animals, or it doesn’t. Mostly it doesn’t. Mostly we live under one thumb or another, almost always multiple thumbs. Nietzsche’s attitude toward the thumb was honesty. My attitude toward capitalism is, Perhaps it is the best possible economic system, as you say Mr. Capitalist, but can we please stop being dishonest about it? Can we please stop telling all of the anxious lies we tell about how it is the apex of freedom? Can we please at least tell the truth about its human effects and its effects on nature?

As for hope, the philosopher Santayana talked about “animal faith.” Beyond religion, we have the faith of animals who enjoy the incredible privilege of being alive and conscious of the fact. I know that faith, and I try to be loyal to it. So working toward a condition where people know that this Nietzschean joy is their true “vocation” is important. As Fichte put it, You are free, so act like it. Hope is all in the act.

Truth is the bastion of the neo-Platonists, and I think does not serve Wright well here. The focus should not be on a some Golden Form, but on the Aristotelian formulation for happiness; the problem with the system that Wright decries is that it eschews the concept of ‘more for most and none for none’ that is in essence Aristotle’s starting point for his Ethics. Wright’s Capitalism is simply unconcerned about most, save through the Zombie Economics of supply-side macro theory (which views most of as a mice lucky to have the crumbs from the table.)

We are engaged in a “naming” battle; a linguistic version of counting coup which has gotten terribly out of hand. The concept of being able to buy and sell in market was with us long before anyone bandied about the term “capitalism”. What the rational find problematic, and the delusional worship, is the abstraction of the concept of markets until it becomes little more than an unregulated virtual gambling hall. Yes, there are those who argue that all commerce is at it’s core, a gamble, but in modern societies it is against the law to insure someone’s life and then murder them. Yet in the financial world we are not only engaged in just that, we have a significant portion of the population ignorantly celebrating that engagement.

Our laws, as Mr. Grieder and others suggested years ago, work to socialize risks and privatize returns, doubling down on the two inescapable pillars of what I call abstract capitalism: it is entirely unstable, and produces horribly inequitable results. The “libertarians” claim kinship of classical liberalism, but their positions are such a corruption of that philosophy that even neo-liberalism does the like of Locke a disservice (and can be confused with the virtually identical approach from the faux center, the Democratic Leadership Caucus extremism of Hillary et al). Better I think to call them Lotto Liberals, as they endorse little more than gaming.

There are as many societal mechanisms for addressing economic instability as their are societies, from the potlatch of the Tlingit to the financial regulations of the modern state;  some Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.15.01 AMof these mechanisms are more effective than others at the redistribution necessary to maintain a cohesive social network.  Unfortunately, Lotto Liberalism flatly rejects redistribution and puts its faith in the egoistic fallacy that  that one is wholly responsible for one’s own success, which like  a Bizarro counterfeit of Athena leaps from the forehead of its sire, Hubris.

 

Alright, maybe a pedantic rant equating Zeus with Saint Hubert is a stretch, but so are the myths that seem woven into the fabric of American “exceptionalism”.  We don’t need to surrender hope, but keeping hope alive does not we should wrap ourselves in the Emperor’s clothes. What we need to do is lend a hand, rediscover what E. J. Dionne calls the communitarian spirit, because as that aged sage Red Green puts it, “we are all in this together…”

Under My Skin

AchillesTruth is, there is something about the “activist” that I find revolting.  Yes, yes, yes, groan all you want, but if you are over 30 and have an analytical bent, you are feeling the same way, so stuff it. Brash, self-involved, myopic, inexperienced, narrow-minded little tweaks are purportedly the saviors of our planet. Well, maybe they will be when they grow up, but for now they are too loud, too fast, and too clever by half.

My goodness, when did I become a cranky old shit? Is it me? Pedant, troll, troublemaker — am I really so clueless that I should just quickly drown myself in my dyspeptic fears of mindless violence and have done with it? Sorry to disappoint, but not this week.

No, the truth, such as might be, is that the young are immortal today.  The downside of that is tomorrow the sun rises early.

Angry Birds and Overheated Rhetoric

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 12.12.24 PMThe AAUW, one of the more  vociferous opponents of the gender pay gap, found that only “a 7 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation was still unexplained” after “accounting for college major, occupation, economic sector, hours worked, months unemployed since graduation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, institution selectivity, age, geographical region, and marital status”.  They found no more than a 12% gap 10 years on.  In other words, the claims regarding the gender pay gap (which claim a 21% gap) are  vastly over-stated, and are typically based on insupportable arguments that rely on confounded data ([f]or example, women are more likely than men to go into teaching, and this contributes to the pay gap because teachers tend to be paid less than other college graduates. [citing Hegewisch, 2014]).

This conclusion is restated emphatically by Blau and Kahn (2016) who estimate no more than a maximum of a 15% gap across the entire spectrum of employment after adjustment, with most of the remaining gap at the top of the pay continuum!

This is not to say that the gender gap is acceptable.  But what we do need to recognize is that the gender pay gap is nowhere near as bad as alleged (though clearly it is not acceptable), that it is consistently gotten smaller based on current regulations, and that the greatest disparity is in the Board Room, a place far from the immediate concerns of most Americans upset about gender pay issues.

Equal pay for equal work has always been an intriguing idea. Let’s focus on what that really means in a socially and economically just world, and how best to accomplish those ends, and let up just a bit on the rhetoric.

 

 

Blau, Francine D., and Lawrence M. Kahn. The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations. SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, January 18, 2016. Accessed January 30, 2016. http://papers.ssrn.com.proxy.library.uaf.edu/abstract=2716597.
Cha, Youngjoo, and Kim A. Weeden. “Overwork and the Slow Convergence in the Gender Gap in Wages.” American Sociological Review (April 8, 2014): 0003122414528936. Accessed October 10, 2014. http://asr.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/04/02/0003122414528936.
Hegewisch, Ariane, and Heidi Hartmann. Occupational Segregation and the Gender Wage Gap: A Job Half Done. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, January 2014. Accessed January 30, 2016. http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/occupational-segregation-and-the-gender-wage-gap-a-job-half-done?searchterm=Occupational+segregation.
Hill, Catherine. The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (Fall 2015). American Association of University Women, n.d. Accessed January 30, 2016. http://www.aauw.org/resource/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/.

Has The Old Man of the Forest Gone FEEble

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 8.42.28 PMWell, maybe I have, and I should probably explore this further in a blog post, but for now I will share a few thoughts. A recent HuffPo piece (I know; why does anyone read that horrid crap) by some sniveling snot (Matthew Fray who whines at length on his own blog) suggests that his wife left him not because she was irrational over his insistence on leaving his glass on the counter, but because his insistence revealed that he had no respect for his beloved.  Really. This old fart’s response?

Get a grip! This poor whipped kid thinks that he should do what his wife wanted because she wanted it, instead of doing what he wanted. Forget the umpteen thousand other things he did for her. Sorry – I am not going to wash my glass because I drank out of it, and it will sit by the sink where I set it. Maybe, just maybe, his obsessive (ex-)wife should have loosened up just a bit, instead of following him around and turning lights off…. It’s a two way street, and if you want to spend your interpersonal “currency” on where the dishes go, then you have real problems…. this joker is well off shot of his ex. Now let the claims of misogyny roll in

I don’t have to kowtow to someone because they obsess about something. It is always a two way street, and maybe, just maybe, she should understand that “he’s fighting for acknowledgment, respect, validation, and his love” as well, and it’s not about leaving the glass on the counter?

While The Gift of the Magi is in fact one of my favorite O’Henry stories, the practical result of the piece is that the family screwed itself for “love” because they could not effectively communicate. A relationship needs communication more than it needs silent sacrifice.

There! <shudder>I did a Skwire, lol!</shudder> Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, yes, but let’s face it, the possessions sacrificed, as well as the gifts purchased in the story clearly had value, and the couple clearly had very little beyond that.  It is all very good for the 1% to to romanticize about love, but the couple flushed virtually everything they had down the old toilet. Yes, yes, their love is far more precious than feeble trinkets, but that is not the question here. The question here is whether effective interpersonal communication could have brought them to the same juncture without the sacrifice of the family fortune (while unfortunately depriving us of a fine piece of literature).

main-qimg-168b99b211b02e4e925ec05f2284a2f2

Lisbeth Zwerger’s illustrations for “Gift of the Magi”

I understand that the woo crowd are going to scream, “You have missed the whole point you hormonal moron!” But I think not.  I get maudlin over the story just like I am sure Mr. Fray might.  But the lesson is NOT just that love is more valuable than trinkets. The lesson (though clearly NOT the lesson the master was intending to serve up) is that the couple were so self-involved in their obsessions that they failed to communicate at all, causing what amounts to a tragedy (as well as the joyful discovery the author celebrates). Money is certainly not everything, but one does not get on without it. Fairy tales celebrating poverty are just what FEE peddles, so I think you should lay that accusation at someone else’s door.

OK, if you want to think I have gone over to the dark side, you are entitled to your thoughts, but for me, being self-involved over you want, and being self-involved in Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 9.02.27 AMwhat you think another wants, are two sides of the same bad penny.  You are never going to work things out with “knowing glances”, no matter what Cosmo tells you.

Frankly, Father Oleska (Oleska still teaches a State required cross-cultural education class that promotes deferent communications styles and the inherent value of non-verbal-ness) and the entire non-verbal feminine communication crowd can go chat with themselves in their taciturn stillness for all I care. I am for Horton, who meant what he said and  said what he meant (even if his creator, Theodor Geisel, was attacked for being a misogynist).  The rest of you can go suffer in silence.

Quick! Hands up and count!

While we listened to the Facebook echos of this mornings temblor (which give a brand new meaning to ‘”post” traumatic stress disorder’, some us were laughing about Dermot Cole’s coverage of the exchange between David Teal and Tammy Wilson. I mean after all, why should anyone listen to someone talking about the impact of inflation, let alone a <shudder> Mathematician </shudder>.

But snicker all you want, I dare you to count the number of folk who endorse my plan to impose a California style 14% graduated State income tax, which would, I argue, raise close to $3B (I have a Note detailing this somewhere here on FaceBook, lol)?Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 1.35.13 PM

As I have repeatedly noted (see here and here for you Facebook types), most Alaskans make no net payment for any Local or State Government service (that includes EDUCATION) and can well afford a progressive State income tax with a 15% top rate. And most Alaskans have repeatedly told the right wing demagogues that they don’t have a problem paying more in taxes, as long as they are not getting nothing for something.

Face it. The median family income in Anchorage is some $80K (Alaska wide its some $10K less)! That means that half of our families are bringing in more than that, and some MUCH more than that. The median Alaskan family should be paying some $4K towards their receipt of the services they receive from and through government and our wealthiest families are largely getting a free ride at the expense of the less well of.

Of course, the Chicken Little crowd get front page coverage in the local paper with the claim that everyone who is everyone wants to avoid actually being fiscally responsible. Who are these people?  They are the the people who can buy media coverage, who are speaking up for those who seem to be unwilling to pay for what they get – far be it from be to call them welfare queens, you do your own Maths.

Hey folk!  Pay up or Pack up!

The Making of a Mole Hill

The paper of record for the largest urban center in Alaska had as the major front page story (click to link to the first of the three) for three days running a feature about how a purported pregnant Meth head was helped back on to the straight and narrow by an innovative nursing program.

Of course, as the story runs its course one discovers that the young lady is still abusing drugs, is really not caring for the child much of the day, and is not on the street only because she has her hooks in her high school boyfriend (who she dumped apparently for an abusive guy who was also a dog-beater, and a guy some years her senior who managed to knock her up.)

The denizens of the paddock see this as a feel good story (Praise Jesus!) though these are the same folk who bad mouth “libtards” over “welfare”. But I want to talk not about morons who dot the Alaskan landscape, but about the fact that the paper of record is pandering to this crowd by running an atrociously written heart-string plucker above the fold on the front page.

I commented on just the most obvious of the problems with the story, and was immediately savaged by the maroon army, which could not distinguish between criticism of the writer (Boots), her editors, and her publisher, and the young lady who was featured in the story. And this is where the bald tire meet the pot-holed road. It is the pack mentality that we see, whether in the followers of this saccharine tale, or in the sycophants of the local “liberal” harpy. There is no room for analytical thinking among today’s social networks; if you do not subscribe to the party line you are a “troll” and subject to what amounts to virtual stoning.

Yes,  it was very clear that Boots was not engaging in “journalism”; she was playing fast and loose with the facts for the purposes of, well, a cynic would say selling newspapers, wouldn’t he? And, to be fair, there were quite a few people who approved of my comments, even one who had the temerity to post that I was right in raising my concerns, but the overwhelming voice of the ADN readership agreed that I am a nosy troll.

Well, I suppose I might be a nosy troll, but that does not really have much to do at all with the fact that the writing in this story is terrible and certainly there is no place on the front page of a newspaper for this kind of writing (it certainly is not news, and calling it journalism would be a slap in the face to real journalists everywhere.)

And more importantly, while the local paper is running this burlesque show (full half page photo of her actually delivering, while the folk in the Valley are trying to keep Sherman Alexie books out of the hands of teenagers) it’s not like there is no news to report. The local District of 50,000 students has no Superintendent, is in budgetary crisis (as is the State, whose legislature soon convenes), and is graduating students who can’t read and write, while the Mayor is playing fast and loose with public transit and developers, the cops won’t talk about real community policing (no car, no coverage), and if you say marijuana three times someone’s head nearby will explode.  Not to mention we need data on Medicaid expansion, specifics on the viability of various income tax regimes, and the scoop on why BigOil has not jumped up to help Alaska’s bottom line, now that the projections of the glorious returns on putting BigOil in charge of tax policy have rung hollow.

But wait, there’s more!

The humorous bit is that right on the heels of this rolling feature, the ADN actually did a rather comprehensive story on a small CAP plane that flew into a downtown office building. No massaging of information, all possible sources pursued, no outrageous claims or appeals to sentiment.  Of course, the comments from the ADN peanut gallery include attacks on the paper by the well known “liberal” harpy, Shannyn Moore who shrieked,

Sick. Sickest story by people who forgot who Alaskans are. Even if Kate wasn’t the finest attorney in Alaska she wouldn’t deserve this ambush. You have to get up early to make her day harder than her husband already did. But, hey. You actually made her day worse than a suicide by plane into her place of work. My guess is the Alaska Press Club will give an award. That’s about all they are good for.

And, of course, given the fact that Moore apparently considers herself a journalist (so many Alaska are delusional, regardless of purported political perspective) her remarks are at best sophomoric,  but then, that’s what she does best (I have remarked on this in the past, e. g.  http://opinion.alaskapolicy.net/pardonme/?p=374 and http://opinion.alaskapolicy.net/pardonme/?p=226 ).

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


 

Comment thread

Merwyn Ambrose How about a news story, as in what happened to this girl’s father? Is he still alive and if so why does the young lady indicate she was raised by her aunt? If her aunt did raise her, how much money was she paid to raise the child? Did this girl graduate high school, and if not, why not? What has this girl been doing since 2012, and what was the reaction of her family members? The father of the girl’s child has been her boyfriend for years; is he the same person who she says she escaped from? Why should this girl be allowed to keep a baby when she clearly is incapable of caring for herself? How much drugs and alcohol was she doing when the child was conceived and is it likely the child will suffer from that abuse? How is it that the girl became pregnant in the first place?

Jill Neff Ummmm. Sex?

Juanita Hernandez Guerrero Why can’t people like you just be happy for others???

Danielle Marie Because there are questions you’re asking that are absolutely nobody’s business. She became pregnant the same way everyone does, obviously. The rest of your questions have zero bearing on this story, or your life, and don’t need to be asked by or answered to the general public. Mind your business and just be happy someone is helping this girl to become a responsible mother. If she’s not on drugs now there’s no reason to take that baby away or to ask any other questions. Sheesh. Nosey.

Merwyn Ambrose lol, this was front page of my newspaper, and the focus of the story was this young lady whose history is only partially recounted so that the story makes feature reading. What any newspaper reader would want to know (you should find your dime novels at the library) is why this young lady is in the circumstances she is, and what we might learn from the circumstances. Moreover, since we are likely going to have to support this young lady for some time, and she feels that she wants to share her story, questions about whether she has any certainty about paternity, as well as questions as to the financial support she is already receiving from the father (if really known) are certainly germane.

Ian Demello It’s part one of a multiple part story, I’m sure in the near future your nosey ass will get all the details!

Merwyn Ambrose I am gratified you are worried about my ass, Ian. Unfortunately, I am not sanguine regarding your anticipation. In the meantime, I am glad that you are one of very few supporter of Medicaid Expansion on the Kenai smile emoticon

Merwyn Ambrose Jill Neff implant? IUD? Or do the good folk of the KPBSD feel that sex ed is inappropriate for KCH students wink emoticon

Danielle Marie The questions about how much her aunt was paid is irrelevant. So is the question about if or why she might not have graduated high school. And asking about her family members reactions. Irrelevant and unnecessary questions that don’t need to be answere…See More

Merwyn Ambrose ahhhh…. feel good stories are not front page news, and in my paper it appears as front page news, so all the questions are germane. Especially in Alaska where a significant portion of the population is very exercised about Medicaid Expansion, lol. Frankly, the author of the story fails in any way to address how her society so failed her that she abused the fetus she is carrying.

Becky Westbrook Are you kidding me? So what if she did drugs in the past. I know many moms who have had rough lives that managed to turn their lives around despite their circumstances & overcame their obstacles & cleaned up their acts. They became wonderful working strong mothers. I have no doubts this young lady can do what what many choose not too. She’s already making those changes & frankly unless you’ve walked in her shoes get off your high horse & stop judging.

Danielle Marie I don’t see it as abuse of the fetus if she started the addiction prior to conception then quit the drugs after discovering her pregnancy.

Gina Whitlock Because it’s not her life path we are judging it’s how we are helping her as a community fix it for the better!

Ian Demello Mariahs mother died when she was a toddler, her aunt took her and her brother in without thinking twice about it! Her loving aunt, whom Mariah refers to as “mommy” was paid nothing for doing what a good mother should do! Mariah may have had issues during the start of her pregnancy, but thanks for a loving and supportive family and nurse, she was able to turn her life around for her and her perfectly healthy baby girl!

when did Jesus step off his throne and hand it to you to allow you to judge the actions of others?!?! Don’t be an ignorant judgmental ass if you don’t know the person your asking all of these personal questions about…

Shawna Leann Williams You’re such a troll.

Merwyn Ambrose rofl, this was a news story in my local paper, on the front page no less. If indeed the child was an orphan, then the aunt should have received funds from the State which could have made the difference between a child who did no how to avoid getting pregnant and abusing a fetus for 5 months and someone who did not need medicaid to “turn her life around”. I don;t know who the fuck “Jesus” is nor what anyone’s throne has to do with Meth abusers, but if this young lady did not want to be the subject of inquiry, she should not have allowed herself to become a poster child for why we need broader Medicaid services.

p.s. a supportive nurse is going to do little about what this young lady did to her fetus… that is more about the values she learned from her aunt, don’t you think?

Merwyn Ambrose Danielle Marie in fact, the article makes it clear that she did not decide to cease Meth until sometime after she discovered she was pregnant, she felt the baby kick. In fact, it would appear she was abusing Meth and alcohol for the first two trimesters. As a result there is a reasonably possibility that the child will be developmentally delayed, not to mention more dire consequences.

Merwyn Ambrose And the story is a bit confusing in that it seems to suggest that this young lady was raised by her aunt in Kenai, but that she was living out of a suitcase in Kenai, and then came to Anchorage to escape an “abusive boyfriend” but was able to manage an apartment in Anchorage, though she could not manage that in Kenai. But when she discovered she was preggers, then went to live with her aunt in Anchorage. I am missing out on how the family provided supports for this girl from high school graduation on….

Raven T Stewman I think Merwyn is asking right questions for a front page story.

Patti Stands Usually sex is the leading cause of babies and why dose it matter how much the aunt was “paid” obviously she stopped doing meth when she found out she was pregnant and yes I’m some cases drug addicts can clean up and be fabulous parents

Patti Stands And meth is something u can’t just quit cold turkey it could’ve killed them both I think your just a nosey ignorant human and that’s sad

Craig Miller Hewitt Seems odd to shout down somebody for making positive changes. Especially during the time of year when you should possibly give a crap. Bad form.

Charles Lester Sounds like the girl in Vegas that ran everyone over

Rian Fletcher Merwyn, what is your shoe size ? Have you eaten bread today ? What’s your grandfathers middle name? At what point did you decide to be a gigantic cunt? These are all important questions

Nicole Leigh Katelnikoff-Anderson @Merwyn.. Nuff said….

Nicole Leigh Katelnikoff-Anderson’s photo.

Janet Wambolt Winder It

Merwyn Ambrose The reason, as can be seen from a number of the comments above, that modern educational standards attempt to focus on close reading is that many Americans appear incapable of close reading. By way of example, the article (as I noted above) does not indicate that she quit meth when she discovered she was pregnant. The article does indicate that a trimester later, she vowed she would stop using. In fact, the article does not indicate that she in fact stopped using, nor does it provide any information about assistance in quitting, so we are left to ponder whether Mariah is or is not an addict (indeed, for all we know she quit cold turkey, lol.)

So, once again we see the author of the article scattering all manner of bits of history before us intended as part of her rhetorical devices (the purpose of the piece is to move the audience, not to inform the audience), yet providing no coherent history. In sum, Ms. Boots is engaged in emotional chumming. Apparently, from the schooling of her fans present here, quite successfully, lol.

Why the Elephant Appeals to Blind Men

elephantYet another Anchorage Daily News puff piece about Anchorage School District performance produced reader comments prominently featuring the usual suspects on the Distant Right engaged in the obligatory Gnashing of Teeth.  The problem here, as is so often the case, is that folk like David Boyle and Bob Griffin see a piece of the problem, and thereupon assume that they see the whole picture clearly, and therefore can provide a simple and comprehensive solution.  Unfortunately, more often than not, they are just benighted Fellows of the  IBMC (Indostani Blind Men’s Club, see below).

Despite the howling “on the left” the data available appear to make it very clear that Alaska, like most states, was overstating student performance and that new testing regiments are now consistent with the kind of results that were produced by NAEP testing (I have posted before about the Brookings’ discussion of the comparison between typical AYP testing regimes and the NAEP, so will not go into that again save to say that the NAEP is a more comprehensive regime). The result is that we are finally seeing that broadly speaking only a third of our students are really proficient (that is to say, have basic skill mastery) in core subjects.

Yet, as we know, virtually all Alaskan educational institutions identify a letter grade of “C” as representing student mastery (a copy of the Anchorage School District grading system is appended below) and ASD has been increasing graduation (and therefore GPA). There is clearly a gap, and the gap is not a testing artifact nor is it illusory.

Unfortunately, the Fellows of the IBMC want to throw the baby out with the bath water. They are argue that all and sundry have failed, and the only solution is to put education in the hands of parents (who arguably are the real culprits here). Their arguments are the direct result of their (some would claim intentional)  failure to appreciate the complexity of the problems the educational system faces.  They are devotees of the silver bullet, and as I am perhaps overly fond of saying, there is no silver bullet to address out educational woes.

As anyone with a knowledge of high school physics will acknowledge,  just because you can demonstrate that light behaves as a particle,  does not mean that it does not also behave like a wave.  Yes, we have a gap, but if you want to meet the elephant in the room,  you have to become acquainted with something beyond its hind quarters.  Teachers face twice as many students as they could possibly cope with, presenting an educational and socio-economic continuum that we know are critical obstructions to effective instruction. We also face a cadre of parents who dispute the value of education, see education as valuable only through individual ROI (return on investment), and convey their disdain for schools, teachers, and the educated to their children. Of course, we also have inept administrators coupled with a deplorable lack of educational leadership.

I would also argue that we suffer from an appalling number of incompetent teachers, but there are a couple of problems with such a claim: 1) no one can agree on what education is, let alone how it is to be delivered and it is difficult to argue that an educator is not doing their job if you can’t objectively quantify that job, and 2) even if we were to try to seize on some metric, there are so many possibly variable that any rubric would on its face be meaningless (and that of course includes the suggestions that anyone could intelligently employ standardized testing to assess teacher effectiveness).  No, I don’t think that lets teachers off the hook.  Peer review is an excellent start to generating some common language and perception regarding instruction; in other words, teachers need to lead the way, and they clearly are not.

But despite all the problems, it seems that everyone wants to point the finger at someone else! And as noted, since there is ample “fault” to go around, as long as they have their blinders on they feel satisfied that they have the answer. The elephant is the age old foil of the hubris involved.

The villain, once upon a time, was agreed upon to be the student.  Lazy and shiftless, they were sifted and then beaten into an acceptable shape. Hopefully we have a more sophisticate understanding of minors today than hundreds of years ago. But I think it only fair to acknowledge, as I think most teachers will agree, that students today evidence two major educational deficits that are not of their making.  First, they are not developing their ability to memorize.  For decades, educational reformers have argued against “rote” learning,  but in doing so, have also abandoned memorization, a pillar upon which all classical education relied. We have seen the same kind of results in the whole language and Chicago Math debacles, where an interest in increasing the depth and breadth of instruction essentially resulted practically speaking in the abandonment of effective instruction for almost a generation of students

A second culprit is the shadow of intentional forgetting (both in the technical sense and in a broader lay sense). While many students will demonstrate mastery of a skill, within weeks access to that skill will seem to have disappeared. Many curricular programs have sought to address such problems by including cumulative review in instruction, but this becomes a huge uphill battle, and that battle is inevitably lost in May of every year.  Proposed solutions run the gamut from “turn off the gaming station and take away the smart phone” to implementing a parade of tortures for the child on his way to Paradise Island.  Despite all we do, high school Math students spend some 40% of instructional time relearning what they supposedly had mastered the year before, and they do that without ever having an inling of why.

No silver bullets anywhere, but we do have to understand that if we want our children to learn what we have placed before them, they have to be embedded in an environment that supports their learning.  In fact, we are so busy bickering that we have largely lost sight of this.  No, standardized tests and regular probes don’t hurt the student any more than asking them to learn how to use a pencil.  Increasing homework, where the student is doing the work wrong and developing an antipathy for the work, the teacher and education, is not going to be helpful at all. Attacking teachers, haplessly paid to keep their fingers stuck in the dyke, does nothing to address their training, their resources, or the ridiculous demands made of them.

If you want to see  “the trouble with education” quit groping the elephant and take a look in a mirror.


The Blind Men and the Elephant

It was six men of Indostan, To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant, (Though all of them were blind) That each by observation, Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant, And happening to fall Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to brawl: “God bless me but the Elephant Is very like a wall.”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,Cried, “Ho! What have we here So very round and smooth and sharp? To me ’tis mighty clear This wonder of an Elephant Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal, And happening to take The squirming trunk within his hands,Thus boldly up and spake: “I see,” quoth he, “The Elephant Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand, And felt around the knee, “What most this wondrous beast is like Is mighty plain,” quoth he; ” ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said: “E’en the blindest man Can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can, This marvel of an Elephant Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun About the beast to grope, Than, seizing on the swinging tail That fell within his scope, “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long, Each of his own opinion Exceeding stiff and strong, Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong!

by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)


Grading System
“A’’ This mark indicates the student has done work in quality and quantity far in excess of the standards set forth for a satisfactory grade in the course.
“B’’ This mark indicates that the student is doing work in quality and quantity above the standards set forth for a passing grade in the course.
“C’’ This mark is a satisfactory passing grade. It indicates that the student is acquiring the necessary information to proceed in the subject. He/she is meeting the standards set for a passing grade in the course.
“D” This mark indicates that the student is not effectively mastering the work assigned but has sufficient understanding of the subject to justify the opinion that more growth will result from advancement than from repetition of the course.
“F’’ Insufficient progress in the subject to merit granting of credit in the course.
“WF ’’ Student has been withdrawn from the course “failing.’’
“J’’ Audit— Principal approval is required. Indicates a student is auditing a course for his/her benefit. This does not count towards credit for graduation and must be approved prior to the 10th day of the course. Students are still required to complete course work.

Anchorage School District 2014–15 High School Program of Studies pg ix