Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Disturbing --If Funny-- Conversation I Had With A Bold Student (Not One Of Mine) here I am in my so-called "office": a designated table out in the lobby of the satellite campus where I hold my Thursday classes. (Hey, I like it here, I can greet students by name as they come in, and it's something of a local tradition.) And I'm going about my business when I hear Bold Student (BS) talking to an associate thusly: "Man, that exam I just took was so hard, I had to get my mom to help me take iit." And I had to just stop and call BS out.

"Hey, are you serious?! You had to get your mom to help you take an exam?"[NB presumably a take-home]."

"Yeah, she's a[n expert in the subject area.]" [Job title withheld to preserve privacy.]

"Okay, fair enough, but she wasn't in class with you, she might not be familiar with the subject area."

"But she's an expert!"

"Even so, what're you gonna do if you fail the exam anyway? Yell at your mom???"


"And for the love of Pete, why are you talking about this out loud in the lobby of the college where at least one professor is hanging out and can overhear your entire conversation!?"

BS had no response for that one.

Of course this conversation was troubling on several levels. But arguably the most disturbing part was the mother's willingness to help her daughter cheat.; What does that say about the woman's professional ethics? (Hint: her field would, in fact, be distressed to know of such a thing.)

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

REPOST: "Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term..."

[SPRING 2011 UPDATE: Scores in the "Since 1877" class have been good so far. The change in format has only managed to shrink the standard deviation by a modest amount, and has probably benefitted some low-end students a bit in the process. Even so; I will be dealing with the inevitable students who are in Deep Trouble Over Things Which Have Incurred The Wrath Of Professor Mojo. As istradition, here is this post marking the occasion:]

"Ahh, I see Professor Mojo has given his first exam of the term: hisstudents look like they've been gut-shot."

I try to keep class upbeat, lively, and not boring--oxymoronic aims for a history lecture, one might say (and yes, there are days when even I get bored by the things I have to cover). But I never intentionally mislead my students. From Day One, I warn them that if they don't study for the exams --and especially if they blow off the essay questions -- they will fail. But there are a significant number who simply do not listen. And so every term, I get Exam One grades (out of 100) like 55. 38. 18.

Welcome to the world of Community College Education.

For what it's worth, I also tell the students that this happens to everyone, and that I will take significant improvement into account when final grades are calculated. My mission is to improve

these students, I don't get paid extra for failing them --that's how I justify it. Even so, I also know from past experience that only half of those students who bomb Exam One (bomb: = = anything less than a D/60) will even bother to finish the course, they'll head for the door at break and keep on going to the registrar to withdraw. It makes me sad.

But I can only do so much. I'm not legally allowed to use a war elephant (with howdah) to chase down those counselors who push students into classes for which they are absolutely unprepared; nor can I use Invoked Devastation on the schools which produce these students. I can only encourage and work with those who stick it out, and at least get them on the Path of Right Learning ("Read! Think!" "Write!").

The really sad part is that many of them will "shop around" for an "easier" prof next semester, and then end up failing again when they don't bother to study. This is college: I'm not doing any favors by reinforcing the bad habits they picked up in high school. And yes, I can throw stones at high schools, I used to teach high school, and I do know what it's like.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Wherein We Review The Concept of "Dawdlework"

Moons and moons ago I believe I coined the term "dawdlework" to describe doing things that, while necessary, are insufficiently high on a current priorities list to justify the level of energy expenditure devoted to them. This is generally more constructive than mere procrastination, and allows for a positive defense when accused by family and loved ones of "not getting anything done."

I am confronted every spring with this, and this one is no exception. In preparation for the coming of Sturdy Baby, the Mrs. and I have been doing various projects around the house. We still have too much junk. But my priority revolves around thinning the amount of Stuff that we have, and putting away the Stuff that we do have in some semblance of order and aesthetic appeal. But Mrs. is focusing on the nursery. At this point our opinions diverge. I feel (quite strongly) that we need to focus on other areas first, since we have already done so much in the nursery already. Mrs., firmly in Nesting Mode, disagrees. She offers as a positive defense, "But we need to have the nursery ready well before the baby gets here!" And while she has a point, I can't help feeling that this may be a bit of a dodge to avoid doing things like sorting boxes for storage, thinning for another garage sale, and such.

Mind you, I have utterly no hope of winning this argument, logically or otherwise. I've been married long enough to appreciate this.

However, my crafty ("male!") mind has taken a different tack lately. The weather is growing warmer. There are many projects that need doing outside, especially in the vegetable beds. I can reasonably claim that if work is not done now, we will be in March and March is going to be busy, plus March is into growing season and many things need to be done prior to this time. Thus, I go skipping merrily outside to do Manly Things.

This, friends, is dawdlework.

One of the key secrets to a happy marriage is agreeing to only tackle one project at a time, and to have a defined time-limit to said project (four hours on Saturday morning seems to work well for everyone here). Another is agreeing beforehand to reward cooperation with incentives like footrubs. But it also doesn't hurt to make sure that "dawdlework" also includes something that will pleasantly surprise the other party. I'm working on that one...

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Very Sad II

I have learned that another acquaintance of mine is going to be a Guest of the State of Texas. This person is a poker associate --and a bit of an ass, but I always gave him much more credit for brains than he showed.

He was a lawyer. He took a case for a client. While doing research on that case, he came across a different case still pending to which his client was a party. Without telling his client, he contacted the party in the second case and reached a settlement whereby the other party paid a generous settlement.

That was the part that eventually got him disbarred. What got him thrown into prison was the part about pocketing the settlement money. The state does not look kindly upon that sort of thing, especially coming from an officer of a court.

Ten to twenty. Tough luck, but arrogant hubris like that deserves a thunderbolt. And a flopped top set is still the favorite over an open-ended straight-flush draw, especially if one of the hole cards is of the appropriate suit.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

So It Would Have Been Cheaper Just To Give Everyone Cash?

Did the Stimulus Stimulate? — Mises Economics Blog: (quoting NBER Working Paper No. w16759)

A cross state analysis suggests that one additional job was created by each $170,000 in stimulus spending. Time series analysis at the state level suggests a smaller response with a per job cost of about $400,000. These results imply Keynesian multipliers between 0.5 and 1.0, somewhat lower than those assumed by the administration... Grants to states for education do not appear to have created any additional jobs. Support programs for low income households and infrastructure spending are found to be highly expansionary. Estimates excluding education spending suggest fiscal policy multipliers of about 2.0 with per job cost of under $100,000.

In other words, it would have been cheaper just to give everyone cash up-front, say $40,000/person/year, and let them spend it and thus produce a non-mythical Keynesian multiplier. DOH!!! (But as the Instapundit would say, "less opportunity for corruption.")

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Monday, February 7, 2011

The Star-Spangled Banner --All The Words

UPDATE: okay, we can cut the lady some slack; here she is in Game 7 of the NBA Finals getting it right.

Just in case you've forgotten....

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:

'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,

A home and a country should leave us no more!

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war's desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

READ: Michael Totten » The Iranian Revolution Echoes in Egypt

Michael Totten » The Iranian Revolution Echoes in Egypt: this is now Required Reading. The parts about Iranian middle-class modernization in the Sixties and Seventies are 100% what my Farsi-speaking poker buddies (who fled Iran after the Islamic Revolution) have been telling me.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"And Why Is This MY Problem?"

I got up to campus this afternoon and was greeted by my Esteemed Chair: "You have a student looking for you." After the shock wore off (no one EVER comes to visit me during regularly scheduled office hours!), I was briefed/warned about what to expect.

The student had been enrolled in my Christmas mini-term class. The student had never darkened the transom of my classroom, not one time. Consequently, I had dropped the student with a grade of "W." This was over Christmas. Now, almost two months later, the student has shown up with a giant sob story, about my having to change the W to an actual letter grade. It seems that the student's immigration status is now in question, and if I don't intervene promptly, s/he will be deported back to the Motherland to face All Sorts of Very Bad Things.

Of course, the prime reason the student didn't come to class (according to him/her) was that a full-time job prevented them for doing so.

Naturally, I have already composed my response to the student, thus: "And why is this MY problem? You could have shown your face several times in class and 'earned' an F, which (perversely enough) would not have negatively affected your visa status. You could have contacted me at any point prior to now and made your case, but evidently you were busy working --oh and never let's mind that as someone who holds a student visa, you have no business (legal or otherwise) working full-time. No no, you wait well after any and all deadlines have passed and try to lay some kind of guilt trip on ME, as though this were all MY fault?!?!? Get your [act] together and take it on the road, I'm not going to help you."

Brutally honest and cold? Yes. But it's not at all fair to the many international students who do work very hard to do everything properly, for me to help this ....person try to scam the system.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Very Sad

Today I learned that a former colleague of mine will be doing a minimum two years as a Guest of the State of Texas. He let the monkey climb on his back and wouldn't make him get down. At heart he is not a bad guy, but he made a very stupid choice: he got involved with crack. And crack is a Very Bad Thing. It will make you stupid, in ways that alcohol or tobacco or marijuana won't do. The man is sixty-five years old, looking probably at two-to-five, with no retirement savings for when he gets out (he got a lump-sum and it literally went up in smoke) and no employment prospects (convicted felon: no college will touch him).

I will pray for him, and maybe try to help out his wife a little. But I am very sad.