All your electoral college belong to us

Okay election junkies.  Just how cool is this chart?!  (Via Big Steve)

The test

My 6th grade son has spent time in school every day for the past month “preparing for the EOG (end of grade)” NCLB tests rather than actually learning new things.   Fortunately, they at least did not waste time on an EOG pep rally as many schools do.  There is just way, way to much pressure put on these tests.  He said to me, “I wish we didn’t have to worry about it so much and when it was time, just take the test.”  Amen.  Not to mention, David will surely pass these tests easily.  How about concentrating the extra help on the kids who will actually need the extra help to learn the material in order to pass the tests.  But 45-60 minutes a day of extra “test preparation” for every damn student in the schools is such a complete waste.  David is now on day 2 of 3 of testing.  Fortunately he takes after his dad and rather than being at all stressed out, seems to be approaching the whole thing with a certain bemused detachment.  Nonetheless, this great anonymous essay by a DC public school teacher today totally resonated with me:

I’m not sure what’s worse, the testing itself or the preparation and anxiety built up beforehand. As I sat through a DC-CAS pep rally, the magnitude of this testing madness hit me like a freight train. This is what children are getting pumped up for? This is what teachers have been “working towards all year”? This is the “pinnacle” of our teaching? I felt like I was in some creepy twilight zone as I watched other teachers and administrators chant and watched the confused students cheer. To see the students get excited about their potential success on the test was not the point of contention for me. The fact that the students are subject to poorly-conceived, low-quality tests and used as pawns to determine educational funding, as well as the fate of their teachers, is not something worth cheering about…

I planned lessons throughout the [test administration] meetings and graded papers in the background, only contributing my thoughts in areas which I found to be egregiously unreasonable or unjust. For example, lined paper for scrap paper, smiling at students (this is what they say is “coaching”), and allowing students to stand and stretch during testing would absolutely not be tolerated. As I listened to these rules, I pictured my bubbly bunch of eight year olds’ faces. Then, the real bomb was dropped: Absolutely no bathroom breaks during testing unless the child was showing physical signs of distress. In addition, we also needed to prevent multiple bathroom trips by determining how badly each child had to use the restroom. Well, any teacher knows that once one student has “an emergency,” they all have emergencies. How am I to be the judge of the content of each child’s bladder? To this I was told it would be easier to deal with angry parents of a child who had wet themselves, than to have to explain the situation to the monitors from central offices.

Just wow.  David’s school was desperate for proctors and basically called all the parents in the school.  I left a message for the guidance counselor and said I could help as long as I did not have to just sit there with nothing staring at kids taking tests for four hours (e.g., thought I might work on some overdue manuscript reviews).   You’ll not be surprised to learn that my return call informed me that they could only use me as a proctor if I could state at kids taking a test for four hours.  Not happening.

NPR meets TED!

I really enjoy listening to the occasional TED talk as podcast, but rarely do I set aside 20 minutes to watch a full video (podcasts are always listened to while I’m also accomplishing something else).  One of the problems is that you never really know whether it’s a talk where you really need the visuals or not.  Well, it now seems that we’ve got two great tastes that taste great together as NPR has started a program that curates related TED talks around a theme that are not particularly visually-dependent and supplements them with interviews with the TED talkers.  Fabulous idea!  I listened to the first today all about “Our Buggy Brain.”  It was terrific even though I’d already listened to a couple of the talks.  Very excited about listening to more of these in the future.  Of the talks in this episode, I’ve listened to all of Paul Bloom’s on the “The Origins of Pleasure”  and its is great.  Even though I’ve heard most of these findings already, it’s a fascinating summary.   If you are inclined to watch the whole thing, (and if you’re not, do check out the podcast), here you go:

Photo of the day

From a really cool Big Picture set of wind-themed photos:

A wildfire that forced authorities to temporarily close a section of U.S. Highway 34 east of Yuma County, Colo. This wildfire caused at least a half-million dollars’ worth of damage on Colorado’s plains was sparked by a power line snapped by strong winds, according to a report on March 23. (Tony Rayl/Yuma Pioneer via Associated Press)

Morality and gay marriage

Mostly, this recent Gallup data on the morality of homosexuality shows that, among various demographic groups, support for gay marriage is almost identical to the percentage that thing homosexual relationships are moral.  What intrigued me most, though, was comparing the latter two columns in this chart and looking for groups where this does not necessarily hold up.  The answer?  Catholics and Republicans.  Both Catholics and Republicans are quite a bit less supportive of gay marriage than their attitudes towards the morality of homosexuality would suggest, whereas for most other groups the difference is almost nothing:

I’ll hazard a guess at what’s going on here.  Many Catholics, despite their own views on the overall morality, feel compelled to listen to their church, and in much the same way, many Republicans (and I bet they are older ones) feel the need to “listen” to their party.  Party identification and polarization in action.

It’s all over white people!

Personally, I have no problem with this, but there’s a lot of Americans who do.  Two things: 1) they are predominantly Republicans; 2) they are going to be outnumbered in time.

  From the Post:

For the first time in U.S. history, most of the nation’s babies are members of minority groups, according to new census figures that signal the dawn of an era in which whites no longer will be in the majority.

Population estimates show that 50.4 percent of children younger than 1 last year were Hispanic, black, Asian American or in other minority groups. That’s almost a full percentage point higher than the 49.5 percent of minority babies counted when the decennial census was taken in April 2010. Census Bureau demographers said the tipping point came three months later, in July…

The census has forecast that non-Hispanic whites will be outnumbered in the United States by 2042, and social scientists consider that current status among infants a harbinger of the change.

“This is a watershed moment,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in family issues. “It shows us how multicultural we’ve become.”

Although minorities make up about 37 percent of the U.S. population, the District and four states are majority minority — California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas.

Obviously the coalitions of demographic groups that form the parties change over time.  But certainly as things are presently aligned, this is a trend that dramatically benefits Democrats over Republicans.  Now, Republicans aren’t going to win over Black voters any time soon, but they really may want to think the harshness of their anti-immigration rhetoric.  Of course, I don’t expect they will and Hispanics will likely remain a consistent– and growing– part of the Democratic coalition.

Is this America? No, it’s Alabama

There’s plenty wrong with Alabama’s “papers, please” immigration law, but I did not realize quite how offensive it is.  Apparently, in “fixing” it, Alabama is trying to make it worse.  (For some background, here’s some Colbert or a great This American Life segment).   Anyway, the NYT had an editorial yesterday and this part really caught my attention:

House Bill 658 preserves the malign intent of the earlier law and makes some of its provisions worse. It expands the “papers, please” requirement to target passengers in a stopped car as well as the driver. It doubles, to 48 hours, the time someone can be jailed while awaiting an immigration check. It increases jail time and fines for newly created — and surely unconstitutional — state immigration crimes. It does nothing meaningful to shield from prosecution those who “harbor” or “transport” immigrants for religious or humanitarian reasons.

Got that?  A friend driving a car makes a rolling stop on a right turn and all of a sudden you have to prove to Alabama’s police that you are a legal American.  Seriously?!  Can’t prove it on the spot– well, then they can keep in you in jail for two days while they figure this out.  Seriously, who are the people who want to live in a country like this?  (Oh, right, Republicans).  Reminds me of that whole “first they came for…” story.  Oh, and if your Christian (or other faith) leads you to help out with a ride or safe place to sleep for a human being who happens to be an illegal immigrant well, I guess you might as well be harboring a known murderer.  Nice.

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