Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tim Wise on white privilege and the election

Found at Eric Stoller's place, here is the opening paragraph of Wise's essay:

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for an easy-to-understand example of it, perhaps this list will help.

Follow the link for the list.

The LHS math meeting and small groups

I've been thinking about the intended use of small groups by Finch and Behn at the math meeting, and the crowd reaction to it. Here's what I came up with:

Small groups are a big part of education theory. They have been for some time, and for good reason (basically, they are effective). I can see why Finch and Behn would have wanted small groups in this case (aside from LT's point about protecting the math teachers). However, I can also see two roadblocks; the first is that parents aren't aware of the history of small groups in education, and the administrators (presumably) didn't bother to explain them; the second is that Finch mandated their use, and failed to get buy-in from parents.

Both reflect poorly on Mr. Finch. Yes, it would have been nice to see more parents participate, but ultimately, if my dumb *** can figure out that you need buy-in from angry parents, and that some parents just wanted to be heard, and that you might need to explain the why of something to the crowd, then it should have been obvious for someone in Finch's position.

Note that I am not addressing the possibility that there were some parents who were just out for blood, or wanted to place blame, either on the administration or individual teachers. (And while the above may be true of some parents, it certainly can't be true of all parents.) Rather, I am addressing the use of small groups and how that use appears to have been communicated to the crowd. Or something; all the caffeine is really failing to make up for my lack of sleep today.

Hering on the math meeting

Hering's disdain for research (learning?) is never more obvious when he writes about something I've been following closely. For example, the Lebanon Community School District recall. Hering:

The Lebanon school system now is embroiled in the attempted recall of two board members. But strangely, these are the very board members who do not believe the school administration is doing a good enough job.

If I were McUne, Fisher or Shimmin, I'd be pretty annoyed at the insinuation that I think the administration is doing a good job. I think there's consensus that all is not right in the LCSD, especially when it comes to math at LHS. The difference seems to lie more in approach: McUne, Fisher, and (most of the time) Shimmin are willing to follow the law and proper procedure to get something done, whereas Alexander and Wineteer have shown themselves willing to put the district in a position of legal liability as well as bypass anything resembling democratic, deliberative decision-making in Alexander's quest to get rid of Robinson.

I also want to parse a few more claims from Hering's editorial, starting with this statement:

Suppose you run a public high school and do it in such a way that almost half the students enrolled get F’s in a course. Suppose parents are worried and turn up in large numbers to express their concern. Do you let them talk and listen to what they have to say? Or do you insist on talking to them first, then channel them into “small groups” so whatever they say is heard by only a few in each case? [emphasis added]

Was the LHS administration supposed to say nothing? Even if the format had been for the administrators to listen the big group, someone would have had to start the meeting and lay down some ground rules, make introductions, thank people for coming, etc. Insinuating that there was a problem with administrators saying something at the beginning of the meeting is just stupid. (Bear in mind Hering makes no claims about what the administrators said, merely that they - *gasp* - talked at the beginning.)

Hering does get one thing exactly right:

Sure, it’s tough for an administrator to sit there and let a crowd of people beat up on them with words. But letting people speak openly is still the best way to convince them that they’ve had a chance to speak and be heard.

I was a little surprised that Finch and Behn didn't do this. To be blunt, it would have cost them nothing, and would have got them some amount of credibility with parents.

Anyway, back to the point: If Hering is seriously going to claim that it's not a good idea to try and recall two board members while the district is having math problems at LHS, either Hering doesn't care Alexander and Wineteer's actions have been ethically and legally sketchy for years, or he hasn't bothered to find out. Neither reflects well on him.

More and more, I'm buying into the idea that Alexander and Wineteer actually can't get rid of Robinson (at least without some large and decidedly negative fallout), due to a combination of having nuked their own credibility and an unwillingness to give more than lip service to following the law and other necessary procedures.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More Palin

My coworker, upon hearing that Sarah Palin doesn't know what the Bush Doctrine is:

"She sucks. She's the suckiest suck that ever sucked. I can't wait until she becomes President."

Even I am amazed. Said coworker is normally much mellower than that. And, to be fair, much less sexist* in her choice of language. But I think the point holds.

*Disclaimer: Pointing out that Palin is totally unqualified using traditional metrics is not sexist. The word suck is, as are, arguably, traditional metrics.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Recall Math

An observation about the whole situation, sent to me via email:

I think the whole math issue may very well end up saving Alexander and Wineteer from being recalled.

Sounds plausible. Not good, but plausible. CARES might want to make note of that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Recall effort gathers enough signatures to have election

From the Express:

Linn County Clerk Steve Druckenmiller announced on Wednesday that enough signatures had been verified to trigger a recall election on Oct. 7 of Lebanon School Board chair Josh Wineteer and vice chair Rick Alexander.

Alexander and Wineteer each have until Sept.15 either resign or submit a 200-word statement addressing the allegations made about their performance in the recall petition. The board members' statements as well as the statement justifying the recall by the chief petitioners will appear on the ballot.


Druckenmiller said he had his staff quit counting after they had verified over 1,500 signatures on each recall petition, well above the 1,398 required to force an election.

To busy to comment, but, uh, damn. Is everyone holding on tight? The ride is starting...

I think I found some irony; anyone want some? I have extra....

For those of you who know what I do for work....

Yesterday, one of my bosses told me I need to put in significantly more hours. I'm working ~9 hours per day already, and have never objected to coming in earlier or staying later when asked.

One some level, my brain is protesting the dissonance, I'm sure.

... just to be clear, what gets me is that it's being presented as an order (and since I'm salaried, there's no extra benefit involved). Anyone else see the irony?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Temporary change in the comment policy

Just about every single comment I've been receiving on the various Palin- and election-related posts recently has been terrible. I take a lot the responsibility for that - the posts I've been putting up aren't all that great either.

Even so, I'm temporarily changing the comment policy around here. Normally, I'll approve just about anything. However, when it comes to comments about politics, the standard for approval just changed.

Basically, if your comment contains something as silly as blaming the women's movement for Palin's difficulty in balancing her work and family (yes, that example is a real comment), then your comment will be rejected. I just don't have the time or energy to respond as necessary. My living room and all that.

Have a good evening.

This blog tries something new

How about a link to Jennifer Moody's blog:

It is simply not possible to be both a parent and a high-powered executive and give both jobs your absolute, undivided energy. (Frankly, it’s not possible to be only ONE of those things and give it your absolute, undivided energy 100 percent of the time, but I digress.) One or the other, and sometimes both, will be dropped from the priority list every single day.


God bless women who want to lead. I have every confidence in women as governors, women as politicians, women as leaders of countries. They should not have to sacrifice parenting to accomplish any of that.

But the reality is, they do. Just like their husbands have done for so long.

And so, for her sake and her family’s, I’m sending up a prayer. Because something’s going to have to give, and I’m betting it won’t be the job.

Moody gets it right; even with the tremendous amount of help Palin is sure to get, something's going to give.

I've linked to a lot of stuff that is critical of Palin - and rightly so. That doesn't mean I think she or her family are immune to the stress they are about to go through. Far from it - which is part of the reason I am linking to Moody's blog post as well.

That said, I can't get over the fact that Palin gets help of the kind she would seek to deny others through her policy preferences. On some level, that has to produce cognitive dissonance for her. I hope. Certainly it should for her would-be voters.

"Why the Press Can't Report the Campaign"

Ezra Klein is a very smart person:

I think one aspect of the modern press that doesn't get enough attention -- either among folks in the media or folks critiquing it -- is the transition from the fundamental scarcity being information to information being in abundance and the fundamental scarcity being mediation. For instance, the attitude on display in this Marc Ambinder post is fully understandable if you take a newspaperman's attitude towards the whole thing. If everyone got a newspaper once a day, and there were eight political stories, and all of them were different each day, and one of them had pointed out that Palin actually did support the Bridge to Nowhere, then the press would indeed have done its job. The job was to report the story, and they reported it.

But cable news and blogs and radio sort of changed all that and now there's too much information, and so consumers largely rely on the press to arrange that information into some sort of coherent story that will allow them to understand the election. And the press assumed that role -- they didn't create some new institution, or demand that the cable channels be credentialed differently and understood as "political entertainment."


Similarly, if the press reports something and never mentions it again, the public knows to forget it. It's not important. If they mention it constantly -- "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" -- they know it is important. The job of the media, in other words, is now to also emphasize the right parts of the story. [emphasis in original]

This requires deciding what matters.

That last sentence is both true and a substantial problem. It's also partially why I read lefty political blogs - I have found something that filters information in a similar way I do, and considers similar things important, thus saving me from either dedicating all of my free time to sifting through the news or remaining even more ignorant.

To be clear, the reason it's a problem is that the is often based not on, say, information about either policy or instances of lying on the part of candidates, but around the idea of politics-as-game, or even around what the friggin' reporters simply find interesting. In other words, the filters used are often terrible and not conducive to deliberative democracy.

Go read the rest. It's not long.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hering's not dumb, but he must think his readers are

No, really, I don't think he's dumb. Of course, that makes this bit a little harder to explain:

After Sarah Palin spoke to the Republican convention last week, the Obama supporters criticized her. That’s fine, but why take umbrage at the wrong remark?

“Governor Palin’s statement last night dismissing the work of community organizers suggests that her idea of democracy does not include participation from ordinary citizens,” huffed the deputy director of Americans United for Change. “Governor Palin professes to be working for Americans, but apparently she does not want those Americans to get in her way or give her advice.”

That’s neither what Palin said nor what she wants. What she said was: “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”

And she said that only because her opponents have belittled her as a nobody on the grounds that the highest public office she held before becoming Alaska’s governor was mayor of small town.

That's not what Palin meant at all, and everyone in the audience and watching it on TV knew it (the laughter and shouting that followed the statement is a pretty good sign). Palin was denigrating community organizers, pure and simple. To pretend otherwise is to treat one's readers as idiots. I'd even go so far as to suggest it's a borderline lie.

Also, this is kind of strange:

All of us have responsibilities, and if we don’t meet them day after day, we are likely to be shown the door. That’s not necessarily the case with community organizers. But it’s definitely so with people in elective office, even that of mayor in a small town.

Yeah? Really? I would humbly suggest that Hering has no idea what the fuck he's talking about. Employees can be fired at any time (Oregon is both an at-will state and many community organizers are not unionized); elections occur periodically, usually at two- or four-year intervals, with recalls being difficult and rare. Does he offer any evidence that community organizers don't have responsibilities, or that elected officials that perform poorly consistently fail to be re-elected? No.

[As an aside, I wonder if one of the reasons journalists look at me askance when I go after Hering is that tradition dictates that editorials are not required to show evidence for the claims they make. If true, that's a tradition that needs to change.]


So what do community organizers do anyway, besides organize communities?

That's like asking what newspaper editors do besides edit newspapers. It can be read as trashing the job: "Oh, that's it? All you do is edit the newspaper/organize the community?" Like either is that simple.

Then Hering says:

Organizing is a wonderful skill, and nobody has reason to look down on it.

Really? Not even the opposing party's candidates for President and the hack newspaper editor that supports them? Yeah? Then why did you all just denigrate them? Why did Palin continue to denigrate organizers after the convention?

Hering has no idea what he's talking about - as usual. I do wish someone above his head at Lee would notice that they've got an editor whose editorials lack evidence of any kind of research or effort. I mean, I pen gibberish and post it online all the time, but no one pays me for it. Hering's got, you know, responsibilities. And readers. You would think that accountability would be in there too, but apparently not.

This is a much more plausible explanation for the denigration of community organizers, at least to me.

Preznit Qualifications

Let's take at face value for a second all the stuff around who is/isn't qualified to be President:

McCain is unqualified because he's too old.

Palin is unqualified due to her lack of experience.

Obama is unqualified due to his lack of experience.

Say hello to President Joseph Biden, the only one of the four who meets the "qualifications" being thrown around. (Odd that he's older, but not too old, and white, and male, and has been in government for a very long time.)

Somehow I don't think proposing this as a solution will make many people happy.

Clearly I need to stop half-assing blog posts. This was a joke/thought experiment taking into account what the campaigns and their supporters are saying about the candidates - not an endorsement on my part.


Living proof that ascribing racial categories based on genetics is messed up

Check this out.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Palin's appeal, according to one supporter

Part of a comment found elsewhere on this blog:

This is why she had won my vote. She is a mom a wife that was not groomed to be a politican. She reminds me of mothers I met at soccer fields, basketball, baseball and the hockey arena cheering on their kids. They are caring, loving and speak from the heart. Not a person that went to elite universities with a goal in mind to be a politican and willing to do what ever it takes. She does not take sides but only looks out for the average person.

This is the same argument advanced as evidence for GWB in 2000. I don't particularly think it's a good reason to vote for someone, but clearly there are a lot of people who do.

That said, I want to note a distinction that I think is blurred - quite intentionally - by this argument: Namely, that 'politician' and 'elitist' and 'craven' (maybe 'lacking principles') are all different categories. Yes, some people are all three, it's true. But they're not the same thing, and there are plenty of people who are one or two but not all three.

The commenter above - who I am using an example for a more generic argument - seems to think that being educated is equivalent to being elitist and craven.

Yes, I'm back to the anti-intellectual and anti-education bias. I think such a bias is dangerous and stupid. Maybe more later, but I have to go now.

UPDATE: That comment implies some other things which I think are wrong...

1) That Obama, in comparison, doesn't care about his family. This is just insulting.

2) That anyone who does desire to be involved in politics is somehow automatically lacking principles, except for Sarah Palin - because she clearly desires to be involved in politics, having run for office seven times (two city council, two mayor, one failed Lt. Governor, one Governor, and now VPOTUS)?

3) That Palin has somehow remained not a politician despite being the governor of a state and a former mayor. (And if that's true, how does that jibe with the claim that she has the necessary experience to lead the country? Is it all of a sudden no longer necessary to have political experience to head the US government?)

Family-friendly for me but not for thee

There's been quite a bit of discussion about Palin's family and her choice to run for office, and how Palin is a big hypocrite for refusing to support policies that are family-friendly while taking advantage of all kinds of privileges that allow her to have a family and run for office.

I actually don't think pointing this out as hypocrisy will get much, if any, traction. Here's why: According to the myth of the American Dream, the only people who deserve such pampered treatment are those who have it - which means that for many people, Palin is not a hypocrite at all. We're only suppose to be in it for ourselves, you see. The fact that many working mothers don't have the luxuries Palin does just means Palin is better, smarter, more deserving. It's not talent --> success, but success-as-evidence-of-talent.

Actually advocating for other people runs counter to the spirit of the American Dream, apparently. Palin's success is to be celebrated, but not emulated (there's an assumption in there about the inevitability of a hierarchy with a few at the top as well).

The classic Protestant Ethic - that one's access to heaven is determined by birth, and that signs of wealth in this life are merely signs that one is destined for heaven (with the subtext that any accumulation of wealth is blessed and therefore good) - is alive and well in America.

What may seem obvious to anyone to the left of, say, Bill Clinton is not, in fact, even considered true for many of Palin's supporters; as such, charges of hypocrisy on this front might easily be seen as incorrect at best and underhanded smears at worst (after all, we're supposed to be celebrating her success, not noting her hypocrisy). Or so I would guess.

Note to the OSU Athletic Department

Closing the stands because they are unsafe (even though the materials for new bleachers have been lying on the ground within sight of the stadium for at least a year, and even though they still use the press box, which sits on top of the stands)? I can live with that.

Actually having event staff security at soccer games? There's no need, but I can live with that - though they always come across as small-minded and mean-spirited. Last year they sometimes banned bags from the field; I also had one threaten to deny me entrance to a game if I didn't show my student ID, which was surreal; it's a good thing I still carry it around. (For those of you who don't know, OSU soccer games are free and open to everyone, regardless of student status. In fact, more non-students than students attend games.)

Searching bags and banning anything but sealed water bottles? Not acceptable. There's no reason for it. I've been told there have been incidents in the past, but I've been going to home men's soccer games for six years, and I've never seen anything that warranted this. I have also been told this is a new Pac-10 rule, not an OSU thing. Seeing as how it came from the 'security' folks, I am skeptical (though it should be noted that even if it is a Pac-10 thing, it remains unnecessary). I tend to think the newfound fear of liquids has more to do with the sale of $3 bottles of water and a control-oriented culture than anything else.

Soccer has always had its own culture and practices. Here, that has meant a relatively low-key, dedicated fan culture (the occasional frat boy stupid fan notwithstanding). It has never, to the best of my knowledge, meant a need for security or insanely overpriced food and drink. It's insulting to fans.

(While I am complaining, can I just note that I agree with this post regarding the strength of OSU's preseason schedule? I've seen two men's games so far this year, and OSU has outscored their opponents 10-0. In two games. I've left both games early because there was no point in staying. I know they've struggled in the past few years, but that's no reason to adopt this schedule.)

The Washington Post, explained


Here's the thing, though:

"You have criticized the Post, but you have not understood our burden. Each time someone says something negative about Republicans, it tips the Great Scales. To ensure the Great Scales remain balanced, we must say something equally bad about Democrats. You see, Republicans and Democrats are morally equal in every way. They are equally right and equally wrong – on all things. This truth is woven into the fabric of the universe. To ignore it would cause the universe to unravel – "

This view actually seems to be held by a disturbingly large number of people, including many people who appear on the television. It explains a lot.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.