job sinecurity

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I’m pretty certain I’ve coined a new word, “sinecurety.” I googled it and got nary a hit!

Or maybe “sinecurity.” I haven’t decided on a spelling yet. It’s kinda cool I get to decide and not the OED.

I think I’ll go with sinecurity. (Leaving the quotes off actually makes it more real.)

Actually, the OED need not worry too much (nor Websters) since the word has a very narrow application: it works only when paired with “job.” Job sinecurity.

More to come…

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the price of irony: about $4?

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Nearly snorted Starbucks coffee out my nose while driving to work this morning! The DJ on BIG 100.3 was recounting a news story about Prince Georges County schools proposing what may be perhaps the most restrictive cell phone rules for students in the country. The school cited as reasons rampant teenage classroom texting and that students are videoing fights in the hallway!

Wonder if the school board appreciates the story’s irony: which is worse, the texting, the fights, or apparent worries the fights make it onto YouTube?

martyr, not hero

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Ruben Navarrette wrote a tribute to revered, late educator Jaime Escalante, “Jaime Escalante’s lesson for teachers.” Unfortunately, Mr. Escalante’s martyrdom — although unacknowledged — far overshadows his heroism:

Jaime Escalante, Erin Gruwell, Ron Clark.

What do they all have in common? For one, they have each been celebrated by public education and Hollywood as heroes of American education, leading their students against all odds to success, within and without the classroom.
The other thing they share is not as well publicized: they left public education far too soon. Escalante frustrated by bureaucratic, non-student-centric administration and union rules. Gruwell and Clark to find non-public education solutions to better learning; Gruwell after only four years to become a college professor, and Clark after about a dozen years to found a private school based on his principles and practices.

Why is that?

Consider the irony. Thousands of math classrooms show Stand and Deliver on the “off days” right before a holiday break or in the days after the end-of-class high stakes exams occur (effectively marking the end of the course), classrooms which have little in common with Escalante’s classrooms. Freedom Writers, also a staple of English classrooms, is regularly shown in classrooms which quickly return to the routine of teaching writing and literature with no attempt to connect to the lives of the students.

The greatest irony is perhaps watching Ron Clark give his inspirational performance before 1,700 applauding and foot-stomping teachers at a National Council of Teachers of Math conference in Washington in 2009 with so few of those revelers even stopping to think that the school systems at which they work and the teacher unions they support do not tolerate Clark’s methods in their classrooms. And, of course, not even stopping to think that that may explain why Clark is no longer in public education.

These people are truly heroes. It would be so much better if they weren’t in a public education culture that made them martyrs as well.

math matters

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Is High School Math “Useless Nonsense”?

You’re in the merge lanes exiting from Route 28 onto 7 West on your way back to Ashburn. Progress toward home is being measured in fits and starts of inches and sighs; engines and tempers verge on overheating. You’ve already merged left toward Route 7’s lanes when a car zooms by you on your right, shooting up the empty lane to nose into the long line of waiting cars at the last possible moment. Another goes by. Then another. You reconsider your decision to be considerate. The exhaust enclouded line suddenly seems endless, and you ask yourself, “Should I ‘cheat’ too and get home sooner?”

Well, should you? Is it worth the dirty looks and gestures from the “considerate” drivers to be one of the line budgers? Or do you become one of the “vigilantes” who punish the “sidezoomers” by blocking them? So many options to choose from, so many decisions to make! What’s a “non-math” person to do?

The World is Divided Between “Math People” and “Non-Math People,” Right?

The student newspaper at my high school published last month a point-counterpoint type article debating the value of high school math.  “So even if you dislike math in high school, you might end up needing it [in college],” one author states in “The Glories of Math! Or Not …” The piece’s co-author concludes after surveying his parents at the dinner table and teachers in school that high school math is “useless nonsense,” and that no one ever uses “complex formulas and problem solving methods … in real life situations.”
Not ever.

But do the writer’s parents never, ever, really never use the problem-solving skills they were exposed to in their algebra, geometry, and calculus classes a quarter-century ago? Maybe they use them in their everyday activities and aren’t even aware of their secret powers. Is there a possibility that his mom does indeed get into a situation maybe just once a day, mind you where she weighs the merits of two options and chooses between them? It might be something as mundane as choosing a cell phone plan, or it could be something that affects the whole family, like deciding which job offer to accept. Maybe sometimes there are more than two options involved, like four or five, in various combinations (or permutations, as we call them in algebra). Maybe sometimes these situations come up more than once a day. Just maybe.

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