Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dumbing Down

Ed from Gin and Tacos on the plight of K-12 education in America:
"The most basic problem with the educational system (K-12 only; colleges have a different set of issues) is that it is increasingly expected to show improvement in a society in which so many of the measurable things affecting educational outcomes are getting worse. When you have students who are basically on their own before the age of ten, or move eight times in three years, or live in violent and impoverished homes, or go days at a time without seeing their substance-abusing parent, or spend evenings trying to decide whether to call the cops because that man is beating up Mom again but you don't want to be taken away into a foster home so what should you do, or have reached adolescence without once seeing an adult set an alarm clock to wake up and go to work, very little in terms of policy is going to matter. Give 'em vouchers, send them to charter schools, public schools, Catholic schools, whatever you want; those kids are not going to succeed. Teachers are expected to extract good test scores from students who are absent 50% of the time or don't have an adult to reliably feed and shelter them.
Teachers are equipped, at their best and in the best environments, to be teachers. They are not prepared to be psychologists, social workers, parents, guardians, and miracle workers. Certainly not every public school draws from a population of students as poor and disadvantaged as what I described here. But it's hardly rare. Increasingly – and vouchers will serve only to worsen this problem – public school systems are a grease trap for the students no other school would take. The kid didn't do well enough on tests for a charter or magnet school, and whatever adult supervisor is responsible for him or her can't shell out for private school. Public schools, in essence, are expected to show constant and near-miraculous improvement with a student population from which the best and most well-supported students have already been plucked out."
I taught at an American private high school for a mere two years.  The second paragraph here makes me shudder remembering a time when, on a daily basis, I was expected to wear four or five hats (parent, guidance counselor, role model, psychiatrist, cop) before getting to finally be a teacher.  (Did I mention this was an expensive private school which ostensibly should have had better resources than a public school?)

It's almost as if America as a country has given up on the Jeffersonian ideal of education as both an equalizer and a means to self- and national-improvement.

Somehow I doubt China is skimping on educational spending these days.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

When, Not If

America's readiness for a major terror attack has never been lower:
"'In terms of a major terrorist attack in the United States or on U.S. facilities, I think we’re significantly less ready than we were on January 19,' said Richard Clarke, who served on the National Security Council in the George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations. 'I think our readiness is extremely low and dangerously low. Certainly [government] agencies at a professional level will respond [to an attack], but having a coordinated interagency response is unlikely given the current cast of characters [in the administration] and their experience.'”
But hey, Hillary's e-mails something something.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nerd Alert

As a dutiful nerd, I will happily fork over some dosh to see Alien: Covenant.  But already, I'm sensing the same problem Prometheus had (well, one of the problems at least) -- there are simply too many characters to care about.  Sure, they're going to colonize a new planet, but you'd literally need thousands of people to do that.

So why not deep-freeze everybody except a good core of six or seven characters?

Cf. also Rogue One.  Characters are, like, these really important things in any story, not just people taking up space on a screen.

To put it another way, I don't remember all their names, but I can tell you one cool trait or quirk for every miner in Alien, or every marine in Aliens.  I'm guessing the crew of The Covenant will be far more disposable in every sense of the word.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Almost Spring

Matthew Shipp Trio, live 2014

Trying to not be as lazy as usual and get all my new-semester-print-and-enter-stuff-into-the-computer busy work accomplished before classes start in a few weeks.  Since I decided to stay in Korea this winter instead of travel, I really have no excuse.

Having limited success though.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Another Day In Paradise Cont'd

Oh, and the head of Samsung was just arrested for apparently trying to use millions of dollars worth of "charitable donations" to President Park Geun-hye's best friend / supposed "Rasputin" figure to push through a complicated merger deal.

In purely scientific terms, the political situation in South Korea right now is bug-fuck crazy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Another Day In Paradise

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un apparently had his older half-brother offed by assassins in Malaysia:
"Kim Jong-nam died on the way to hospital after he told airport officials he had been attacked by unknown assailants.
Intelligence officers here briefed the media that Kim, who lived in gilded exile in Macau after falling out of favor with his father Kim Jong-il, was killed with a poison needle or spray by two female North Korean agents.
But neither the government here nor Malaysian police have confirmed the tale."
We really are living in some kind of fucked up Tom Clancy novel now, aren't we?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Meh. Meh, I Say.

I'm halfway through The Traitor Baru Cormorant and I can't recommend it so far.  It follows a trend with a lot of recent sci-fi (and not just in books) of trying to jump-start a trilogy or even franchise rather than construct a solid, single story.  (Cf. also the Ancillary Trilogy.)

These aren't bad or terrible books by any means, but the sheer amount of narrative padding can be ridiculous.  (Repeating an idea isn't the same as exploring one.)

Anyhow, here's hoping the second half manages to pick up some steam.  So far it feels like a chore.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Just Askin'

Interesting Times We Live In, Cont'd

Without exaggeration, we live in an era where Saturday Night Live is doing more to protect fundamental democratic freedoms than CNN, the Washington Post, or the New York Times could ever dream of.

Note: this is not a positive or salubrious development, just an observation of fact.

Sunday, February 5, 2017