Random bits

Howard Barnum now has a blog (apparently it’s been around since January).  Predictably it involves wine.  For those of you who don’t know, Howard is a wine connoisseur who happens to also be a quantum physicist at Los Alamos which is why I list it under ‘quantum blogs.’  I have not created a section for ‘wine’ yet.


A student dropped one of my classes on Monday in the middle of the lecture.  OK, she was a freshman, but she couldn’t have waited until the end of the lecture or done it beforehand?  Dude.  Incidentally, this is only the second time in my eight years of teaching college that I’ve taught freshman.  I have mixed feelings about it.


This country has gotten too hell-bent on testing.  I just got back from my son’s third-grade parent orientation, during which we learned about the insane amount of standardized testing his class needs to go through.  At a meeting last week, the Dean of Admissions gave faculty an overview of the incoming class and noted (warned us?) that this year’s freshman are the first who have been subjected to the full range of testing prescribed by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program (or, as my mother-in-law, a retired guidance counselor calls it, Every Child Left Behind).  The Dean pointed out that this means they were ‘taught to the test.’  In his book The Post-American World (generally a good read, but with a few minor problems), Fareed Zakaria indicates that this is what has long made the US such an innovative place.  He says that the reason other countries score better on certain standardized tests than the US is because those countries teach to the test.  In other words, they’re not taught to think.  There’s a reason so many of the world’s best universities are in this country.  Unfortunately, we seem to be heading down the same path which leads me to my next point…


…why do we keep electing the same numbskulls year after year after year?  I had high hopes that Obama might bring some much needed change to Washington.  Unfortunately, nearly everyone he picked for his cabinet members are Washington insiders and he has done what everyone in DC does – cater to the corporations while increasing the size and meddling of the Federal government.  The Democrats have done nothing with their majority and the GOP has reduced itself to a laughing stock, and yet the same damn people keep getting re-elected.  Dude, this is just ridiculous.  What happened to all those programs the Democrats were against that Bush pushed through?  This is their chance to get rid of them (e.g. NCLB, Homeland Security, etc.).
OK, enough ranting for today.

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