When Teacher is Wrong – David Burkhead

When Teacher is Wrong – David Burkhead

I have a daughter.  She’s bright (in her school’s “high ability” program”.  She’s athletic (swim team for a couple of years now).  And she’s utterly adorable. (Don’t challenge me on that.  Just…don’t.)

Unfortunately, she’s in public school and there’s not a lot I can do about that.  As much as I’d love to homeschool, I’ve got to keep working to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.  And my wife can’t do it because while I bring home the bigger paycheck, it’s at a very small company and my wife’s job does things like provide health insurance. (And with my various problems–I’d say it’s a shame we’ve got to get old, but when you consider the alternative…–we really need that insurance.)

So, she’s in public school.

A couple of years ago she brought back a school report which had an item “The purpose of government is to provide services that individuals can’t pay for.”


So I ask her about it.  She tells me that the example they gave was street cleaning.  Someone has to clean the streets and that’s the purpose of government. (I’ll have a bit to say on this subject somewhat later.)

Again, what?  Yes, to a certain extent that may be a role of government but the role?  Don’t think so.

Obviously, the school and I disagreed on this subject.  This wasn’t a matter of there being an objectively “right” answer but rather presenting something that’s a matter of philosophy and values as though it did have an objective correct answer.

Now, I could have gone into the school and raised a fuss, insist that they teach my philosophy and values on the rest of the class.  Instead, I took the time, generally when driving my daughter to school in the morning, to discuss the issue with her.  I started with the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That
to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving
their just powers from the consent of the governed

And, so that the purpose of government is to secure our rights and that the basic rights include Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.

Once she had that, we went on to the Constitution, the three branches of government: Legislature which makes the law, Executive which carries out (executes) the law, and Judicial which tries cases under the law.  We went over the Bill of Rights.

And, so, I made sure that my daughter understood my philosophy of government because that’s my responsibility.

And it’s not just matters of value and philosophy.  The schools, or at least the teachers, have been known to be wrong on matters of fact.  And this is nothing new.  Sometimes it’s outdated information.  For instance, when I was in grade school mountain building was described as being caused as follows:

When it was formed the Earth was much hotter than it is now.  As it cooled it contracted, as cooling things are wont to do.  This caused the crust, the “skin” to wrinkle like a withered apple.  These wrinkles are mountains.

This was at least a decade after plate tectonics had become widely accepted as the cause of such things as mountain building.

Other examples include a fourth grade teacher telling me that all radioactive rocks contain Uranium. (I could see in the book that Uranium was given as an example of something in radioactive rocks, not an exhaustive listing.) And a Sixth grade teacher telling me that the Curies discovered radioactive elements (as in discovering radioactive elements existed rather than the accurate statement that they discovered particular radioactive elements).  And so on.

And sometimes it’s not the teacher.  Sometimes it’s the book.  The encyclopedia I grew up with described stellar evolution thusly:

Stars start as large gas clouds.  They start to contract.  As they contract, they heat. (So far, so good, in an oversimplified way.  But now it goes off the rails) At a certain point they are hot enough to glow as Red Giant stars.  They continue to contract, getting hotter, and proceed through “yellow giant” “white giant” and “blue giant” Eventually contracting to a “blue dwarf”.  Once they reach blue dwarf stage, they gradually start to cool, going back through the spectrum until they reach red dwarf and finally extinguish.

That theory was superseded in the 1920’s.  Yet there it was, presented as Gospel Truth in a respected encyclopedia forty years later and being taught in our schools.

Sometimes the teacher is wrong.  Sometimes the book is wrong.  You, as an individual, have to be ready to question the book, question the teacher, and make sure your children do so as well.

And, now, I’m going to digress a bit on something brought up above simply because I think it’s interesting. I mentioned street cleaning and that I’d have a bit to say on that somewhat later.  Well, it’s somewhat later.

Folk have argued, with some justice, that public good activities such as street cleaning are among the legitimate functions of government.  And, in at least some instances, they make a compelling case.  Michael Z. Williamson in his Libertarian paean Freehold goes into this a bit.  There is a scene involving heavy, road blocking snow.  The libertarian government of Grainne (the eponymous freehold) has no services for things like snow removal.  Thus, it is up to each individual business or property owner to clear the road in front of his own business/property.  And if the guy next door doesn’t do it, well, then it doesn’t get done unless you do it yourself.  The residents of Grainne, almost rabid on the subject of individual liberty, are willing to accept that.  Other folk may not find that an acceptable trade.  One, however, has to be careful with that because Government is Force, including deadly force.  Matters of public sanitation, with the spread of disease and encouragement of vermin, may justify that force.  Other things do not.

408 responses to “When Teacher is Wrong – David Burkhead

  1. c4c

  2. And the government in Stockholm recently tried feminist snow removal. Which failed utterly. But only because they didn’t do it right, of course.

    • Waitwaitwait. Feminist snow removal? How does one remove snow in a feminist manner, by lecturing it on how by making it more difficult for people to move it perpetuates the patriarchy?

      • They were to concentrate on areas more frequented by women or some such. the whole city was plugged.

      • Since women use side walks and bike paths more than men, cleaning these things was given priority over roads, which are used primarily by men. A week of complete paralysis and 2 deaths later, the stupidity of this was revealed to a shocked city council.

        • That…is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. I can’t even.

        • Apparently the idea that the roads and sidewalks exist for more than the movement of people was never considered (or was deemed an oppressive argument, one giving priority to things over people.)

          I guess the groceries get to the store by being individually hand-carried by artisans specializing in the loving transportation of cherished goods. A team of twelve specially trained, dedicated craftspersons carting each of a dozen eggs on its own silken pillow to ensure its arrival at the store with minimal trauma to the egg.

          After all, it isn’t as if women need such service providers as plumbers and appliance repairpersons to be able to get their trucks near their customers residences — they can just walk or bike back to the shop for parts.

          • A team of twelve specially trained, dedicated craftspersons carting each of a dozen eggs on its own silken pillow to ensure its arrival at the store with minimal trauma to the egg.

            Stop giving them ideas…between this and the artisanal ice joke on Kimmy Smit it’ll happen.

        • The first thing I think should be cleared would be the major routes enabling travel to emergency centers and hospitals.

          • There you go, using logic…

          • But all trauma is caused by patriarchy and thus feminist snow removal will end the need for emergency centers and hospitals.

          • In sane states you would be right. In reality…rotflmao.

          • That’s absurd. If somebody slips on the ice and breaks a leg she can simply walk or bike to a hospital, especially if the sidewalks have been cleared of snow.

            Besides, sidewalks being narrower they are much easier to clear than those wide streets and avenues, allowing more extensive clearing. Being narrower also means they can be cleared by men with shovels (especially as shoveling stuff seems to be what men are best at) and thus avoiding the fuel burned by snowplows, avoiding a major contributor to greenhouse gasses influencing global warming.

            Sadly this is now PhD level Women’s Studies reasoning.

            • You left out the fact AGW is also causing the extra snow, ergo if the sidewalks are cleared by shovel, the bad snow will go away …

              • Being old school and living where only one or two snows a year require removal I had forgotten that these days much snow clearance is achieved via snow blowers.

                Being powered by small gasoline motors I suspect those are eschewed by Sweden’s women.

                • I shall likely need to acquire one of those, now that I am in Michigan and not DFW. Although, my area isn’t known for large amounts of snow, even the national weather service is warning us of a bit more snow than average, and also some very cold days

            • Goodness, no! They can call a Native American emergency squad to come with either a horse or a large dog to pull them to the hospital on a travois.

          • True. Any fool could see that. Therefore the deaths were murders and should be prosecuted as such.

            • Criminally negligent homicide, not murder. Murder requires intent to kill, which is lacking in this case. But when you completely fail to take basic common-sense precautions, and your failure results in someone’s death, that’s criminally negligent homicide.

              As far as I can tell, in some jurisdictions there is apparently no distinction between this and negligent homicide. But in jurisdictions where there is a distinction, negligent homicide is things like forgetting to tighten a nut on the tire you’re changing, resulting in the tire coming off and the driver fatally crashing the vehicle. A tragic mistake, but one that could have happened to anybody. But a mistake that causes a person of basic common sense to slap their foreheads and say “What were you THINKING?” is criminally negligent homicide, which is more severe. Things like not clearing the roads to the hospitals and other emergency services FIRST would certainly fall under this category.

              • And by that standard the protesters blocking highways (which have resulted in confirmed deaths due to blocking emergency vehicles) should be up on charges, with several dozen more people up to our current President being charged as accessories.

                • Yep. They definitely should, if the DAs in those areas had any… no, I’ll censor what I was going to say. I’ll just replace it with “if the DAs in those areas had a spine.”

              • IDK, keeping who gets these things passed in mind, I think a case could be made for malice aforethought. They tend to hate people in general and want less of them about.

                • It’d be hard to prove beyond reasonable doubt, though. If you sat me on that jury, I’d probably acquit on a charge of murder (because I don’t think that malice aforethought could be adequately proven — though that would kind of depend on what the defendants had previously written, so I can’t rule it out entirely). But I’d certainly convict on a charge of criminally negligent homicide.

              • The FBI Director has recently ruled that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring a charge of criminal negligence absent evidence of intent, so I fear your standard cannot be applied.

              • Most States have a statute “Felony Murder” wherein if someone is killed in the course of the commission of a felony then anyone involved in the felony commits felony murder. (Anyone, for any reason. If you’re driving the getaway car for a robbery and one of your compatriots is killed by a security guard or even a “concerned citizen” you are guilty of felony murder.) It carries the same penalty as first degree murder.

                False imprisonment (preventing someone from leaving the scene–which would describe blocking traffic on the highway) with use of force is a felony most places. Aggravated assault (which requires only the threat of violence) is a felony everywhere. If someone dies because of it–felony murder.

                • My comment about criminally negligent homicide was about the Stockholm idiots not clearing major roads first. I agree with you about protesters blocking the road: if they cause someone to die because the ambulance couldn’t get through, they would be guilty of felony murder. The difference is that their act was intentional, whereas the Stockholm road-clearing committee didn’t intend to block the roads, they just didn’t consider the obvious consequences of their actions. So gross negligence but not murder in the case of Stockholm, but felony murder in the case of the road-blocking protesters.

                  • And it goes along with that the person funding the protests, with the full knowledge that they disrupt traffic, is contributing to the crime.

                    • Yeah, I’d buy that argument if I was on a jury. Maybe not if it was the first time this had happened — then the “Well, how could they have known that the protesters were going to be that stupid and criminal?” argument would sway me, at least to the point of reasonable doubt. But after the second and third time? Yeah, whoever pays for these protesters, knowing full well that they’re going to do the same thing they did last time, is an accomplice.

              • ah, no. It’s Depraved Heart Murder.

                • Ah. Didn’t know about that one. Yeah, the Stockholm snow thing fits the criteria for Depraved Heart Murder.

          • Not if you’re a feminist, it would seem.

        • I could see some place that got less snow than Stockholm (lack of familiarity with a problem often leading to less than ideal solutions and all that.) falling for this stupid. But… Stockholm? Where snow is a known problem and the hazards of doing it wrong are well known? There are insufficient facepalms (and insufficient cluebats.)

        • Isn’t that… you know… like saying that women are weaker and NEED to have the snow removed, while saying that men are stronger and more able to deal with the snow?

          Sounds sorta anti-feminist to me…

          But then, I also point and laugh at vegans walking around in leather shoes.

      • Girls are more likely to be injured while walking in the snow, while guys are more likely to be injured while driving in the snow. So it’s “sexist” to plow the roads first. (To me, this suggests that guys are more likely to do things they can’t while driving, and women are more likely to be wearing unsuitable footwear in the snow…but I digress.)

        So they TRIED to clear the sidewalks first.

        No, nobody raised a hand and said “um…how do they get to the sidewalks? Where does the snow go?” Or a dozen other things.

        • No, nobody raised a hand and said “um…how do they get to the sidewalks? Where does the snow go?” Or a dozen other things.

          Wouldn’t that have risked somebody mansplaining?

        • Plus if you clean the sidewalks first, then the street the end result is that you need to clean the sidewalks again as the plow pushes the much larger amount of snow from the street to the cleaned sidewalk, which is now – unless the sidewalk is separated from the street by a wide swath of grass or something – again mostly covered with the bank created by the plow.

      • Milo made fun of it on his website lately and that’s how I heard of it.

        I thought the whole feminist snow removal thing especially stupid, since it rather assumes that women will go out into roaring blizzards to get their walking in, as opposed to using public and/or private transport.

        Feminists assume that women are stupidly stubborn, even in the face of forces of nature.

    • they tried saywhut

    • I tried to find evidence that this news came from a parody Swedish news site similar to The Onion, but apparently it really is real. It’s getting tough to write parody these days- you might inadvertently be writing a headline story.

      • For a couple of years I have contended The Onion is owned by people who invented time travel but could go at must 10 years into the future. After seeing how insane the future is they realized the best way to monetize it was to sell headlines from 7-10 years Up (as opposed to Yet) and sell it as satire in the now.

      • Case in point. Last year, if I was planning to write a story where someone wakes up in an alternate dimension that looks just like our own, and only figures it out from subtle clues, I would have had the scene go something like this:

        Dave picked up the Chicago Tribune. The headline read, “President-Elect Donald Trump congratulates Cubs on World Series win”. He blinked, and read it again, but the headline was still the same. “Wait a minute…” thought Dave. “That can’t be right.” This still looked like the hotel room he’d checked into last night, but…

        • I have a DVD of Laugh In where one of the News of the Future features gives President Ronald Reagan in the right years.
          I only find him giving the Fall of the Berlin Wall prediction:

          • I recall seeing the 1968 News of the Future (20 years) in 1988 when Nick at Night had edited Laugh-In reruns:

            Dateline 1988. President Ronald Reagan [HUGE laughs, this could Never Happen…] announced that he would not run for re-election [more laughs… two terms… Reagan… yeah riiiight]…

            I think it went on that he was going seek election as Gov. of California.

            Seeing this in 1988, I was laughing pretty hard, but different reason.

            • I remember it on TV, but did recall the Reagan bit from Nick At Night, but back in the Borders Book heyday, I got the box set.

            • Reagan delivered his “A Time For Choosing” speech at the 1964 Republican Convention, impressing many with his oratorical skill and conservative grasp of the world.

              It was not difficult to imagine him leading the GOP in a few years, especially as California was still a Republican-leaning state, having elected Reagan governor in 1966.

  3. Trouble is that the modern teaching profession think they are right and have all the correct facts. I have known many teachers to be wrong and only when I was older in college was I able to actually call them out on it. You would be surprised what gets passed off as correct knowledge. Then again I doubt most of us would. :/

    • I originally wrote that thing some time back (with an extraordinary comedy of errors which lead to the long delay before Sarah got it). Since then I came across another particularly egregious example where a child got in trouble for correcting a teacher who said that a kilometer was longer than a mile. In the note sent back to the parents, it admitted that the child was right about the kilometer but was wrong for challenging the teacher’s authority.

      It’s not about right or wrong; it’s about enforcing the hierarchy. Now I do not think the errors of fact are deliberate but what better way to enforce the hierarchy than by forcing children to say that was is demonstrably wrong is right simply because an authority says so? (I don’t think they’re competent enough to do that deliberately.)

      “There are four lights.”

      • Here you make the critical point. I’m surprised you didn’t include it in the essay. And here is where the Leftists usually interject that this is conspiracy theory nonsense. More knowledgeable Leftists understand that it’s no conspiracy theory, but a result of shared philosophy spread by Gramscian means.

        I’m surprised at how the useful idiots among the collectivists think that all of these individuals arrive at the same conclusion from the ether..

      • It always astonishes me that so many authority figures see admitting to being wrong as showing weakness. I consider it both an intelligent thing to do, and also teaching the younger generation to be flexible and admit to error when they are wrong.

        Which might explain the total meltdown of the Left over the election. _Their_ candidate is right, and ours is wrong and that cannot be changed.

        • Professor Bernardo de la Paz would agree with you, and share your horror that a teacher’s authority derives from the power to determine what is factual.

        • Part of it is style– you never hear about the teachers who misspeak, or say “look, not relevant, this is the topic” or some other way don’t get in a pissing contest with a kid.

          Well, almost never. Sometimes you dig in on the kid “punished for disagreeing with the teacher” and it turns out they were actually being little pricks who used “teacher is wrong” as a justification for disrupting class, but that’s pretty rare. Folks who want trouble can get it much more easily than finding a case where a teacher is wrong. 😀

        • Even the Gods eventually admitted maybe that wine was a bit much 🙂

      • My kids have corrected their teachers, and the teachers are fine with it. Heavens help them if they aren’t. Those kids believe in the truth, not authority.

        • None of my teachers ever argued with me. I got told to be quiet a couple times, but that’s about it. Of course, my town had a lot of smart kids and parents, so a snippy, ignorant teacher probably would not have flown.

          It may have helped that I was convinced that all teachers want to be corrected if they make unfortunate slips… because of course they know….

        • I know a chemistry teacher who would teach her student teachers to say, when caught out, “I put that in deliberately to see if you would catch it.” In order to make the kids laugh but still convey that they were in charge.

      • Baby brother regularly got in trouble when he was in public elementary school for being “disruptive.” As it turned out, the teacher thought he asked too many questions. ::facepalm::

        There is a reason that the parents found a way to homeschool Baby Brother from second grade through eighth… (And then he discovered, in this order, girls and then speech and debate, and opted to go back to school. But by then, he was confident enough to know the teachers weren’t gods, and were often wrong.)

      • Larry Patterson

        I had explain that to youngest daughter who was in trouble for correcting the English teacher. The teacher’s union does not allow non-Portuguese teachers, Portuguese who speak English well are gobbled up by the private sector. But still, even incompetent teachers should not be confronted in class.

        • But still, incompetent teachers in particular should not be confronted in class.

          Fixed it for you. Competent teachers generally have no problem with such confrontation.

      • In the note sent back to the parents, it admitted that the child was right about the kilometer but was wrong for challenging the teacher’s authority.

        The Daughter, second grade, the fact at issue, the teacher had told the class that snakes were invertebrates. I was called into a conference with the teacher.

        The teacher told me all about it up to the point where The Daughter corrected her. The Daughter did so, she told me, noting that the class would get to see a lovely snake skeleton when they visited the NC State Zoo the next week. I looked at the teacher.

        The teacher repeated, ‘Your daughter told the class that snakes are vertebrates,’ and waited expectantly for my response. I said, ‘Snakes are vertebrates.’

        The teacher then told me her true objection: ‘Your eight year old daughter corrected her teacher.’

        Some people cannot stand having their authority questioned, particularly publicly by someone they view as their inferior.

        • Um … sigh, memories. I used to have the same discussion with my youngest’s teachers every single year. It went something like this – “Please understand that the best way to communicate with her is talk to her as if she was another adult.” I think she was willing and able to correct teachers from pretty much the time when she could speak – none of this waiting for 8 years old. She was stubborn as $!#@ too when convinced she was right. The good news is that she developed some tact as she grew – and the teachers kind of look the other way when she is asked to and delivers remedial lessons to her clasmates during what was supposed to be a “study” period for her. We’ve had a couple of teachers use words like “arrogant” and “defiant” – but never words like wrong or incorrect. It has made for a strange ride indeed.

          • Before The Daughter was eight the teachers she had were mostly not so … um … thick as a brick or proud as a peacock.

            When The Daughter was tested for pre-reading skills in kindergarten we were called in to talk with the teacher and principal. They thought it important to inform us that they had discovered that she could already read, which we knew. They told that they were going to place her immediately with the third grade readers, thankfully something a Montessori schools could do. Though she could already read above a sixth grade level, they were concerned about how she would adapt to the overall work expectations in the higher grades.

            Unfortunately she surpassed what the Montessori school had to offer her by the end of first grade, and the locally available program for profoundly gifted did not start until third. So we ended up with that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year with the second grade teacher.

      • Had a couple of teachers try that on my mother’s children.

        One poor fool tried to get my dad on his side, thinking “quiet” meant “passive” or “easy to manipulate.” (pause here for an evil laugh)

        We might get in trouble if we were rude in correcting them, but they did not get away with punishing us for embarrassing them.

        • My last of five graduates from HS this year. I can recall only two incidents over the years. One where the computer teacher, disliked by everyone including the administration, hauled my kid and a friend in for accessing the schools private system after signing pledges not to. They both said they never signed any such pledge. And sure enough, they hadn’t- Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck had. Teacher was fuming when the papers were pulled out- but the principal agreed with them, they had never signed it. And warned them after the teacher left NOT TO DO IT AGAIN!

          The second was a silly one. They were discussing literature and my daughter said I had an autographed pre-publication SF novel on photocopied pages given to me by the author in return for a tour I gave him. She laughed and said I didn’t. My daughter brought it into school the next day. Teacher (and everyone else) never challenged any of her stories after that.

          But I was just recently told by all my kids that they’ve been challenging teachers for their entire school career. And getting away with it. The teachers apparently didn’t want to confront the parents of kids willing to challenge them. I’ve successfully raised 5 troublemakers.

          • Possible you raised kids who are GOOD kids, too. Most people, teachers included, are decent folks who can identify ‘doing it to make trouble’ from ‘really mean it’ in most cases.

          • “And sure enough, they hadn’t- Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck had. ”

            No, they had signed it. Using different names doesn’t change that.

            • Though I am reminded of the story of the new computer system (personel database) for a (branch of the) military. Test entry made for Donald Duck. Search. Two hits. The test entry… and… an actual real fellow by the name of Donald Duck. Not sure if it was the same Duck, but I recall Johnny Carson had a non-Disney Donald Duck on The Tonight Show at least once.

              • I never knew a Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse when I was in the Navy, but I did know a Robin Hood.

                • I worked for Rob Roy. I was the only one in the shop who caught the reference when he admitted his first name was “Robert.”

                  There are a lot of folks who really shouldn’t be trusted with naming authority…..

                  • I suspect someone at FCC had some fun pulling a callsign just a bit out of order. I knew (of) a fellow by the name of Gary Maples. In the days before a ham could ask/pay for a specific callsign he was issued W9OAK.

                  • There are a lot of folks who really shouldn’t be trusted with naming authority…..

                    The parents of my classmate, Richard Dick, for example.

                    • knew a girl with the last name Keys.
                      First name Dawn.
                      her parents are the type I could kill in clear conscience (the name was the least of their crimes against her and humanity) and knowing them was my first clue that I really need to tightly control some of my urges

                    • And the fellow at my vo-tech school named Richard Skinner.

      • FWIW, I got into trouble about that once. It wasn’t that I corrected the teacher, it was because I was a jerk about it. I could have been more respectful. A lot more.

        Being respectful doesn’t mean remaining silent when faced with BS. But learning to remain silent when faced with BS drives home that not challenging BS is not the same as accepting BS, and sometimes challenging BS can be counter-productive. Such as a meeting when you hope no one asks questions just so you can get out of it and do something useful.

        • There was fellow (who I refer to as “Joe” for his “Joe-code” style of attempted programming) at $WE_BUILD_SCALES that invited himself to every meeting he could. That tells you just how useful he seemed to be. He was also the one who had to leave a door open and use a speaker-phone – loudly. The physicist closed his door as he had important things to talk about.

      • Actually we covered that one early with the Yard Ape. You get to challenge authority as a non-producing parasite* only if you do so politely, using rational argument.

        She’s gotten two classroom and one school wide policy changed so far.

        *social ranking. Her intrinsic vlworth is set by God. Her value to the people in her life are set by her relationships with them. Mom and Dad are the only ones you get gratis.

        • Good one! I may suggest to some parent I know that they borrow steal that one.

          If it wouldn’t reveal too much personally identifiable information, which classroom and school-wide policies did she get changed? I’m especially interested in hearing about the school-wide policy, since that’s a higher level of authority she got to listen to her.

    • When I was working on Kwajalein (Army base on small Central Pacific island) back in ’92, I mentioned in the dining hall the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. A teacher from the High School there, a teacher of government and civics BTW, overheard and ‘corrected’ me by superciliously informing me that the Constitution only had 26 amendments. Was flabbergasted when I pulled out my Pocket Constitution (TM) and showed him. Refused to believe it at first, accusing me of promulgating some sort of ‘right wing conspiracy theory’.

      When he saw me a couple of days later, he actually apologized and thanked me for bringing the new information to his attention. To his credit, he did it in the same venue in which he excoriated me and not privately. We ended up not friends, exactly, but certainly amicable acquaintances.

      • I think i’ve tol d the story here before about my high school earth science teacher who ‘corrected’ me saying the sun was too massive to supernova.

      • My 10th grade teacher (this would have been in ’96 or ’97) bet me $100 against a nickel that there was no such amendment.

        Mr. Dorf, I’m still waiting for my money.

        • You had a Dorf? In seventh grade I had a Djerf. Actually ran into his grandson at Libertarian Party event a couple of years ago, and supposedly (at that time, at least) he was well into his 90s and still hale and hearty.

          • Had a Conan Fisher (relative of Arthur Conan Doyle) as a Substitute Teacher, and after having him in High School once, my Grandma said “We girls all thought he was so handsome when he substituted for us” and Grandma stopped schooling before she was 15.

    • Trouble is that the modern teaching profession think they are right and have all the correct facts

      Yep, instead of realizing no matter how much you know what you don’t know is effectively infinite.

    • Parent teacher conferences this year. We were told that my son had learned to stop rolling his eyes and huffing when he thought the teacher was wrong. The teacher appreciated his more mature attitude. Apparently, he was emailing everyone in class with links why she was wrong.

  4. Larry Patterson

    Remembering my first argument with a teacher in first grade. (Didn’t we all start arguing with teachers in firsy grade?) Mom and Dad had bought me an astronomy book that year of Sputnik. I learned that the sun is a star, and was eager to share that knowledge with the other kids. So I’m going around “The sun is a star,” and no one believed me. Shocking, I know.

    So we asked the teacher. She hemmed and hawed, finally saying the sun is a heavenly body. I should have learned there and then that people only want a limited amount of knowledge.

    Freehold was enjoyable reading, though Williamson says it was terrible. Kids in school at least did not go to total war with me, just saw me as strange. I still occasionally try to win arguments just for fun.

    • There are two dirty secrets of education:

      1. Teachers don’t always teach their majors.
      2. Teachers seldom have time to update their education.

      A teacher who is excellent with children might go in to early childhood and teach the basics. They may be a whiz at teaching reading and writing, but not science or history. A show of hands of those who took an academic course taught by a coach. OTOH, a coach was one of the best World History teachers I’ve ever seen.

      Right now I’m thinking about a retired teacher who taught preschool. Preschool is like kindergarten was back in the day. Very conscientious. My wife and I started noticing that the majority of honor students came through her Pre-K class. That’s a profound influence. I don’t know how much science or history or math she knows, but she does know how to inspire kids how to learn. And that made all the difference.

      • Would-be teachers may be punished for having a non-ed major. Sib and another dual major were forced to take major subject area tests on no notice because the Ed department at [redacted] university did NOT like Ed majors also having subject-area specialties.

        • The School System will determine what subject matter content is appropriate for conveyance to the bright young minds assigned to you and it is not for the conveyor to include any additional information. Deviations from the prescribed content are to be strongly discouraged.

      • A recent study —>

        When Social Programs Hurt Kids
        Tennessee’s foray into public preschool is not going well. The technical evaluation published last year by Vanderbilt University researchers Mark Lipsey and Dale Farran showed a familiar result: Preschool attenders outperformed the control group at the beginning of kindergarten, but their advantage was gone by the end of the year. In fact, the data suggested that the preschool group might have fallen behind their non-preschool peers by third grade. Nevertheless, preschool advocates pointed to an important caveat. Because the evaluation focused on a subsample of students who needed parental consent to be followed, the treatment and control groups were not fully randomized. Preschool advocates such as Timothy Bartik and Steven Barnett downplayed the study’s importance specifically for that reason.

        But Professor Farran revealed some more bad news at a Brookings event last month. She now has the results from the full randomized sample, and they are roughly the same as from the subsample. If anything, the new results point more clearly toward a negative impact. In third grade, the preschool group scored significantly lower on the state math and science tests compared to the non-preschool group. (The effect sizes were –0.13 and –0.11, respectively.) The preschool group also was more likely to have behavioral problems and repeat grades, but those differences did not reach significance.

        Far from helping, might preschool be hurting kids? I wouldn’t jump to conclusions from one study with small effect sizes. In my experience, governments are rarely able to have substantial lasting impacts on children one way or the other. Still, …
        — — —

        —> and the experience of many observers and your wife suggest the issue may be that the quality of teachers matters, although I am quite confident that the Teachers Union’s representatives would disagree. At the very least, we ought be able to agree that what is taught in those pre-K classrooms should be of concern. And I mean not simply the “facts” taught (especially as most of those will long be forgotten by the adult) as much as it is the attitude toward learning which ought be our concern.

        • On the study of preschoolers, it may be that putting children in classroom settings too young is not (usually) good for them. My personal opinion is that the longer children are able to stay at home, the more likely they are to be mature and socially ‘ept’ (as opposed to inept). I can almost always tell when I meet children who have been homeschooled for a while, because they are more comfortable talking to and interacting with people of all ages. (There are, of course, exceptions, because parents and family situations aren’t all the same. But I’ve met a lot of homeschooled kids, and the exceptions are few.) Again, it’s my opinion, but backed up by many years of experience and observation, but until a child is around twelve or thirteen, putting them in a classroom situation — lots of kids the same age — tends to be detrimental to their social maturity. This is all totally aside from the false information they are being taught in the public schools.

          • I am vaguely aware of studies demonstrating the significance of “Free Play” to neural development in the early years. Classroom (in)activity would seem detrimental to that development.

            As far as social eptness, it seems bleedin’ obvious that adult modeling of appropriate behaviour is more constructive than peer modeling of misbehaviour. An exception ought be made for the modern university where no adult behaviour is permitted.

          • Being away from a parent or close family member is detrimental to very young kids, because it is stressful. (Hence the traditional pretense that close family friends are aunts, cousins, etc.?) A very good daycare is like home, but it can’t be home.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            This and what David said about four lights. I understand that with age and experience come personality and character. That the earlier in life a force comes against one, the less one has to resist it.

            The technocratic fad inspired by the industrial revolution had the idea that people at the same age could learn the same material, and the process could be perfected using industrial methods.

            Special ed, gifted and talented, education degrees, and the early childhood stuff are epicycles bolted on in an attempt to make the thing look workable.

            Kids spend over a third their time, among mostly their own age and some few adults who get most of their human interaction from those same kids. Quite a lot of teachers specialize, so they only ever see the lives of most they know over a narrow slice of time. The teachers are thus less moored in real human society and in the true changes people experience over time.

            Add to rents the agenda of pederasty. If the current cohorts resist too much predation, start the mind games earlier, and rack up more billable hours.

            • It is absurd to argue that children do not progress intellectually at pretty much the same rate; after all, all grow physically at pretty much the same rate, right?

            • “Our schools are so advanced they are mainstreaming the ‘gifted’.” — Pa, in one of his more acidic moods.

        • I wonder if they tried comparing them to kids who were in non-home-based daycare for the same ages?

          Learning takes discipline, school style daycare can’t offer that. My mother in law bemoans that they’re not allowed to say the word no.

          • Which makes me eternally grateful for our babysitter. She doesn’t swat but our boy hears ‘no’ from more than just us.

          • My wife volunteered in the schools with our oldest two. The teachers thanked her for what she taught the kids, though she did no “formal” teaching. What she did was ignore the kids who wanted things who didn’t say “Please” and Thank you”. They learned how to use those words after observing others use them and get my wife’s attention. Kids she worked with were better behaved.

          • Not only was my mother allowed to say “No,” if necessary, she did so with “Mr. Hot.” This was a gift from a former pupil, and consisted of a hard rubber paddle with holes bored it in. The holes were to prevent an air cushion. When Mr. Hot broke, my father made her a paddle to her specifications out of oak. It had no holes, and was slightly broader to distribute the force more, lessening the chance of injury.

            When I was in the 9th Grade, one teacher said “No” with a billy club he kept in his deck. A student went for him, and when he he leaped across the desk, the teacher nailed him.

            I understand such isn’t allowed these days.

            Ever relative who has taught/teaches has observed a phenomenon among students as old as middle school where the very ones you tell “no” the most loves them the best. They theorize that it’s a desire to find limits, and once they find an adult who sets and enforces limits, they see this as someone who cares about them. It wasn’t that saying “no” had to be harsh, it was making a promise about behavior and carrying that promise out.

            Oh, at home my mother opted for the classic green switch. Stung worse than a paddle.

            • One of the reasons I didn’t take the offer of free education to become a teacher, with the requirement to teach at a school of their choice for (2?) years, was that I heard about how they responded if you defended yourself from criminal assault.

              F no am I going to go stand there with ROE that say that a freaking football player gets as many free shots at me as he wants, just because he’s under 21.

            • I met the ‘Board of Education’ (one *with* holes) in 6th grade, for the use of profanity in the classroom. Before the teacher arrived and class started, one of my classmates was doing a crossword puzzle, and asked for help on the clue ‘four-letter word for *vessel*’. Just as Mr. Skalding came through the door, I called out, “Ship!” from across the room, and the rest is history.

              My tears were not from the paddling (my old man gave me worse) but from the injustice of it all.

      • Teachers may not have drive to update knowledge. Many will upgrade education because it affects pay but merely by getting new ed degree. Not by subject matter. Heck, subject matter degrees don’t count unless you have ed degree.

        • Teachers don’t always have the resources. It’s different now in this day of the Internet. The teaching journals used to be full of articles on how to teach, and not on the subjects taught.

          Oddly, the issue is how to present the knowledge more than the knowledge itself. Maybe it’s because having the knowledge does not automatically make someone a good teacher. It’s how it’s presented. You have to engage the person’s mind and interest, otherwise it’s just a boring lecture.

          Having struggled to stay awake in technical classes on hardware, it’s harder than it seems. And the person teaching this class knew the hardware cold. Luckily, I didn’t yell “Amen, preacher!” when a classmate nudged me awake.

          • Ocassionally you get odd teaching methods that work for you.
            In Machine Shop class, the teacher, “Just call me Steve”, had several students he worked with the most. These were not the teacher’s pets. they were the ones who needed to be kept from doing something wrong (and being a machine shop, likely dangerous to more than just them as operator) and I took it as high honor to be basically ignored. We had few tests, but I never did any project work, like some of the class, yet got A and B grades, and during the run up to VICA competition, got to go with one guy in the morning class and one other from the afternoon with Steve to a foundry for a tour. The Foundry was casting a small engine for the morning class guy to his designs. He entered the Display competition with “The design and construction of the four stroke cycle engine”. Outside the nuts, bolts, wires, and the Sparkplug he made everything.
            It started right up during his presentation and he won.
            Yeah, although he was a second year student, he actually owned his own shop, and worked for another shop (Students in the “Working Credit Program” could not get credit for working for themselves, or their parent’s business).

            For me I spent the year learning to use the different machines and doing the very rare “Everyone will turn in a (item) to this design” (Holds up a blue print). Most graded work was individually assigned. He knew I would ask if I didn’t know, and once shown would use the tools safely without damaging them, so he concentrated on those that might now.
            Occasionally he’d walk by, ask “What you making there?” then “Well turn it in to me when your done and I’ll grade it, then give it back before you leave.”

      • I bet she learned the secret to dealing with those annoying (not bad, just not part of the flow and thus disruptive) kids by telling them that knowledge has a purpose– it’s like any other tool, if you don’t know what you’re doing with it you’re going to have issues…and like any other tool, sometimes you have to go to a specialty store to find it.

        Enabling the Elephant Child to run and go find out.

      • HS tennis coach taught me Drivers Ed., both classroom and in-car (yep, public schools used to do that – I understand nowadays you have to go buy private instruction). He was a retired USAF fighter jock who flew with the Thunderbirds back when they flew F-100s, so I imagine he’d experienced scarier stuff than 15 year olds trying to learn how to not hit anything while he instructed from the passenger seat with only his “chicken brake” pedal.

        • I don’t know about other schools, but mine stopped having in-car instruction when the guy who did mine stopped (Standard Issue responsible history major teacher who was very fair minded and mature no matter what) and they assigned it to the 60 year old man-child who would randomly slam on the passenger’s side break to “test their reflexes.”

          One of the first victims who told anybody about it was my brother.
          In the snow and ice.
          When the school car does not have good quality tires. Even then, my brother only mentioned it because the **** made them spin out and he was only able to avoid a serious accident because he’s been driving since he was about five, even if it was mostly farm equipment or stuff where a rope was used to “drive” if a kid wasn’t available.

          Amazingly, my mother did NOT slaughter the bleeping moron, although I’m not entirely sure that didn’t involve physical restraint.


          Basically, there are so many immature teachers that you can’t trust Random Average Teacher to drive and not pull dangerous @#$@# just because there’s a brake.

          • When I took Driver’s Ed, the instructor had the habit of falling asleep in the passenger seat. One time, he fell asleep during a lesson on merging onto the highway, and the students didn’t wake him up until they’d reached Austin (the school was near San Antonio).

            Another time, he fell asleep on the way back to the school. As the student was driving through the gravel lot between the football stadium and the actual parking lot, football practice was just ending. One of the players slammed his helmet into the car as it went by, then dropped to the ground behind the car as the student driver stood on the brakes.

        • Our school system still has in-school drivers ed. The car is donated, which is how it was done when I took it. All it has is a retrofit set of controls on the passenger side: brakes and maybe something to override the accelerator.

      • My Uncle Casey, QB of his Missouri HS football team, earned two masters degrees in mathematics and geology in two years. He was a HS PE teacher & coach. Two guessess whether or not he was qualified to teach the science classes too.

        The idea that people who are good at sports and who enjoy them are necessarily incapable of intellectual pursuits is a lefty trope.

        I.e. bogus.

        • Bit of an objection here. It was a rather harsh reality in the other wise good school I went to. If the Coaches were teaching history it was because they were required, by law, to teach something. Most of them taught football rather than the class they were supposed to be teaching. If the Coaches were teaching something OTHER than history they were, by and large decent to good. I heard similar reports from friends in other school districts in the state.

          It may be a ‘lefty trope’ in some places. In others there’s a fair amount of truth to it. Like most things it’s not nearly as universal as it is typically presented.

          • Aye. I was happier (or less unhappy) the farther I got from coaches and their ilk. To this day, “Listen up!” means “I am a self-declared Authoritay and ought to be rightly ignored as a pompous arse.” to me.

            • I’ll request again that you reconsider your blanket description of “coaches and their ilk” as authoritarian idiots. You don’t appear to have much wanted to be around athletic pursuits (Fine by me. Forcing folks to have fun the Right Way is anathema), and so have no sympathy and less understanding of those who do, and it also seems as if your set of coaches by which you judge the entire set is also small.

              From swimming, to football, to karate, to soccer, the coaches, instructors and senseis have been a mix of poor to superb in my experience, and the hard-asses who drove you hard, who understood the sport they were teaching and were even handed and fair were a blessing.

              YOU may not appreciate being made to do 1000 punches in a deep horse stance and might imagine that sensei-sama was demanding that the class perform them because he was an authoritarian bozo. WE his students appreciated learning, bone deep the lesson “When the body fails: no shame. When the will fails: shame.”

              I really don’t like idiots having authority over me. It drives me wild. It does not follow as the night the day, that therefore all those in authority are idiots.

              • It’s my experience. If that was the explanation, precisely none bothered explaining it – at all. There might be some good ones, somewhere. But I’ve met more unicorns.

                • My mom was looking into becoming a gym teacher at one point– as a minor to animal husbandry.

                  Went into general education (during the 70s) because there were fewer folks with identifiable authority issues, and just major issues in general.

                  Same as other teachers, there will be a non-zero number of awesome gym teachers…but the anything but awesome ones sure do leave a mark. And because it’s physical stuff, it attracts those who enjoy physical humiliation.
                  (Not to be confused with “only those who enjoy physical humiliation are attracted to it.” Same issue that normal teaching has with the brow-beating type humiliation inflictors.)

                  • True that. I’ve had a couple of *appalling* gym teachers. I switched out of the “girls” PE track (gymnastics, soccer, basketball) in junior high into the intramural boys football program for one semester because the teacher was a giant clueless blob of ick, we didn’t learn anything, she graded by playing favorites, and had no issues with girls bullying other girls.

                    Guys football program was really cool. It’s too bad I blew out my knee half-way through, but I’m a super klutz. Next year I got into the swim team and our coach was awesome. The comraderie was great, and the captain was the kind of guy that Hollywood LOVES to pillory: Big, tall, good looking jock with a gazillion girlfriends. But he was smart and kind.

                    But yeah, I can perceive how a bad coach could turn everything sour if he were allowed to stay put and have his own little PE fiefdom. The rot starts at the head, and the good kids would take every opportunity to find something else to do (see first graph) ad the next thing you know….

              • And it poison me against most exercise for some time. I don’t mind the exertion as such, if I can see a purpose for it. Make it a competition (or worse, a team competition – a physical Group Project is all that is.) and any joy is sucked right out of it. Don’t care what others call, I say it’s kale* and I say the hell with it.

                * Spinach is something I’ll eat. Kale… is overly tough leaves that taste like dirt, in my experience.

                • (Damn. Not sure if it’s a “flashback” but what a depressive mood this triggered. Yes, I am bitter over a lot of this. It runs very, very deep indeed. Phy. Ed. {The one exception was a too-short bit on CPR & first aid – that was something clearly useful – and interesting.} and sports-worship [pep rally stuff] made/make me think of German newsreels of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

              • And to use your example, had there been anything of karate or similar, I might have enjoyed that as it had at least a potential application I could see. Instead it was more running in circles or chasing a ball around like a dog.

                And I’ve not even mentioned the football (etc.) coach’s son who is/was one of the things I think really should have come with a warning label.

                Let’s just say while like my hometown, I loathe the BlueJays and every bad thing they stand for.

                • Okay. I went to 10 different schools (7 public, 3 christian) when I was a kid, so I had a LOT of different teachers in every subject. I was also bullied in some places and not in others.

                  Figuring out what the common denominator of bad is can be hard with a small data set. Sorry you had such a rotten experience, and didn’t get to escape it until you grew up. That sucks.

                  Sadly, I also like kale (not raw or in salads: ugh!) but because it’s a necessary ingredient in Green Soup. Mmmmmm…. I think I should make some this week. If you’re ever in my neck of the woods, let me know. I’ll stand you a beer and make you some 🙂

              • I wrote “I’ll request again that you reconsider” which implies that Orvan Taurus has made prior blanket condemnations of PE teachers. He DID not do so in this thread & I shouldn’t have written the above.

                My apologies.

          • My first semester of high school math was taught by a coach. I found out who was considered the best/hardest math teacher in the school, and made sure my subsequent classes were with him.

            • I should have added: That’s because the class was largely filled with athletes, and the coach was happy to teach what they wanted to know, which was pretty much the minimum.

              • I did have one HS teacher (not a coach, that I can recall, which amazes me now) who taught a course allegedly in electronics. But it was clearing a dumping ground. Three weeks in I was growing frustrated and furious at reviewing fractions yet again. The actual science and math classes were alright, but that was just wasting my time. Not sure if I did much at all with the class itself or just gave up and treated it as a study hall and read through the rest of the semester.

          • My High School football coach also taught shop class. Wanted me on his team, badly (husky fella brought up on a farm, you know). I couldn’t stand the SOB (our first interaction was him getting my attention by grabbing the short hairs on the nape of my neck and lifting), and once I realized there was really nothing he could teach me (growing up on farm, again) I dropped the class and never dealt with him again.

    • For The Daughter it was her second grade teacher that proved once and for all that just because someone held the position of teacher it did not mean they deserved respect, but I have told that tale before.

      My first grade teacher, Miss Hayes, was probably one of the best teachers I ever had, patient, kind and encouraging. She was a fantasy grandmother. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Brown, was a bit kooky, understanding kid humor, and we loved her. I have no memory of my third grade teacher.

      With the fourth grade teacher things changed. We all knew from the start that she was only teaching because it was an ‘acceptable’ profession for single women. Then she had a melt down in front of us. It was late November, a Friday afternoon, so we were taking a math test. A student came into the classroom with a message from the principal. The teacher started calling her a lair and then working up to all sorts of stronger things. A little while later, the math test forgotten, we were sent home.

      It wasn’t just teachers that changed in my perception that weekend. I discovered that all adults, including The Parents, were not in possession of all the facts or in control. Saturday morning, when I told Daddy that, instead of the usual cartoons, I had just seen a man surrounded by police get shot on live TV he looked at me in utter disbelief. He looked at me a while and finally said, ‘No,’ pausing before adding, ‘Oswald shot the President.’ By that evening every adult in the neighborhood seemed stunned.

      • Correction, from Wiki: ‘he [Oswald] was fatally shot by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby, live on American television at 11:21 a.m. CST on Sunday, November 24′

        • I watched that live myself. As a self-centered ten year old, I was totally pissed that my Saturday morning cartoons were preempted.

          • I saw it, too, while watching it with my father and an uncle. I remember it. I’m told I went to the kitchen and told my mother and aunt, but don’t remember that.

      • It is a matter of amazement to me that public school systems so assiduously teach To Kill A Mockingbird as if it was some primer on the evils of racial injustice (like kids need to be taught that — mostly what gets taught has been accepting injustice as normal) when the clear thrust of the book is the incompetence of teachers, especially those freshly minted at Teachers’ College.

      • We made a teacher have a melt-down. All we did was just shake our heads in unison when she said something correct, and nodded when she said something wrong. She ran out of the classroom crying. The principal came in and gave us all a stern lecture. He was one of those who hardly ever did that, so we’d knew we’d crossed the line, big time.

  5. This is why one gets such tortured interpretations of the constitution.
    The street sweeping is not something folks cannot afford, and in fact everyone who pays taxes or city services (depending on your situation) is therefore paying for it. Garbage collection for me is in my Water Bill (my biggest bill actually, Water is rare what with a river a block away and Lake Michigan some 2 miles down river from my house), and Street cleaning, soon to be clearing as winter comes, is in my property tax bills, (Summer and Winter, Winter is very small, about 10% of the Summer tax amount) but annoyingly, Garbage is also in the Taxes. But I digress.
    Back in the old days of High School when I was in Gov’t class, we only lightly touched the Constitution, and well, one would think they would spend a touch more on the mechanism, but then, even though our Teacher had an Abe Lincoln style beard, he was a hippie type. I can only imagine what is taught now. We got mostly Presidential powers, Congress and a bit of SCOTUS, and class was only half of a school year (I took World History for the other half credit. Same Teacher)

    • It may well get into how do you summarize concepts of government? The post’s example seems to have gone off the rails as an example of the theory that government exists to do those things the individual finds difficult or impossible to do alone. Vendettas vs a judicial system was the example we were given back in the day. An example for upper classes might be the Articles of Confederation disaster and the tension of ceding just enough liberty without ceding too much.

      • Maybe.

        So, after thinking of how to respond I checked a forum I post to, dealing with my model of motorcycle, and learned a friend has been killed by a poorly signed T intersection in Texas. It was at night. Signs only show left turn/straight arrows for the left hand lane, and right turn arrow for the right, but the road actually Ts and there are gates for a county owned park/preserve gravel parking lot. On a green, when traveling the speed limit, one can not tell the road ends until too late, and the signs look like the road continues.
        How poor is it?
        The gates are left open after closing because they keep getting knocked over, and during the investigation, a car almost hit the deputies by doing nearly the same thing as my friend. Unfortunately Joe was on a bike, couldn’t stop on the gravel, and the gully at the far side of the lot tossed him into the trees. Harris County (Houston). This is one of the things we pay Gov’t to do (gas taxes and whatnot) and fat lot of good it does, all too often.

        • The gates are left open after closing because they keep getting knocked over, and during the investigation, a car almost hit the deputies by doing nearly the same thing as my friend.

          Why on EARTH would it have to happen more than twice before they put $20 worth of reflective tape on the @#$@# gates?!?

          Prayers for your friend.

          • Thanks for the thoughts and Prayers.
            After reading his sister’s post, I watched police video of the accident investigation. The crossroad surface is raised enough you cannot see the gates, tape or no, until you are almost in the intersection, but just remove the effing Straight ahead arrow signs, and add an “Oncoming Turning Traffic Does Not Stop” or give the lot a sole green for those leaving the parking lot would have been far cheaper than gates, and well no price at all on having my buddy still alive and riding. Also, with the gates open, it is even easier to think the road goes straight, because they are wide enough, until even later into the intersection. you can see when he knew by the tire marks. A witness said it looked like he was going to try and lay it down, but he hit the gully, and it highsided him into the trees.

            Johnson County, where i lived, was notorious for fixing the chipseal roads with tar and loose pea gravel in blind corners and not let you know that the traction was now totally gone. Owning “Loose Gravel” signs is against someone’s religion or something.

            • Main Street in my town abruptly ends at a T intersection. There are top signs on each side of the T, so Main has right of way the the Tees have to wait.

              Some moron painted a stop line across Main, right at the T. So people drive up, see the line on the pavement, and hit the brakes, looking for the nonexistent stop sign, or assuming someone knocked it down.

              The city has repainted the line at least six times I know of to keep it fresh. It has no purpose. But it’s usually covered with broken glass and plastic from rear-end collisions…

              • Sounds like my old route to work.
                Someone messed up the passing zone painting and it kept getting repainted until they finally resurfaced again.
                The wrong painting left a passing zone a foot or so longer than an 18 wheeler.
                Another odd place:
                On the way to Possum Kingdom, out in Graford, Tx, at the intersection of 337 and 254/4, it is a 4-way stop. Speed limit is 70. Good brake testing.

              • Someone have some black or gray paint?

          • Folks:

            It’s been my sad experience that those who design roads will not correct deficiencies until there’s been a number of fatalities. The one exception was when they replaced the traffic light in a small town with four-way stops. Not long afterward, there was a fatality: a vehicle T’d a semi right in the saddle tank. The driver burned up. The guy that tried to pull him out got third degree burns on his hands.

            Soon after, the DOT returned the traffic light to the town.

            To give you an idea how bad it is, I know of one intersection where a retired DOT engineer told them they needed a traffic light. But no: They had a four-way stop, which made no sense because A. It was on two one-way lanes of a major highway. and B. A block away they had traffic lights on the other two one-way lanes. As best as I recall, it took a number of serious wrecks to install traffic lights.

            • Your comment and David Burkhead’s post have a theme in common: people in authority who don’t want to hear that they’re wrong, and therefore refuse to acknowledge that someone else might know better than them about one particular subject. Because that, somehow, is a challenge to their authority.

              That’s the kind of person who, if elected or appointed to a position where he can choose his own subordinates, will surround himself with yes-men and sycophants. The kind of person who, in a sane society, would never be allowed within a mile of the levers of power.

              Sadly, by that metric, there are no sane societies. Ours has maybe come close once or twice over our two-hundred-plus year history, but not very often — and at that, we’re doing better than most.

              • Abraham Lincoln. He filled his cabinet with the strongest men he could find. At least three of them thought they should have been President instead of him.

              • Your comment and David Burkhead’s post have a theme in common: people in authority who don’t want to hear that they’re wrong, and therefore refuse to acknowledge that someone else might know better than them about one particular subject. Because that, somehow, is a challenge to their authority.

                That, or thinking we’re slack-jawed yokels who couldn’t possibly comprehend what they’re doing. We’re supposed to attend quarterly utility meetings at various DOT districts. We don’t. The last time we did, I turned to my supervisor and said “Now you see why I don’t come to the things.” The arrogance was inversely proportional to contact with the public. Eventually they do figure out that maybe the locals know what they’re talking about. Eventually. Then they retire.

            • Where M35 peels off US41 in Gladstone has had several iterations all changed after numerous ugly accidents and deaths. It s now a traffic light. When I was a kid, it was a stop for crossing traffic, and those trying to make a left. They tried a 4-way for a while. that failed.
              Also the old US41 and US141 Abrams intersection was a bad one that never changed. To Quote a co-worker: “It was worth your life to try and cross the first day of hunting season!” Traffic going north did not stop, on either 41 or 141, south on 41 to continue south on 41/141 was always a nightmare, and many many deaths happened. It wasn’t until they made both 4 lanes that they just made it an interchange (and are calling it Interstate 41 just south of there)

            • As $HOUSEMATE says (or relays) something like, “Every FAA rule was bought with a life.” That might not be completely true, but there is too much sad truth to it.

              • I say that about building codes. “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” We got the push bar on outward-opening doors after the Royal Albert Hall Disaster, for example. (Kids died. HUNDREDS of them.)

                When I was in college, I was in a class with a guy who worked with the local transportation department. I mentioned that some of the local street lights seemed badly timed, and he agreed—but he said that they couldn’t change them without an emissions review, which they would fail. *Even though* the timing as it was would fail it worse, they couldn’t change to a style that would fail, even though it would be an improvement. *headdesk*

              • I have seen that with an electrical fatality. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced the new procedures would have prevented the death in question.

          • With all due respect to Mr. Kalishek’s loss, and the giant aching all hole this man’s death has left in the hearts of everyone who loved him, this is also a sign of the death of America.

            In the USA, at the local level, where every free citizen is a ruler who bends the knee to no one but God, their should be no “they.”

            After the first accident, a hidden camera recording the first two weeks of activity at the site would have shown a procession local people saying, “Shoot. Someone else got here with the reflective tape first.”

            Anyone who tells you that politics is upstream of culture, or that an admiration of the Constitution (intellectually speaking) is more critical to the grand USAian experiment then that stubborn can-do attitude is high on something.

            • There are reflective signs on the gates, but they go unseen until too late (hence the gates being hit often) and the Street signs are the bigger issue, I think. I’d hit the damned signs with paint but they would likely get replaced with the same wrong signage and if caught I’d be fined or arrested. I am no longer down there, or I’d take your advice and be adding some signage of my own, (and it’d likely be taken down). As I said, even with deputies doing the investigation and cars with flashing lights, a car almost did the same thing Joe did, and, probably because of slowing for the flashing lights, was able to not hit the deputies using surveyors tools to measure things.
              yes, we basically have to fight our “betters” to get them to do the right thing with the money they take from us.

            • Fortunately/unfortunately, it seems that solution wouldn’t work in this specific case.
              I can think of a couple of other options, but they all require fence materials and THAT might not work, either, if the area has any paving.

        • From your description that sounds like the intersection of Spring Cypress and Telge roads. The north part, where Spring Cypress goes off to the East. A couple of years ago, I went through that intersection twice every weekday and, as it happens, I went through that intersection yesterday.

    • There was an “American Government” 9-week elective in the high school I went to. Nothing like “Civics”, if it’s different. I didn’t take it, so I don’t know what they covered.

      The state had a requirement for a full year of American history, so there were various 9-week “history” courses. For whatever reason, they had decided that pre-Soviet Russian history counted as “American History”, and that’s how it appeared on my report card…

      • We had civics at my school (bordering on backwoods Oklahoma. I’m sure they’ve ‘modernized,’ which is a pity.) Actually had a case in point of how the system worked, after one test. Our test on the constitution, the teacher let us bring one page of notes on standard college lined paper, front and back. Me? I summarized. But one girl in our class managed to write tiny enough that she fit EVERYTHING, word for word, including all the amendments on said page. The rest of the class was irate. The teacher shrugged and said ‘you could have done it, too.’

        After the test was collected the teacher was called out of the room. He was that hall’s brute squad. BIG man. Not Samoan, but that kind of big. While he was playing silverback to prevent two young pups from getting beyond ritual chest thumping, the majority of the civics class staged a walk out. Three or four of us (including me and the lady with the teeny tiny handwriting) stayed firmly put.

        He got back went “Where’s the rest of the class.” We answered, and his words were, and I quote, “I’ll deal with them, you stay put.”

        After he’d dealt with the walkouts (never did hear what happened to them, not even they were talking after the fact.)

        He came back and the little group of us that stayed had one of the best discussions on Civil disobedience and when it is and isn’t appropriate or when it may be appropriate but likely won’t be effective that I’ve ever had before or after.

        • That reminds me of when I was taking a geometry class in 9th grade, and our teacher allowed us a 3×5 card as a cheat sheet for a given test. We were required to staple it to our test.

          I had a friend who used a laser printer to print a lot of things in a very tiny font. When my teacher looked at mine, he said that I had written so small that you couldn’t even see it. I left mine blank because I did my homework, loved the subject, and was able to remember everything I needed to do the test.

          I cant’ say exactly what I would have written for that particular class (I had tiny handwriting, so if I wanted to, I could probably have copied the entire Constitution) but I wouldn’t hold a grudge against anyone who decided to do that…

          • Yeah, I took notes, mostly so I could remember the indexing. Know how things were done, yes. Remember which section and subparagraph governed the election process of the president? No to so much. Tell you what the process was and how they were amended? Yes. Turned out he wasn’t so interested in the section numbers, but I wasn’t taking chances!

            • I had one physics professor that allowed us to use two 3×5 index cards “if we would promise not to write too small.” (He didn’t want eyestrain. He also had the best grading system I’ve ever encountered, which is great for a class that was both fascinating and terrifying—the latter because I was a scholarship student and literally could not afford to do poorly.) I wrote two lines per line and kept the cards because they turned out so well. Optics, EM, and relativity. I did well on the concept quizzes for the last because of the SF reading I grew up with.

          • I had a few classes in which I was allowed to bring in a 3×5 card with notes. Nothing in High School, though. For one of them, I wrote in small enough lettering that I had a small rectangle left over that was large enough for me to put “This Space For Rent” in it.

      • I think we had to have a half credit of Gov’t or Civics, but civics was a full year. Gov’t and World History were the only classes I had in the building my senior year. There were 4 school systems that shared Tech classes, and the classes were held either at our town (small engines only) or next town over, then at the Comunity College, but now at that town’s High School. They were double credits, and used half a school day, though we at my school could get 3 credits in because the walk from class to the building was doable in the break between periods. I had Small Engines in the morning in an old Kaiser-Frazier dealership my great uncle used to own, a few blocks from the school building, then WH/Gov’t, lunch, and had to make a buss the left 5 minutes before lunch period was over that took me 8 miles to a college where I took Machine Shop, then bussed back, getting there about half way through last period of school, walked to where I had my bicycle and rode home. I was often home before my Sister’s bus even left the school.

    • I have the what should government pay for discussion frequently, since I’m a counselor for the 3 BSA Citizenship Badges. I live in a rural area now. Most people are their own water and sewer companies. Garbage disposal doesn’t come from taxes. Street lighting comes from taxes from people who live in the special lighting districts. Since it’s in NY, funds for the VFD come from taxes paid to the fire district. Now this last is where I really get into it. I used to live in rural SC. Much the same. Except for the VFD. They came around one a year and said “This your suggested contribution for the year” and we wrote a check for it. Elsewise, we didn’t have fire protection. The VFD would show up and rescue PEOPLE (not pets) in the structure, but then watch it burn down. And if you didn’t pay the VFD, you didn’t have fire insurance. Even if you did. Because there was a clause saying it was only in effect if you had fire protection… Both systems work. Difference is, in SC you RISK losing your house in a fire if you didn’t pay. In NY, you WILL lose your house if you don’t pay your taxes. You’re not allowed to gamble on your ability to avoid fire.

      How taxes are assessed is another fun subject. There are a few, very few, municipalities in the US where land is taxed. Just the land. Everyone pays X amount per acre for the land they own. Whether vacant, a shack, or a million dollar house is on that 1/4 acre plot, they all pay the same tax. UNFAIR! is what I often hear when I explain this mode of taxation. Why unfair? Ahhhh- they can’t explain, it just is. Even though it seems it should encourage more efficient land use.

      But yeah, talking to people about what government should pay for can be very illuminating. Most people in large cities know, just know, that firemen are paid professionals and paid for by taxes, and garbage is hauled away by government paid trash collectors in government trucks paid for by taxes. And lots of other things are handled by the government. And out in ruralville, it just ain’t so..

      And people in California, in fact, most of the west don’t understand the concept of toll roads like the NYS Thruway. Roads are all paid for by taxes, aren’t they?

      • Everyone pays X amount per acre for the land they own. Whether vacant, a shack, or a million dollar house is on that 1/4 acre plot, they all pay the same tax. UNFAIR! is what I often hear when I explain this mode of taxation. Why unfair? Ahhhh- they can’t explain, it just is. Even though it seems it should encourage more efficient land use.

        Probably not what they’re thinking, but that’s as shortsighted as being “fair” and drafting your reproduction age women for war. There is a lot of land that simply can’t produce anything that would get money out to equal a per-area tax that would work for “place to live” values, and most of them you’d get a better return by selling the (really really REALLY good farm land) to be built on.

        This can be “fixed” by having the taxes split up a bit– you have a “per area” tax, and a “landowner” tax. So you aren’t making the stuff you need to eat far less valuable than a flat chunk of land with water.

        Inexpensive food is like standardized law enforcement– it makes a lot of other good stuff possible.

        • There is also the “fix” of having an agriculture exemption on land taxes; that is rather easy to game, though, and effectively punishes folks who own an acre and grow for personal use, or to graze their horses, or it will subsidize big yards for the well off at the expense of the relatively poor, and enforcement is expensive.

        • The idea is to tax land according to its value, not simply its acreage, so valuable downtown land pays more than rural land, or land in a blighted neighborhood. But you would pay the same tax whether you’ve erected a fine building on your land, or are keeping it vacant, making people waste time and gasoline commuting past it, while you wait to sell it at a profit.

      • I’m not so sure about the westerners and tolls. They do have toll bridges and ferries in California. There are plenty of toll roads in the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River: Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas, just off the top of my head.

        • Toll bridges and ferries aren’t roads. But the west is home to “freeways”, the east home to “turnpikes”, “thruways”, and “parkways” The use of toll roads is spreading. This 2014 map from the Washington Post shows states with toll roads in 2014. Apparently CA does have some toll roads- but people my age (61) KNOW CA doesn’t have any… things change. They’re new. This is a 1955 map of toll roads. I think it was pretty much unchanged for the next 20 years.

        • Bridges and ferries aren’t toll roads. California, home for the “freeway”, does now have toll roads, but people my age know they don’t have any. They didn’t when I lived there. Things change. This is a 2014 map showing miles of toll roads per state. Not a lot in the west.
          This is a map of proposed and eisiting toll roads in 1955. I think it was pretty much unchanged for the next 20 years, maybe longer.

          But in both cases, toll roads are concentrated in the NE, and scarce out west.

        • I just looked it up. Apparently, CA, home of the “freeway”, now has some toll roads. But people my age know they don’t have any; they didn’t when I lived there and the idea was anathema to Californians. But if you google toll roads, they’re more common in the NE, FL, and TX, less common in the west.

          • Aside from bridges, what they are doing in the SF Bay Area now is letting people pay to drive solo in the diamond lane and calling it a toll.

            I’ve driven all over Northern California and I’ve not encountered any classical East Coast “toll roads.”

          • Toll roads first started reappearing in California a couple of decades ago. The primary toll mechanism these days is actually more of a “toll lane”, which allows you to drive in special lanes reserved for those who pay the toll, and thus bypass the (invariably worse) traffic in the other lanes.

            Toll collection on those lines is handled by an electronic system that automatically identifies you and how far you drive.

            • Yeah. We southern Californians kept rejecting bond issues for freeway expansion. So they went with private toll lanes. As I recall, the toll roads needed some special legislation to be legal. LA Times thought they were a bad idea. The libertarian OC Register went all in pushing for them.

              Ocean beaches and the Register are the only things I miss from my old life as a Californian.

              • The special legislation was 1989’s Assembly Bill 680. Long story short, it allowed CalTrans to enter agreements with private entities to develop, construct and operate four demonstration transportation projects at private sector expense without the use of state funds. The four were:

                – State Route 91 (Orange County) express lanes.
                – State Route 125 (San Diego County) south bay expressway.
                – State Route 57 (Orange County), which would have been an extension of Route 57 from Route 5 to Route 405 within the Santa Ana River Flood Control Channel right-of-way. The four lanes would consist of 2 two-lane viaducts running longitudinally down the river channel. (Say what? I lived near a couple sections of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers flood control channels. During the two weeks each year when they weren’t bone dry, you’d get bank-to-bank flood water running faster than some freeway traffic, with 20’+ rooster tails of water on the downstream side of bridge abutments.) It ended up getting killed before construction started.
                – Mid-State Tollway (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties) an initial four lane toll road extending from Route 680 near Sunol to Route 4 near Antioch.

                Otherwise, the only California toll roads I know about were some short-term businesses in the second half of the 19th century, mostly related to the Gold Rush period and locales.

          • Yes, they did have toll roads.The toll roads in Orange County were toll roads before i moved here in ’99. there used to be more. Maybe you’re thinking ‘toll use of the carpool lane’ as being a new thing?

          • Oklahoma and the Chicago/Rockford area of IL are plagued with toll roads.
            Texas toll roads are usually fast routes especially during Rush hour. The “Pickle” around Austin is 80-85 MPH limit and the tolls in DFW are the “Fast route through Rush hour” type.
            As a side note, Texas had too much reflection stuff on my motorcycle plates, so I have been on the Pickle, and the CTP between Cleburne and Ft. Worth a few times and never got a bill for the tolls . . . they don’t operate booths, so if you have no toll tag, it shoots a photo of your plates and sends the bill to the registered owner.
            I took a shot of the rear of my bike, and the plate was so reflective it washed out to the point of unreadable.

            • Cool! 😉

            • I knew a gent with a Cessna 172 that was white, Carolina Blue, and had red pin-striping. When it came out of the shop he went “Whoah, this might not work,” so he asked the local FAA rep to take a look at it. He checked the books, looked the plane over and said, “Lovely paint job.” So the gent in effect has/had invisible N-numbers. He never, ever allows anyone to borrow the plane.

          • I can’t remember whether this was in Dallas or Houston, but in one of those two cities a friend of mine was pointing out a highway to me and saying, “This one used to be a toll road, but they finished paying for its cost, so now they took the tolls down and it’s free”. I don’t know where the maintenance costs for that road are going to come from, but if maintenance costs are a small fraction of construction costs (I have no idea about these numbers) then it makes sense. If the necessary toll to pay for maintenance costs would be something like 5 cents per car then it would cost more to collect it than it’s worth, and it would make more sense to pay for it through gasoline taxes. (At least, back when you had to have toll booths with employees collecting actual cash, it wouldn’t be cost-effective to collect a 5 cent toll. With electronic tollbooths, you could probably leave them up and simply slash the toll rates to nearly free and it could still be cost-effective).

            If anyone thinks he/she knows which road I’m thinking of in Dallas or Houston, I’d be interested to hear which one it was.

            • With electronic tollbooths, you could probably leave them up and simply slash the toll rates to nearly free and it could still be cost-effective.

              You’d think, but even with e-tolling they manage to waste insane amounts of money.

              For two years we’ve been getting bi-weekly letters– feels like at least three pages– from Washington State’s e-tolling place.

              For a person who had to have moved at least three and a half years ago, now, since the house had to sit empty on Fanny and Freddy’s inventory for a full year before we could buy it. On the bright side, the e-tolling only went into effect about six months before we moved, from memory, so they’ve only sent seventy-ish letters.

              I repeatedly contacted them, in different ways, and there’s nothing they can do about it because our house is the last registered location of the plate they think they scanned. It’s entirely possible they screwed that up, too, since I know of several folks who got letters demanding payment for the wrong color, wrong model and wrong brand of car in an e-tolling place, but the plate looked a *little* like theirs to the computer.

            • US 36 between Denver and Boulder was like that. It was a toll road, and the booths were removed after the road was paid off. There used to be a grave at the on-ramp from Wadsworth Blvd. to eastbound 36 for a dog who hung around with the tollbooth operators. They moved the grave during a restructuring of the intersection, though.

              They’ve recently put an HOV/toll express lane in place, so while it’s still technically a free road, that only applies to some of it.

            • I don’t know any place in or near Houston like that. Of course, I’ve only lived here for 25 years, this last time.

      • Most people in large cities know, just know, … garbage is hauled away by government paid trash collectors in government trucks paid for by taxes.

        As I recall, one of the big improvements pushed through by the Giuliani Administration in NY was the ending of mob* control of trash collection, resulting in fees about a third of what they had been. I also recall that it was the job of landlords to contract with the trashmen … a quick Google offers this explanation:

        Handling garbage in New York is expensive in both an absolute and relative sense. New York divides responsibility for handling trash between a public and a private system; together they spend $2.3 billion annually. The public agency is the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY), which serves residential buildings, government agencies, and many nonprofit facilities. The private system consists of more than 250 waste-hauling firms licensed to remove waste from businesses ranging from small pizza parlors to large office buildings. In fiscal year 2012 DSNY required $1.6 billion of tax dollars to carry out its tasks. Private businesses pay an estimated $730 million annually to remove their trash.

        Costs are much higher for DSNY than for private carters. DSNY’s average combined collection and disposal cost per ton of $431 is more than double that of private carters ($185). It costs DSNY about twice as much to collect the trash ($307 per ton) as to dispose of it ($124 per ton).

        Costs also are much higher for DSNY than for public agencies in other big cities. Comparisons of public sector waste management costs among cities are difficult, because cities divide responsibilities differently between the public and private sectors. Yet the latest available data show that the public sector cost of collecting a ton of refuse was $57 in Miami-Dade County, $74 in Dallas, $83 in Phoenix, $182 in Washington, DC, $231 in Chicago, and $251 in New York City.

        The article continues with interesting explanations for the higher costs, such as DSNY handling snow removal, union contracts, etc. You will have, of course, noted the support for my recollection of private enterprises having to contract their own disposal.

      • >How taxes are assessed is another fun subject.<

        I once was considering taking a position with an Oklahoma facility of my employer, until one of my co-workers who had lived there for a while explained the Personal Property Tax. Yes, once a year, the tax man comes into your house and inventories all of your personal property, then sends you a bill for it. I was afraid that my response to such shenanigans would have been along the lines of 'This is my Springfield Armory 1911 pistol. If you don't want a direct and impactful demonstration of its operation, you'd best get off my property.'

        Much in line with why I haven't been on a commercial airline flight since 29 September 2001, and even then I didn't encounter the security theater at Boston's Logan Int'l Airport since I was 'badged' as the flight mechanic for the plane.

        • $HOUSEMATE and I were once invited to a friend’s wedding in NYC. We flew into LaGuardia from Sioux Falls (FSD is great, if you don’t mind outdoor parking in South Dakota). Leaving NYC, we had to do the remove-everything-from-pockets, remove-belt (buckle, you see), remove shoes, etc. thing. A hassle, but…

          …the kicker was a week or two later. The news was that some lady had panicked during a flight as she had remembered she had packed a stun gun and a big knife in her carry on. Why? No idea. But all that “security” and she could do that – and if she had simply said nothing, nobody (besides her) would have known.

          Well, I was sure impressed. But not the way TSA might like. Not sure I’ve flown commercially since. No desire to, that’s sure. Now, climbing in with that fellow with the Taylorcraft or J-3? Sure!

        • When was this? I grew up in Oklahoma and my folks have been here since about ’78, and that has never happened. I think you may have gotten your leg pulled hard, or it’s an OLD law that was removed a very long time ago.

          • Well, my buddy *may* have been shining me on, may he R.I.P.. He was known to do that on occasion, and he knew (and pretty much shared) my attitude towards revenooers.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I just spoke to someone about this who should be good for further back in Oklahoma history. They have no memory of such law in Oklahoma for residences, but cannot speak for commercial property.

            They do recall such a law in another state, where one simply filed a form declaring such property.

            As best as I can tell, Oklahoma’s government does not have the bureaucrats for home inspection of that sort. Before the time of my source, that should have been more so.

      • > don’t understand the concept of toll roads like the NYS
        >Thruway. Roads are all paid for by taxes, aren’t they?

        Damned straight they are. From fuel tax, Federal income tax, and varying by state, state income taxes or levies.

        Most of those “private” roads came about through serious legislative connivance, basically using the power of the government to steal land from its owners, then turn it over to “private” entities to use at a profit. Almost always either with a monopoly on transit, or an implied agreement not to build a “public” highway serving the same areas.

        They wave the “private enterprise” flag, but they’re a monopoly sponsored and protected by government regulation. That makes them a government agency, no matter what kind of doodie dust they sprinkle on the terminology.

  6. Okay, this seemed very truncated. It felt like it ended roughly half way through. So, did your daughter challenge her teacher on a point? Are there on going issues regarding her teacher being wrong. Is school administration getting involved?
    So much not said here!

  7. I had a teacher who told us that the sun was the center of the universe, plants took in oxygen and gave out carbon dioxide (so you shouldn’t bring flowers to someone in a hospital because they’ll suffocate your loved one), and that elephants and mice had the same number of cells, but elephant cells were larger.

    I noticed that in my high school graduating class it was the dumbest kids who wanted to become school teachers. This wasn’t good!

    • Larry Patterson

      I had a brief fling with idea of teaching in a prep school, i.e. non state school. Decided that finishing a degree in German and physics left little alternative. So dropped out and did sales etc.

    • Not quite the dumbest, perhaps, but not far from it.

    • Statistically speaking, Education Schools tend to have the lowest SAT scores and entering GPAs in the university. I know there are some very good teachers out there who see it as a calling, and I was lucky enough to have a few, but on the whole, there’s more than a grain of truth to the aphorism, “Those who can’t do, teach.”

      • scott2harrison

        On the other hand, the best teachers are often the ones who can’t do. They get how and why their students have problems as opposed to saying (at least in their heads) but it’s obvious.

        • There was a math teacher I had who had trouble answering student questions because he just could not conceive that someone needed help understanding a concept that to him was brain dead obvious. I was in the middle. I would figure the concept out by myself but had to actually think about it a bit before the aha! gestalt moment when it suddenly became obvious.

          • I had a professor like that for my third semester calculus course. His PhD in math was from MIT. We kept telling him we didn’t understand, he kept believing that we weren’t serious, and his wakeup call was the mid-term exam. I was one of three out of about 30 who still had a failing grade after he put on a 36-point curve and then gave everyone 10 more points for “being good guys.”

            • “The problem with mathematics is it is taught by mathematicians.” is a line I saw once. It might be better taught by engineers, but I don’t truly know that. Yes, there can be beauty and elegance in the equations & such… but it’s a tool first for most. If I want to know how to use a tool, please show me how to use the tool, when to use it, when not to use it. But… well, there’s a difference between using a screwdriver and worshiping the thing. And too much (“higher”) math teaching feels like screwdriver worship.

        • Larry Patterson

          Was just trying again to teach my wife gmail. Then just grabbed the address and sent it. I’m a terrible teacher.

        • There is also considerable evidence that a person doesn’t truly understand a subject until he can teach it to another.

          Of course, being able to teach a topic does not necessarily entail anything beyond the presentation of an approved scope and sequence of pre-selected material. The guy flipping burgers at McDonald’s is not necessarily a chef just because he engages in similar work.

          • “See one. Do one. Teach one.” is one thing I’ve heard to demonstrate comprehension (not mastery) of a procedure. Having to explain something means having to know it well enough to be able to explain it.

        • This is true. I would make a terrible early-grade math teacher simply because I don’t think about these concepts in a way that makes any sense to other people.

          This is also a reason why “gifted” kids should not be put to work tutoring their struggling classmates, but that’s a rant for another day.

          • This is also a reason why “gifted” kids should not be put to work tutoring their struggling classmates, but that’s a rant for another day.

            Oh, that’s easy to fix, you just make it so that all you have to do to count as “gifted” is be dead average and actually work.

            Then you have the people who are willing to work dealing with the kids who don’t want to work, AND doing the drudge work of dealing with the kids who really are slow!

  8. My husband used to ask our children, “What did you learn in school today?” Many times, he would then say, “You tell your teacher that your father says..” This led to many interesting discussions back and forth (this was a small private school). But the interesting part of this story is that one day I asked my mother-in-law what her father was like (pictures show a very stern-looking man), and she told my daughter and I that he was quite strict and every day when they came home from school he would ask them (6 kids) what they learned in school today. Then he would tell them “You tell your teacher your father says…” My grown daughter and I laughed so hard we couldn’t speak, much to my mother-in-law’s complete bewilderment until we explained. This had skipped a generation and no one heard the story until I had asked her about her father. I hope the days come back when parents are expected by the schools to also teach their children values and judgement and that it is proper to question authority and learn to think by oneself. I probably will not live to see it, but I can hope.

    • When a couple commie folksingers get the fundamental principle of government education right it should give us pause about entrusting such unquestioned authority to the state.

      Perhaps their complaint is that schools don’t teach their facts, but that merely serves to underline the core concern.

      • Based on the lyrics there, Mr. Seeger’s problem does seem less that his children’s teacher’s are incompetent and more that they aren’t being fed a steady diet of “America sucks.” I suspect he’d have far less of an issue with today’s schools where kids who can’t read or do basic math still “know” that the US was the main country where slavery was practiced.

        • Lyrics are by Tom Paxton, author of The Marvelous Toy, Bottle of Wine and Bring Back The Chair …

          The lyrics of
          What Did You Learn In School Today reflect the labr organizers’ view that the police were indistinguishable from the goons and ginks and company finks* as might be imputed from this verse:

          What did you learn in school today,
          Dear little boy of mine?
          What did you learn in school today,
          Dear little boy of mine?
          I learned that policemen are my friends.
          I learned that justice never ends.
          I learned that murderers die for their crimes
          Even if we make a mistake sometimes

          … think of it as Howard Zinn’s vision set to a bouncy tune.

          *Union Maid, Woody Guthrie

          • BTW, many of Paxton’s songs may be sung ironically, as you might have surmised from the above selections. Beloved Spouse & I are especially fond of this ditty:

            Although I suppose we should denounce the implicit sexism inherent in his not advocating buying a gun for your daughter.

  9. To be fair, I’ve had cause to have contact with a wide variety of schools. I’ve seen public schools that function and ones that don’t. I’ve seen teachers who go that extra mile to make sure they’re giving accurate information, bringing extra materials in, looking into what works in terms of teaching methods, working with trade schools, etc. Yes, public schools have their issues, but there are good ones too.

    • When I lived in the New Orleans area, most of the schools you came across were private. Anyone who could come close to affording it sent their kids to private schools because the N.O. schools were so poor. Heh, an ex of mine went to a private school and she was a ward of the state! They paid for certain private schools as long as you kept your grades above a certain point. One of the biggest majority black schools there is a private.
      I knew a teacher there who would only work for private schools so she could avoid the union, and well even the ‘burb’s school quality was spotty, so there were more church/private to choose from and they paid better.

  10. “How many moons does Pluto have?”
    “At least one.”
    “No, none.”
    “No, one, just discovered.” (It was 1978…)
    “We’re going by the book.”
    “But the book is wrong.”
    “We’re going by the book.”

    And so.. how much else was also wrong?

    And then apply that insight to religious schooling…

    [No, I do not burst into flame on Church properties. There might some minor arcing, but doesn’t everyone experience static once in a while?]

    • Larry Patterson

      And dare read ahead in the book! Even if the podding teacher is boring you to sleep.

      • Larry Patterson

        don’t dare. (I need to turn on a light instead of trying to type in the near dark)

      • I used to take all my new books home the first day of school, read all of them that night, then hardly open them the rest of the year. I seldom turned in assignments (I hated school with a passion), but I usually got all ‘A’s’ on the tests. I think some of my teachers hated me, or at least were very frustrated.

        • My 11th-grade history teacher handled me quite well, all things considered. See, I really wanted to be in the GATE history class (I forget what GATE stood for, but it was the “for advanced students” set of classes). All my other classes were GATE, but the only time that GATE history was offered conflicted with my calculus class, so I had to take the regular-students history class. And I very quickly discovered that the classroom lectures were just recapitulating what the textbook had said — so since I actually read the assigned chapters at home, I could just tune out the teacher, who was telling me stuff I already knew, and pass the time in more interesting ways. Such as using my programmable calculator (a TI-85 that I used in my calculus class) to first write a Minesweeper game, then play the game I’d written. At first, the teacher scolded me for not paying attention in class — but when I aced the first couple of tests (because I really had done the reading), he figured out that I was doing fine, and turned his attention to the students who actually did need help understanding the material.

          • My favorite high school history teacher said homework would be 50% of the grade. The homework grade recorded was better of either the actual homework grade or the test grade if the test grade was an A. Essentially, ace the test and you could skip the homework. Oh, you were required to cite the page you found the answer on for homework questions.

            • I may have to add the “state page” bit to mine.

              • It is brilliant, isn’t it? Means that you shift the test from being about The Truth!!11! to being about the book, and even helps the “I think I remember…” folks like me to be disciplined enough to go check, get context locations, etc.

            • I never did homework. I figured I sat in school all day wasting my time, I wasn’t going to waste my own time because the teachers were incompetent.

              The favorite scam was to do nothing all period, then give out the homework assignment as the bell rang. Hello? I’ve been sitting here for 45 minutes twiddling my thumbs, and now I’m supposed to do classwork at home? No way.

              Surprisingly, that was one of the few things my parents supported me on when I ran up against the periodic punishment-and-expulsion routine.

        • I used to take all my new books home the first day of school, read all of them that night…..


          • Now I feel bad. It would usually take me a week or so..

          • I did that with the books that had actual text.

            The math books, in all of the various school systems I was in, were just math problems. Nothing about how you might solve them. That part was apparently supposed to be done slowly and orally by the teachers, who apparently either couldn’t be bothered, didn’t know how, or never got the sekrit sqrrl teacher’s guide that would have told them what to do.

            It was blatantly obvious that all the teachers I had were clueless past simple arithmetic. Even grading on the curve failed to hide the fact that 75% of the class finished the school year no more informed than when they started.
            That’s not a 75% retard percentage, that’s incompetent teaching and useless schoolbooks.

        • Last books I recall opening for something other than “The equations to turn in for tomorrow’s work are on Page ###” are my history books, and I was usually reading something not related to the day’s lesson.
          I do recall my 7 grade english book, because when I moved to New Orleans, I had a girlfriend who was in Advanced Literature at a supposedly better all girls school, and her Lit book was the exact same book as my 7th grade English. She and her friends said it was just the same cover, but I then named several of the stories in it. Today, all I recall is We by Charles Lindbergh.
          Other than that, I too was a no homework (well I might do some in class and a bit in Study hall) usually pass A and B the tests.

    • It was sixth grade, shortly before we started home educating The Daughter. The history teacher was very happy to have all new text books. Unfortunately the moment they were printed they were already out of date. The Daughter, on checking out the book, told the class that it was incorrect. Czechoslovakia was now The Czech Republic – capital, Prague and Slovakia – capital, Bratislava. This teacher (unlike the second grade teacher I wrote of above) handled things very well. The teacher used the opportunity to talk about that while borders change, text books take time from inception to distribution, and that any delay for last minute corrections might find you with yet another reason for delay.

      • I’ve got a 1954 Encyclopedia Brittanica World Atlas that has a foreword carrying explanations for similar problems they had: some of the maps dated from around 1938 because either the borders were still in flux, or it was still too dangerous to get them mapped, IIRC.

      • I was taking a geography class when the Soviet Union collapsed, and all of the sudden a dozen new countries were added to Europe, just in time for the Europe quiz.

        While the class groaned, I admired my teacher for taking that stance. Not that I was any good at studying for geography, mind you (I didn’t have patience for the memorization), but I’m a stickler for accuracy.

        • I took a geography class just before the CCCP collapsed. We were discussing the difference between nations (a group of people sharing a common culture, language and heritage) and states. He laughed when I brought up Latvija as a nation that was trying to become a state again. He said the brief interlude of statehood between WWI and WWII was a freak of history. The Soviets would never allow their possessions to be free again. Heh! as the Instapundit would say.

          • As for the spelling. My Latvian wife refused to buy any souvenirs that used the English Latvia instead of the proper Latvija when we visited Riga.

    • I believe I’ve mentioned that we were taught that the Pilgrims discovered America, and John Glenn was the first man in space. That was in the second grade; after that, I learned not to trust the teachers or the schoolbooks.

      Years later we had a science book with a particularly jaw-dropping “well, duh!” in it. Decades later I came across mention of that same schoolbook in one of Richard Feynman’s books. “ENERGY MAKES IT GO!”

      I was reminded of that again when subroutines, procedure calls, libraries, and other distinct programming concepts all became “objects.” You object the object to the object to object the object… because it’s all *better* if it’s objects. Or something like that.

      [goes back to chiseling ones and zeros onto stone slabs…]

      • Your honor, I object! 🙂

        They shouldn’t all be objects, they should all be functions. Everything good in modern programming languages was first done in Lisp, almost 60 years ago. Encapsulation? Lisp had closures ages ago. Inheritance? That’s just a fancy word for function composition. Interfaces? Gotcha covered: those are just function signatures with the serial numbers filed off and a new coat of paint. What’s that, Mr. Fancy-Pants OOP coder? You’re showing me an interface with *two* functions in it, and claiming that that’s something I can’t do with function signatures? Here, have a 2-tuple of function signatures!

        Okay, enough jargon. Suffice it to say that… yeah. Lots of programmers, as you point out, haven’t learned the history of their field — and are thus condemned to repeat the same mistakes of the past (*cough* null *cough*) over and over again.

        • But it all looks fresh when there’s fewer parentheses. 😛

        • I seem to recall someone making the observation that everything in computer science has been discovered by 1958, and pretty much all computer science papers since then describe how they re-discovered something that was done before 1958…

          • That might almost be true with respect to language features. COBOL, Fortran, LISP, and ALGOL between them had most if not all of the features found in modern languages. IMHO, things then went kind of sideways due to the minicomputer and later the microcomputer, where additional performance was required and implementing support for all the features of some of those languages was hard on more resource-limited environments.

            I am sure it isn’t true with regard to computer graphics, graph theory, and a number of fields which didn’t crop up much if at all in computer science until various other technology popped up.

            • That was another observation I recall: that when the minicomputer came out, and later the microcomputer, because they were less powerful than the previous generation (their value came in that people who couldn’t afford a computer then, could afford one now), programmers basically had to start the entire profession from scratch; such programmers would then go on to make the same mistakes that the previous generation made as well.

      • I dislike instruction presented as “received wisdom” as much as the next guy, but with respect to object-oriented programming, just because you don’t know the reason why something is true, doesn’t mean that there is no reason why something is true.

        Compared to other imperative-style programming techniques, object-oriented programming eliminates nearly all the utility of global variables because each object carries its context around with itself. That leads to a number of advantages including reduced namespace pollution and a dramatic improvement in the testability of program modules.

        • just because you don’t know the reason why something is true, doesn’t mean that there is no reason why something is true

          Another thing that GOOD teachers can get across.
          “I do not understand it” and “it is wrong” and “I can’t explain it to your satisfaction” are wildly different statements.

        • Closures are good at doing that too.

          One of the coolest techniques I remember learning from Common Lisp is that you could create a global variable…and when you want to temporarily change that variable, you could just use a “let” statement to assign a new value, where everything within the scope of that let uses that value, but outside of that statement, the original global variable is left untouched.

          Don’t get me wrong — I like object-oriented programming — and I particularly admire Common Lisp’s Object System (CLOS) — but Lisp really does let you do some *funky* things (many of which were independently discovered, and sometimes poorly implemented, much later in other languages).

          • If you want to talk about “funky” and “programming languages,” you really have to learn about APL. It made every other programming language seem positively normal (and just dialects of one another).


              • Have you been looking at my browser history? Because it’s funny how often that particular Youtube video shows up there. One of my all-time favorites.

            • For the non-programmers, this is how you sort a list of numbers in APL:

              Q←{1≥≢⍵:⍵ ⋄ S←{⍺⌿⍨⍺ ⍺⍺ ⍵} ⋄ ⍵((∇S))⍵⌷⍨?≢⍵}

              Compare that with the following code in the F# programming language:

              let rec qsort = function
              | [] -> []
              | x::xs -> let smaller,larger = List.partition (fun y -> y<=x) xs
              qsort smaller @ [x] @ qsort larger

              You might not be able to read that one either if you’re not a programmer, but I bet you understand a LOT more of it than the APL example. Heck, I know exactly what the APL example is doing, and I still can’t read it! Whereas the F# example is easy to read.

            • Let’s try that again, without the accidental strikethrough this time.

              For the non-programmers, this is how you sort a list of numbers in APL:

              Q←{1≥≢⍵:⍵ ⋄ S←{⍺⌿⍨⍺ ⍺⍺ ⍵} ⋄ ⍵((∇<S)⍪=S⍪(∇>S))⍵⌷⍨?≢⍵}

              Compare that with the following code in the F# programming language:

              let rec qsort = function
              | [] -> []
              | x::xs ->
              let smaller,larger = List.partition (fun y -> y<=x) xs
              qsort smaller @ [x] @ qsort larger

              You might not be able to read that one either if you’re not a programmer, but I bet you understand a LOT more of it than the APL example. Heck, I know exactly what the APL example is doing, and I still can’t read it! Whereas the F# example is easy to read. (At least, it would be easy to read, if WordPress didn’t “eat” the spaces that are supposed to line things up with each other. WDE. Here is how the F# example was supposed to look.)

              • With the first example, I’m tempted to ask ‘soooo, did you succeed in summoning a Daemon?’

                (Also, I’d love to know how you get all those symbols to show up when typing on a deb box. One of the few things I do miss about a Windows machine is the ability to make this face: ¬_¬ )

                • That one was a simple copy-and-paste from the http://www.dyalog.com/blog/2014/12/quicksort-in-apl/ page. (Then I replaced the < and > symbols in that code with &lt; and &gt; respectively, because <S> is the HTML code for strikethrough). I sure didn’t want to type them all out by hand!

                  But there is a way to type special characters on Linux pretty easily. Which I’ll tell you about in a new comment since it will require another URL, and I’ve already hit the one-per-comment limit for this one.

                • On Linux, there’s a special feature called the Compose key, which is turned off by default because it’s very hard to pick a sensible default option for “which physical key on the keyboard should act as the Compose key?”. You can read about it here: http://fsymbols.com/keyboard/linux/compose/

                  I like to set one of the Windows keys on my keyboard to act as Compose. The leftmost Windows key actually gets used by some Linux distributions (like Ubuntu GNOME) to pop up their Start menu equivalent, so I usually use the “Menu” key that’s between the right Alt and right Ctrl keys on just about every keyboard. In theory, that’s used to pop up a context menu (the kind you’d get by right-clicking), but I never, EVER use it for that, so remapping it to Compose makes sense for me. Then I can type key combinations like:

                  Compose, – (hyphen), > (greater-than) produces →
                  Compose, o (lowercase o), o (lowercase o) produces °
                  Compose, – (hyphen), , (comma) produces ¬

                  Note: those three keystrokes are typed one after the other, not all at once. You don’t hold down the Compose key like you do Shift or Ctrl. You press and release it, then press and release the first key of the combination, then press and release the second key. There’s a pretty long (though apparently not 100% complete) list of Compose key combos at the URL I linked at the start of this comment.

                  • Thanks! I’ll have to ask if it’ll mess with anything customized on the machines I use first, but at least I have a solution now.

                    • It’s not likely to mess with anything, since the “Which key is the Compose key?” is a per-user setting, and only available when you’re in GUI mode. If you’re logged into one of the text consoles available by hitting Ctrl+Alt+F1 through Ctrl+Alt+F6, the Compose key setting you’ve chosen won’t be active. And it won’t be active for any other users on the same box; they’d have to pick the setting for Compose themselves. (They could pick the same setting as you, of course — but your setting won’t be imposed on them, and they could pick the left Windows key instead of the right Menu key if they preferred).

                      Oh, and I forgot to mention: because the Compose key settings are per-user, you can also define your own Compose combinations! https://cyberborean.wordpress.com/2008/01/06/compose-key-magic/ has instructions (and some examples), but it boils down to “edit (or create) a file called `.XCompose` in your home directory, and type in the lines you want”. Make sure it’s spelled exactly like that, with the dot as the first character of the filename. And then copy the examples from that page and define your own compose combinations. Note: most user-defined config files like this one are read at login time, so to make your settings take effect, you might have to log out and log back in.

                      Do note that some Linux keyboard systems don’t honor the `.XCompose` file, according to one source I just found, so this might not work for you without further tweaking. But since you have tech support on hand when you need it, hopefully it won’t take too long before you can get custom compose sequences up and running — if you even need them, that is. The default list is quite exhaustive.

                    • I just posted a comment that landed in auto-moderation despite having only one URL in it. Interesting. But I do need to correct one thing in the comment (which you can’t see yet, but you’ll see once Sarah wakes up and brings it out of the moderation bin). In the comment, I said that to create custom Compose sequences you should create a file called `.XCompose` — but you should NOT type those two backtick marks. The actual file name should be .XCompose with a single dot in front and no backticks. The reason I typed those backticks was because I temporarily forgot that WordPress doesn’t use the Markdown syntax, where backticks signal “Put this text in a fixed-width font”.

                      So when you see my comment, pretend the backticks aren’t even there. The filename should be .XCompose and not `.XCompose` or any other variant. (And, as I said, some Linux keyboard systems don’t honor the .XCompose file without further config tweaking, so if you need custom Compose sequences you might have to get help. Good thing your tech support lives with you! 🙂 )

                • And then there’s the guy we hired as a supposedly experienced Unix admin — who left after three days claiming that his religion wouldn’t let him work with anything involving daemons….. /HR got some ‘splaining to do.

                  • I got told of a tech support call where the caller didn’t want to use the installation wizard because it was against her religion and they don’t allow that sort of thing. Dumbfounded reply: ‘Do you also have objections to ‘spellcheck?’ (Yeah it got past the mental filter.)

                  • Oh. I didn’t know you could be summoned by mysterious sigils, my dear Orvan. I thought it required an offering of fine liquor too!

                    *teasing grin*

                    • The fine liquor might be sufficient but is not necessary. It is, however, appreciated. Though are times it might be rather much. One fellow once recognized me, ask what I was drinking, and proceeded to buy me my fourth Manhattan… that was, shall we say, just a bit overly much.

            • I have some familiarity with APL, but mostly through its child J. It really is a funky language, but as much as I like the concepts behind it, I think it’s a little too rigid in some ways for my tastes.

              Another funky language is Forth. It’s something that can be so small, you can fit *an interpreter* on an Arduino microcontroller that has only two kilobytes of RAM. Yes, 2,048 Bytes. Yet it has the ability to quickly, and compactly, expand to do what you need it to do.

              As a general rule of thumb, I’ve noticed that the most interesting computer languages are really simple and easy to learn…but because of their simplicity, you can get into very weird, and very difficult to understand concepts very fast.

              In some ways it’s a pity that these languages aren’t more popular. (Except maybe APL and J — they are fantastic for learning mathematical concepts, but it’s difficult to see why one might want to use these languages for creating web servers, for example.)

          • From https://people.csail.mit.edu/gregs/ll1-discuss-archive-html/msg03277.html

            The venerable master Qc Na was walking with his student, Anton. Hoping to prompt the master into a discussion, Anton said “Master, I have heard that objects are a very good thing – is this true?” Qc Na looked pityingly at his student and replied, “Foolish pupil – objects are merely a poor man’s closures.”

            Chastised, Anton took his leave from his master and returned to his cell, intent on studying closures. He carefully read the entire “Lambda: The Ultimate…” series of papers and its cousins, and implemented a small Scheme interpreter with a closure-based object system. He learned much, and looked forward to informing his master of his progress.

            On his next walk with Qc Na, Anton attempted to impress his master by saying “Master, I have diligently studied the matter, and now understand that objects are truly a poor man’s closures.” Qc Na responded by hitting Anton with his stick, saying “When will you learn? Closures are a poor man’s object.” At that moment, Anton became enlightened.

          • I’m pretty familiar with closures, continuations, and the like. The thing is, closures are mostly associated with programming in the functional style, and I tried to make it clear I was talking about the imperative style. Not that there haven’t been imperative languages with closures, I mean Pascal had closures and Pascal is as an imperative a language as it gets, but closures are mostly familiar to those who do functional programming.

            For those who are going “Imperative? Functional? What?”, programming in the imperative style views a program as a sequence of commands given to the computer. In this view, a variable is a bit of memory into which you put values to be retrieved later. Functions are sequences of operations that might be repeated, and which are often executed for their side-effects rather than to return a result and the order of the commands matters and must be carefully set by the programmer.

            The functional style views a program as a set of factual statements. In this view, a variable is a fixed value that may not be known in advance of execution, but will be known at some point and which will never change. Functions are as they are in the mathematical sense, that is mappings of sets of input values to output values, and executing a function may be done only once if the output values for a given set of input values is known, or may not be executed at all should it be obvious the result is not needed. The ordering of the factual statements is unimportant and the order of evaluation is implied by the dependency graph.

            It is considerably easier to reason about programs written in the functional style than in the imperative style, but most programmers find it difficult to grasp the functional approach. It’s….different.

        • Ah, OO. The first day of my co-op job, we — everyone from me to programmers who were on the verge of retirement — were herded into the conference room for the class on the bright new programming paradigm, Object Oriented programing.

          Still using it nearly thirty years later. Sometimes they had a point with their paradigm.

        • Sure. But I was already familiar with Modula, and out-of-control variables and namespace collisions are sloppy programming.

          Adding layers of OOP and “abstraction” and “encapsulation” are great for blasting out lines-of-code metrics, but they make debugging and maintenance far harder – and more expensive – than they need to be.

          • You do realize that there are an awful lot of really smart people who disagree with the entirety of your second paragraph, don’t you. I also disagree with that paragraph, but I will grant that my status of “smart” may not have been established to your satisfaction. On the other hand, if you want to compare the size of your, um, beard with the size of mine, I am pretty confident I can hold my own. So to speak.

            Let me be more explicit with my explanation. By far, the easiest way of getting values in to or out of a subprogram is by making them globals. That way, you don’t have to pass something as an argument or return it as a value, you just use it however you want and you don’t ever have to worry about whether or not you can see it because you can. Of course, if you do very much of that, then you wind up with the namespace pollution that modular programming is intended to address. So, that technique is used sparingly, when it’s used at all. (I have a coworker who does this occasionally, but I don’t at all.)

            The problem with the modular approach is that you commonly wind up doing gyrations to deal with the fact that you need value X in one place, but it’s only available somewhere else. So, you have to go to the trouble of making sure that value gets where you need it. Whenever you have the situation where you have to pass X to function A, which passes it to function B, which passes it to function C, where it’s used for some computation, you are going through those gyrations. There is no need for A or B to know anything about X, but you have to tell them so that they can tell C. If you’re experienced at writing modular programs, you probably don’t even notice you’re doing it. Until, of course, you discover you need to add an additional parameter to a commonly-called function, and suddenly you’re modifying functions all over the damn place just so you can get that parameter where it’s needed. This happens all the time.

            With object-orientation, you put the variable in the object and pass the object around. If you’re doing it right, nearly all of the methods have nearly all of their arguments eliminated. Of course, you could put the arguments into structs and pass pointers to that struct around, but objects allow you to define your data objects in terms of the functions used to modify them. That makes it easier to test in isolation and, by extension, easier to modify safely than defining a struct and passing that struct around everywhere.

            Also, object orientation is a tool that can change the way you think about programming. There are things to be learned here. Take the techniques and adapt them to the problems you have to solve yourself. Or not, as you prefer. I’m a bit of a language junkie, myself. I love to see the ideas that others bring to problem-solving.

            • I just realized what I was missing in my example. (I understood early this morning that I had to explain why passing objects around is better than passing variables, but I didn’t know how. Now, I do.) If A and B are both member methods of the same class, then you don’t have to pass C’s object around. You have it as one of the member variable in A and B’s class, and it’s there, and can be accessed just like a global variable.

    • Back when Pluto was a planet, I was on my school’s High School Bowl team. The question came up, “What planet is farthest from the Sun?” I replied Neptune, and was buzzed for a wrong answer. The opposing team then responded with the ‘correct’ answer, Pluto. During the next filming break, I approached the ‘judge’, a professor from a local college whose function was to rule on factual disputes, and informed him that while most of Pluto’s orbit indeed lies outside of Neptune’s, Pluto itself had come closer to Mother Sol about a year before the taping of the show and wasn’t expected to be farther again for several decades. He agreed with my exception, and a correction was made at the resumption of the show. The 60-point swing was enough to give my team the win and advancement to the next round of competition.

      It is good to be a Nerd.

      • Pluto is still a planet– they violated the rules for changing it by not having a high enough portion there for the vote.

        I haven’t checked if the vote on the “dwarf planet” thing was licit or not.

        • Dwarf? That be a FULL-ON aggression, Charlie. You in a HEAP o’ trouble.

          • Especially since when they classified it as a dwarf, they tossed it from the list of planets, and…

        • I do like them calling the objects around its size and bigger “Plutoids”. I think they should return it to planethood, and make the answer to “Name all the Planets” be “Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and the Plutoids” For older kids make it “. . . so far X many Plutoids”
          There also needs to be a band called “Pluto and the Plutiods”.

      • We had a guy who seemed to always get the right answer and first, and the Bowl host made some snarky remark that our school was only doing good because we had him, so he just ignored the buzzer unless it didn’t go off, as no one on either side had the answer, then he buzzed in.
        We won with about 4 points less than the average.
        He too, a few time was told he was wrong, and he would reply they needed to check that, and where they needed to look. When they did he was shown to be correct. iirc he once did it for the opposing team’s answer (after the “Wrong. GHS?” “Sorry, but that is the correct answer, The point should be theirs”)
        He was one scary smart big ol’ farmboy

    • Though you can’t tell it by how a lot of folks act, arguing with religious authority isn’t heretical…. One of the Doctors of the Church, Saint Catherine, is basically famous for arguing and being right. Another is a little bit famous for trying to write down a summary of all the perfectly rational reasons for stuff.

      The issue comes when folks say their personal authority is higher than God’s. Amusingly enough, I’ve seen this happen more from “religious authorities” than the folks they’re arguing with. Probably because of the circles I run in. 😉 There’s surprisingly little revealed truth, somewhat more teaching authority truth, and a crud-ton of stuff that is either commonly accepted (think of it like the Catholic version of, oh, things like ‘theory of gravity’) or allowable.

      Bad Teacher Syndrome isn’t reserved for public school teachers. 😦

      • One of the Doctors of the Church, Saint Catherine, is basically famous for arguing and being right.

        I assume that’s Saint Catherine of Siena, not Saint Catherine of Alexandria. A quick scan of her Wikipedia page (yes, I know, but I don’t intend to trust anything there until I’ve verified it) doesn’t make it clear to me which incident(s) you’re referring to. Which case, or cases, of her “arguing and being right” are you referring to? And what book or website would you recommend as a good starting point to learn more? I don’t have easy access to most English-language libraries, but I do have the ability to borrow ebooks from one major library. (Though it seems likely that any books you might mention would only be found in paper format, so I might not be able to read them right away.)

    • You mean the religious schooling that taught me that men lie but God & the universe he created do not?


      I’ve had this convo on Vox Popoli: [Blacks, Immigrants, women, Fill in the current reasonable object of your ire’s ticky-box group here] don’t ruin everything.

      Lie-based ideologies: Marxism, race-and-intersectional-gender-theory, and Feminism ruin everything.

  11. The time I remember when the teacher was wrong was in history class, sometime in 5th or 6th grade. We had learned about the B.C. and A.D. dates, and how there was no year labeled “year 0” — you go from 1 B.C. to A.D. 1.

    So the question on the test was, if a man was born in 20 B.C. and died in A.D. 30, how old was he when he died? Leaving the question of birthdays aside, the answer the teacher wanted us to give was 50 years old. But the correct answer was 49, because there is no year 0. I explained that to the teacher when she marked my answer wrong, and she either didn’t understand what I meant, or (far more likely IMHO) didn’t want to admit to being wrong in front of a student, because she thought it would undermine her authority. (What actually happened is that she turned me off of enjoying history class for several years, until fortunately I had a really good teacher in 10th grade).

    • Are you quite sure about that calculation? From 20 down to 10 would be twenty years, and from 1 up to 30 would be thirty years, and twenty plus thirty is still fifty in most math systems. The existence of a year 0 would seem to make the man fifty-one years old, not fifty.

      Regardless, the teacher may have been right but was right for the wrong reason (which is why students are expected to show their work, demonstrating they comprehend the process even if they may have misapplied it in the present instance.)

      • Pretty sure, yeah. If you were born in 2 B.C. and died in 2 A.D., then you lived:

        2 B.C. -> 1 B.C. = 1 year
        1 B.C. -> A.D. 1 = 1 year
        A.D. 1 -> A.D. 2 = 1 year

        Total: 3 years.

        The mistake you’re making is that from 20 down to 1 is just nineteen years, now 20. Then the transition from 1 B.C. to A.D. 1 is one year, and A.D. 1 to A.D. 30 is 29 years. Total = 19 + 1 + 29 = 49 years.

        I’m a computer programmer now, so I deal with off-by-one errors all the time*, and this is a classic off-by-one error. They’re also known as “fencepost” errors, after the easy-but-easy-to-get-wrong math problem: you’re putting up a fence made of fenceposts, and straight planks that rest between the fenceposts. Your planks are all 10 feet long, and you want to put up 100 feet of fence. How many fenceposts will you need?

        * There’s a famous saying that there are only two hard problems in computer science: cache invalidation, giving good names to your variables, and off-by-one errors.

        • And “now 20” should have been “not 20” in the sentence that starts with “The mistake you’re making…” The “You WILL make a typo while pointing out someone else’s grammar mistake” rule WILL not be denied: even when you’re pointing out mistakes that aren’t grammar mistakes, it’ll get you! 🙂

        • Was a developer for a long time, and never heard that one, Robin. But I love it!

          Never had it myself, I always asked “Is this the inclusive range, or exclusive range?” You only need ten fence posts – if you’re starting your fence from the already existing barn corner…

          • The Right Thing To Do™ is almost always to use “half-open range”, i.e., the range [0,20) contains the numbers 0 through 19 inclusive. Why is that almost always the Right Thing? Because the math just works out in ways that make sense. If you have a half-open range from A (inclusive) to B (exclusive), then the number of items in that range is equal to B – A; no need to add 1 or subtract 1. And if you’re dividing that range into sub-ranges, then the end of the first range is the same as the start of the second range, i.e. the first range is [A,B) and the second is [B,C) and so on. Dividing the numbers 0-99 into five separate ranges? The first one is [0,20), the second is [20,40), the third is [40,60), and so on.

            You will make FAR fewer off-by-one errors in your range-handling code if you use half-open ranges everywhere by default (and inclusive or exclusive ranges only if they are specifically asked for). That’s one of the things that the Python programming language got absolutely right.

            • And then you hit grading systems – and curves – and all that other fun stuff. I had one call center app that wanted to run their stats like the schools do grading, since that was what their employees were “used to.” Oh, my, ever, loving, God. That was a mess… (I think someone sane took over that department after I left, or so I heard.)

              Managed to avoid Python in the former career, although I should play with it some when I have time. (Intranet and heavy BI was my schtick, mostly.)

            • Have I mentioned before how much I enjoy your comments?

              • Thanks! But I’m a little surprised that that was the comment that provoked that reaction. I mean, unless you’re also a programmer (for all I know, maybe you are — I don’t remember what you do for a living), that comment was mostly on subjects that you wouldn’t have a particularly strong opinion about. So I really wasn’t expecting too many people to care about it. We do have some programmers besides me who post here, but I don’t think there’s more than 3 or 4.

                Anyway, thanks; glad I could make your day / evening / morning / whatever-it-is-in-your-time-zone a bit brighter.

        • You’re counting transitions, not years.

          I am born in 2 BC and die in 2 BC = 1 year.
          I am born in 2 BC and die in 1 BC = 2 years.
          I am born in 2 BC and die in 1 AD = 3 years.
          I am born in 2 BC and die in 2 AD = 4 years.

          If you consider it a strict matter of calendar years, so that living in any part of a year is equivalent to living “a year” for purpose of determining age, transitions represent living across two years, even if you were merely born 12/31/01 and died the next day, 01/01/01.

          • Yes, I’m counting transitions, because that’s the traditional method of answering the question “How old are you?”. If you have had your second birthday, you are two years old. If you are one day short of your second birthday, then you are one year old. So by that method of counting age, born in 2 BC and die in 2 BC = first birthday not reached = 0 years old. Born in 2 BC and die in 1 BC = first birthday reached, second not reached = 1 year old. Born in 2 BC and die in AD 1 = second birthday reached, third not reached = 2 years old. Since the question on the test was “How old was the man when he died?”, the traditional method seems to be the right way of assigning age for the purpose of answering this question.

            • Okay – but then the question ought provide date of birth and date of death, lest a man born in December die in July, thus having only a partial year to his credit. Given the information provided it would seem to either require assumptions — such as whether we are determining years lived by “birthdays” accumulated vs years in which the person was alive — or, more properly: cannot be answered based upon available information.

              Thanks for the clarification. The problem likely more commonly occurs when there is a year 0, such as: a boy was born in Feb. 1998 and dies in March 2013 — how old was he when he died?

              • In such a case, the answer to the question is 48 or 49, and never 50. If X was born in 20 BC and died in AD 30 on or after his birthday, he died at age 49. If he died before his birthday, he was 48. Current best practice among historians, when the exact dates of birth and death are unknown, is to say that such an X died at ‘age 48–49’. And conversely, if we know that Y died in AD 30 at 49 years of age, but don’t know his exact birthdate, we give his birth year as ‘21–20 BC’.

            • Calendars predate the common use of “zero.”

              • Imagine you are drafting a graph. The dividing line between positive and negative number is located at the point between AD and BC. Counting off the years, up or down, you begin counting with ‘1’. I have never heard anyone count off starting with a 0.

  12. … presenting something that’s a matter of philosophy and values as though it did have an objective correct answer.

    In other words, standard Liberal thought of the sort which they say only diversity can cure.

    Except, not the sort of superficial iron pyrite diversity they peddle.

  13. I am (in)famous for correcting the textbook. BUT when I do, I tell the students why (outdated usually, interpretation leading to errors, that sort of thing) and give them my sources if they want to see for themselves. And I make clear what will be on the test and what won’t. And if I screw up (usually a date) I fess up ASAP. Which may be why I have very good street creds with the students.

    • Schools have become very weak on the core educational mission: distinguishing facts proven from facts believed from opinions that are not actually facts. Simple acquisition of facts is less important than evaluation of facts — but it is much easier to grade for on a bubble sheet exam.

      It is as if they are more concerned with what people should know than with how they should develop and curate knowledge.

      Teachers too often believe that their cred comes from “knowing” when in fact it comes from modelling an appropriate stance toward acquiring and developing knowledge.

    • People often misdiagnose a clash with a given authority as “anti-authoritarianism”. More often than not, the student in question has no quarrel with authority: they just need confirmation that the teacher in question has demonstrated that they really *are* an authority. Such students don’t take too kindly to bumbling pretenders.

    • I’ve run into a few teachers like you. You’re the best, keep at it!

    • The few times my teachers screwed up on a question in a test they would declare that question a bonus point and fessed up.

  14. Christopher M. Chupik

    My ’80s elementary school still had books from the ’70s predicting the coming climate change apocalypse of the New Ice Age. Not to mention the all the books that kept talking about the Tasaday tribe’s alleged isolation long after they were exposed as a fraud.

    • You mean I didn’t imagine how school textbooks once solemnly warned about the New Ice Age and the Coming of the Glaciers? One book my school had showed the Sphinx and Great Pyramid freezing over.

  15. A high school English teacher was reading us the lines “Upon what base was fixed the lathe wherein He turned this globe and rigolled it so trim?”…only she pronounced it “lath”…ie, a flat strip of wood rather than a machine tool. I wonder what on earth she thought the poet was trying to say?

    • Again on Kwajalein, I sat through one of the required periodic Airfield safety lectures, this time on Ergonomics. Except, according to the Safety Officer, it wasn’t ‘Urgonomics’ as derived from the Greek but ‘Airgonomics’ as derived from the Latin. Ergo, the pinhead hadn’t any real clue as to the subject matter and was just reading from the book.

      Shortly thereafter, said Safety Officer managed to cut off the tips of three fingers on (or previously on) his left hand with a bandsaw.

    • Semi-OT on ignorance of phonics (evidently the person in question never learned about homonyms): One memorable Palm/Passion Sunday, the church had several readers doing the long long long passion passage from the bible … the narrator got to the buffets and spitting part … and pronounced it as though it were a feast laid out for self-service. The kids and I could barely stifle ourselves for the sake of the solemnity of the occasion … even today, it doesn’t take much to send us into giggles yet again … *rolling eyeballs*

    • Pa worked some summers at a cannery. He related that once a supervisor read everyone a memo about how it was “Important to keep debb-riss out of the beans.”

      • The saddest aspect of that is imagining that supervisor watching The Producers and not getting the joke in Christopher Hewett’s character name: Roger De Bris

        • Or “There is a caution flag for the French Driver, Louis DeBris!” given (most often by Davis Hobbs) during race commentary

          • Thankfully that supervisor “broke” it after the “b” else he’d have pronounced it “day-briss” and made us think of a Bronx rabbi.

  16. Re: textbooks, there was a great story from Richard Feynman about when he was on a committee in charge of math and science text books for an elementary school and was asked to look at a new book that came in two volumes. He meticulously went through Volume I, noting the places where things were close to right although simplified and with small errors, and the places where the book went completely off the rails into cuckoo land. He then requested a copy of Volume II and was told that it was still being written and wouldn’t be available for another six months.

    The rest of the committee had, of course, approved both volumes already.

    So if you’re ever wondering why textbooks contain errors, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

  17. scott2harrison

    I would advance the hypothesis that municipal governments are different in kind from state and federal governments. The state and federal governments are there as noted above to defend us, provide courts and so on. Municipal governments are there to provide services such as street cleaning, water and garbage. It is notable that unlike state and federal governments, municipal governments are corporations.

    • Federal and state governments are there to provide the boundaries and setups for the polity they represent. They should define borders, deal with internal and external conflict (courts and defense) and referee municipalities. Now they are captured by municipalities in many places and used to play favorites (See Illinois and New York).

      • scott2harrison

        True. What I was trying to get at however is that perhaps municipalities should not be looked on as governments. This also implies that they should not have their own police forces or courts as those are not their place. They also cannot be impartial in disputes between the residents and the municipal corporation.

  18. I would propose that whether you home school, send your children to private school, or send them to public school, you *need* to home school your children.

    It sounds like you are doing a good job of that, too.

    It’s kindof odd that teachers expect to be the Absolute Authority on everything, and that if you dare deviate from their prescribed schedule for learning (whether you learn too fast or too slow), you are a deviant, a special case that needs to be fixed…yet if the child isn’t doing well, it’s because the parents aren’t doing enough to re-enforce learning at home.

    They want all of the glory, I suppose, but none of the risk.

    • Never let a teacher tell you to not let your kids read books above their grade level. Stretch those young minds. They need the room to think big thoughts.

      • My kids’ teachers have professed themselves pleased at my kids’ reading prowess. It means they can spend time with the ones who need help and just throw books at my kids to keep them occupied. (Our school has a pretty nice library with an interesting lost book policy. You lose a book, they want a book in good condition to replace it. Doesn’t have to be the *same* book, and they also solicit donations. I hope the middle school has the same policy, because I love shaping libraries.)

  19. Third grade granddaughter reading at sixth grade level. Loves, loves to read. Sits in math class with open book on her lap. Teacher (a great teacher) says it’s fine because she asks a math question and granddaughter knows the answer and is following the class and reading as well. (I remember when I could do two things at once and do both well. Age is catching up a bit. Still love to read. Math skills, alas, seem to be somewhat atrophied.)

  20. I recall the incident in fifth grade; we had spent some days learning about atoms, and there was our teacher and (I think) an Education student from the local university. The Ed student asked the class whether atoms could be split (the textbook had said that according to the original .greek concept of the atom, they could not be split). I raise my hand and said that of course we now know that atoms can be split; how else would an atom bomb work? (I had done reading outside of class, and before ?I entered fifth grade.). The whole class laughed.

    I asked the teacher to back me up. Neither she nor the Educashun major knew whether atoms could be split. No wonder I grew to have limited respect for authority.

    • That’s a shame. It should have helped you to grow up with the really American idea that one should only have respect for authority that deserves it.

      • I don’t think we’re far apart; respect for authority, beyond certain formalities, should be limited to authority that deserves it. A fifth grader, for example, should genuinely respect a teacher who knows more than he does, and works to impart knowledge to him. He should not have a high opinion of the learning of a teacher who demonstrates that she knows less than he does, but he should still speak courteously to her, and refrain from unnecessarily disrupting class.

    • One of my teachers told how, prior to WWII, the Periodic Table ended at Uranium and they were told the atom could not be split. She laughed at that, and told us how science is constantly changing due to new discoveries and theories.

      About education majors: There isn’t just a “education major.” It’s an education major in a specific subject. An education major in English is going to cover English, naturally, without as strong a background in the sciences as a science major, or in history as a history major. You’d think that anyone would know that atoms can be split, along with other basic science, but it’s surprising, even though education degrees require a courses in subjects other than their major area of study.

      I don’t know what the major was for the teacher who taught us that science is ever changing, but she taught math and told us on occasion she was not a math major, but it had fallen into her lap. Some of this is from discovering a teacher has a flare for a subject, but often it’s from administration regarding teachers as widgets.

      The teacher-in-the-trenches observation is that those who can, teach; those who can’t go into administration. They also had pithy things to say about lamebrain new teaching ideas and textbooks. Those where I attended my first years in school had a quiet rebellion, along with the principal, and broke out some old literature books instead of the new, watered down, texts they unboxed. That was the same school where the teacher, disgusted at the pro-Soviet propaganda in The Ways of Man, supplemented it with her own lessons on communism.

  21. My Pre-Calculus teacher in High School was great. If you challenged something he said or something in the book and could back up your challenge, you got got extra credit. If you were wrong, he would calmly explain why you were wrong. He only got upset if a student was impolite.

  22. The Left tells us to “Question Authority”. They forget to add “just not our authority!”

    • It has previously been suggested on this site that “Question Authority” is a kind of authority the Left arrogates to itself. It’s entirely suitable for a Democrat presidential candidate to call for (to chose a random example) a rewrite of Catholic theology; but it’s wrong, wrong, wrong to harbor any skepticism about—oh, the examples are too numerous to chose from.

  23. Just in time for my in-laws’ Thanksgiving visit… my wife STILL tells the story of when (despite being raised on an overdose of History) she was having a tough time in high school history, so her Dad helped her study for the test. She still came home with a D on the test, so of course he took a look at it afterwards.

    He happened to be a History professor at Duke at the time. I’ll let you imagine the expression on her teacher’s face when he arrived for their conference with about 20 books containing _primary_ sources contradicting her “correct” test answers…. My wife ended up with an A, but always felt bad for the other kids without similarly situated parents.

    • That sounds like the English teacher I had who recommended that I be put in remedial classes and also (after that failed because the Principal told her she was out of her mind) tried to bring me up on disciplinary action because one of her favorite students reported that I was swearing. She insisted my father, who was then the Minister of the ASEAN division of the Department of Foreign Affairs be summoned so she could remonstrate him for my upbringing. He asked her what the word was. The teacher replied proudly, “she said the word stupid.”

      My father, having been forced to cancel several meetings and drive across the city began to berate her in civil but clearly contemptuous tones. “Stupid is an adjective referring to or describing the state of mind or lack of intelligence of a person, or the lack of forethought in an action. For example, ‘It is an example of abject stupidity to think the word ‘stupid’ is a swearword.'”

      The teacher tried to double down by saying it was an insult, and my Dad said that if I had described someone as stupid it is very likely that the person I was describing as such is probably not just stupid but incompetent, bumbling, ridiculous, and inept and that it was beyond comprihensible that he was dragged out of the office where he handled matters of state for something as petty and trivial as this.

      The teacher proceeded to make things worse by saying she hadn’t actually heard me say the word, and he actually ripped into her for daring to haul him across the city for mere school gossip and worse that she is so gullible a teacher that she believed such things as mere heresay, and it would not surprise him if she were sacked for gross incompetence. He then scolded her for her unprofessional behaviour and conduct as completely unacceptable in the teaching profession and took her to task for being such an insecure little woman than she needed the approval of teenagers to feel good about herself so she listened to their gossip as if she were

      She quit not long after that actually, and to her humiliation had discovered that all the teachers had heard my father’s oration of her flaws.