Education Roundup

This week, there’s been quite a buzz in education. Or perhaps it just seems that way since we have a new Superintendent of Schools in Clark County Nevada.

So lets start with President Obama feeling that part of the problem is that many schools are using outdated textbooks. Has basic reading or math changed recently? Will your child be laughed at for using an outdated form of Algebra? Sure, our understanding of science changes all the time. And foreign languages evolve — Latin excepted. As for history, does it matter inasmuch as they will never get to the last chapter anyway?

The same day, E. D. Hirsch argued that the new educational standards we are trying to formulate won’t amount to a hill of beans without a good curriculum to ensure that kids actually learn it. He’s an expert in both education and cultural literacy with a bibliography longer than my arm, so ignore him at your peril.

One problem with education is that the people who teach the teachers how to teach are failing to address the basics: things like classroom management and how to effectively meet the objectives of reforms like standardized testing. Or, “how to keep a job as a teacher.” In fact,”only 49 percent believe state governments should adopt the ‘same set of standards and give the same tests in math, science, and reading nationwide.'” Sorry professor. Colleges and modern employers expect a high school graduate to know certain things.

In Closing: Rest in Peace Tony Curtis; Happy Birthday Hoover Dam; health insurance changes; it’s not over ’til the crazy lady sings; I’ll have Honda on asphalt with mayo; Erik Scott leads to ch-ch-ch-changes; you can’t have both; on Social Security and Women; Kohl‘s is creating jobs (that’s more like it); why it’s a “bad thing” for household debt to decline (if you are an economist); once more the rich get richer; Dear Ben Stein, stop whining; worker’s health costs to rise 12% next year; and maybe the reason it “seems” that Americans don’t want jobs as migrant farm workers is that they don’t speak Spanish, don’t have “tractor skills” and like coming home to their families every night (certainly a barrier for single parents!). But we would rather pretend that it’s because we uppity high school and college grads are too good for back-breaking labor in an environment where only lip-service is given to labor laws.

Now I’m Allowed to Tell You

You are probably aware that some time back, Scott Whitney invited me to start cross-posting my weekly Vegas real estate summary — Friday Figures — to the Living in Las Vegas Blog and Podcast. About a month or so ago he wanted to talk to me about his super-secret new project.

Well, the project has officially been announced, and this weekend the Vegas Video Network will be starting to broadcast live and VOD programming. I will have a show on Friday afternoons called Getting REAL (Estate) in Vegas. In addition to talking about local real estate issues, I will have guests and talk about real estate in general. My first guest will be Bruce Cannon of WIN Home Inspection. If you have a question for him, a real estate question for me, or are interested in becoming a sponsor of my show, send me a comment or email.

Follow-Up and Vegas Miscellany

In a way I wish I had waited until today to write The BAMTOR Principle. By some weird coincidence a bunch of other people have also noticed that Banks Always Make Their Own Rules that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the law. It turns out that many people knew that Wall Street was selling mortgage backed securities that were destined to fail. But what HuffPo didn’t bother to point out is that what those banks and brokerages did was in violation of the law. This blatant double standard — “laws are for little people” — will continue until the Feds start putting people in jail, levying huge fines against individuals who signed off on breaking the law, and states sue for the right to prosecute violations of state law.

In light of this, the banksters have the chutzvah to say that breaking up “too big to fail” institutions would create more risk. Yeah, more risk for their jobs.

As far as the economy goes, it turns out that 74% of Americans agree with me that regardless of what the government says about GDP, we are still in a recession. It’s getting more obvious that the numbers are being gamed. But don’t expect any administration in the near future to start talking about what inflation, unemployment, and GDP really are, because then we would all understand what deep doo-doo we are standing in and probably vote a lot of bums out.

Of course you need to be careful about voting bums out, as Christine O’Donnell and Nevada’s own Sharron Angle illustrate. Congruent Angle? Sorry I’m running out of Angle jokes.

And that brings me to an armload of local interest items. Let’s start with the spectacular view from the Cosmopolitan. Down the Strip a little bit, be careful about sitting by the pool at CityCenter’s Vdara, or you may experience their unique “death ray.” If you are planning on getting off the Strip, you will want to at least look over these amusing tips. One of the restaurants I visit regularly has been reviewed again, and I only recognize two of the things they were served. I haven’t talked a lot about it, but I am keeping an eye on the case of Erik Scott, killed in broad daylight by Metro in front of a Costco in one of our most yuppified neighborhoods. By the way, last week’s CSI did a great job of addressing it and not addressing it.

In Closing: electromagnetic spectrum; lies your teachers told you; cheap food costs dear; abortion does not have dire emotional consequences; Israel cannot have its cake and eat it too; people don’t like health insurance reform because it didn’t go far enough!; True Mud; a few words on taxes; Professor DeLong nails the Republican view of America; have we tried the simple stuff first?; Jack LaLanne is 96 (was I the only one who noticed Drew Carey’s homage in the blue “speed suit”?); and medical ignorance.

Short But Sweet

No, that’s not a description of myself. Eat your heart out!

I hate most audio and video posts on the web.

Ok, no, I liked the cute video of the baby playing with the collie. And I don’t mind when political sites like Crooks and Liars link to interviews and even political ads that are of interest. Sometimes there’s nuance you don’t get in the transcript — which by the way is often included (it’s my favorite part of their posts). I like funny songs and game reviews, and I like some of the serial dramas out there too. There are even some very useful “how-to” videos for a lot of activities.

But seriously, at least half of the audio and video on the web is stuff that wastes my time. It’s stuff that takes 5 or 10 minutes to watch, that if you were to just put it in print, I could tell what I need to know in less than 90 seconds. I am sick and tired of feeling like I’ve been hoodwinked into sitting through somebody’s “important” presentation just to find out that they want $37 to tell me the real secret to success, or to tell me something I already knew, or even to give me one almost important thing in a sea of meaningless or redundant blah blah.

Now several people lately have been telling me that video posts are the freaking future. They claim that I can crank out a video post in half the time it takes me to type, grammar check, spell check, edit, and make sure I actually make sense in writing. I think that’s just got to be a lie! Even in a video post, if you want to get that “actually make sense” thing going on, you’ll need some sort of script or outline. And even if that’s 4 lines scribbled on a sticky note stuck to your notebook computer next to the camera, it takes time. Do you honestly think this happened with no rehearsal and no script?

For that matter, there’s a “looking presentable” thing. It’s going to take time to make sure you look decent, and that there’s nothing behind you that you don’t mind being seen across the interwebs. Am I in my pajamas? For the record, no, but you’ve got no way of knowing! Some video bloggers get around this actually having to get out of their pajamas by creating little PowerPoint-like slides that reinforce their point. Again, you’re losing the time savings and boosting the tech requirements to get rolling. And really, does anybody like PowerPoint?

Finally, putting stuff in writing makes it easier to quote you. It’s just “copy” and “paste”. Nobody has to listen 4 times to make sure the wording is right, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to find the quote in text rather than by trying to remember whether that good bit was at minute 16 or minute 27.

Look, if you can’t at least tell me what you’re going to say in a few sentences (I’m not even asking for a transcript), you’ve got nothing to say to me. It’s called a summary. You learned about them in second grade. If you insist on audio and video posts — and that includes podcasts! — you’d better have one or I’m closing the tab.

In Closing: Keeping you up to date on Sharron Angle (sorry, I’m from Las Vegas now); I’m with Digby on strategic default among the wealthy; on consumer credit and American exports; on immigrants and the work they do (truth is that some employers prefer easily exploited workers who are worried more about deportation than OSHA regs or minimum wage laws); does this look like something you would want to eat??; how to make real coin; and Marines fight bad guys but save cuddly animals.

Just another day in Vegas

I took this picture yesterday from the third floor of the Clark County Courthouse, around noon. It was a beautiful day.

In Closing: “And the recess appointment power doesn’t work why?”; common sense; keeping their priorities straight; yeah, I think many of us would have bought the T-shirt; NY Times catches up to the end of private practice (they’re only about a decade late); now can we work on the unemployment problem?; and as much as I hate to even think about it, lessons from the Baby Sitter’s Club.

Yeah, Right. I Totally Believe That.

You know I try to avoid local interest stories, but this is a big one.

Ok, now listen to that and ask yourself if that sounds like 7 officers — court officers, cops, marshals,  an FBI agent — taking on and killing one lone gunman, taking 81 shots to do so. Because that is what the officials want us to think happened the other day at the Federal Building and Courthouse in Las Vegas.

Despite early eyewitness reports that there were perhaps as many as 4 gunmen, official sources now insist that Johnny Lee Wicks acted alone, in an apparent suicide mission, because he was mad that his Social Security benefits case had been dismissed 11 months ago. But we have one dead court officer, and one dead bad guy, so it’s very convenient if they can convince us that’s what happened.

If it’s really true, all those officers need to go back for additional weapons training. No excuses for needing 81 bullets to kill one suicidal ex-con with a 12-gauge shotgun.

In Closing: If universities are having so much trouble making ends meet, why do they still spend lots of money on sports programs (which educate thousands of young people — mostly men — for hundreds of available jobs)?; you know things are messed up when I am happy to report that the economy only lost 84,000 jobs last month; speaking of which, 1 out of every 5 manufacturing jobs from 2006 no longer exist; Seattle is to Teriyaki as Chicago is to Hotdogs; let your Congressmouse know that you care about the MOTHERS Act (like they care what we think, but hey); “death panels” do exist, if you’re a dog (similar situations probably exist among medicines for humans, I am just thankful to have no direct knowledge); why grad school (other than to get a job at a university); the Senate health insurance reform bill just keeps getting worse; and the real threat to the Democratic Party.