Saturday, December 31, 2016


The long, lonely dark road
Is the one a man must walk
When row after row of curtains
Close upon his mind.

I want to say …
Don’t argue with me …
The road is dark
When my words fly away
And all I am left with is

Once I was great
Now I am brought low
My greatest strength betrays me (my  mind)
Row upon row of curtains close upon me.

I hurt the ones I love
I don’t mean to … but it happens
Row upon row …
Dark, lonely roads.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Accomplishments of the Obama Presidency

As the year is closing out and with it, the Obama presidency, it is time to look back and list the accomplishments of the 44th president. In doing so, it is important to understand this is a list of what the president did, whether you think it was good or bad, whether you like him or you don’t like him; controversy will not be allowed about the list. Opinions have been shared widely and freely over the eight years Barack Obama has led the nation. If you have more to say, go elsewhere. All I’m trying to do is to list what he accomplished during his two terms. In that spirit, please feel free to offer suggestions as to what I have missed.

1.       Affordable Care Act. Perhaps his signature accomplishment.
2.       Withdrawal of ground forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.
3.       Authorizing the raid in Pakistan that resulted in the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
4.       Authorizing navy snipers to kill the pirates that held an American merchant marine captain hostage.
5.       2009 Public Works spending on ‘shovel ready’ projects.
6.       Race to the Top and NCLB waivers in education.
7.       Opening to Cuba, reestablishment of diplomatic ties with the Cuban government.
8.       Engineered the treaty with Iran about their nuclear program.
9.       Led NATO (prodded by HRC) to conduct air strikes on behalf of Libyan rebels fighting the Qaddafi regime.
10.   Continued the program of using drones to assassinate Al Qaeda, Taliban, Daesh (you hear them reported as ISIS or ISIL), and other Middle Eastern terrorist leaders.
11.   Allowed the regulatory agencies to publish numerous new rules regarding fuels used by power plants, for-profit colleges, practices of the financial sector, &c.
12.   Prevented leasing of off-shore Atlantic parcels for oil & gas exploration.
13.   Created the Consumer Finance Protection Agency through the Dodd-Frank Bill.
14.   Ended the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and allowed openly same-sex oriented persons to serve in the Armed Forces without threat of sanction or discharge.
15.   Student loans for college now come from the federal government rather than having the federal government guarantee loan repayments for private lenders.
16.   Signed the Paris Accord on climate change.

That’s all I can think of, but I am sure you will want to add others. The only rule is that it must be a direct action of the president. For example, to say he created a million new jobs does not qualify unless he hired a million people for new White House staff positions. Perhaps you think something on the list should be deleted? Explain why. This is a retrospective of what the man did regardless of how we feel about it.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Then versus Now: Geometry

The question I’ve been wondering about is when did we lard up secondary mathematics courses to the point where there was too much content to teach in a year? Or has it always been this way?

Quite honestly, I don’t remember my high school math courses: too long ago.

Thus my mission to acquire math textbooks from the time when I sat in the desk watching a teacher explain math.

Recently, I was alerted to a series of textbooks written and co-written by Mary Dolciani. My correspondents said she was the best. I then turned to Amazon to find used books and scored, that is, I was able to find the books. I had been searching for a year.

Here is the comparison for Geometry between a 1969 Dolciani text and the current Pearson text via the table of contents:

Basic elements of Geometry: definitions and terms
Tools of Geometry: definitions, terms, and initial postulates and theorems
Principles of Logic
Reasoning and proof: logic (plus vertical angles
Initial Postulates and Theorems
Parallel and perpendicular lines
Perpendicular lines, basic angle relationships (vertical, supplementary, complementary)
Congruent Triangles
Parallel lines and planes
Points of concurrency and other relationships in triangles
Congruent Triangles
Quadrilaterals; triangle inequalities
Right triangles and trigonometry
Right triangles and trigonometry
Volume and Surface Area
Coordinate Geometry: methods
Coordinate Geometry: proofs


Volume and Surface Area

Of all the secondary math courses, Geometry is the least subject to cramming down the curriculum because you can move radical functions from Algebra 2 to Algebra 1, but there is nowhere to push down a topic like triangle congruency, not at least as long as we continue to follow the century-old practice of teaching the branches of mathematics in isolation.

(Yes, Algebra 2 students complain loudly about taking a year off from algebra to study geometry and then we expect them to recall perfectly everything they learned in Algebra 1.)

(No, the rest of the world does not do this. They create integrated courses that move the students through their years of study in which all branches of mathematics are present.)

Two big takeaways:

                One: I was wrong that trigonometry being introduced in geometry was a recent development. It has been there all along. What is added to what had been was additional study of triangles. The points of concurrency do not appear in the 1969 textbook.

The problem with the pedagogy that is pushed upon teachers and students by non-experts is that the non-experts believe that if something is nice to know, it has to be known and therefore added to the curriculum. Or as someone said 10 years ago, Florida has never found an additional benchmark it didn’t like. We are always adding and never subtracting until there is simply too much to learn in a year.

Dopes. Children are not computers; you cannot upgrade the CPU and memory chips and get more capacity.

                Two: The 1969 textbook takes longer to establish the basics before moving onto more advanced ideas. The current textbook throws ideas out quickly and assumes children will make sense of them with little work.

In practice, that is the deadly sin that dooms district curriculums written to satisfy state demands. Math, and Geometry in particular, is sequential. What you did not understand yesterday will hurt you today. If that goes on long enough, despair and failure are the only ends at which students will arrive.

Next Up: A comparison of Algebra 2 textbooks.