APs are not adequate

17 06 2010

(Finals are starting and I only have 3, all of them easy, thanks to the number of APs (heh) I took this year, and I’m in a ranting mood, so once more unto the breach…)

For gifted kids, AP classes are hardly better than normal classes. This runs contrary to everything that most administrations would have you believe, but it’s true. My “top 100” high school has almost every AP class College Board offers, and by the time I graduate I’ll have taken most of them, so I speak from experience here: AP classes are easy. Straight A’s require a minimum of effort. I haven’t needed to study at all the entire year, just as I studied not at all last year, or the year before.

The problem is that there is a failure in public schools to distinguish “bright” from “gifted.” There are a great number of bright students in my school, and for them APs are wonderful. I would never advocate taking them away. The problem is that truly gifted kids are different. Gifted doesn’t just mean that you’re above average except perhaps under the bizarre definition the school system has invented. To quote SwitchedOnMom,

“I’m sorry, but I will go to my grave believing that some kids just come into this world wired differently, that they are objectively, qualitatively “gifted,” “cognitively advanced,” call it what you will.”

I’ve lived it, and I’ve seen it in other people, and god dammit, there is a difference. Truly gifted kids are something else entirely. A lot of APs are so far below many gifted kids’ ability levels that they’ll have the same problems in an AP class that they would in a normal class. After all, an AP class is modeled after an ordinary intro level college class: if a 10th grader is 3 years above grade level and smart enough to thrive at a top 20 college, the average intro level college class is a piece of cake for her.

There are students who shouldn’t have to bother taking AP classes in a subject: they should go straight into higher level college classes because they’re ready for them, and the AP class is just a waste of time. But most schools require that you finish the AP in a subject before they allow you to move on to higher level courses even if it’s clear that you have no need for the AP material.

This has nothing to do with arrogance or elitism, whatever many anti-GT people say. I think that providing enough of a challenge for the “only” bright kids is every bit as important as providing a challenge for those few are truly gifted. I don’t think that giftedness makes one more important or better or anything like that. Most of my favorite people in the world are “only” smart.

No, what this is about is everyone being challenged. When AP classes are a lot of work but easy, they are not providing “adequate rigor.” When AP classes are a joke, and students get A’s and 5s without ever opening their textbooks, they are not providing “adequate rigor.” That’s by design: they are not intended for the type of kids I’m talking about. They’re designed for the many smart kids for whom normal classes are too easy. They aren’t designed for the kids who could, if they were pushed, handle a real high level college course load as 10th graders.

If schools are really interested in giving all students adequately difficult classes, then they will end the useless linear progression that so hurts gifted students. Requiring a year stuck in an AP class before you can take a college class at your real level is just as inane a policy as requiring a year in a normal class when the student is ready for the AP class.

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United States of Autocracy

16 05 2010

McLame and Leiberlol have decided that we are in need of a dictator for our leader.

So, I have a question for McLame and Lieberlol. Why are they so very intent on pissing on the Constitution?

Remember this old piece of paper?

No, forget I said that. They aren’t pissing on it. They are pouring gasoline on it and holding a match over it. They are taking a blowtorch to it. They are wrapping themselves in an American flag with a half-formed swastika on it.

Words literally cannot express the full extent of their contempt for the principles the United States is supposed to stand for. I’ll quote for yourself, and you can work out just how much they hate our freedoms:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence

That is the text, in full, of the 6th amendment to the United States Constitution. Now, McLame and Lieberlol’s attempt to repeal the Constitution:

Requires an individual who is suspected of engaging in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners through an act of terrorism and who may be an unprivileged enemy belligerent to be placed in military custody for purposes of initial interrogation and determination of status. Allows the detention and interrogation of such individuals for a reasonable time after capture or coming into custody. Defines “unprivileged enemy belligerent” as an individual who:
(1) has engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners;
(2) has purposely and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or
(3) was a part of al Qaeda at the time of capture. Authorizes the President to establish an interagency team composed of executive branch personnel with expertise in national security, terrorism, intelligence, interrogation, or law enforcement to interrogate an individual placed in military custody and to determine if such individual is an unprivileged enemy belligerent. Designates such team as a high-value detainee interrogation group. Designates certain individuals in military custody as high value detainees based upon the potential threat such individuals pose for an attack on the United States, its citizens, or military personnel, the potential intelligence value of such individuals, or membership in al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist group. Directs the high-value detainee interrogation group to conduct interrogations of such individuals and make preliminary determinations whether such individuals are unprivileged enemy belligerents. Deems as the paramount purpose of such interrogations the protection of U.S. civilians and facilities through thorough and professional interrogation for intelligence purposes. Prohibits the use of Department of Justice (DOJ) appropriated funds to prosecute an unprivileged enemy belligerent in an Article III court. Allows the detention of an unprivileged enemy belligerent without criminal charges or trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners in which the individual has engaged or which the individual has purposely and materially supported.

(emphasis mine)

Mr. McCain, you are a terrorist, because you seek to insight terror. Because someone has asserted this, you now qualify as a terrorism suspect. I hope you will enjoy your 8 year stay in a military prison without access to a lawyer. And since you seem to have forgotten why torture is so terrible (I guess you’re old enough that your memory has started to go, seeing as you experienced it), we’ll torture you while we’re at it. Presumption of innocence is an important part of the United States. Why do you hate our freedoms?

Futhermore, please define “hostilities.” Does this mean that if Obama accuses someone of being part of a drug ring, he can hold them forever without a trial? We’ve had a “war on drugs” for several decades now. And our “war on terror” has shown no signs of ending any time in the next forever.

Oh, that’s right. You want us engaged in hostilities forever, because if we weren’t “at war,” voters might finally realize 1) that you’ve been using 1984 for something other than its intended purpose (it was a warning, not an instructional “how-to” book), and 2) that this is a very very bad thing to have happen in one’s country.

If the text of that bill sounded like something out of fascist Italy, that’s because it is. There is no way around it. This bill grants the President the powers of a dictator. If it passes, it’s just a matter of time before it’s used on political dissenters. What, you don’t think an American President would never abuse such powers? Then you are draw droppingly ignorant. Remember Nixon? Well, if you knew any history, you’d know that under him, 4 peaceful student protesters were killed by National Guard troops. You’d know that he wiretapped his political opponents. You would know that civil rights leaders in the 1960s were wiretapped, as were peace advocates throughout the Vietnam War.

If you knew any history, you’d remember that in 1968 Chicago police violently suppressed protests, demonstrating for all of America just what a police state looks like. And you’d remember that the vast majority of Americans, cowards that most Americans are, supported the Chicago police.

And so it is that Lieberlol and McLame are attempting to destroy the United States.

Well you know what, John McCain and Joe Lieberman? Fuck you. Fuck your cowardice and fear mongering. Fuck your police state. Fuck your military dictatorship. This is my country too, and I and anyone else who is a true patriot will fight tooth and nail to save it from you.





Collateral Murder

5 04 2010

That’s what the video’s called, and I can’t think of a better title. If you do nothing else today, watch this. Please. Watch the entire thing. Email it to your friends. Email your congressmen and ask about it. Demand to know why our troops no longer are required to obey the rules of engagement, and shoot people trying to collect their dead and wounded.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/04/whistleblower-report-leaked-video-shows-us-coverup/

I’m so sick to my stomach right now that I really can’t say anything more, and I don’t think I need to. You’ll understand.





What Schools Are Not For

26 03 2010

No, surprisingly this post isn’t about separation of church and state, but it has a lot to do with the stupid American puritanism that is still pervasive in our culture. You see, a school decided to ban two girls from all extracurriculars because they dared play with a lollipop and take pictures!. Teenage girls have sleepover. Teenage girls “pretend to kiss or lick a phallus shaped multi-colored lollipop that they had purchased.” Principle decides that this is his business, and bans them from all extracurrics for a year unless they attend 3 counselling sessions and apologize to the all male athletic board, in which case it would “only” last for a quarter of the year.

Yes, the correct reaction here is “what the fu…?”

First of all, who the hell cares? Teenagers are aware that sex exists, and joke about it even! Shock! Horror! I’m sure the older generation never had a sexual thought even once until the day they married. If you’re worried about the issue of posting pictures of yourself in this sort of situation online, fine, that’s legitimate, tell their parents. But outside of that, this is a non issue. There is no reason that what they did should even be considered bad.

Second, who the hell made you God? What conceivable reason does the school have for claiming authority here? Schools have neither the right nor the authority to control every aspect of their students’ lives. Unless it is causing significant disruption at school, what students are doing outside of school is really none of their damn business. “Government in the bedroom” is a bad thing, right? Well how much worse is having the frigging school in the bedroom? There is no reason whatsoever for the school to have any authority over any of its pupils’ sexuality outside of school.

This isn’t just an issue of expression, it’s an issue of authority. Let me say that as a high schooler, I think that to give schools control over students this way is just creepy. This wasn’t even sex! This was playing with a lollipop and taking pictures. And if it were sex, which is the logical extension of this policy (assuming no cameras, because that brings up the issue of child porn), well, that’d be even worse. If teenagers want to have sex, there is nothing wrong with that.

[Feel free to insert the phrase “fucking stupid” as you desire in the above post. I had to restrain myself several times to avoid using it, because man does it ever fit]





Vote of No Confidence

12 03 2010

I would like to motion for a vote of no confidence in Texas. That is to say, go have your little independent country. We don’t want you anymore. You’re just too goddamn stupid for us.

Texas’ governmental stupidity normally isn’t newsworthy, but in this case it has reached such truly staggering feats of idiocy that I think they deserve special attention. You see, according to Texas’s BOE, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a founding father.

12:32 – Board member Cynthia Dunbar argues that the Founders didn’t intend for separation of church and state in America. And she’s off on a long lecture about why the Founders intended to promote religion. She calls this amendment “not historically accurate.”

Madame, you are not simply ignorant. You are deeply, shockingly stupid.

…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.

Hm, that’s interesting. Some of that sounds familiar. It sounds almost like…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

As Dunbar probably doesn’t know what I just quoted, I will explain: this is the text to the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. See where I’m going with this? If the Founding Fathers did not intend to construct a wall of separation, and therefore Jefferson is not a Founding Father! I wonder who else I can find out wasn’t really one of the Founders?

The civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State

-James Madison, “The father of the Constitution,” in a letter to Robert Walsh

The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses….

-John Adams

As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious protesters thereof, and I know of no other business government has to do therewith.

-Thomas Paine (incidentally, as far as I can ascertain he is not part of the Texas education standards at all)

And lastly, from one of the relatively unknown Founders:

In the Enlightened Age and in this Land of equal Liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States

Have you guessed who it is yet? Yes, you in the back? Did you say George Washington? Exactly right! I’m surprised you got that, not many people have heard of him!

Study of the Constitution is not the only thing that has undergone a lobotomy, though. What kind of fundies would they be if they’d only destroyed the standards on one important topic? The Enlightenment is being treated rather like the women of a village when the Mongols invaded. You see, the word “Enlightenment” is gone from the standards, replaced with “the writings of…”. Jefferson has been ejected from the unit, too. Who has replaced him? John Calvin and Thomas Aquinas. No, I am not kidding. I wish I were.





The 11th Century South

11 03 2010

In Virginia, public universities may no longer have antidiscrimination policies that protect gays because the general assembly has not specifically told them to protect gays.

In Mississippi, a school’s prom was cancelled because two people of matching anatomy wanted to attend together.

DC prevents discrimination by those who hold city contracts, so Catholic Charities cuts spousal benefits to all of its employees rather than help people who happen to love in a way that the world’s oldest parasite doesn’t approve of.

A parochial school ejects a student because she has the nerve to be raised by two women rather than A Man and A Woman.

This is not just difference of opinion, nor is it a matter of religious beliefs that we have to accommodate because of pluralistic bullshit. This is evil. I have always known that, but it took a long time for it to hit me on an emotional level. It’s easy to explain intellectually (imagine if you were kicked out of school because one of your parents was white and one was black, imagine if your prom were cancelled because you wanted to go with your Jewish boyfriend rather than a Good Christian, etc etc). Let’s try to hit a little closer to home.

If you’re a parent, imagine that this is your child. Imagine that your daughter is not only barred from prom, but told that she is the reason that it has been cancelled for the entire school. Imagine that your child is told that she is no longer welcome in her school because your family is not in line with their religion.

If you’re not, then imagine this happening not to yourself (I think it’s actually sometimes harder to understand things that way) but to one of your close friends. Imagine watching this happen to someone you care about. Imagine your best friend being told that she can’t come back to school for as stupid a reason as this.

Imagine being told that you cannot get health care from your spouse’s employer because they don’t approve of the fact that you exist. Imagine being subject to rejection from a job simply because of who you go home to each night.

Imagine that your child, your little brother or sister, your best friend, you yourself lived in a world where there are still places even in the United States where they cannot be open about who they are without the risk of physical attacks and even murder. Welcome to life as it is for gays.

So I ask you…can you hear the gunshot in the next office over? That thud, outside your window? Do you hear the glass breaking a few houses over? Do you hear the lynch mob running down the street? The massacre in the church at the end of the street? Can you hear the sound of burning torches? Do you smell that scent hanging in the air? It is blood and burning flesh. Welcome to the dark ages, America. Enjoy your stay.





On Invertebracy

8 02 2010

Ok, as has become abundantly clear over the last thirteen months, the Democrats are for all intents and purposes useless in the Senate. They are prostrating themselves before the Republicans even thought they have an eighteen vote majority over the Republicans. Health care reform was watered down to the point where most liberals now oppose it, and the right is blocking even this. Shelby placed holds on every nomination currently pending, literally extorting tens of billions of dollars from the federal government for Alabama.

Well, if the Democrats were not so lacking in spine that even sea slugs look down on them, this would be a perfect opportunity to destroy the Republican party for good. It runs something like this:

Don’t allow procedural filibusters. If someone wants to filibuster legislation, then they can get up and read the phone book. They cannot, of course, take breaks. That’s not how a filibuster works. They must continue reading without more than a pause for breath or a sip of water, without the opportunity for meals, sleep, or bathroom. And the whole while cameras are rolling, recording the Republicans shutting down the Senate.

One advantage of having an 18 vote majority is that you have the power to set the agenda. So firs thing every morning, bring up a health care bill for a vote. Every day. The Republicans will be forced to shut down all Senate functions until they end the filibusters and allow it to come up for a vote. If they want to put holds on nominees, then bring all 70 something nominees up for a cloture vote, and force them to maintain the hold on every single one. Every day.

And if some little smear of slime like Shelby wants to extort billions of dollars out of the federal government, well, the Executive branch controls how it spends its money. Suddenly all that spending from the federal government could find itself strangely slow to arrive, and all spending that the executive can withdraw without Congressional authorization should be pulled from Alabama. The Senate can draft bills cutting Alabama out of all federal spending and try to drive it through. They can say to Shelby “if you want to keep this up, we will make sure you can never be elected to an office in Alabama ever again.”

It’s within their power. They won’t do it because it’d get their hands dirty, but politics is dirty. That’s how it works.