Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Grandstanding Buffoon Misses Point in Teacher Firing

24.03.2010 (6:09 am) – Filed under: Child Care,Education,Youth ::

Quanell X, grandstander supreme and champion of criminals, among other well-deserved titles, completely missed the point in the recent flap in Houston after a teacher allowed students to hit the class bully. The man is so wrong, so often, that he must be doing it on purpose.

The X-man’s take:

"What that teacher did was so reprehensible, so foul and wrong, why did you not make a police report about what this woman did?"

The reality:

"The kid didn’t get beat up — this is a kid who has repeatedly beat up kids in my school," [director of Robindell Private School Chuck] Wall said. "He had punched a little girl like a punching bag and was caught by one of my teachers and what he got back … was absolutely minor in comparison to what he did to this poor little girl." Wall said the boy’s parents have been unresponsive to the school’s pleas for help in controlling the child.

The boy’s mother goes on to make excuses for him, saying that he has medical conditions. True or not, schools cannot tolerate students who are negative influences, particularly those who create an unsafe environment for their peers.

Wall had to fire the teacher for instigating an escalation in violence, true. But the truth is that the brat needed to learn the very lesson she taught him, namely that violence begets a violent response.

It’s unfortunate that the teacher in question had to lose her job because of failing parents, a failing educational system, and a failing society. She will pay the price in terms of her career for a school system that lacks the ability to purge itself of miscreants who render it unable to fulfill its function, educating those who can learn. Of course, it’s unfair to blame the school because we, as a society, lack the moral courage to state the obvious: Some children simply do not belong in mainstream school classrooms.

Devarius Williams is evidently one such child. Woe to the children and teachers at his next school. Perhaps Mr. X should consider their pain before blabbering on about what’s reprehensible.

ADDENDUM

Another interesting note to this story is the Chronicle’s ad hominem attack against Mr. Wall:

Wall said he fired the teacher the next day after Williams’ mother called the school to report the incident. He said she was the second teacher to be fired in six weeks for allowing another student to strike the boy.

Wall, whose school offers up to 12 hours of daily care for $110 a week, then disparaged the boy’s parents.

Regarding “disparaged the boy’s parents”? How so? In whose opinion? Based on what words, exactly?

Frankly that’s a line I would have expected from the Magnolia Potpourri back in the day when it was run out of a one-room shack, not one of the country’s leading newspapers and the only source of print media in the 4th largest city in the U.S.

Put People to Work by Lowering the Minimum Wage

06.03.2010 (8:17 am) – Filed under: Finance,Youth ::

It should be obvious to everyone that the minimum wage employers may legally pay workers is directly linked to the number of job openings companies will have at the unskilled end of the market. But evidently that bitter economic reality is lost on Democrats in Congress:

the recent act of Congress that has caused the most economic hardship goes to the May 2007 law raising the minimum wage in three stages to $7.25 an hour from $5.15. Rarely has a law hurt more vulnerable people more quickly.

A higher minimum wage has the biggest impact on those with the least experience or the fewest skills. That means in particular those looking for entry-level jobs, especially teenagers. And sure enough, as nearly all economic models predict, the higher minimum has wreaked havoc with teenage job seekers

Boo hoo, some might say. Teens don’t need to work, at least during the school year, and those who do simply compete with unskilled adult workers. There’s some truth to that argument; however, it’s not only teens who are displaced from jobs: Unskilled workers of all ages are less in demand now than they were a year ago in large part because of the higher minimum wage.

I worked at McDonalds, among other low-paying jobs, as a teenager and at the time their labor costs ran about 15% of sales, if memory recalls. If sales are $3M at a store, the owner has $450K to pay in salaries, period, if he’s going to stay in the business. If he’s forced to pay a higher wage, only two things can happen and neither of them is pleasant.

First, the owner could fire or demote one or more of his salaried managers. Not a good decision, for someone has to run the store and it’s not going to be done effectively in the absence of a qualified – read “skilled” – supervisor.

The second possibility – and that one that actually occurs in the real world – is that the owner will tell the managers to reduce the number of hours worked by the low-end workers to the point at which he’s making satisfactory profits again.

Sure, those with jobs are making more money. But those without are 100% unemployed and most of these people have few, if any, of the skills needed to open their own businesses or otherwise create a job for themselves.

That’s the result of Democrats’ ludicrously misplaced compassion for the poor. And the cycle continues.

American Students’ Mistaken Feeling of Entitlement

18.02.2009 (3:20 pm) – Filed under: Education,Youth ::

Ellen Greenberger’s study entitled "Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors" reveals a fatal flaw in the American university system – the students who attend – and whose education is the product of – these institutions.

Greenberger was initially made curious about the subject by students who seemed to feel they deserved a higher grade than they actually earned in her classes.  She wondered what caused the phenmenon.  James Hogge, an associate dean at Vanderbilt, knows.  “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ "

Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The education system is – or ought to be – the ultimate form of meritocracy, a learning environment in which only demonstrable results are rewarded.  Feelings have no place in the evaluation of achievement.  Neither does hard work, valuable as it is, have any particular value of its own.  Only results matter.  When did American students – and Americans in general – learn to believe anything else?

Aaron M. Brower, the vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says we’re teaching children to think that way in our public schools.  “They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”

Jason Greenwood, a senior kinesiology major at the University of Maryland, exemplifies exactly what is wrong with this insipid sort of thinking:

“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”

Something’s wrong, alright, and it’s apparent in the fact that Greenwood, who is about to matriculate from a major university and is thus presumed to have been educated to a high standard, actually dared to say something this ridiculous aloud with the implicit assumption that he be taken seriously attached.

This could almost, but not quite, be expected from a sociology or psychology major, but a participant in athletics should, of all people, understand that it is precisely absolute achievement that should be measured and rewarded. 

By Greenwood’s logic Usain Bolt be stripped of the gold medals he was awarded in Beijing last year for torching the field in every race entered if it was determined that Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago simply tried harder?  The mere idea is ludicrous and students’ expectations of being given a grade based on their level of effort is no less so.

Sadly, Jason Greenwood is no isolated case.  66.2% of those surveyed responded affirmatively to the statement, "If I have explained to my professor that I am trying hard, I think he/she should give me some consideration with respect to my course grade."

Stimulus

28.01.2009 (3:03 pm) – Filed under: Finance,Politics,Youth ::

Jim Manzi at NRO’s Corner blog feels the same way I do about the contents of the so-called Stimulus Package but draws a different conclusion about whether the spending is a good idea:

consider the gigantic—as in close to $100 billion—amount of extra federal money these guys are proposing to spend on education.  Study after study has shown that, at a minimum, there is no clearly demonstrable educational benefit from more aggregate spending on schools. Unless you adopt the hard-core Keynesian doctrinaire perspective that it literally doesn’t matter what we spend money on, this will be wasted. We will spend $100 billion on schools and not expect kids to read, write or do math any better. How can this be wise? Do we really want to borrow (because that’s where 100% of this money is going to come from) this much money from our kids for that?

Nobody wants to repeat the mistakes of Herbert Hoover. This is a healthy concern.Hopefully we will be able to restrain ourselves from passing trade restrictions. Trying to balance the budget or restrict the money supply right now is almost certainly a fairly crazy experiment to run. 

Perhaps, though one could easily counter that statement by saying that spending over a trillion dollars on make-work projects is equally crazy, particularly when it’s known up front that vast sums will simply be wasted in the effort to spend the money as fast as possible.  That simply doesn’t sound efficient.

Even if government spending advocates are correct in thinking that the stimulus project will work in the short-term there are still the long-term effects to consider.  Specifically, when, if ever, will the money they propose to borrow now be paid back?

Deficits incurred as a result of the New Deal and WW II were paid back by the post-war economic boom and the years of relative stability.  Are spending advocates counting on those fortuitous circumstances again?  If so, I hate to be the one to say it, but that ain’t happening.

If today’s young people are going to enjoy a healthy economy we need to start being much more efficient with our military, education, and tax dollars.  I don’t see that principle being invoked anywhere in the stimulus plan.

Mexican Police Tag Vandals – Excelente!

16.01.2009 (5:17 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Humor,Youth ::

Police in Monterrey, Mexico know how to handle teenaged vandals in their town – literally spray-painting their stupid butts as a form of public embarrassment. 

Four teenagers say police in a northern Mexican town spray-painted their hair, shoes and buttocks to teach them not to paint graffiti on public property.

Hey, the punishment fits the crime.  The punks’ immediate, self-indulgent, entitlement-inured response?  Can you say lawsuit?  Of course you can!

Emilio Alfaro of Nuevo Leon state’s Human Rights Commission said Thursday the youths have filed a complaint alleging that police in Guadalupe slapped, kicked and painted them with spray cans after detaining them for vandalism.

Darn shame, that.  Police in London might be well-advised to take lessons from their compadres in Mexico in lieu of the politically correct sensitivity training they’ve been getting.

Muslim Violence and America

09.12.2008 (12:37 am) – Filed under: Islam,World,Youth ::

MPACUK, a British Muslim “empowerment system” according to its web site, says that it will no longer apologize for the acts of Islamic terrorists.  This video, MPACUK says, explains why Muslims have turned to violence against their “executioners”:

Quite a lot of build up just to end by blaming America for the world’s problems.  Same sad song, Nth verse.

Although it would be wrong to say that the U.S. blameless in regard to its current low level of esteem around the globe, the nearly 20 years since the end of the Cold War have caused a lot of people living in countries that should remember the very real danger they passed through thanks to Uncle Sam’s protection to forget the world security dynamics of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

Yes, during the Cold War the U.S. supported bad people in Iran, Chile, and Nicaragua, among others, and fought bloody, ambiguous wars in Korea and Vietnam that prematurely ended or shattered many innocent lives.

But an objective observer has to question the degree of injury the U.S. dealt directly to Muslims even during the height of its obsessive Cold War zeal.  Arguably the worst thing the U.S. has done to followers of Islam was to set up the scenario through which the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in Iran in 1979 and set up a totalitarian Islamic state that is still controlling speech and thought in Iran today while ensuring that no economic or social progress can be made there. 

As for America’s recent folly in Iraq, it’s a matter of common knowledge that the vast majority of Iraqi dead were killed by other Iraqis and imported Muslim terrorists and not by American troops.  True, we probably should not have deposed Saddam Hussein; however, that doesn’t change the facts about who did what to whom afterward.

No, Muslims’ anger toward the U.S. is primarily about Israel – the Jews who must be destroyed for Islam to be satisfied.

Understand that while the Palestinians in Israel have been aligned with Muslim nations and terrorists groups for several decades, there was not a great deal of Islamic fervor among residents of Palestine prior to that strategic alignment.  Neither is Jerusalem of any particular consequence to Muslims, historically speaking.  Its value is as a ransom, the prized possession of another faith held hostage.  Fundamentally, it’s America’s support for the Jews makes that us the enemy of Islamic radicals, not our actions in the world, though those often hurt relations as well.

MPACUK’s claim that America has made Islam violent is a fabrication.  Where are the murderous Vietnamese, who by rights should be setting off bombs in New York with all the fervor of a radical Wahabi?  They don’t exist.  Radical Muslims chose the path of violence deliberately, because they believe in it and that it can achieve their aims for them. 

But suppose you are a 16-year-old Muslim male with an opportunity to consider your potential futures and make a logical decision about how to spend the next 6 years of your life.  What makes more sense, becoming a foot soldier in the mullahs’ terrorist army or getting an education and making a place for yourself in civilized society?  The latter option is clearly more advantageous for you and your progeny save for one consideration:  Islam.

This is particularly obvious when one reads articles like this one in which the Houston Chronicle reports that many Egyptians are too poor to afford meat during the Eid al-Adha.

Their lives don’t have to be that way.  There’s nothing inferior about Arabs’ genes, intellect, or abilities.  But they, like the Iranian and Iraqi people, are hobbled by their governments and the prison of their religion.

“What does it say about me, and this country, when I have to ask the butcher to give me bones that he used to throw to the dogs?”  An Egyptian woman asked rhetorically.

What indeed.  One thing is certain: the rhetoric that terrorist apologists like MPACUK push on Muslims everywhere does absolutely nothing to help them ensure better lives for their children.  Quite the opposite.

Teen Drinking Laws

20.08.2008 (1:51 pm) – Filed under: Drugs,Youth ::

I was going to let pass the recently publicity garnered by the Amethyst Initiative in their quest to lower the legal age for alcohol consumption from 21 to 18.  Not because I wasn’t interested – I have 2 teenagers at home – but because it seemed like a non-starter.  21 saves lives.  Why tamper with it?

A recent local incident took the lives of 3 teenagers in a fiery wreck caused by a repeat teen offender’s attempt to evade arrest.  Another brought the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to my sleepy hometown and resulted in 10 teens being arrested.  As one resident put it, "21 didn’t just fall from the sky.  It’s the age at which people are finally mature to make decent decisions."

Even Ezra Klein’s banal truism, "21 is, of course, a bizarre marker. Demanding that kids refrain from drinking for three years after they become legal adults and, in most cases, leave their parent’s supervision, is a bit odd", couldn’t rouse me to blog about it.

But Mark Kleiman’s take is more interesting.  No one wants kids driving – ask the Texas parents who are mourning over the fatal incident described above.  Mark says:

To address the specific problem of youthful drinking and driving, we could — as some states have already — change the drunk-driving laws so as to forbid drivers under 21 to drive with any detectable level of alcohol. (These are called "ZT" [for "zero tolerance"] laws.) For someone still learning both to drive and to hold his or her liquor, even a little bit under the influence an be too much. Anyway, a bright line (and zero is a very bright line) may be better observed than a rule that enables the proverbial "two beers."

Now that’s what I call thinking!  This perhaps means it can never be implemented by a legislative body, but it’s still a damn good idea. 18-20 year-olds can drink but cannot drive while influenced.  Period.  It’s crystal clear and addresses the argument that a kid old enough to volunteer to get killed in Iraq ought to be able to have a beer back home.

Mark also discusses the idea of raising alcohol taxes as an impediment to teen drinking:

To address the more general problem of excessive drinking by teenagers (not to mention the still more general problem of excessive drinking, period) we could raise alcohol taxes. This summer has provided a useful object lesson in the Law of Demand: when gasoline prices went up, people drove less. Drinking is the same, especially heavy drinking. Price matters.

Doubling the current alcohol tax, which currently averages out to about a dime a drink, to twenty cents a drink, would put a substantial dent in heavy drinking, especially by younger drinkers. That would measurably reduce homicide, other violent crime, and other accidents, in addition to reducing drunk driving. And the additional tax burden on anyone but a heavy drinker would be trivial: even someone knocking back an average of two drinks a day (which puts him at about the 90th percentile of alcohol consumption) would wind up paying additional taxes of less than $80 a year. To paraphrase my favorite ad for expensive Scotch, "If the tax increase matters to you, you’re drinking too much."

At any rate, the idea of adding a dime to the price of a beer isn’t bad.  It’s not much good either.  People can afford to stay home from the mall on the weekend or defer a vacation until next year.  But as the so-called War on Drugs tells us, they’re going to find a way to drink, regardless of the price.

Ten cents isn’t going to matter to anyone, least of all teenagers, and increasing the tax to the point that it would have a noticeable effect would be difficult to get done.  Furthermore, doing so would have the effect of putting alcohol into the status of an illicit drug:  available but out of reach, economically speaking.

The problem with doing this is that, once again, people want to drink.  The effect of making drugs illegal has been incredible levels of drug-related crime.  Pricing alcohol beyond the means of poor Americans would have the same impact.

I do love Mark’s last line, all the more so because it’s true.  Of course, if you’re drinking at all, you’re drinking too much, so perhaps I shouldn’t find the joke amusing but rather sad.  Unfortunately, this may render my opinion meaningless in the eyes of imbibers.

Truant’s Dad Out of Jail

16.05.2008 (9:14 pm) – Filed under: Education,Youth ::

In Ohio, parents are responsible for forcing their children to attend school, even to the point of doing actual jail time should a repeat truant continue to defy their authority.  In a victory of sorts, Brian Gegner has been sprung from jail after serving 9 days because of his now 18-year-old daughter’s pitiful attendance record. 

Mr. Gegner is out on what amounts to a perverse sort of probation.  Brittany Gegner holds her father’s fate in her incompetent hands: Should she fail to obtain her G.E.D. by July 16th, it’s back to the pokey for her dad.

More:

Usually stoic on the bench, [Juvenile Court Judge David] Niehaus got choked up as he spoke about why truancy is a big deal. Children who don’t get educations typically end up with low-paying jobs, committing crimes or relying on public assistance, he said.

Niehaus says he fears Brittany is “off to a lousy start.”

Brittany disputes that, and asserts she will be successful in life.

As a mother of an 18-month-old child, Brittany says she now realizes she passed up chances to learn important things when she missed so much school.

“There’s no reason,” she said. “I did not like school.”

Asked what she had learned from the case, Brittany replied: “There’s nothing the court has taught me that I didn’t already know.”

I’m sure that she knows it all.  Many kids her age fallaciously believe the same thing.  Ms. Gegner, who’s the mother of an 18-month-old baby, is the one who needs a lesson, not her father, a man who’s held a steady job for 14 years with a local hospital.

The larger question is whether the government has the right to actually incarcerate a parent for a minor child’s non-destructive behavioral issues.  All of the things that Judge Niehaus says are true.  But that does not make state interference right.  Or required.  People of all ages make mistakes and only the those that directly injure others should be categorized as criminal.

"But the law says…"

Well, what of it.  The law is not holy.  It is not infallible.  It is often arcane, contradictory, and occasionally outright stupid.  It is a tool that aids society in administering justice, nothing more.

Parents are being thrown in the slammer because their brats skip school – 11 in Butler County, Ohio alone last year.  What’s next?  If little Johnny doesn’t score X on his state skills assessment is his mom going to have to go to court to defend her right to be his parent?  Or face going to prison because he can’t read?

Education is important.  But when a child rebels against schooling to the extent that he/she habitually defies parental and school authorities, we really must consider whether having that child in school is productive for anyone involved – other students most of all.  It’s ironic that we’re mandating the very thing – inclusion of behaviorally troubled children in mainstream classes – that virtually all front-line educators will tell you is wrong with the U.S.’s school system.  Sheer genius.

There’s something fundamentally offensive about this Ohio law that should be challenged.  Where are all the Constitutional lawyers when we need them?  I suppose this case is not as glamorous as challenging the president’s right to conduct the national defense, but it’s just as important.  Authoritarian laws that threaten the freedom and livelihood of parents no substitute for an education system that meets the needs of square pegs like Brittany Gegner.  But instead of focusing on the problem – there’s nothing the student finds interesting about school – we’re calling out the sit-their-bored-butts-in-chairs police and jailing the parent.  What about the kid?  That’s your truant/criminal.  I guess Ohioans are counting on the guilt the child might feel to act as a behavior modifier.  Not saying that won’t work…  But…

I hope a reporter is there in July to ask Brittany what she learned from the experience of getting – or not getting – her G.E.D.  I’ll bet she’d say something like, "There’s nothing those classes taught me that I didn’t already know."

I know that’s right.

Street Racing is Bad

30.05.2003 (5:00 am) – Filed under: Texas,Youth ::

Duh.

Stiffer penalties and fines for illegal street racing are coming to Texas courts.

“When high school children were dying needlessly in street racing activities in San Antonio, I began to look into the matter. I discovered that it was a state-wide problem,” says the sponsor. Not surprisingly, Mr. Fischer is a Democrat. More government, man, that’s the ticket!

How about parents simply supervising their issue? Oh yeah, and how about putting muffler’s on the idiotically warbling Honda Civics so many of the teeny-bopper fast and furious set drive?

Gays OK in Philly Scouts

29.05.2003 (11:30 am) – Filed under: Society,Youth ::

Philly says Boy Scouts must allow gays in.

Do you recall Bruce Willis’ line in that American classic film “Die Hard”, when he said “…all things being equal, I’d rather be in Philadelphia…” while picking glass shards out of his bare feet?

I say, all things being equal, the Philadelphia troop should be kicked out of the club.