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10 Things I Learned as a New Adjunct Teacher

January 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Pauline Hawkins, The Huffington Post

One example: Summative standardized testing has ruined education.


This semester I taught two college composition classes at a community college. I started with 23 students in one class and 24 students in the other. Halfway into the semester, 7 students out of 47 just stopped coming to class.

At the end of the semester,

  • 5 students out of 47 earned A's;
  • 23 students out of 47 will be able to transfer their college composition grade to a four-year school (only Cs or better transfer);
  • 4 students out of 47 passed the class with a D;
  • 20 students out of 47 failed the class.

But that's just the data I collected. Here is what I learned about myself, my students, and education:

1. Without any doubt, I know I am a teacher. I love being in the classroom, and I know I am doing right by my students. My students this year told me they wished they had me as their high school English teacher. It confirmed for me that I taught my honors' freshmen in high school well. I have no doubt that the students who did well in my honors' class will do (and have done) well in their college English classes. However, it has become obvious that not all high-school English teachers did the same, and I'm sure it is for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with their teaching abilities (but I'll get to that later). This semester, most of my college students had no idea how to use a comma, semi-colon, or colon. Most struggled with quotation integration and parenthetical citations. Their essays were filled with vague generalities and awkward, wordy, and, often times, fragmented sentences. What's more frustrating is that most students had no idea what I was talking about when I made these types of comments on their papers. Because I am passionate about teaching, this weighs heavily on my heart. I will change what I teach and how I teach college composition in the spring because of this experience.

2. Grammar has to make its way back into the high-school curriculum–not in isolation–but as a …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Who Is Jeffrey Epstein, the Tycoon-Turned-Sex Offender?

January 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Paul Lewis, The Guardian

Investment banker maintained impressive list of powerful contacts before downfall


The rise and fall of Jeffrey Epstein, Wall Street investment banker turned disgraced sex offender, could be a plot line in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

Raised in a tough Brooklyn neighbourhood, Epstein was working as a math teacher at a Manhattan private school when, the legend goes, the father of one of his students put him in touch with a partner at the global investment bank Bear Stearns.

That was 1976. Within six years Epstein had risen through the ranks, working as a trader, before striking out on his own and convincing some of America’s wealthiest plutocrats to let him manage their portfolios.

Profiting from the 1980s boom, Epstein quickly amassed his own fortune. Often referred to as a billionaire, Epstein’s true net worth remains unknown – in part because much of his wealth is concealed, according to Forbes, in a financial entity in the US Virgin Islands, a tax shelter where he owns his own private island.

However, over his career Epstein, 61, acquired properties across the world, including a ranch in New Mexico, a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, and a 40-room mansion in New York, which is reportedly the largest residential property in Manhattan.

With huge wealth came great influence, and Epstein built friendships with powerful figures in the establishment: celebrities, politicians, business moguls and royalty. His list of clients has never been publicly disclosed, although it is well known that one is the billionaire retail magnate Les Wexner, whose empire includes the Victoria’s Secret chain.

Wexner is understood to have since cut his ties with Epstein. However, the investment banker maintained an impressive contacts list, from Hollywood to Washington. He was a generous philanthropist, donating millions of dollars to Harvard and other institutions engaged in cutting-edge scientific research.

He once counted Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Kevin Spacey and Naomi Campbell among his associates, frequently lent his private jet to powerful contacts and became famed for his extravagant parties.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Epstein found himself described as a modern-day Great Gatsby. His downfall, which began almost a decade ago, has been just as …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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17 Hilarious Tweets in Response to Fox's New Year's Twitter Campaign

January 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

Hasselbeck's ridiculous #OverIt2014 backfired hysterically.


Fox & Friends thought it would be a good idea to ring out the old year with a little social media campaign—because they're so hip. Elisabeth Hasselbeck kicked it off with this tweet:

 

 

Doesn't she look cute? And yes, those relentless attacks on Christianity really have to stop. Fox viewers and twitter users (okay, not the same group) got right in on the fun and responded, well, appropriately. Here are 17 of those tweets:

 

 

Hat tip: Gawker and The Root

Related Stories

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How Having a Foursome Opened Up My Relationship

January 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Yoonj Kim, Salon

What started out as just a fantasy turned into a weirdly trust-building reality.


My boyfriend and I were happily monogamous. We had been together for nearly a year. And until the day it happened, the idea of having sex with other people was just a thought experiment, something we talked about for fun. It was never something we were actually going to do.

Such is the case for most American adults.  According to a recent study, 56 percent of women and 83 percent of men have a fantasy of having sex with someone other than a current spouse or partner.  It’s so widespread that the researchers deemed it a common fantasy. And for most people, it remains a fantasy — a naughty mental space in which the mind can wander, and stay for a while.  It usually doesn’t turn into reality — but it did for me.

My fantasy of a foursome began after college. Dorm life had been something of a wild midsummer night’s dream — one-night stands were common, almost expected amid the fraternity parties, and as I crept into my 20s, I craved something different, something outside the norm. Simple sex with one guy, even if it was someone new, began to lose its excitement after a while.  My mind wandered toward more elaborate scenarios, ones that included more than one partner.

My boyfriend is nearly 20 years older than I am, so there’s a generational divide in how we approached the bedroom. He didn’t grow up in a free-wheeling college hookup culture. He’s from Italy. What advice columns and romance novels say about Italian men are true—they are a passionate, ardent bunch. They are also raised by devoutly Catholic mothers, who leave them with the belief that while being a playboy with adoring female friends is wonderful, being a sexual deviant with unorthodox kinks is bad. This, of course, isn’t true for all Italian men. Only my boyfriend, along with many, many others.

I was taught similar conservative Catholic values, but I spent more than half my life spurning them. I wasn’t exactly a porn star, but I liked the thrill of pushing boundaries.

“What do you think about …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Pittsburgh Police Chief Poses With Anti-Racism Sign: Police Union Has a Fit

January 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet

Seems like police unions don't like anything that seems remotely critical of them.


After Pittsburgh's Police Chief Cameron McLay spoke with some activists from What’s Up?! Pittsburgh on New Year's Eve, he ended up posing with a poster reading, “I Resolve To Challenge Racism @ Work. #End White Silence” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.  

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto posted McLay's New Year's Eve photo on his Facebook page, endorsing its message. “I thought there was very little chance for someone to say this was the wrong message to send.”

Peduto was wrong. Local police union president Howard McQuillan threw a fit, claiming the sign is anti-cop.

“The chief is calling us racists,” McQuillan told CBS Pittsburgh. “He believes the Pittsburgh Police Department is racist. This has angered a lot of officers.” In an email, McQuillan accused the chief of “pandering to the community at the expense of the police community….”

It's an odd accusation. I mean, if you're not racist and want to and racism, why protest the sign? Unless, of course, your department has racism issues you don't want to resolve. 

Given the tensions in New York City between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD—cops disrespectfully turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio at Sunday's funeral for a slain officer—McLay's gesture is a breath of fresh air. Community relations between police and black residents in New York resembles the tense four years David Dinkins was mayor. When Dinkins called for a civilian review board to investigate police misconduct back in 1992, NYPD officers nearly rioted in protest.

Police and community relations aren't much better in many parts of the country today, especially in Ferguson, Mo., where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson. The police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, revealed sharp racial tensions between law enforcement and the black community there. In the aftermath of these shootings, you'd be hard-pressed to get police chiefs or union heads to admit racism exist in their departments, so McLay is the rare exception. 

“The sign indicated my willingness to challenge racial problems in the workplace,” the chief wrote in an …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Republican Congress Sizes up Big Government

January 5, 2015 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

What is the greatest obstacle confronting the new congressional Republican majority in enacting good policy? It may not be President Obama, because there is an even more formidable force in Washington that crushes good policy: the permanent bureaucracy. The permanent bureaucracy is made up of federal employees, government contractors and their employees, congressional staff and the special-interest lobbying community (including law and accounting firms). It also includes the media establishment, which depends on leaks and information from those in government for stories in exchange for protective coverage.

Hardworking taxpayers never cease being ripped off by wasteful and fraudulent government spending and regulation. Unlike what happens in the private sector, people in government rarely go to jail or are even fired for financial misconduct.

The government requires financial and senior officers of companies to sign off on the accuracy of their financial statements in order to protect stockholders. Company officers are subject to civil and criminal penalties, including jail time for misstatements, and their names are released to the press.

The GOP’s most formidable adversaries are not Democrats, but bureaucrats.”

There is no reason for taxpayers to be any less protected than stockholders from financial negligence or fraud. If the Justice Department fails to act, private parties representing taxpayers should be given standing to sue individual government employees who fail in their fiduciary responsibilities — and the government should be required to disclose the names of all of those who signed off on any expenditure of taxpayer dollars (other than those involved in national security).

If private persons attempt to extort money from you, they can be held criminality liable. The False Claims Act protects the government from those who would engage in financial fraud against it. Yet, the Internal Revenue Service tries to shake down many taxpayers who, in fact, owe nothing or owe far less than the agency claims. Usually this occurs because the IRS employees fail to learn the law they are supposed to administer. At times, the IRS has been known to target individuals or groups for political or personal reasons. One way of putting a stop to this is to require that any request to a taxpayer for payment be signed by an actual person who takes responsibility for the demand — and who can be held personally liable for neglect or abuse.

Over the last few months, there have been many stories in major media (including this newspaper) about the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Paul Krugman: The Real and Unexpected Way Presidents Help the Economy

January 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

The economy is finally improving. Oh no, say Republicans and the right.


Presidents probably get too much credit when economic times are good, Paul Krugman suggests in his Monday column. Reagan certainly did. Of course, now that there are growing signs that the U.S. economy is at long last improving, Obama's approval rating is rising and conservative pundits and pols are scrambling to prove that this president should not get the credit. “There’s a palpable sense of panic among Republicans, despite their victory in the midterms,” Krugman crows. “They expected to run in 2016 against a record of failure; what do they do if the economy is looking pretty good?”

Oh well, that's their problem, he concludes before taking a deeper dive into the question of just how much credit presidents in general, and Obama in particular, is due.

It's not what you might think.

First a little history. After the recession in the '80s, when the economy improved under Reagan, he was lionized as a  miracle maker on the right, for cutting taxes and having “conjured up the magic of the marketplace and led the nation to job gains never matched before or since,” Krugman writes. Two tiny details however argue against the utter miraculousness of it all, according to the columnist/stickler for facts. “The 16 million jobs America added during the Reagan years were only slightly more than the 14 million added over the previous eight years,” Krugman points out. “And a later president — Bill something-or-other — presided over the creation of 22 million jobs. But who’s counting?”

Serious economic analysis reveals that the real driver of the country's economy is the Fed. It was under Paul Volcker's leadership in the '80s, and Krugman argues that his determination to bring inflation down and tighten money policies are what caused the recession in the first place. It sent mortgage rates abover 18 percent. Then the Fed reversed course, loosened the money reins, and with declining interest rates, housing and the rest of the economy started soaring. “Reagan got the political credit for “morning in America,” but Mr. Volcker was actually responsible for …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Next Step in School Choice

January 5, 2015 in Economics

By Jason Bedrick, Lindsey Burke

Jason Bedrick and Lindsey Burke

School choice has been one of the great successes of the education-reform movement in recent years, and taxpayer-funded vouchers have been one of the movement’s primary tools. Vouchers enable students and their parents to use public funds to choose the school that is best for them, freeing them from the monopoly that neighborhood public schools have had for decades.

Milton Friedman, considered the father of the modern school-choice movement, first proposed the concept of school vouchers in 1955. By introducing consumer choice into education, he argued, vouchers can help create a competitive marketplace: “Vouchers are not an end in themselves,” Friedman wrote in 1995; “they are a means to make a transition from a government to a market system.”

Friedman was likely even more innovative than education-reform advocates realize, because he saw that a real education market would create its own path, pushed along by market forces. Noting in 2003 that “there’s no reason to expect that the future market will have the shape or form that our present market has,” Friedman wondered: “How do we know how education will develop? Why is it sensible for a child to get all his or her schooling in one brick building?” Instead, Friedman proposed granting students “partial vouchers”: “Why not let them spend part of a voucher for math in one place and English or science somewhere else?…Why can’t a student take some lessons at home, especially now, with the availability of the Internet?”

Education savings accounts operate like the “partial voucher” that Friedman envisioned more than a decade ago, allowing families to seek out the best educational opportunities for their students — whether those be in a private or parochial school or a mix of non-traditional education options. Two states have already adopted ESAs, and numerous other state legislatures have considered them. ESAs constitute a critical refinement of Friedman’s voucher idea, moving from school choice to educational choice. The challenge for state policymakers is to overcome implementation issues, avoid constitutional roadblocks, and resist harmful regulations masquerading as “accountability.”

Saving And Choosing

True educational choice, and the educational market it could help foster, promise to radically improve education for many children.”

As the first ESA program to be implemented in the United States, Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts offer a useful example of how the accounts can work in practice. Under the Arizona law, passed in 2011, eligible families that opt not to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Real Politics Behind the US War on IS

January 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Gareth Porter, Middle East Eye

No military or counter-terrorism analyst believes that the military force applied in Iraq and Syria has even the slightest chance of defeating IS.


The US war on the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’ or ISIL, also known as Islamic State of IS – the single biggest development in US foreign policy during 2014 – continues to puzzle those looking for its strategic logic. But the solution to the puzzle lies in considerations that have nothing to do with a rational response to realities on the ground. 

In fact, it is all about domestic political and bureaucratic interests.

Ostensibly the US-led military effort is aimed at “dismantling” the “Islamic State” as a threat to the stability of the Middle East and to US security. But no independent military or counter-terrorism analyst believes that the military force that is being applied in Iraq and Syria has even the slightest chance of achieving that objective.

As US diplomats freely acknowledged to journalist Reese Ehrlich, the airstrikes that the Obama administration is carrying out will not defeat the IS terrorists. And as Ehrlich elaborates, the United States has no allies who could conceivably take over the considerable territory IS now controls. The Pentagon has given up on the one Syrian military organisation once considered to be a candidate for US support – the Free Syrian Army.

Last August, counter-terrorism analyst, Brian Fishman wrote that no one had “offered a plausible strategy to defeat [IS] that doesn’t involve a major US commitment on the ground….” But Fishman went further, pointing out that [IS] actually needs the war the United States is providing, because: “[W]ar makes the jihadist movement stronger, even in the face of major tactical and operational defeats.” 

Furthermore, IS itself must be understood as the consequence of the worst of the succession of US military campaigns since the 9/11 era – the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. The US war in Iraq was primarily responsible for created the conditions for foreign Islamic extremists to flourish in that country. Furthermore, the groups that coalesced ultimately around IS learned how to create “adaptive …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Is Depression Partly Caused by an Allergic Reaction?

January 5, 2015 in Blogs

By Caroline Williams, The Guardian

Growing evidence for a new understanding of depression.


Barely a week goes by without a celebrity “opening up” about their “battle with depression”. This, apparently, is a brave thing to do because, despite all efforts to get rid of the stigma around depression, it is still seen as some kind of mental and emotional weakness.

But what if it was nothing of the sort? What if it was a physical illness that just happens to make people feel pretty lousy? Would that make it less of a big deal to admit to? Could it even put a final nail in the coffin of the idea that depression is all in the mind?

According to a growing number of scientists, this is exactly how we should be thinking about the condition. George Slavich, a clinical psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles, has spent years studying depression, and has come to the conclusion that it has as much to do with the body as the mind. “I don’t even talk about it as a psychiatric condition any more,” he says. “It does involve psychology, but it also involves equal parts of biology and physical health.”

The basis of this new view is blindingly obvious once it is pointed out: everyone feels miserable when they are ill. That feeling of being too tired, bored and fed up to move off the sofa and get on with life is known among psychologists as sickness behaviour. It happens for a good reason, helping us avoid doing more damage or spreading an infection any further.

It also looks a lot like depression. So if people with depression show classic sickness behaviour and sick people feel a lot like people with depression – might there be a common cause that accounts for both?

The answer to that seems to be yes, and the best candidate so far is inflammation – a part of the immune system that acts as a burglar alarm to close wounds and call other parts of the immune system into action. A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, …read more

Source: ALTERNET