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A U.S. court upheld the expulsion of a counselling student who could not reconcile her religious belief that being gay was immoral with her ethical requirement to counsel anyone who needed her help. There's at least one similar case elsewhere in the country, and if it gets decided differently, the matter could very conceivably go to the Supreme Court.

Kudos to [livejournal.com profile] cereta for this one.
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Want a way to bring statistics home, to make them comprehensible in their magnitude?

Here it is.

I'm using a few of these for my global citizenship unit later in the year.
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First, there's Good books? It's a humanist seeking to find books to enrich his child's life and give him skepticism in the face of his mother's deep beliefs.

Then there's this, where the author argues that children need a basis in faith before they are able to accept uncertainty.

I have a rebuttal forming for the second, but I don't have time for it now so I'll come back later. I suspect my rebuttal will involve concept from this video, first seen on Piet's journal and since spreading rapidly on my friends list:

wow.

Sep. 24th, 2009 07:32 pm
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An HIV vaccine?

It's effective 31% of the time, which isn't much - but it's the first success they've ever had. It's promising.
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The question always comes up in debates about teaching mathematics: how come the Japanese do so well at math, when they stress rote memorization, if memorization is the wrong way to go about teaching math? (It's usually said in a tone of smug satisfaction, as though there's no possible comeback other than to admit that a constructivist approach to mathematics must clearly be wrong because the Japanese aren't doing it.)

The answer: a little from column A, and a little from column B.

The Japanese do indeed expect kids to memorize a lot of facts, but that doesn't mean they teach by modeling procedures and then assigning students practice questions to follow those procedures. No, they present a problem which the students do not yet have the skills to solve, then the kids work in small groups to figure out the problem. At the end of the lesson, the teacher summarizes what was learned, and students are assigned a small number of questions to practise on at home.

In other words, they use EXACTLY the method we're being told to use - with the exception that they do not allow calculator use.

The single biggest difference between North America and Japan is the number of school days - Japanese students have far more. The next biggest difference is in average expectations. When American moms are asked what mark is acceptable in math, they generally say a B or a C. Japanese moms expect an A.

So - high expectations, a constructivist and problem-solving approach to mathematics, high support in the form of parental help and extra tutoring - that's nine-tenths of the items we're expected to include in our mathematics programs.

Oh, and I should point out that the rumours about this kind of math instruction ignoring basic computation skills are false. We do drill math facts; we just make sure to drill them AFTER students have achieved comprehension, rather than before or instead of.

For future reference: http://www.gphillymath.org/ExempPaper/TeacherPresent/Mastrull/SMastrull.pdf
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And I have links for you. So there!
Dear Pixar, please make a movie about a girl who isn't a princess

On Rape and Men, which all the wonderful men on my friends list still need to read. I truly believe that most of you are That Guy, and like some of the commenters said, it's pretty sad that I feel the need to acknowledge guys as good just for not being raging dickheads.

PSA

Mar. 18th, 2009 06:03 am
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Through no fault of their own, it looks like Babylegs is struggling to stay in business - basically, the credit that they use to float big orders like Target has dried up in the economy. So, if you have or know someone who could use some of these, now's the time to stock up - and hopefully save a business while you're at it.

I think it's nasty that the people with bad business practices are getting huge bonuses while small companies with decent management and a worthy product get forced out of business because the banks change how much credit they have access to.
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Part of my job involves making sure kids can draw or stack blocks to represent the number 100 000. That's as high as grade fives in Ontario are expected to be able to understand.

Well, here's a much bigger number, represented in stacks of $100 bills.

Probably the most difficult thing about math, either scientific math or advanced economics, is the understanding of quantity that comes with it. One trillion dollars is really hard to visualize. Nobody will ever hold that much cash in their hands, or even in their warehouses. It's 10 to the power of 12, and it's just at the limit of how big something can be and still be relatively simple to represent visually (as this website did.) Once you get past that, it becomes a lot easier to compare it to something else: like, one in ten trillion is one drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool, for example. (Note: I don't know if that's true.) I think a big part of the reason most kids have trouble with math in the higher grades is quite simply that nobody takes the time or the energy to draw those comparisons for them in such a way that they understand the concept of "orders of magnitude."

Math gets hard at exactly the rate that it gets abstract. Make it less abstract, and most people can do a lot more of it. The problem with the traditional methods of teaching math has always been that it left math as an abstract concept long, long, long before most people were ready to think, "I can manipulate these numbers in certain ways without thinking about what the numbers actually mean at every point along the way."

Anyhow. An economic visualization and a little plug for concrete methods of teaching mathematics, at the same time.
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A very, very interesting take on FDR's Works Progress Administration (the WPA.) Link goes to another article from [livejournal.com profile] bradhicks.

A choice quote:

I don't think you can come up with a single dollar of WPA spending that actually counts as wasted, not a single WPA "make-work" project so pointless and stupid that we didn't get our money's worth out of it, especially if you count all the on-the-job job skills training it gave the 8 or 9 million people who went through the program. And that's even if you don't factor in the analysis of very serious historians who question whether or not American "G.I.s" would have fought so hard or so well to save the world from 1941 to 1945 if they had been as resentful, and as starving, as they were in 1930. But no, the blunt fact of history is that if the truth were ever told about the WPA, if the truth hadn't been being smothered in lies by the same political factions that opposed it at the time all the way up to this very day, everybody would know what the WPA proved as inescapable facts. No dollar of government spending is wasted, if it does a job that nobody else was going to do and it builds something that lasts.
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This article posits that the religion of the Jews as laid out in Deuteronomy was actually the second, bastardized version of the faith, and that the older one survived in a few isolated pockets and contributed a great deal to the apocalyptic pre-Christian tradition.
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Fat people are only slightly more likely than thin people to have high colesterol or high blood pressure.
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I want to make the turtle,, and maybe the horse further down. But the turtle for sure - I even have some softee chunky yarn that would be cool for a turtle.
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That's according to an American study that has been polling the country about food intake for decades. In fact, women who responded seem to be eating about three hundred fewer calories per day than their recommended daily intake, assuming moderate activity levels.

Here's the link. It's quite interesting.

So, if North Americans are fatter than ever before, what's going on? Less exercise? More fat people marrying other fat people and intensifying the genetics - much the same argument as the rise in autism rates? Or is the entire obesity "epidemic" a smokescreen, and we're no fatter than we've ever been (collectively)?
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I'm proud that I have even the most tenuous religious connection with the people who, instead of cowering under pews while a murderer leisurely stalked them, tackled him, disarmed him - and then held him for the police without doing any further damage to him. I'm proud that other church members got the kids out of the room. I'm proud that they take the views of others - wishy-washy intellectuals whose faith lacks any conviction - and politely refute them by their actions, proving that their convictions are as strong as any and stronger than many.

It could have been any UU church. That's the bad news. It's also the good news.
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It's from a librarian who was asked to reconsider a book called, "Uncle Bobby's Wedding," because a certain library patron found the subject matter unsuitable to the small children for whom the book was designed.

Here is the librarian's reply to the request for censorship. Beautiful.
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Wow. This exchange is an excellent example of a creation "scientist" being put in his place by a real scientist. The second reply is the fun one.

I especially liked the postscripts where the scientist impugned the creationists' practice of Christianity, first on the grounds that creationists seek to put the same limits on God's ability to create the world that they have on their own ability to understand that creation, and then on the fact that they are practising deceit on several levels throughout the exchange. Nice.

(Note: though I'm pretty sure I don't have anyone on my friends list who is both a Christian and a Creationist, please be assured that my scorn is directed solely at the latter. Anyone who is content to see the creation story as a myth told to a pre-scientific society, that is spiritually rather than literally true, does not come in for it.)

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