Sunday, March 29, 2015

Because I’m an Econ Nerd like that..

Know what I did on my first day of Spring Break?

Economics conference.

Yep. My wife and I were up at 4:30 in the morning, on BART by 7, eating chilaquiles at the Ferry Building by 8....

....hello you sexy beast...

.....and was knee-deep in a simulation dealing with calculating unemployment by 9:10. Hell of a way to start, Sping Break, no?

Actually it's fantastic. It's been five years since I've been to a California Council on Economics Education workshop, and everything that was old has been updated and revised and therefore oozes awesomeness. We go over lessons, model many of them, and engage in a collaboration between a few veteran Econ nerds and many Dismal Science newbs. All in all it is a fine use of human capital.

Late to flag thing, UPDATED 3/29/15

Flag T-shirts banned on Cinco de Mayo in Morgan Hill
I’m tardy on this issue.
“The case dates back to May 5, 2010, when the principal of Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California, asked a group of students wearing American flag T-shirts to turn their shirts inside out or take them off.
The students at the Northern California school refused, according to the appeals court's summary of the case, and later brought a civil rights suit against the school and two administrators, arguing that their rights to freedom of expression, equal protection and due process had been violated.
Judges said the civil rights case forced them to weigh the difficult question of what takes precedence: students' free speech rights or school safety concerns?”
It’s relevant now because the 9th Federal District Court ruled,
“A California school that stopped students from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo didn't violate their constitutional rights, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
The school's approach, according to the appeals court, kept students safe in a climate of racial tension.”
It’s easy to get really angry and passionate about the 1st Amendment issue and the American flag.  That’s why I’m here for some super concise analysis to warm the cockles of your heart and stimulate the mush that is your brain.
1.  Cinco de Mayo is stupid.  Just like St. Patricks Day is stupid and Mardi Gras is stupid.  It’s an excuse to drink, period.  So when students get into the nativist versus immigrant, flag waving crap, they look stupid.  The only real celebration for Cinco de Mayo is in the state of Puebla.  And since they defeated the French, they are well within their right to celebrate.
2.   The court made the right decision.  You can disagree with the ruling all you want but if the American flag had a history of violence at the school, the administration had the right to tell the students to inside-out the shirts.  That pretty much goes for any symbol.  So don’t blame the courts. 
3.  The school is to blame.  A culture that exists that actually accepts violence revolving around the American flag is inexcusable.  It’s a pathetic commentary on the inability to lead a school and make the institution a bastion of safety and openness within society. 
4.  Those four students that wore the shirts were not being patriotic.  They were being antagonistic and petulant.  Grow up.
5.  Those Mexican students that threatened the students for wearing the flags were not defending Mexican culture.  They are straight up bullies that need to be punished. 
This is one of those situations that is almost laughably stupid when a person stands outside the box looking in. It’s like a bad reality show that has gone badly out of control to the point when you just feel sorry for all participants.  Grab a new producer, please, and make this a better situation for kids.    

UPDATE 3/29/15:

"A California school dispute that arose when students wore shirts emblazoned with the American flag on Cinco de Mayo could prompt the Supreme Court to take a new look at free-speech rules for high schools."
 The Supreme Court is now looking at reviewing the case.  For those that did not pay attention in Government the Supreme Court gets hundreds of cases petitioned to the court each year but will only take a select few.  Four out of the nine justices must agree for a case to be heard.  I'm hoping that the case is heard if only so we can get greater clarification about free speech in high schools around the country.  I'm also hoping that the justices blast the school administration for letting the highly charged racial atmosphere develop to the point that the stupid shirts and idiotic holiday even became an issue.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pine Bush High School is responding so well to the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic.

Andrew Zink, Senior Class President for Pine Bush High School in New York, had an idea.  In commemoration of Foreign Language Week, how about we have the Pledge of Allegiance spoken in a different language….

“The morning's regularly scheduled announcements included the Arabic reading of the pledge.”

Hey look!  A different language!

You got to admit that it was pretty ballsy for Zink to throw that out there in Arabic, what with Pine Bush’s nice history with race and ethnicity issues (Anti-Semitism accusations two years ago).  It took no time at all for the tweet ragers of PB to demand English only text with the extra incentive of threatening people that didn’t like it with expulsion to the Middle East.  Classy bunch. 

 IMG_2681 2

Man, you would just love California.

It took Pine Bush High School about 30 seconds to totally capitulate. 


Offensive huh?  Honoring the United States of America in Arabic is offensive? 

Wait a minute.  I’m getting deja-vu!  I can’t make it out!  Where have I seen this whole argument played out before?

“I have to admit, when I heard Nuestro Himno play on the loudspeaker on Friday at Ukiah High School, I grinned.  The smile on my face was because I knew the Spanish rendition of the Star Spangled Banner was going to rangle teachers and students at the high school.”

Oh that’s right, it was at my school!  Yeah, remember when all of Ukiah suddenly spoke Spanish, soccer became popular, and the PRI started having polling places put in the loyalist homes up and down School Street?  No?  Me neither.  But it was fairly fun watching everyone get muey uncomfortable at the attempted former-War-of-1812-narration-set-to-an-English-drinking-tune transition to another language. 

Should the Pledge be in English?  Probably.  It’s designed to be in English and it does convey a national ideal that sounds best in English.  And yes, the United States has no national language except that a vast majority speak English.  It’s an assimilation things that I’m willing to concede.  But to get really offensive is idiotic.  Hey look, a teachable moment; except that an institution of learning went Duck Dynasty and apologized for noble experimentation.  That’s ridiculous.   

Sunday, March 08, 2015

UC Irvine Student Government votes to fight hate by being haters

Oh those darn kids.

You got to wonder what exactly is going through the mind of a college student who decides to ban all flags from a student government workroom.  Let’s read the bill from the UC Irvine Student Legislative Council to find out.

Legislation Number (B: Bill, R: Resolution): R50-70

Author:   Matthew Guevara
Second:  Khaalidah Sidney

Synopsis: Flags and decoration adjustment for inclusivity

Uh oh.  The second that you create an “adjustment” for “inclusivity”, you are basically trying to remove any semblance of any thing that could be construed as “offensive.”  Since college is all about civil liberties, an openness of thought, and the evolution of intelligence, this idea sort of directly contradicts to point of higher education.  Not a good start.

Whereas flags are a symbol of a nation, are used as decorations and have a wide range of cultural significance.

Hey!  A good first clause!

Whereas the traditional patriotic interpretation of a flag is a result of a nation and/or persons who encourage a nationalistic understanding of the flag.

Whereas traditional understandings and ideologies, as encouraged by the national government, include liberty, democracy, constitution values and are up for interpretation on constituents.

Also fair enough!  Although flags were around a whole lot earlier than the concept of nationalism.  But whatever….. 

At least these folks agree that there is a lot that is up for interpretation. 

Whereas flags not only serve as symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism, but also construct cultural mythologies and narratives that in turn charge nationalistic sentiments.

Whereas flags function specifically for a nation and

Whereas people are assimilated into national ideologies by deployment of this cultural artifact.

Whereas flags construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality, and democracy.

Whereas symbolism is interpreted differently by different groups or persons based on individual unique experiences.

Oops, it looks like the “up for interpretation” thing has gone off the rails.  Now the Irvinians are deciding what that general interpretation is; to set a standard for censorship.  I’m smelling a prelude to the argument against American exceptionalism. 

Whereas a common ideological understanding of the United states includes American exceptionalism and superiority.

Whereas the American flag is commonly flown in government public service locations, military related entities, at homes, in foreign lands where the US government has a presence.

Whereas the American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism.

Told ya.  So this really isn’t about flags as much as it is a commendation of the United States.  That’s fine and dandy except that you don’t go banning everything that you don’t agree with, especially if you are gaining the benefit of the Constitutional freedoms granted at a public college.  But I digress….

Whereas symbolism has negative and positive aspects that are interpreted differently by individuals.

Whereas displaying a flag does not express only selective aspects of its symbolism but the entire spectrum of its interpretation.

Excellent!  That’s exactly how it should be!

Whereas designing a culturally inclusive space is taken seriously by ASUCI

Whereas designing a culturally inclusive space aims to remove barriers that create undue effort and separation by planning and designing spaces that enable everyone to participate equally and confidently.

Whereas the removal of barriers is the best option at promoting an inclusive space.

Whereas it is a psychological effect for individuals to identify negative aspects of a space rather than positive ones.

Whereas whenever public spaces are produced and managed by narrow interests, they are bound to become exclusive places and

Whereas the planning process must be inclusive in such that designers are advised to forget about the ‘average’ user or themselves and instead begin the open space designing process with ‘deep knowledge’ of the preferences of the actual communities who are likely to use those spaces

Whereas designers should be careful about using cultural symbols as the symbols will inherently remain open for interpretation.

Whereas once an open space is created, it is important to employ continual evaluation in order to understand changing use patterns and needs over time.

Whereas a high-quality culturally inclusive spaces is essential in any society that embodies a dynamic and multifaceted culture

Here’s the deal, you can hate the policies and social divisions of the United States but if you honestly believe that the United States does not have a dynamic and multifaceted culture then you don’t a clear understanding of the United States or the rest of the world.  Even with the problems people flock to the country, including the universities, to take advantage of the opportunities available.  People see the country as inclusive already.

Whereas freedom of speech is a valued right that ASUCI supports.

Whereas freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible can be interpreted as hate speech.

Restriction of speech at a college is mind-blowing.  The idea that a 20-something felt that they had the right to define “hate speech” is mind-blowing.  A society that bans ideas of any kind begins the slide down the slope of ignorance right into the caldera of oppression.  What you don’t like and he doesn’t like and she doesn’t like eventually creates the opposite of inclusivity. 

Let it be resolved that ASUCI make every effort to make the Associated Students main lobby space as inclusive as possible.

Let it further be resolved that no flag, of any nation, may be hanged on the walls of the Associate Student main lobby space.

Let it be further be resolved that if a decorative item is in the Associate student lobby space and issues arise, the solution will be to remove the item if there is considerable request to do so.

At this point the students that made up this resolution clearly need a refund from their government class.  Maybe the teacher was a little too “fight the power” and not enough “good knowledge.”  Maybe the students were too busy planning the next Occupy Inland Empire movement to go to class the day that they explained Public versus Private entities.  And maybe the students are just used to getting their way.  Since the university is the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT IRVINE, a publically funded institution, the students (six of them) don’t get to dictate policy.  Federal funding (albeit in a very limited fashion) helps run the institution you are attending. 

I’m sure this issue is going to be blown way out of proportion anyway but my guess is that it is going to be pulled back at some point soon.  It’s too damn foolish to exist.


That was quick.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

WASC time!

Oh goody. 

It’s been a few years so I guess now is as good of time as ever for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation process visit.  This is where teachers and administrators from around the state trek to Ukiah High School to make sure our school is up to snuff and official.  It’s one of those totally bureaucratic things that they never tell you about in the credential program that has the ability to time suck your total existence into a nether void of pain and suffering.  This is my fourth WASCer, I think.

I’m also on some committees that will be meeting with WASC squad because I’m flexible and diplomatic and such.  The committees include:

-The Committee on Curriculum and Instruction

-The Social Science Committee

-The Athletic Supporter Committee*

-The Committee on Red Wine Consumption (C0-Chair)*

-The Committee to make Frank Underwood Superintendent*

-The Mother of all Committees*

I’m going to be busy. 

There is a whole dog and pony show that actually begins tonight and includes tours and smoozing and the like.  They initially put me in charge of the lobbying portion of the WASC visit but it was pulled out from under me when some higher-up got the leaked schedule that included beer pong and “UHS Cultural Awareness activity at 4:20 p.m. under the bridge at Low Gap Park.”  Humpf.  Their loss.

There is a chance that the group comes into my classroom and that means that I could be in the middle of dancing in my Russian underwear singing “A Man Like Putin” while my background Power Point has a picture of the Russian president doing the butterfly in Lake Baikal.  But it’s unlikely because the students would simply say “ugh, not again” and be totally disengaged.  Disengaged is bad for WASC.  Guess that means I better be engaged too.

*committee creation tentative

I was wrong about Scott Walker, not that it really matters

So it looks like the whole hub-bub about Scott Walker and university sexual abuse reporting was in fact a non-story.

“UW System spokesman Alex Hummel said Friday that the university requested the change because information given to the state is duplicative of data required to be reported to the U.S. Department of Education under federal law. The university also posts the information on its website.”

The issue revolved around removing language that was already a Federal mandate.  Fair enough.  Sloppy reporting by Jezebel (the original story), the Daily Beast (where I got it), and me for jumping the gun.

However the problem is so much bigger than a misrepresentation of the facts.  The problem is that a moderate Republican like me was pretty much ready to believe that a man like Scott Walker was too damn foolish to enact that kind of policy.  The party has become a bastion of hatred of the different and a hiding place for those that desire a 1950’s style America that never really existed, at least not for most.  I evolved into a Republican for two reasons.  First, I don’t like the idea that the government can solve the problems of society if the people don’t want to be held responsible for those problems.  People are ultimately the prime protagonists for their own actions and government policies should reflect the ideal that nurtures that idea, not the idea that people deserve everything.  And second, I became a Republican because the Democratic Party has a history of playing in the pool irrational outward optimism of policy.  Diplomacy is always the right path towards a solution until it isn’t.  Then the realpolitik sets in (actually it is always there) and you might have to kill people and break things.  It’s always an option.  But I’m more Feinstein than Boxer.  Just like I’m much more Huntsman than Walker.  I like a Democrat that has no problem with using every means of the United States to project power.  Just like I like a Republican who can stand at a Republican primary debate and speak Chinese.  But no, the Walker Republican, the one who I could actually believe pulling off a budget item like the one Jezebel reported on, is the one that is the focus.

Everyone (including me) should be engaged in some amount mea culpa for jumping on the wagon of this untrue story.  But at the same time the Republican Party needs to realize that there is a significant group of people out there who are not fringe that think this is possible.  Getting rid of voting rights, shutting down gay marriage, denying climate change, promoting income inequality; at what point does the party actually try and help govern the United States?