In Our New Spirit of Cooperation . . .

Here’s a story that backs up some of what Markadelphia has been saying:

Who’s teaching L.A.’s kids?

A Times analysis, using data largely ignored by LAUSD, looks at which educators help students learn, and which hold them back.

August 14, 2010|By Jason Felch, Jason Song and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times

The fifth-graders at Broadous Elementary School come from the same world — the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley, a Pacoima neighborhood framed by two freeways where some have lost friends to the stray bullets of rival gangs.

Many are the sons and daughters of Latino immigrants who never finished high school, hard-working parents who keep a respectful distance and trust educators to do what’s best.

The students study the same lessons. They are often on the same chapter of the same book.

Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the other down the hall. The difference has almost nothing to do with the size of the class, the students or their parents.

It’s their teachers.

There’s a lot more, many pages. And the differences are, of course, measured by means of standardized tests. But the differences are real.

Yes, teachers make a helluva difference – I’ve never argued otherwise. What we’ve been arguing about is what they’re teaching. Or not teaching.

Book Update

I swung by my local used-book superstore, Bookman’s. As others have noticed, Pratchett doesn’t get traded in much. They had one hardcover of Going Postal. Period. So I went to Barnes & Noble and picked up Guards! Guards! and The Truth. I also picked up another book I knew nothing about, Craig Ferguson’s American On Purpose.

Here’s what sold me, from the preface:

One of the greatest moments in American sports history was provided by Bobby Thomson, the “Staten Island Scot.” Born in my hometown of Glasgow, Scotland, in 1923, he hit the shot heard round the world that won the Giants the National League pennant in 1951. Had Bobby stayed in Glasgow he would never have played baseball, he would never have faced the fearsome Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca in that championship game, and he would never have learned that if you can hit the ball three times out of ten you’ll make it to the Hall of Fame.

Today I watch my son at Little League games, his freckled Scottish face squinting in the California sunshine, the bat held high on his shoulder, waiting for the moment, and I rejoice that he loves this most American game. He will know from an early age that failure is not disgrace. It’s just a pitch that you missed, and you’d better get ready for the next one. The next one might be the shot heard round the world. My son and I are Americans, we prepare for glory by failing until we don’t.

I wish I’d known all this earlier. It would have saved me a lot of trouble.

“…Americans, we prepare for glory by failing until we don’t.”

And that right there is Quote of the MONTH.

This promises to be a most interesting book. Here’s the rest of the preface:

In order to write this book I reached into the darkness for my past and found to my surprise that most of it was still there, just as I had left it. Some of it, though, had grown and morphed into what now appears to be hideous and reprehensible selfishness. Some of it had crumbled into the ruins of former shame.

This is not journalism. This is just my story. There are bound to be some lies here, but I’ve been telling them so long they’ve become truth, my truth, as close as I can get to what really happened. I left some tales out because to tell them would be excessively cruel to people who probably don’t deserve it, and altered a few names for the same reason, but I believe I spared myself no blushes.

I didn’t flee a dictator or swim an ocean to be an American like some do. I just thought long and hard about it.

I looked at the evidence of my life and gratefully signed up.

“Our” Blog?

I just received this in email from Markadelphia – in its entirety:,17882/

This has to be worthy of some kind of recognition on our blog, right?

“Our” blog?

OUR“?!? (Must resist ban hammer . . . must resist . . . .)

UPDATE: In comments, Markadelphia apologizes for his Freudian slip:

Crap. I’m a moron. I left the “y” out of “our.” All apologies and it was not intentional. I honestly am abysmal at typing.

Well, then.

Regarding Pratchett

A couple of excerpts from Night Watch that resonated with me:

Swing, though, started in the wrong place. He didn’t look around, and watch, and learn, and then say “This is how people are, how do we deal with it?” No, he sat and thought “This is how people ought to be, how do we change them?” And that was a good enough thought for a priest but not for a copper, because Swing’s patient, pedantic way had turned policing on its head.

There had been that Weapons Law, for a start. Weapons were involved in so many crimes that, Swing reasoned, reducing the number of weapons had to reduce the crime rate.

Vimes wondered if he’d sat up in bed in the middle of the night and hugged himself when he’d dreamed that one up. Confiscate all weapons, and crime would go down. It made sense. It would have worked too, if only there had been enough coppers — say, three per citizen.

Amazingly, quite a few weapons were handed in. The flaw, though, was one that somehow managed escape Swing, and it was this: criminals don’t obey the law. It’s more or less a requirement for the job. They had no particular interest in making the streets safer for anyone but themselves. And they couldn’t believe what was happening.

And then, one after another, horrible things would happen. By then it was too late for them not to. The tension would unwind like a spring, scything through the city.

There were plotters, there was no doubt about it. Some had been ordinary people who’d had enough. Some were young people with no money who objected to the fact that the world was run by old people who were rich. Some were in it to get girls. And some had been idiots as mad as Swing, with a view of the world just as rigid and unreal, who were on the side of what they called “The People.” Vimes had spent his life on the streets and had met decent men, and fools, and people who’d steal a penny from a blind beggar, and people who performed silent miracles or desperate crimes every day behind the grubby windows of little houses, but he’d never met The People.

People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so, the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.

As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn’t measure up.

The People’s Republic of Treacle Mine Road lacked all the big, important buildings in the city, the ones that traditional rebels were supposed to take. It had no government buildings, no banks, and very few temples. It was almost completely bereft of important civic architecture.

All it had was the unimportant stuff. It had the entire slaughterhouse district, and the butter market, and the cheese market. It had the tobacco factors, and the candlemakers, and most of the fruit and vegetable warehouses, and the grain and flour stores. This meant that while the Republicans were being starved of important things like government, banking services, and salvation, they were self-sufficient in terms of humdrum, everyday things like food and drink.

People are content to wait a long time for salvation, but prefer dinner to turn up inside an hour.

OK, Now I Get Terry Pratchett

Most (if not all) of the cool people other gun bloggers have raved about Terry Pratchett and his Discworld books. Some time ago I picked up the first couple of the series, The Colour of Magic, and The Light Fantastic.

And they didn’t do it for me.

I’ve mentioned that to a couple of people, and they were surprised to hear it, but a couple of others advised me to delve further into the 38-book series. Thursday afternoon I picked up Night Watch.

I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep since then.

Last night I did a four (4!) hour Vicious Circle, signing off early (!) so I could get up this morning and go shoot a USPSA match. But I picked up Night Watch again, and read until I couldn’t hold my eyes open. I finished it this morning.

I think I’ll just take the 5R and the M25 to the range and do some load testing instead. And I may drop by Bookman’s on the way home.

Quote of the Day for Saturday

Because I’m going to the USPSA match, and probably won’t be posting anything tomorrow, and I don’t want to post-date this particular bit of linkage. From Dr. Sanity:

Eleven score and four years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Today we live in an Animal Farm world where our elites in Congress consider themselves more equal than you or I; and the wealth created by the productive people in our society is regularly redistributed to those who produce nothing; or, it is wasted on the pet projects of those preening elites who are certain that they know what is best for for everyone. In short, we (and our children and their children) are slowly but inexorably being transformed into slaves of the State.

From Our Very Own Little Country of Horrors which I urge you to read in its (brief) entirety.

Then skip down and read Between Brains, which is longer, deeper, and more important.

Quote of the Day – Education Edition

I stopped at the local BBQ tonight (we needed a fix, y’see). The two Sweet Young Things were yammering with each other as they rang up my sale.

One allowed as how she was allergic to lots of things. She explained, “I just say I’m allergic to things I don’t like; cottage cheese, nuts, school …”

I couldn’t help myself.

“You don’t like school?”


“How come?”

“Because NOW we have to actually DO the work.”

Oh shit.

“What school is that?”


“What grade?”


“What major?”

“Elementary education.”

Oh shit.

“Oh shit” indeed. That’s from reader DJ in the comments to this post.