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On the Fed: Interview by Judge Napolitano with Ron Paul, Tom Woods, and Jim Rogers

January 8, 2011

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List of Great Books

January 7, 2011
This is a wonderful link I found today: http://www.interleaves.org/~rteeter/greatbks.html

It's a directory of various listings of great books. Such great books form the canon of the classics of Western Civilization. But some lists also include great works from the Eastern Tradition. While it is my life goal to work through The Great Books of the Western World to achieve a liberal education, there can be no denying that there are other good and challenging books outside the list made by Adler and Hutchins. From the looks of it, it's impossible to read all the listed books, not to mention that each item shall be a difficult read. Nevertheless, we must start somewhere. These are books by which the Culture molds our thinking. Through careful reading of such books, we can identify "the blind impresses which our behaving bear."
 Some of these books, we will not agree with, but without such reading, we cannot state our case on why we arrive at such conclusion.

These books will help us evolve from a state of understanding less to understanding more. They'll help us understand the world much deeply. They'll help us appreciate things like they've never been.

There's also a concomitant increase in reading skills. Once we have embarked on such reading, it will make our reading of ordinary but informative books much easier.

So, I invite you to take a great book, and read it according to the steps provided by Adler in How to Read a Book.

Not Just “A is A”

December 31, 2010
 Equivalence Relations

Let * be a binary operation defined in a given set A.
Suppose a,b,c are elements of A.

The following conditions must hold for * to be called an equivalence relation.


1. a * a     Reflexivity
2. If a*b, then b*a    Symmetry
3. If a*b and b*c, then a*c   Transitivity

For example, the relation of equality, denoted by the symbol =
satisfies the three conditions.

Hence, equality is an equivalence relation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivalence_relation

Is Having a Political Philosophy = Dogmatism?

December 29, 2010
I don't think having a political philosophy is dogmatism. There are some ridiculous books in the market that proclaim that such and such belief is equal to religion. They loathe the lovers of Liberty as if they were religious zealots. Such claims are ridiculous.

I will concede that there are some people within the Liberal camps that do subscribe to certain forms of political beliefs but they do so through their admiration of a certain thinker. They may not hold such beliefs because they were convinced of its merits, but because they are predisposed to such belief.

I don't like such people. Even if a number of people whose political philosophy are the same as mine are like that, which I may never know for sure whom, it is not the same as to say that such belief is religion. For it to be religion, it requires that FAITH must be the epistemological criterion. That there must be a Supreme Being being worshiped. But that is not the case with political philosophy. It's just the ideal picture of how society ought to be.

I also think that the study of political philosophy is crucial. It will allow us to have a deeper understanding of our society and the gap with the ideal and the actual.

I take the position that one must understand the wherefores and why, pros and cons etc of certain forms. That we should not accept one political philosophy blindly. That we must be able to understand and state the strengths and weaknesses in favor of a political philosophy.

That is my aim as a rational individual. It is also the reason why I wrote My Libertarian Agnosticism. I do not want to be jumping into conclusions without examining the various arguments for minarchism and anarchism. That to me is better than merely accepting wither one of these two positions. If such rigorous requirement is observed, one will be living the examined life rather than the religious life.

Just To Bent My Irritation on This Nitpicker

November 28, 2010
I remarked that student protesters "stormed UK's Parliament." I was referring to the incident last Wednesday, November 24, 2010. According to the local news program, "sinugod ng mga estudante ang Parliament ng United Kingdom." They were not able to successfully enter the Parliament building, but they staged some sort of rampage outside. What I observed there is if these students can't understand the necessity of cuts in state funding of education, it's much less likely that they'll understand the free market set-up of no state funding of education.

I made this remark in addition to my comment on the latest strikes from UP students and faculty. My focus on posting that status in Facebook is to express my disagreement with their call. I would have been sympathetic many years ago, but I no longer do after learning about free market principles. It was not meant to be published to the whole world, just on my circle of FB friends. My statuses in Facebook are no longer public.

Yet, with all due respect to Froilan's privilege, my status got published in his blog The Vincenton Post. Then a commenter in his blog nitpicked me on my alleged "factual error." That guy accused me of factual error, yet he was the one who committed a factual error when he thought that I was referring to the Millbank Riot. My goodness. It's clear to me that since he's unable to craft any thing against why there should be less government spending, he chose to nitpick on details.

I've written about the Millbank incident here: http://elevicpernis.com/current-events/the-spirit-of-entitlement-and-its-apparition

O yes, I could have been more precise in my linguistic expression, but I chose not to. My focus was on UP students protesting.

As to the word stormed, here's the dictionary definition:

 To rush with the violence of a storm.

To rush with violence.

As what I understood of the term stormed, it just means a violent charging in. I remember also that May 1, 2001. Edsa 3 protesters stormed Malacanang. They were not able to enter Malacanang, but they were violent outside.

 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EDSA_III

Still hundreds of thousands of protesters stormed towards Malacañang Palace, the presidential residence; government soldiers and the policemen dispersed….

With appeal to actual usage, I think I'm justified in my casual remark. Yet, even if I were wrong, I am person who tries to do better next time. While I have obtained a certain degree of mastery over the prescriptive English grammar taught in grade schools and high schools, I have more to learn about the English tongue. There are linguistic concepts that I'll have to learn in order to fully appreciate the majesty of English. In doing so, I hope to refine my phraseology.

This post is just filled with rants. I know, and I don't apologize for it. It's fitting for shitty first drafts. This is not something I'll post on my main blog, just on this auxiliary blog.
That guy as far as my judgments are concerned is shitty. His nitpicking is more of a red herring. I also say the say thing for that other guy who chose to nitpick me on calling those student protesters hippies instead of just acknowledging that they were wrong in their sense of entitlement.

I wouldn't want anything to do with these two guys: they're just so full of themselves.

Singapore Math Is “Our Dirty Little Secret”

October 14, 2010

The following guest post is from Barry Garelick, co-founder of the U.S. Coalition for World Class Math, an education advocacy organization that addresses mathematics education in U.S. schools.

The New York Times ran a story on September 30 about Singapore Math being used in some schools in the New York City area.  Like many newspaper stories about Singapore Math, this one was no different.  It described a program that strangely sounded like the math programs being promoted by reformers of math education, relying on the cherished staples of reform: manipulatives, open-ended problems, and classroom discussion of problems.  The only thing the article didn’t mention was that the students worked in small groups.

Those of us familiar with Singapore Math from having used it with our children are wondering just what program the article was describing.  Spending a week on the numbers 1 and 2 in Kindergarten?  Spending an entire 4th grade classroom period discussing the place value ramifications of the number 82,566?   Well, maybe that did happen, but not because the Singapore Math books are structured that way. In fact, the books are noticeably short on explicit narrative instruction.  The books provide pictures and worked out examples and excellent problems; the topics are ordered in a logical sequence so that material mastered in the various lessons builds upon itself and is used to advance to more complex applications.  But what is assumed in Singapore is that teachers know how to teach the material—the teacher’s manuals contain very little guidance.  Thus, the decision to spend a week on the numbers 1 and 2 in kindergarten, or a whole class period discussing a single number is coming from the teachers, not the books.

The mistaken idea that gets repeated in many such articles is that Singapore Math differs from other programs by requiring or imparting a “deep understanding” and that such understanding comes about through a) manipulatives, b) pictures, and c) open-ended discussions.  In fact, what the articles represent is what the schools are telling the reporters. What newspapers frequently do not realize when reporting on Singapore Math, is that when a school takes on such a program, it means going against what many teachers believe math education to be about; it is definitely not how they are trained in ed schools.  The success of Singapore’s programs relies in many ways on more traditional approaches to math education, such as explicit instruction and giving students many problems to solve, in some ways its very success represented a slap in the face to American math reformers, many of whom have worked hard to eliminate such techniques being used.

Singapore Math does not rely heavily on manipulatives as so many articles represent.  It does make use of pictures, but even that is misrepresented. Singapore makes use of a technique known as “bar modeling”.  It is a very effective technique and is glommed onto as the be-all end-all of the program, when in fact, it is only a part of an entire package.  People mistakenly believe that all you have to do is teach kids how to draw the right kind of pictures and they can solve problems.  (In fact, there are now books written that provide explicit instruction on how to solve problems using bar modeling—meant to supplement Singapore’s books. That such books rely on a rote-like procedure is ironic considering that reforms criticize US programs as being based on rote instruction.)  Pictorial representation is indeed a gateway to abstraction, but there are other pathways that Singapore uses as well.  Singapore’s strength is the logical consistency of the development of mathematical concepts. And much to the chagrin of educators who may have learned differently, mastery of number facts and arithmetic procedures is part and parcel to conceptual understanding.  Starting with conceptual understanding and using procedures to underscore it is an invitation to disaster—such approach is making profits for  outfits like Sylvan, Huntington and Kumon.

The underlying message in articles such as the Times’ is that math education is bad in the U.S. because it is not being taught according to the ideals of reforms—and the reason it is successful in Singapore is because it is being taught that way.  Never considered is the possibility that the reform minded methods and textbooks written to implement them are one of the root causes of poor math education in this country.  Katharine Beals in her blog “Out in Left Field” does an excellent job describing this.

A friend of mine recently admonished me for my criticism of the article.  At least schools are using Singapore Math and it is getting worthwhile publicity, he said.  Fortunately, the logical structure and word problems in Singapore’s books are so good it will work in spite of the disciples of reform.  My friend is right.  If the education community wants to think that Singapore Math is student-centered and inquiry-based and the realization of US reforms, let them think it.  For those of us who know better, it will remain our dirty little secret.

Barry Garelick is an analyst for the U.S. EPA and plans to teach math when he retires this year.  He has written articles on math education in Education Next and Educational Horizons.

So, excellent Math such as Singapore Math is about mastery and repetition of important concepts that they are preserved in long-term memory.

Classroom Heroes: NY Math Teacher Howard A. Stern Uses Ingenuity To Overcome Failure Statistics

October 14, 2010

Howard A. Stern is a public school teacher at DeWitt Clinton High School, the third-largest high school in the New York City and one of the largest in the nation.

Of the 4,561 students at the Bronx school last year, 63 percent of graduates received their diplomas in four years. But Stern, 55, insists that statistics are only meaningful when solving math equations.

“I don’t think all teachers realize their students are people, but they are, and I like working with them,” he says.

Stern has 34 students on the roster for his Algebra II Trigonometry but the classroom only has 30 chairs. Absenteeism often alleviates the need for seat scrounging.

He shares his classroom with other teachers. Three times a day, he has to unpack and pack up his laptop and unlock and lock his technology cabinet.

But inconvenience doesn’t phase him. He is determined to do good work despite his school’s endemic obstacles.

“So much of math is about noticing patterns,” says Stern, who should know. Before becoming a teacher, he was a finance analyst and a quality engineer.

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In 2004, when Stern was laid off as a project manager for Hyperion Solutions, he joined the ranks of the New York City Teaching Fellows.

“I really like using technology in education,” he says. “But, is there an appropriate way to use it in the classroom? I want to be cautious on how it’s said because technology is not a magic bullet. One of the things my population of students seems to be missing is that they haven’t been looking at the world mathematically.”

One way Stern uses technology is by helping his students visualize his lessons through the use of graphing calculators.

His Assistant Principal Richard Fleiss explains, “Howard teaches nearly every lesson with the aid of handheld devices that present math to students in a manner they are used to using for everything in their lives — technology.”

These calculators aren’t available from a normal supply closet, so the high school math teacher supplements his students’ curriculum by his own fundraising.

Stern has had 34 projects funded through DonorsChoose.org, a total of $43,628. Money trickles in through independent, sometimes anonymous donors, and education funding giants like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Stern recognized the limitations of funding in city schools and found his own way to fill some of those needs for his students’ benefit,” says Fleiss. “His efforts have enabled him to present material differently than any other teacher in DeWitt Clinton High School, inside and outside the classroom.”

One of Stern’s greatest joys is AP Calculus Camp, a two-day spring retreat he coordinates for about 50 students to prepare for AP Calculus exams and to teach skills to ready them for college. Stern takes care of all of the logistics, raising funds, planning travel, ordering camp T-shirts and making sure there are enough s’more fixings to go around.

But teaching isn’t all that Stern does at DeWitt Clinton. Forty percent of his time is spent as a small learning community coordinator, tracking attendance, and handling disciplinary issues as part of the New York City Department of Education’s secondary school reform strategy for large secondary schools.

He is also the school site coordinator for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project to develop objective and reliable measures of effective teaching.

In this day of accountability and standards, “the system Howard uses allows him to gather class data and judge student comprehension immediately rather than at the end of each unit,” Fleiss says. “His formative assessments are ongoing and allow him to change the pace of his lesson to accommodate the needs of his students.”

Which means that while his school’s overcrowded halls or ill-prepared students may be correlated to lower graduation rates, they don’t have to be the cause. With a little ingenuity, Stern has found how to enhance his course offerings and encourage his students.

To help Howard A. Stern continue to innovate in his classroom and fund his A.P. Calculus camp, visit DonorsChoose.org:

This is inspiring.