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Comment: Re:illogical captain (Score 1) 937

by the phantom (#47905315) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk
One can simultaneously *believe* that X does not exist while also admitting that they lack *knowledge* as to whether or not X actually exists. I do not believe that invisible pink unicorns exist, yet I will admit that I cannot prove it one way or the other. I am both an atheist and an agnostic with respect to invisible pink unicorns.

Comment: Re:In Google's Defense... (Score 1) 194

by the phantom (#47890487) Attached to: The Documents From Google's First DMV Test In Nevada
That is probably true, though I have to wonder why either a 4-way stop or roundabout would be needed at such an intersection---put a stop sign on the low-traffic street and don't stop the high-traffic street, or put a signal there and only stop the high-traffic street when there are cars waiting to cross. I get the impression that the major goal of those small roundabouts is traffic calming---traffic is forced to slow down for the roundabout, but not forced to stop. Of course, I am not a traffic engineer and am largely talking out of my ass, so I will readily concede that I am likely wrong. ;)

Comment: Re:In Google's Defense... (Score 1) 194

by the phantom (#47884701) Attached to: The Documents From Google's First DMV Test In Nevada
The dinky little roundabouts that you see in the US don't do much about that level of congestion. They are just as bad (if not worse) than a four-way stop at intersections that get that kind of traffic. If an intersection routinely has half-mile backups, then it might be a good time to install a stoplight.

Comment: Re: Stop using tax dollars (Score 4, Insightful) 348

by the phantom (#47874031) Attached to: When Scientists Give Up

True that it's political nonsense, but can you honestly agree that a study to find out how to buy worcestershire sauce is worthy of government funding?

I have no idea. Can you provide a copy of the actual report? Or only third-hand accounts of this report from an obviously biased source (Wikipedia links to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article that describes the organization the gives out the Golden Fleece Awards, with a three line summary of the report in question---what assurances do we have that this summary is accurate?)?

If the report's only purpose in life was to explain how to buy a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, then there is a problem. But is that really why the report was commissioned? Is that really all it says? Is is possible that the report is about purchasing food in general, with the sauce as an example? Is it possible that the report was commissioned in order to demonstrate how Byzantine the process of buying supplies is in an effort to cut down on paperwork in the long run? How do we know that the report actually cost $6,000?

Comment: Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (Score 1) 359

by the phantom (#47828723) Attached to: How the Outdated TI-84 Plus Still Holds a Monopoly On Classrooms
Why? If you assign homework, you are an idiot if you believe that the students are going to obey any arbitrary restrictions that you place on the technology that they are allowed to use or the people with whom they are allowed to communicate. The students are free to use whatever calculator (or website) that is available. For those students who do not have access to technology at home, I've seen districts provide rentals or loaners that are returned at the end of the day / week / term / whatever.

Comment: Re:No (Score 1) 546

by the phantom (#47822499) Attached to: Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

If nothing else, the way colleges could be improved is to offer a beginner's degree and an advanced degree. Not "Master" advanced, rather just a way to distinguish "came to class and didn't fail most tests" with "was an avid student and learned a crap ton."

Wouldn't it be great if there were some kind of scale to indicate the quality of the work that a student does? I'm just spitballing here, but I'm thinking that a four point scale might make sense. Your "avid student [who] learned a crap ton" could get four points for their efforts, while a student who "came to class and didn't fail most tests" might only get two points. After a student graduates, all of the scores that they get in their classes could be averaged together in some manner, which might give potential employers an at-a-glance summary of the student's level of performance in college, and a record of all of the scores could be transcribed into a document of some kind that could be given to potential employers at their request. That really would be wonderful!

Comment: Re:Getting it very wrong (Score 1) 81

by the phantom (#47682001) Attached to: Is Remote Instruction the Future of College?
You clearly took very poor math classes. The only time I ever teach calculus as "simple computation" is when I am teaching business calculus for business majors. Mathematics is about logic and, as such, should be almost nothing but problem solving (generally in the form of proofs and model construction).

Comment: Re:Why not community college rather than online? (Score 2) 81

by the phantom (#47681255) Attached to: Is Remote Instruction the Future of College?

Speaking as a guy who adjuncts at a big university, I have to second the guy who works in ed tech. In addition to the comments above, you also stand a better chance of getting more qualified instructors at a community college. I taught lower-division math classes as a graduate student. Indeed, much of the teaching load in many departments is handed over to TAs at big universities. Community colleges often teach exactly the same classes out of the same books, but the instructors will hopefully have (a) better credentials (a masters in their field, though there are a disturbing number of people at community colleges who have masters in ed) and (b) more experience teaching.

Another point in favor of community colleges is class size. At a big university, classes can be huge. A calculus class that I TAed for had over two hundred students in a lecture hall. Yes, they broke apart into smaller recitation sections once a week, but recitation time with a TA is not the same as face time with a professor. Community college classes tend to be much smaller.

Unless you are trying to finish your degree in a top-tier, private institution (Stanford, University of Chicago, Harvard, &c) or a small, residential liberal arts college, there is no reason not to finish an associates degree at a local community college then transfer to a local university (or apply to an out-of-state institution, where you probably have a pretty good chance of being accepted).

Comment: Re:Remediating American's Victimization of Indians (Score 1) 561

by the phantom (#47664439) Attached to: Apple's Diversity Numbers: 70% Male, 55% White

Why does "trying to fix this" always lead to affirmative action?

Why can't "trying to fix this" fix the root cause?

I mean, if you need more women on your team, instead of trying to give preference to women, why not do two things: 1) Study why there are few women in the field 2) Remedy that, or encourage more women to join.

You do realize that your proposal is almost exactly what affirmative action is, as codified in Executive Order 11246, right?

Comment: Re:No, school should not be year-round. (Score 1) 421

by the phantom (#47640369) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Should Schooling Be Year-Round?

Hrm. That was never my experience. When I was teaching, I took the time off. I generally spent the first week gearing down, and the last month prepping, but took most of the time off or took classes. Most of my colleagues either did the same, though a few continued to work for the district teaching remedial classes over the summer, substituting, or tutoring. I don't know of anyone who waited tables or cleaned houseboats, though perhaps the low cost of living in Nevada is part of that? I also know that the year round schools never have difficulty filling positions with very well qualified teachers---even in low income areas---as there are a large number of people wanting to take those jobs. Traditional schools generally have greater difficulty. Of course, this may be symptomatic of there being a relatively small number of year round schools in the district and a somewhat larger, though stilly minority, population of teachers with a marked preference.

Of course, we can trade anecdotes 'til the cows come home---do you have any data, one way or the other? I can find a number of opinion pieces, but my google-fu is turning up nothing in terms of surveys of teachers and their preferences (this article is about the best that I can find and it is both out of date and answering a slightly different set of questions, though it seems to come down on the side of teachers in that particular district having a preference for year round schools). Have you had any better luck?

I would also note (again) that the issue of teacher compensation appears to be tangential to the issue of year round schooling. A year round schedule may exacerbate the problem, but the problem is inadequate compensation rather than the calendar cycle.

Comment: Re:No, school should not be year-round. (Score 5, Interesting) 421

by the phantom (#47639545) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Should Schooling Be Year-Round?

First off, there would be no need to change the compensation. Teacher are currently contracted and paid to teach for nine months out of the year. Since year round schools also only hold classes for nine months out of the year, the amount of time spent teaching is the same and the contracts require no major changes.

Second, I and many of the teachers that I have worked with *really* like the year round schedule. I can't speak for every teacher, and there are certainly a lot of teacher that prefer the traditional schedule, but I find the year round schedule to give me more useful freetime. On the one hand, I can more efficiently plan for shorter periods of time (I can make plans and have a chance of getting to them before I have completely forgotten what I was thinking---late September to mid December is a much easier period of time to plan for than mid August to mid December). On the other hand the year round schedule means that I am off when other people are still in school (and since year round schedules can vary quite a lot, even if everyone were year round, I would still be off at a different time from many people), which means that I can get into tourist attractions (Yosemite or Disneyland or whatever you prefer) without having to fight massive crowds. My experience with working in year round schools has been much better than my experience in traditional schools.

None of this, of course, takes away from the argument that teachers ought to be paid more (which I think they should). I just don't think that a year round schedule makes much difference in that debate.

Cobol programmers are down in the dumps.