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Comment Re:No Teaching Experience? (Score 1) 48

Some people are great at teaching, others are not.

I believe this is a self-perpetuating myth. What the data shows is that new teachers in America improve rapidly over the course of about three years, after which they are about as good as they'll ever be. So it's certainly not the case that some people are just naturally teachers; great teachers have to learn the craft through practice, and that learning comes after they finish their official training.

But maybe what we're seeing is that it takes teachers three years to reach their inborn teaching potential, after which they no longer are able to learn anything more that might help them. My question is, how do we know that? How do we know that American teachers are actually completely incapable of becoming better teachers after three years of in-classroom experience?

We don't know. The remarkable thing is that until very, very recently, very few American school systems have actually attempted to systematically improve the performance of their teachers through observation of what they're doing in the classroom. They may have "professional development" where they get more of the same kind of theoretical training they got in education school, but they usually don't follow up to see how the teacher actually puts that to use, or even to identify bad habits the teacher may have developed over the years, or good habits he hasn't. In my kids' school system kids are sent home early on "professional development days" so that working with actual students won't get in the way of a teacher's skill development. It's like trying to make someone a better baseball hitter by banning bats and balls from training and simply talking to players about the theory of biomechanics.

Imagine you own a factory and your assembly line is turning out too many defective widgets. How would you address that problem? Would you send your engineers to a seminar every year on manufacturing theory and ask them to make design changes when they came back from that seminar? Or would you go over the assembly line with a fine tooth comb? While the seminar idea has it's merits, it's too slow and it'd take sheer luck for the seminar to hit on the particular problem that's affecting the line.

In America we have a simple model for improving the teaching at a bad school: fire the bad teachers and hire better ones. But imagine, just for a moment, it is possible to use empirical methodologies to improve the performance of any teacher. Imagine for a moment some bad teachers could be transformed into mediocre ones; some mediocre teachers into good ones; and some good teachers into great ones. In a world where that was possible there'd still be a place for the hire and fire strategy, but relying on that strategy exclusively leads to two unfortunate and unnecessary results: (1) Poor districts have to make do mostly with inadequate teaching and (2) teaching in rich districts tends to be adequate, but great teaching remains uncommon.

Sound familiar?

Comment Re:Because this will be unlike Biosphere 2 how? (Score 4, Informative) 69

To answer your question, smaller habitat, no experiment at maintaining atmospheric composition, outside excursions in "space suits" etc. Its not very much like Biosphere II.

As for why not under the sea or Antarctica I can give at least three reasons. (1) cost of building, transporting and maintaining the habitat; (2) all the support and research personnel live in Hawaii, above water; (3) the research objectives don't require putting the experiment in a dangerous or inaccessible place.

Now someday when we have an actual habitat design along with all the actual support systems we plan to send to Mars, a trial on top of a super high mountain would make sense as a kind of Mars analog. But we don't have such stuff to test so we don't need the Mars analog with all the expense and complication.

Comment Re:Furthermore, Saudi Arabia must be destroyed (Score 4, Insightful) 362

Not everyone in Saudi Arabia are bedouin; in particular the ruling House of Saud is descended from town dwelling Arabs.

I'll go out on a limb and guess that not everyone in Saudi Arabia is worthless. Even people involved in managing their oil. And as for the elite they don't seem to be worse than anyone else who's inherited oil-based wealth; they've managed that for the long term benefit of themselves and their families. If they're ostentatious with their wealth, well they have a lot of it and it hasn't bankrupted them yet.

So there's no rational reason to want to destroy Saudi Arabia. But there's every reason not to want to be so dependent upon them.

Comment Re:DS9 aka "Cspan" (Score 1) 82

LEXX lost steam after the first season, and just began to resemble Star Trek, and in all the bad ways. DS9 turned into a political/wartime strategic series, and I'd say if you have a love for military SF (which I do), it was probably the finest of its kind. I really wish they had continued in the vain of the grubbier, less noble Federation, muddied and made ugly by its wars, sort of a "The Third Man" of galactic proportions. Instead, they made the completely irrelevant and silly Voyager with a cast of characters that I never could even remotely get into, and the even worse Enterprise, which might have been interesting in the right hands, but instead just ended up being an even worse version of Voyager.

Comment Re:It'll devolve. (Score 1) 82

Overall, the last few seasons of DS9 were indeed probably the best in overall quantity. I still think there are about a dozen ST:TOS episodes that are better than anything that later Trek series produced, and a handful of just really brilliant TNG episodes, but the overall story arcs in the last few seasons of DS9 were, as a group very gripping, and in some ways kind of presaged, though I wouldn't say at the same level of quality, the way that the writers of shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men built up strong characters with long-term character plots and trajectories.

The problem with DS9 is that I think it exhausted the Trek universe, and they should have paused things there for five or ten years. Instead they saturated and degraded the whole thing with Voyager and Enterprise, which while they might have had the odd episode here and there that was reasonably good, all in all felt like the products of tired writers and producers who no longer really had a zest for the universe, or the ability to conjure up new and interesting characters.

Comment Re:Okay, if they think that will work (Score 3, Insightful) 82

I actually thought the movie was a pretty good one, probably the best movie outside of the Toy Story films that Tim Allen has been involved in. He played a great Bill Shatner, vain and obnoxious, and of course Rickman and Weaver were pitch perfect as versions of Spock and Uruha. It was much about gently mocking Treckies as it was about mocking the actors. It was a mild, good-natured bit of satire that I've watched a couple of times since it came out and have enjoyed.

Comment Re:History repeats. (Score 2) 82

I always thought the crazy gears/blades that Allen and Weaver had to jump through were more inspired by the bizarre security of the Death Star. I don't recall the Enterprise having that many pointlessly dangerous sets in the ship itself. The closet would be the "mains" in Wrath of Khan, but I don't think it's that much of a stretch to assume that a matter-antimatter engine would probably involve some seriously bad radiation.

Comment Re:A simple test is in order (Score 1) 434

Well, this is a bit like parents who take their kids to get vaccinated and a few hours later that kid exhibits the first signs of autism. It's an immensely compelling coincidence. You'd have to (a) know that autism symptoms often have a rapid onset and (b) realize that when they do they can follow any commonplace childhood event. Even if you did it'd still be hard to shake the suspicion if it happened to your kid.

Somebody points a IR remote at your friend; he gets up and has a brief moment of orthostatic hypotension -- also known as a "dizzy spell" brought on by a sudden drop in blood pressure -- just at the moment the guy pushes the button. Orthostatic hypotension can happen to anyone, but if your friend isn't otherwise prone to it that can be a very compelling coincidence; and many of the symptoms of hypotension can be reproduced by psychological stress.

If something like that happens to you people will say, "oh, it's all in your head," but the thing is that all suffering is inside peoples' heads. One of the worst kinds of pain you can have is passing a kidney stone, but if you happen to be in a coma at the time you won't feel a thing. Distress produced within the brain is indistinguishable to the subject from distress produced outside the brain. Having an external explanation for that distress can make someone feel like they have some control over what is a disturbing experience, and shooting holes in that explanation isn't going to help unless you can offer them a better handle on it.

Sometimes I think we'd be better off if we just brought back shamans and witch doctors.

Comment Re:CEOs stepping down (Score 4, Interesting) 205

I'm not sure what the point of any of this is. Between the hacks and the revelations that the site is little more than a few hookers, some staff trying to titillate members, and a whole fucking lot of men, I'd say AM is pretty much dead at this point.

When I'm tinfoil hat mode, I wonder if this hack was really about some competitor committing an act of commercial homicide. It sure would be one way to wipe out a dominant player in the "find you a fuck buddy" industry.

You scratch my tape, and I'll scratch yours.

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