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Comment Re:Which school? (Score 1) 931

Public schools are agents of the government, and as such, must abide by the Bill of Rights, although the standard is less. I had it wrong. They need "reasonable suspicion," not "probable cause" (which is stronger). They need to have some articulatible facts to support the search. The Supreme Court ruled on this matter in New Jersey v. T.L.O..

Basically, the standard is that there needs to be a reasonable expectation that the locker could be holding some sort of contraband. Examples:
Reasonable: You possess the kind of paper used to roll joints OR there's a plainly visible beer bottle in your backpack.
Reasonable: You smell of marijuana or alcohol.
Reasonable: A parent expresses concern that you might be selling drugs out of your locker.
Unreasonable: You listen to Tenacious D, who have spoken about legalizing marijuana. Since you approve of their music, you must also smoke marijuana, and might have some in your locker.
Unreasonable: You smoke cigarettes and are young, so thus you must also smoke marijuana.
Unreasonable: The Principal gets a note saying that you sell drugs from your locker, but the note is completely anonymous. (The source has no credibility, esp. since it likely came from a student, inherently unreliable to begin with.)

There's another California case on the matter as well, Gordon v. Santa Ana Unified School District. The Principal ordered Gordon to turn out his pockets, based on previous misbehavior, some old info, and the fact that the student talked on his phone a whole lot more than average. They found marijuana in his pocket. Gordon was expelled and was going to face criminal proceedings; however, the search lacked reasonable suspicion, and thus was inadmissible in a court of law. (NB: To be admissible, the search has to be legal for whoever conducted it; if there had been reasonable suspicion but no probable cause, the contraband would still come in because the search was made by an unsolicited school official, and not the police.) The irony is that the Supreme Court couldn't overturn the expulsion, since they have no jurisdiction over decisions made by the school board; what the school board considers legal evidence collection is up to them. I do have to wonder what would happen in a civil court on that matter.

The lock would be an example of reasonable suspicion. Refusing to give the combination to school officials makes it seem like there's something to hide in there. Note that this standard fails probable cause (if it didn't, police could enter any locked house on that basis), but it's not entirely unreasonable.

Comment Re:Good teachers inspire desire (Score 1) 931

I think creating the curriculum is part of being a good teacher. Even if it is regulated the teacher can get creative. Often this takes several years of trial and error before it is a good curriculum.

Sometimes, there's only so much that can be done, and most of the time, you don't get "several years of trial and error." You teach the course once or twice, and then teach something else later.

Most of what I said applies for low level courses. Those are the ones that tend to be regulated the most, since they're the ones that are part of core requirements.

I have to say that I am surprised with the university wide attitude of students you experienced. I have never experienced that at any institution with the exception of community college.

I figured you would say something like that. You don't notice it until you get to the other side of the classroom. I used to think that most students are eager to learn like I am, burning with curiosity for just about any subject, but it's hardly the norm. Most students will try hard enough to get the grade they want, but that doesn't mean that they actually care about the material. And just because they're inspired enough to get an A doesn't always mean that they were inspired to learn the material--and you can't force them to care that much if their main focus is on getting the grade. (In fact, students focused entirely on grades are almost impossible to inspire like that, since they don't see mistakes as learning opportunities, just that they lost points.)

Also, I'm not at community college. I won't say which one, but I'm at a nationally ranked Big Ten university. My experiences at the two other schools (one undergrad, one graduate) I've studied at have been about the same as well.

Comment Re:Which school? (Score 1) 931

As a high school student (in America, at any rate) you have no rights.

Not entirely true. While they can search your stuff, they can't just confiscate anything they feel like. They can certainly confiscate things that are against school rules (e.g., cell phones maybe), but they can't, for instance, confiscate your car keys because you have a blue car and the principle hates the color blue. A binder of notes for a class would probable be considered allowable under school rules.

Furthermore, they still need probable cause to search. If they continually look through your locker because they feel like, and just mess up your stuff for no real good reason, it can be considered harassment, and that's not ok.

I'd actually wager that high schools are a lot more reluctant to pull stunts like this than colleges. High school involves parents, and they'll raise a huge stink even if their kid was in the wrong, because tons of parents think their children are perfect angels. School administrators don't want or need to deal with that. Colleges have young and naive students away from their parents, and the parents can't intervene on students' behalf with the same ease. In other words, they can exploit the fact that most students just won't react, and are a lot less likely to know what their rights are.

Comment Re:Good teachers inspire desire (Score 1) 931

Not at all. It completely depends on the class. If it's a required class, and it's material that students don't deem essential to their major, many won't care in the slightest, and even the greatest teacher in the world wouldn't be able to motivate them to care. Furthermore, a poorly designed course can turn off even highly motivated students. Some courses have their content highly regulated by departments, since they're core courses that need to be the same from term-to-term or year-to-year.

I am a graduate student at a major university in the midwest, and currently teach a basic algebra course--it's the 2nd lowest course we offer. Everyone is required to complete a math course as part of university core requirements, regardless of their major. Unilaterally across the 30-40 sections of this course every term, here's what happens:

(i) Students cheat savagely on the graded homework.
(ii) Friday lectures usually feature only about 60% attendance (at the max)
(iii) Evaluations at the end of the term are usually pretty good, with students mostly satisfied with their teachers, yet still writing that they hate math

These things happen in every section, so you can't put it on a single teacher. Are you going to say that all 30 of us are terrible and can't inspire students at all? EVERYONE gives lectures that are so bad people don't come to 1/3 of them? You can't inspire people who don't want to be inspired. It's just impossible.

(i) is why professors try to take a highly proactive stance in order to prevent cheating. Even if it's pretty obvious, it's difficult to prove, and not fun for anyone involved in the procedure. It involves university procedure, rules representatives and lawyers, etc. Even when you catch them with a sheet of notes, there's little you can do about it immediately. People get REALLY defensive when you catch them cheating, and raise a huge fuss. Even if they know they've been caught, they NEVER accept the consequences (if they were honest even slightly, they wouldn't be cheating in the first place), meaning they appeal to the university, and the whole thing becomes a massive ordeal as more and more people get dragged into it.

Remember, education is the only thing people never want to get their money's worth in. Look how many students get excited about courses with no homework, easy tests, lectures canceled, etc. Certain professors are well-liked because they hand out high grades with little work required.

College became the fashionable thing to do, and (dare I say) most students treat it as trade school. There are a number there who want to learn, but a whole lot more who just want to get through it and get a job. They're there to get a job, not to be educated. The two are very different things.

You can spot the "trade schoolers" by the "I'm never going to use this, so why should I learn it?" attitude people display toward their non-major courses.

Comment Re:Savings (Score 1) 609

I first got my DLP in 2004. It was $3000 for a 50". The bulb cost $400 at that time. I haven't had to replace mine yet, but picked up a replacement bulb in 2006 (yes, 2006) to have on hand when the bulb does finally die. I paid about $180 for it then. The bulb can be had even cheaper now, around $120. A new DLP TV of that size (although a 1080p one, an upgrade) would cost about $1000. That's still a tremendous amount more than the bulb, no matter when it was purchased.

Comment Re:What's the problem? (Score 1) 955

Again, it comes down to what is natural and what is created artificially, and also what is a reasonable expectation when you enter a field. Working hard and sacrificing a social life are hardly unique to science--some people do that just to make ends meet. It's naive to say, "Oh, it's not fair that that person works harder/more hours than I do." That's part of any job, and it's something you've known about for your entire life. At some point, you've probably been that person, working hard while someone screwed off. I don't think anyone has ever entered a job saying, "Ok, my natural ability is good now, but in 2 years, I'll have to start doping to compete."

Is it reasonable to expect someone to work hard? Sure, that's true of any job that pays well. It turns out that there aren't many jobs that will pay you $100k+ to stand around and work 20 hours a week.

I see a huge difference in someone making decisions to sacrifice a social life, or whatever, to get more done vs. someone taking drugs. How about this: you make the choice to sacrifice your social life to do work, but someone else just takes drugs, increases productivity, so he can have the same output as you AND the social life too. At some point, it becomes a contest of who can take the best chemicals instead of who can actually do the best work.

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The means-and-ends moralists, or non-doers, always end up on their ends without any means. -- Saul Alinsky