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Tagged for a Meme: 8 Things About Matthew K. Tabor

Elementary History Teacher was kind enough to tag me with a meme: 8 facts about myself. I think the original meme title is “8 random facts,” but there’s nothing random about them. They’re all about me – there’s no dada in that. Not a bad topic for a Friday afternoon, especially since my site could use a little more personality [I've tried to stick to ed. content other than the occasional photo of my cat].

The rules are as follows: 1. Let others know who tagged you. 2. Players post 8 random facts about themselves. 3. Those who are tagged should post these rules with their 8 facts. 4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

Here goes:

pba

1. I’m a member of the Professional Bowlers Association. My school didn’t have a bowling team so I got my instruction primarily from television – at the time, ABC’s Wide World of Sports with legendary broadcaster Chris Schenkel, also of New York [Football] Giants announcing fame. I haven’t bowled in ~10 months due to a soft-tissue injury to my left hip [since I'm right-handed, my left leg bears all my weight while bowling]. A few more months of rest and I’ll be back in Regional – and hopefully National – competition. My favorite bowlers are Pete Weber of St. Ann, MO and Danny Wiseman of Baltimore, MD.

axl rose and kenny rogers


2. My favorite vocalists are Axl Rose and Kenny Rogers.
It’s hard not to say Elvis as well, but that’s a bit of a low-hanging fruit. It’s sort of like a Catholic saying that the Pope is his favorite Christian. I took a credible survey once [really, not one of those shoddy web-things] that was supposed to identify and categorize my musical preferences. It determined that I prefer male vocalists with a distinctive sound. Axl, Kenny, Elvis, Hank Williams Jr./Sr., The Scorpions, etc.? Right on.

coffee-crack

3. I drink way too much coffee and it’s way too strong. I did some summer coursework at Harvard one year and, of course, didn’t know anyone there – so I walked around Cambridge, MA a lot. I saw a sign advertising a moving sale – at the bottom the graduate student said he was giving away an espresso machine. I walked a few blocks, got the machine and bought some coffee. Who knew espresso is served a couple ounces at a time? That was a decade ago. Now, if you can’t tar a roof with it, I don’t want to drink it.

The OC

4. The place I like the most – other than Otsego County, NY – is Orange County, CA, though I’m equally happy in most all parts of Southern California. I haven’t been to Southern California in over a year and it’s been too long.

Rocky IV

5. I’ve seen Rocky IV over 50 times; The Natural [Robert Redford] and Hoosiers [Gene Hackman] nearly as many. Patton with George C. Scott is moving up the list. And no, I don’t think that Rocky IV is a cinematic gem – I just like the movie.

beard

6. I’ve had [and prefer to have] a full beard even though the general consensus is that it isn’t flattering. The good? It keeps the wind off my face in the winter. The bad? It sucks to be called Grizzly Adams all the time, especially when you look more like Jeremiah Johnson.

Francis Cooke Society

7. I’m a descendant of Francis Cooke, passenger on the Mayflower and signer of the Mayflower Compact. When asked what my heritage is, I say American; I’m not trying to be an obnoxious ultra-nationalist, I just think that 400+ years in a place allows you to call it home. I have a few tiny gaps to fill in my lineage papers before I submit them for approval by the Francis Cooke Society for genealogical research. Other notable descendants of Cooke and his wife Hester le Mahieu include: Georges W. and H.W. Bush, Franklin Roosevelt, Dane Cook, Orson Welles. It’s a mixed bag [I can't stand Dane Cook].

baseball

8. I like to know about former professional baseball players who have unique names. Some of my favorites are Rags Faircloth, whose entire career consisted of throwing 2 innings in 1919 for the Philadelphia Phillies; Bunny Fabrique, who hit .200 in 90 at-bats for the 1916-17 Brooklyn Robins; Ten Million, who may or may not have played for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1910s; Pickles Dillhoefer, whose mediocre 5-year career ended when he died of typhoid fever in 1922; Orval Overall, who helped the Chicago Cubs win the championship – their last – in 1908; more recently, Wonderful Terrific Monds III, who played in the Braves and Rockies organizations during the mid-late 1990s; etc.

I’ve snagged 8 victims from the Smart Blogs. If your name/site is below, consider yourself tagged. If your name isn’t below, check out these 8 sites – they’re all excellent reads.

I look forward to the responses.

EdNews.org is a Purveyor of Ultra Right-Wing Insanity? Since When?

One of the sites I have in my RSS reader is EdNews.org, “The Internet’s #1 Source for Education News and Information.” I gloss over some of the articles on the oft-covered topics, but I generally read 100% of the content that comes through their RSS feed.

The other day an article came through called “Purdue University Weighs in on WTC Collapse.” Good stuff, I thought – I like when University teams showcase research on a topic that has mass interest, and Purdue is certainly credible. Then I saw that the article was by Lynn Stuter of www.newswithviews.com.

ednews_rss

If you aren’t familiar with NewsWithViews, it’s an ultra-right wing opinion site in the style of Alex Jones’ PrisonPlanet.com. The main difference between NWV and Jones’ PrisonPlanet is that you’ve never heard of the writers on NWV. A few highlights from their front page:

“Those who are aware of history will undoubtedly know of the startling similarities of the policies of a National Socialist Germany, just prior to the time of world war two, and the current policies of the United States. Those who are so unfortunate as to have obtained their education in one of the many woeful schools of our national public educational system today would be well served to pick up a history book, if one can be found that hasn’t been revised to reflect the politically correct garbage presently being force fed to our students, and acquaint themselves with the historical political events of the Third Reich, which eventually led to the destruction of Germany, and which bear a remarkable resemblance to the political agenda being played out by our government today.”

Noted, Jim.

I’m a pretty conservative guy, but NewsWithViews encompasses every bit of paranoid, unhinged thought on the right and eliminates any legitimate points from conservative/libertarian philosophy. Put more simply, all of the bad, none of the good and some outright hate as an unnecessary garnish.

Just because a site is generally worthless/offensive doesn’t mean that every article will be, so I gave Stuter’s piece a shot. It’s a screed that lets loose point after tired, illegitimate point in the 9/11 Truther debate. According to Stuter, each element of Purdue’s presentation is either dumb or just another extension of the conspiracy:

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that according to the Purdue University scientist re-creation, WTC 1 should have fallen first, WTC 2 second. But that didn’t happen; the building that sustained the greatest central core damage fell second. This fact alone tends to discredit the Purdue University scientists’ “theory” of why the buildings fell.”

She goes on:

“And how is it that the three buildings, WTC 1, 2, and 7, all fell at near free-fall speed, right into their footprints, just as neat as you please? Had any of these buildings toppled, the resulting damage and destruction would have been extensive. But by some miracle or coincidence, not one of these three buildings did. There is no such thing as a coincidence.”

Near the end, she concludes that:

“Unfortunately, the Purdue University simulation fails to answer ALL the questions arising from the fall of WTC 1, 2 and 7, making it very obvious that the simulation isn’t even close to credible even though carrying the name of the prestigious Purdue University.”

Why? Federal funding.

“The Purdue University simulation was produced with the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) who, in their own words, is “an independent US government agency responsible for promoting science and engineering through research programs and education projects.” While one might assume this means they aren’t subject to government control and influence, such an assumption would be grossly inaccurate. NSF is funded by the federal government. What the federal government funds, the federal government controls.”

It goes on and on. It fits well with the advertisements for “Secret Mysteries of America’s Beginnings,” a book about how fluoride in water is actually a plot to kill us all and “Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie to Parents and Betray our Children.” I’m a critic of several facets of public education, but this is ridiculous. You can read Stuter’s full, unhinged archive if you choose.

This isn’t the first time EdNews.org has shilled for the crazies at NewsWithViews – a search for “newswithviews” pulls up 20 other articles on EdNews. I understand that intellectual diversity is the most important factor in the education debate – and I am a proponent for such diversity as much as anyone in the blogosphere – but EdNews needs to have some standards. NewsWithViews doesn’t come close to being a legitimate source of material for the education debate.

EdNews.org, why do you accept feeds from NewsWithViews? Will you continue?

I’ve submitted a comment to them regarding their association with NWV. I’ll post their response if I get one.

Is it Worth Losing a Friend Over a Pun?

When it’s this good, I’d say, “Yes.”

organic fuel

Check out Randall Munroe’s xkcd – it’s a witty web comic with a charmingly-nerdy bent.

Update on Florida A&M / FAMU Probation

Florida A&M University’s recent probationary placement by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is less complex than I thought. It boils down to executive mismanagement, fiscal impropriety and general incompetence. Throw in some specific errors and you’ve got a mess that will be tough to turn around.

The Tallahassee Democrat reports that FAMU’s books were unable to be audited properly and were almost wholly unverifiable:

“The red flags were whipping by last summer, when state auditors released their annual audit of FAMU’s books from July 2004 through June 2005 and qualified their findings. In other words, they said they couldn’t be sure the numbers they were looking at were right.

“They could not audit (FAMU’s) accounting,” said Joelen Merkel, a University of Florida trustee who serves on the state’s FAMU task force. “This is very, very serious.”

No other university has had a qualified state financial audit.”

Indeed it is. The Democrat also has COO Larry Robinson’s explanation for the probation placement, which came after concerns about FAMU’s management mounted year after year:

“It got to the point they felt compelled to ask the university what’s going on,” Robinson said about the number of complaints the accreditation committee members received.

If “probation” means “asking what’s going on,” the OED needs an update.

RattlerNation is doing a solid job tracking the difficult times in Tallahassee.

How to Approach a Gap in College Admissions Applications

it's not hard to get a thick envelope

The college admissions process – identifying appropriate schools for the student, then figuring out how to get there – is tough. If it wasn’t, no one would ever need my help.

Like any other service field, the approaches counselors of all sorts, from school guidance counselors to those in private practice, differ widely. I’d like to compare and contrast an element of my approach with an article by another admissions counselor about gaps in the application. My position is that these gaps simply don’t exist, but first I’d like to lay out the author’s position and her actions with this particular candidate.

In “Applying to college not time for ‘truthiness,’” Joanne Levy-Prewitt looks back on her work with a student who had an application that was very strong in some ways and weak in others. In short, he had great numbers and little to go along with them:

Several years ago, I worked with a young man who had what I call “enormous horsepower.” He was extraordinarily bright and articulate. He had straight A’s, indeed many A+’s in all his classes. With no test prep or tutoring, he had SAT scores close to 800 on every section.

But that’s all he had. He had no extracurricular activities. None. No sports, no music, no volunteering. No school club membership or religious involvement. No scouting or camps. No work experience. He also said he hadn’t read any books beyond what was required for school.

Not every applicant has every peg ready to fit neatly into its proper hole in the application. That’s because people are different. This kid happens to be heavy on the transcript and light on those bizarrely-overemphasized elements like being involved in the Glee Club. Surely he must do something with his time, though.

When I asked him what he did after school, he said that with his father’s permission he gambled online. Apparently, he was quite successful at it, too.

This is an incredible opportunity to expose a unique facet of the candidate in a positive light. Keep reading.

Because he was underage, he was engaging in illegal activities. I told him quite frankly that colleges would likely deny him if he listed “gambling” as his extracurricular activity.

True – even with his father’s permission. Detailing an applicant’s violations of interstate/international commerce regulations is a bad idea. She goes on:

That’s when he told me his plan. Without blinking he said, “I’m going to make up activities.” He said he would invent activities like sports and club involvement that would make him seem like an active member of his school community and be impressive to admissions deans. He had investigated and thought that his odds (remember, he’s a gambler) of getting caught were so slim that it was worth lying. I said all I could about the importance of truth, and, of course, about the consequences, too, but nothing could dissuade him.

High school kids don’t always have the experience, knowledge or good judgment to make this call. That’s why they and their parents use us. This isn’t remotely close to the wackiest stories I’ve heard from students about their plans in the admissions process; it certainly isn’t difficult to deal with. And if his answer was handled properly, the counselor never would’ve heard the student’s suggestion to make up activities.

The counselor told the student’s father, who then insisted that his son would be honest. She didn’t hear from the family again.

He had quite a conundrum: If he were honest and told about his gambling, he’d probably be denied. If he left the activities section blank, he’d be denied. If he lied and was admitted to college, he could risk getting caught and possibly expelled. There was also the chance that he wouldn”t get caught at all, at least not this time.

I don’t know where he applied to college nor do I know where he matriculated. But, if he did lie, I believe that the truth will eventually prevail.

The truth could’ve prevailed about 60 seconds after the student mentioned his skill with gaming.

I agree with several elements of the piece. There’s no sense in lying on college applications. Not only are you potentially setting yourself up for failure, but it’s just unnecessary. And a good admissions counselor knows enough about academics – all disciplines – to turn the most mundane or seemingly awful things into an exposition of a candidate’s skills. It’s simply easier to tell the truth.

Assuming that I got into the “truthiness” conversation with the student – and it never would’ve gotten to that point – I would’ve made it very clear that he could be honest about his curriculum vitae or go elsewhere for admissions consulting. There isn’t another option. I would’ve reiterated that same point to his father. If I have to dissuade actively a client from fabrication, they’ll cease to be a client of mine – end of story. But the problem here isn’t the student’s attitude – it’s the lack of a proper solution.

First, if a counselor is unable to help a student create an application that reflects him, that counselor needs to admit it and, preferably, refer the client to a colleague who can give appropriate aid. Other professions do it all the time. Would you want a lawyer to take your case if he didn’t understand your situation or was uncomfortable with its details? I refer clients to other professionals because sometimes they can do a better job. Sometimes I get referrals. We do it to maximize the value of the different services we provide.

Second, there isn’t a high school kid in the United States who doesn’t do anything after school. This kid’s primary interest is in gaming, but it’s certainly not what he does from 3pm until he sleeps. No one sits around doing nothing. If he watches a lot of television, what does he watch and why? If he spends hours and hours on the internet, what sites does he go to? What does he read online? Starting with these basic questions can bring to light several hidden interests that a skilled counselor can highlight. So, if the counselor wasn’t comfortable with the client’s gaming interest, she could’ve bypassed it instantly and found something else [or, more likely, a dozen other things].

Third, this was a missed opportunity to make the student look great. Stigmas with gambling aside, they’re number games. Hard, stone-cold statistical analysis and probability. Even the famed “look into their eyes” method in poker is really just gaining physical information and applying it using Bayes’ Theorem. It’s a rare thing to a) find anything in pop culture so dependent on stats/probability and b) find a high school kid who not only loves it, but is also good at it. This particular student had probably never thought about applying those skills in academics; he needed guidance and didn’t get it.

The counselor who authored this article saw a degenerate gambler on his way to a life of cheating. I saw a kid who has mastered concepts well beyond his years. If the kid had heard my take on his interests, I’m certain that he never would’ve felt the need to lie on his application. The kid wasn’t sinister, he was unnecessarily desperate and didn’t have any reason to alleviate those feelings.

An admissions consultant needs to have a solid handle on all elements of post-secondary study. That means you have to know about every discipline in the American university. If you don’t, you miss out on helping kids or you steer them a sub-optimal direction.

I’m not suggesting that all independent counselors be admissions superheroes, though. We specialize and network so we don’t have to know everything.

Counselors aren’t spin doctors, either. They do, however, need to recognize the academic relevance in all of a student’s actions, interests or accomplishments and expose that in an application. That’s the best way to be honest with students and the colleges to which they’re applying.

If anyone has any questions about the college admissions process – or if you’re another counselor who’s stuck regarding a particular client – just send me an e-mail at mktabor@gmail.com.

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