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Baseball’s Opening Day, Bush Throws the Pill, Principal’s 401-K Challenge and Bill James

W's got a cannon

It’s Opening Day! 14 games:

Opening Day is here, first with a pair of Boston-Oakland games in Japan, then with Ryan Zimmerman’s unbelievable walk-off homer to beat Atlanta in the first regular-season game at Nationals Park in Washington, and now with 14 Major League Baseball games today, including the last opener at Yankee Stadium.

Every Opening Day, I have this tradition. I pray — hard. One prayer for each loss in the previous season. It usually takes all day. But I think it’s working.
Royals fan “Troy” in Liberty, Mo.

Sorry, Troy… it hasn’t worked out since Tartabull and Saberhagen were hot, but I applaud your unrelenting fandom.

W got booed [I guess for his leadership off the ballfield], but even the die-hard lefties have to admit that kid’s got a cannon [watch video of it here].

principal financial group's 401k challenge

I invite everyone to participate in the Principal Financial Group 401-K Challenge. It’s easy – you predict which Major League Baseball team will be the first to record 401 pitching strikeouts at home in the 2008 season. If you guess correctly, you’re entered into a drawing for:

  • Grand Prize: If you choose the winning team, you are eligible for a random drawing at the end of the season for five thousand dollars ($5,000).
  • Local First Prize: All other entrants will be entered into a local drawing for one of 56 first prizes that include:
    • $100 Best Buy gift card
    • A free six-month membership to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY

I’ve been to Cooperstown, NY before. It’s a nice place! And, of course, the National Baseball Hall of Fame is a one-of-a-kind institution that everyone should visit at some point – baseball fan or not.

My pick is the Kansas City T-Bones. [Hat Tip: Beartwinsmom]

bill james

And if you didn’t catch statistical analysis messiah Bill James’ interview on 60 Minutes last night, by all means, watch it here.

James’ contributions to statistical analysis are enormous. Some of us even believe that re-thinking data could help out in education [others, like the UFT, don't]. Listening to James talk about applying data to the game – and the limits of that data – is sobering, and the commentary from Bob Costas and other notables is wonderful.

Good luck on the 401-K Challenge, enjoy your opening day games and may Bill James change the way you look at box scores.

Sawx rule.

That is all.

Math Creates Spin, Reactionaries, Murderers and Even Worse: SOLDIERS!

MATH = DEATH

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel released a few weeks ago its comprehensive report on the state of math education in the US. The panel recommends that algebra be treated as algebra again, among other things.

You can:

Alternatively, you can:

Pretend to read the 120page report, then select carefully a paltry 3 sentences to show your community, all of which support your political agenda and unyielding commitment to poor math education and a general lack of transparency. Although I usually find The Ridgewood Blog compelling, they’ve made a serious mistake here. They’ve assumed that Tim Brennan read the whole report to select those 3 sentences [doubtful].

Discard the report’s merits entirely. Even the Constructivists, who could embrace this report and align it with their calls for relevance, have chosen instead to be defensive and reactionary.

Friend/foe Gary Stager dropkicks the report:

“It’s easy to see how someone might think that several years worth of fraction study prepares a child for Algebra. Fractions have numerators over denominators, separated by a horizontal line. Many algebraic equations have something over something else, also separated by a line. That’s all you need to know. Right?”

He goes on:

“Children who struggle to manipulate fractions do so because the skills are taught absent a meaningful context in a culture where fractions are rarely ever used.”

Remember, Gary – fractions aren’t just numbers separated by lines, though it’s a convenient straw man. Fractions are ratios, which are, at the most basic level, comparisons of one thing in terms of another. Then we assign meaning to that comparison of values. Then we can apply it to context, if necessary.

We all do this a hundred times a day [not just in cooking recipes] – and the Constructivists should be the first to admit that.

Threaten to kill your teachers [and yourself] if they fail. It’s science, not math, but that’s ok. The issue is the same: do we meet the challenge, do we admit that we aren’t trained to meet the challenge, or do we just freak out and draw national attention? Well, someone chose that third option:

NEW BRAUNFELS — A middle school principal threatened to kill a group of science teachers if their students did not improve their standardized test scores, according to a complaint filed with the New Braunfels Police Department. [Hat Tip: Intercepts]

Lament that your students will use math. One thing schools of education don’t want its graduates to do is to make cannon fodder for that most evil institution: the United States Military!

“Patriotic or not, I feel like the Army is snatching my student away. College funding or not, I feel like the happy and prosperous life I wish for my students is somehow incompatible with conscription. Maybe it has something to do with the sentiment expressed by Kurt Vonnegut, who fought in the Second World War, that the US military today is “being treated, as [he] never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.”” [snip]

“There’s an email in my inbox from the Conference on Math Education and Social Justice. It says teaching math in New York City helps create balance in an unjust world. It doesn’t know that it might actually send Stephanie into harm’s way.”

Please, dear diarist, if you care about Stephanie, don’t teacher her math. Keep her safe instead. Might our diarist be a former student of Monmouth’s Jim Horn?

Edwize is starting to be a daily source of black comedy. I’d enjoy it more if I didn’t know it was real and anything but uncommon.

And some just say to Heck with it! Is Algebra Even Necessary?

O math, why must ye causeth such deth and stryfe?

A Wolverton Mountain Vacation: Claude King and Clifton Clowers

claude king

As I work on some ‘new media’ of my own, I thought I’d highlight some of that good ol’ vinyl media for everyone to enjoy. Of course, we’re in the era of Web 2.0 [!], so I’ve got YouTube videos for all of it.

First, take a listen to Claude King’s “Wolverton Mountain,” the 1962 #1 hit that launched King’s career. The singer is smitten with a beautiful girl on Wolverton Mountain in Arkansas, but he’s been warned: that girl’s father – Clifton Clowers – is a mean one. That’s why “They say don’t go on Wolverton Mountain / If you’re looking for a wife.”

Clifton’s “mighty handy with a gun and a knife” and employs a cadre of spies ["the bears and the birds"] who inform him if strangers come onto the mountain.

Lured by true love, our hero decides to go anyway – “though Clifton Clowers / He might take my life.”

After all, ” her tender lips are sweeter than honey,” so who can blame him?

“But I don’t care about Clifton Clowers
I’m gonna climb up on his mountain
I’ma gonna take the girl I love
I don’t care about Clifton Clowers
I’ma gonna climb up on that mountain
And I’ll get the one I love
I don’t care about Clifton Clowers…

Here’s the original Claude King recording [click here if reading in RSS]:

Many a country musician has paid homage to both King and Clowers by referencing pieces of “Wolverton Mountain.” Hank Williams, Jr. comes to mind; in “If The South Woulda Won,” a candid take on Southern life and lore, he says:

I’d have all the fiddles made in Virginia
‘Cause they sure can make ‘em sound so fine
I’m goin’ up on Wolverton Mountain and see ol’ Clifton Clowers
And have a sip of his good ol’ Arkansas wine

But few know that Clifton Clowers of Woolverton Mountain, Arkansas, was a real person. [Y'all pointy-headed academics call that historicity.]

Born on October 30, 1891, Clifton T. Clowers lived nearly 103 years. He was a veteran of World War I and served as a deacon in the Mountain Baptist Church. He’s buried in Conway County’s Woolverton Mountain Cemetary.

Here’s Clifton on his 101st birthday [1992] sitting on his porch as Mike Redmond plays/sings “Wolverton Mountain” to him, Part I [click here if reading in RSS]:

And Part II, in which Mike plays Hank Williams, Sr.’s “Jambalaya” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” as well as Lefty Frizzell’s “Mom and Dad’s Waltz” [click here if reading in RSS].

Fascinating stuff, that local history. [Hat tip: Miss Profe for reminding me of that post and Tyler for appreciating this one]

Necessary Reruns: Teachers Dressing Professionally

It isn't as expensive as it looks.

Google Analytics, Feedburner and a few other programs give me solid data about traffic on this site. Some pieces tank, some get consistent attention – and it’s anything but an exact science.

One of the posts that has truly surprised me was a brief bit on teachers dressing professionally [re-posted below]. I wrote it in March of last year after spending a day in a public high school and it’s as true – if not truer – today as it was a year ago.

But I did leave something out of the original post.

The day that I wrote it, three separate students asked me if I was rich. It happened frequently at this small-city school.

What made me look so wealthy? A white shirt, a tie, slacks – all clean and pressed properly – and polished shoes. That’s it. Nothing fancy.

The most basic standards of professional dress were so far above and beyond what passed for normal teacher attire in this school that many of the students assumed I was wealthy. I felt bad for the district when I realized that.

Jeffrey S. Solochek of the St. Petersburg Times has followed up on a 2006 blowup about whether teachers in Pasco County, Florida should be subject to a dress code:

A committee of teachers and administrators convened by superintendent Heather Fiorentino, who identified the issue as a problem, completed its review of teacher dress Thursday by deciding that there really is no problem.

The group agreed that attire matters, even suggesting that it deserves a prominent mention in new teacher training. But it deemed the district’s current policy, which says the staff should dress in a manner that “will add dignity to the educational profession,” as quite sufficient.

The committee suggested that the rare cases involving inappropriate attire can be addressed by the principal.

General George Patton said that you must, “Always do everything you ask of those you command.” Maintaining a professional appearance and demeanor in a school is an important part of education. If a teacher doesn’t demonstrate the utmost pride in their appearance and respect for themselves, no one should expect the students to follow suit.

That means a teacher must:

  • Dress neatly, wearing professional attire that shows students that you care about your appearance and are proud of it.
  • Wear clean, ironed clothing. Dirty, wrinkled clothes are the most prevalent (and needless) problem I see in schools. If you don’t like ironing, buy a bottle of wrinkle releaser. It’s $3 and works in 30 seconds.
  • Have a variety of outfits – don’t wear the same thing every day. You need not have an extensive wardrobe, just some standard tops/bottoms and a basic knowledge of how they can go together. If you don’t know how to do this, ask your sister, mom, or stylish co-worker. They’ll be glad to help. [If you're a male teacher, make use of ties to mix up your appearance.]
  • Conceal any obnoxious additions to your body, e.g. tattoos and piercings. This is not as obvious to many as it ought to be.
  • Wear clothes that fit. Clothes that are too tight, loose or revealing are distracting and reflect poorly on you.
  • Avoid “business casual” attire when possible. It looks lazy. It’s the equivalent of getting a grade of C. You know, just enough to get by without taking too much heat for it.
  • Keep current. You don’t need to read GQ or Elle every month to look good. If your clothes are out of style, stop wearing them to school. Students don’t take you seriously if you wear badly outdated clothes.

If you want respect, you’d better look and act as though you deserve it. A well-dressed teacher suggests (actually, it’s more like “screams”) that there is an important purpose for his/her presence in the class. To most adults, clothes reflect a person’s seriousness of purpose – and they’re right. Kids think in more simplified terms; they’re even more likely to equate a well-dressed teacher with seriousness.

There is no excuse – none – for being a teacher and not dressing well. It is a necessary part of the job with which you are charged (and which you have chosen). Your personal preferences and comforts mean far less than the students’ rights to encounter positive examples of adult behavior. Think you can’t afford to dress well? Saturday I spent $95 at Macy’s and got a suede jacket, a tweed suit coat, a microfiber windbreaker, two pairs of dress slacks and two chic ties.

The Education Wonks sum it up well when they say, “Maybe it would be a good idea if those who wanted to be treated as “professionals” dressed professionally.”

If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from the high school girl who last week called me “divalicious.

Hartwick High School’s Francis “Bugs” Schweitzer for Cooperstown Athletic Hall of Fame

Fran Schweitzer, 1953

[Note: To print this piece, I suggest viewing it on the Chicago Sun-Times site and printing from there.]

Months ago, the Cooperstown Central School Board of Education authorized the creation of an Athletic Hall of Fame to celebrate the high school careers of its most accomplished athletes. Led by Athletic Director Michael Cring, the Hall of Fame committee begins by considering nominees – players, coaches, and personnel – from before 1970. Up to five inductees will be chosen from that era.

About six years ago I attended an academic conference on the state of the social sciences. A professor there with whom I talked remarked that Cooperstown, “… likely gets more mentions [in a day] per capita than any town or city in the world.” He was probably right. But even in a place like Cooperstown – with the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the New York State Historical Association, The Farmers’ Museum, the Fenimore Art Museum, etc. within a stone’s throw – our historical memory atrophies.

There are few alive who can recall the decades-old exploits of others with any sort of precision. If it didn’t have intense personal or national significance, we tend to forget it slowly.

Imagine playing a game of ‘telephone’ – a difficult enough game as it is – where those in your circle are constantly replaced by people with a different message. After a few rounds, our message would be almost wholly lost to a degree even greater than what makes the game so much fun for children. That’s the current state of much local history, partly due to rapidly-changing demographics and partly due to rapidly-changing priorities.

Cooperstown High School once was separate from Hartwick High. SUNY Oneonta professor Alexander Thomas detailed their consolidation in his book In Gotham’s Shadow, a study of the effect of economic changes on three towns in Upstate New York:

By the middle of the 1950s, the New York State Board of Regents was actively encouraging the consolidation of school districts in both urban and rural areas. As in other forms of upscaling, school consolidation ultimately would benefit larger communities over small.

In September 1956, the senior class of Hartwick High School started the year unaware that they would be the institution’s last graduates. Members of Hartwick’s school board contemplated a consolidation with Cooperstown throughout the winter and spring of 1957…

… On April 17, 1957, the Cooperstown Freeman’s Journal reported that the two school boards agreed to send Hartwick High School students to Cooperstown High School and begin discussions of consolidation. In less than four months, a decision that would dramatically alter both communities had been discussed and decided. [original text from Google Books]

Thomas cites a column from Oneonta’s Daily Star that mentions the effect this would have on area sports:

In a column … describing a Hartwick man who could “name the heroes, goats, records, pitches, and situations over the past few years with the quickness of an IBM machine,” the rhetorical question was raised as to what the man would do in the absence of Hartwick High School:

“Next year? Jim hasn’t looked that far ahead, but we’ll put a bob on the line that he’ll know the facts and figures on the Cooperstown Redskins forwards and backwards . . . Thus, educational progress has ended a sports era.”

“Jim” refers to Jim Hamilton, a tireless, unparalleled sports fan who – as that column attests – knew it all about area sports.

Hamilton, who is now deceased, took too much of that knowledge with him. I talked recently with a long-time staff member at Cooperstown who said, “I have no idea when Hartwick merged with Cooperstown.” It would be folly to think that many in the community could recall the accomplishments of Hartwick High’s outstanding athletes. Fifty-plus years is just too long.

On March 15th, the due date for nominations, I submitted to the committee a brief description of Francis “Bugs” Schweitzer’s athletic career at Hartwick High. Those who lived in the Town of Hartwick – about 6 miles from Cooperstown – remember Schweitzer as the finest, most accomplished athlete that the school ever produced.

Fran Schweitzer

My father grew up in Hartwick and attended the school until the forced migration to CCS in 1957. I asked him who stood out in his memory of Hartwick athletics. He didn’t hesitate for a second: “Bugs Schweitzer.”

I spent a few days researching Fran’s career for the purpose of nominating him for the Hall. That’s when I came across a neat photo [in which he doesn't appear] and a wonderful bit that gave some context to Hartwick sports. The Chicago Sun Times picked up the post via syndication; I continued researching.

It occurred to me that I’d even come across Schweitzer’s famed athleticism in fiction. I pulled out a copy of BC Stevens’ Warriors of a Morning Calm and thumbed through the pages. Stevens’ Korean War memoir has ample chapter-space devoted to Hartland High, the fictionalized version of the real HHS from which he graduated [Class of 1952]. Stevens’ main character played 6-man football with Frank Miller:

“Frank was Hartland High’s six foot two inch quarterback, running back, outside linebacker, basketball center – you name it, Frank could do it.”

It hit me that Frank Miller is Fran Schweitzer.

I pored over 1950′s HHS yearbooks and chased up a few clippings, including a feature article about Fran that appeared in the Binghamton Sunday Press on March 6, 1953. There was plenty to make the case that this prolific athlete – who held Section IV’s career scoring record in basketball, who averaged over 25 points per game years before the 3pt shot, who pitched a no-hitter for HHS, who led the 1952 HHS football team to an unbeaten, untied 18-0 record in Tri-Valley competition, who was elected to the Section IV Hall of Fame in 1975 – deserved a place in the inaugural class of inductees to our district’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Things got busy – as they often do – and I tabled the nomination.

Fran “Bugs” Schweitzer, born on July 4, 1934, died on February 4, 2008. I never met or spoke to him; he died without knowing that he was to be nominated for the Hall – or that those in future generations would recognize and remember the outstanding athleticism that made him a legend of a school long forgotten.

“Talk ye of all his wondrous works,” Fran’s senior quote, is taken from Chronicles 16:9. It’s preceded by Chronicles 16:8 which advises that we, “call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.”

I’ve pasted below my talk of Fran’s wondrous works – my calling upon his name, making known his deeds. One can only hope that the committee will listen.

Nominee: Francis Thomas Schweitzer [“Bugs”]

Fran Schweitzer football

Nomination Category: Athlete

Athlete’s Graduation year: Hartwick High School, 1953

“The Hartwick School in this Otsego crossroads contains 26 boys and no gym. Of the eligible males, 23 play varsity or J.V. basketball in the low white wooden hall next to the feed mill.” – Binghamton Sunday Press, March 6, 1953 feature on Francis Schweitzer

Schweitzer attended HHS after arriving from Rahway, NJ in the 7th grade [1947]. He began his legendary athletic career immediately, leading Hartwick’s small rosters to victories that began Hartwick’s pre-consolidation dominance in football, basketball and baseball.

Schweitzer gained statewide fame for his athletic exploits; he excelled in baseball, football, basketball and volleyball. In basketball, he led to HHS to several Tri-Valley title games and playoff appearances, including averaging over 25 points per game in a season before the 3pt line. He held the Section IV scoring record for 24 years and in 1975 was elected to the Section IV Athletic Council Hall of Fame.

Francis also played for the Cooperstown Indians baseball team while in high school.

His physical ability was so recognizable – and so obvious – that he inspired the character Frank Miller in BC Stevens’ “Warriors of a Morning Calm.” From the book:

“Frank was Hartland High’s six foot two inch quarterback, running back, outside linebacker, basketball center – you name it, Frank could do it.”

After a stellar high school athletic career, Schweitzer attended nearby Hartwick College on an athletic scholarship. He entered the Navy in 1956 and, after being discharged, completed his degree at SUNY Oneonta. He extended his community service into teaching, working for the Lindenhurst School District for over 30 years.

Francis, who harbored a love for our area’s athletics for over 50 years, died on Feb 4, 2008.

His HHS resume at a glance:

• Baseball: 1, 2, 3, Captain 3; League All-Star 1, 2, 3, Section All-Star 3
• Football: 1, 2, 3, 4
• Basketball: 1, 2, 3, 4; Captain 3, 4
• Volleyball: 1, 2, 3, 4; Captain 2, 3, 4
• HHS Athletic Association 1, 2, 3, 4

It is with the utmost sincerity that I commend Francis Schweitzer’s athletic career for examination by the Cooperstown Central School Athletic Hall of Fame. Schweitzer exemplified commitment, performance and scholarship during his playing days and after his graduation. His career in the Cooperstown Central School system teems with merit worthy of recognition as a legend in the annals of Cooperstown athletics.

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