kitchen table math, the sequel: 12/25/11 - 1/1/12

Saturday, December 31, 2011


Lake Superior State University 2012 List of Banished Words

In 1977, one year after Lake Superior State University Public Relations Director W.T. (Bill) Rabe released the first "banished words list," he said that the international reaction from news media and the public told him "it would go on forever."

Forever may be stretching it, but the annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness has been going strong since New Year's Day 1976 and shows no signs of stopping. People from around the world have nominated hundreds of words and phrases such as "you know," "user friendly," "at this point in time," and "have a nice day," to be purged from the language.

This year's list:

OK, so....this is not the list I would pick, but I see the logic.

Disagree re: amazing, however. An excellent word, overused or not. I'm keeping it.

Baby bump can go.*

Ditto the new normal. I am against the new normal, and I am against calling the new normal the new normal. Get rid of it!

I'm keeping ginormous. Also bazillion and gazillion, in case anyone has big ideas for next year.

Never heard of pet parent or trickeration; don't care about blowback, shared sacrifice, or occupy. I don't spend time around people who say "man cave." If I did, I'd put it on the list.

Which brings me to Thank you in advance:
"Usually followed by 'for your cooperation,' this is a condescending and challenging way to say, 'Since I already thanked you, you have to do this.'" Mike Cloran, Cincinnati, Ohio
Oh, man. That takes me back. Do any of you remember all the 'Thank you for your ongoing cooperation and support' communiques we used to get from our erstwhile superintendent of schools?

I sure do. I'm going to have to dig up the citizens' op ed I wrote on the subject of parents being thanked for their ongoing cooperation and support. I was against it.

Back to the Lake Superior State:
The first list was dreamed up by Rabe and a group of friends at a New Year's Eve party in 1975. The following day, he released the list and the rest, as they say, is history. Since then, nominations for words and expressions to be banished have been invited and accepted throughout the year.
I've already got my list for 2012 started.

Edu-words that should be banished from the queen's English:

Start with ENHANCED.

* Does anyone who is NOT an actress ever have a baby bump?

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

chemprof on masked deficits in high-achieving students

Absolutely. I think I've told the story of my first research student before, a very bright biochem major. She got a low C in biochem (after A's in organic) because of exactly this kind of problem. She was an early reader who basically memorized words, but really only read the first 3-4 letters. So she couldn't keep what she called the "glys" straight - glycine, glycolysis, glycogen, etc. all looked the same to her. She really needed explicit phonics, but no one noticed early enough.
That is an amazing story. Amazing, and chilling.

In the early grades, a strong ability to memorize, which C. had and has, is going to mask deficits if the only data anyone cares about is a passing score on the state tests.

C., too, was an early reader with a quick memory; he was one of those kids who 'taught himself to read.' But when he was in fourth grade, I discovered that he could not read a two-syllable nonsense word.

And he couldn't spell at all, which I knew was not right. Everyone in the household thought he'd naturally learn to spell if he just read more, but he had abruptly stopped reading, and his school didn't give many reading assignments.

Interestingly, at some point after C. enrolled in his Jesuit high school, he told me that "The kids are better readers" -- meaning they could read out loud better than kids in his public school. He also heard stories of parents who put their kids in Catholic school "because they couldn't read."

Catholic schools still teach phonics, I believe.


from the annals of All the answers are belong to us: trying and failing to buy a Direct Instruction spelling book

non-poor students doing fine in Princeton

From the Princeton Alumni Weekly, an interview with Earl Kim, Class of '93, now superintendent of Montgomery Township Schools:
When, exactly, did public education become a blood sport? Granted, there were vicious battles over busing in the 1970s. But now the whole American system of public education, which once made us so proud, seems to have become suspect. Perhaps it’s all those reports that show how far our students now lag behind their peers in places like Finland and Singapore — though Kim points out that once you adjust for poverty, we are still doing fine...
Affluent suburban schools, in my experience, don't have much truck with data. My own affluent suburban school district, for instance, grades itself on a strictly pass-fail basis. Percent passing the state tests, percent failing the state tests. Percent passing AP exams, percent failing AP exams. We have many more passes than fails, and we are doing fine.

The question is: what does "doing fine" actually mean in the larger scheme of things?

The Global Report Card, which ranks US schools against schools in 25 developed countries, puts Montgomery Township schools at the 76th percentile in math, 83rd in reading.

As to Finland and Singapore, here are the numbers for Montgomery Township:

Mind you, these aren't apples-to-apples comparisons. Montgomery Township is affluent and well-educated; assuming I understand the website, affluent children with well-educated parents in Montgomery Township are not being compared to affluent children with well-educated parents in Finland, Singapore, and Canada. Affluent children with well-educated parents in Montgomery Township are being compared to all students in Finland, Singapore, and Canada.

If Montgomery Township students are in, say, the 90th percentile of US students in math (they may be higher), is it "fine" for them to be in the 56th percentile in math in Singapore?

Maybe so.

Princeton trivia: Ben Bernanke served on the Montgomery Township Board of Education.

annual posting of Siouxsie and the Banshees

The French song Il est nĂ© le divin enfant is my favorite Christmas carol, and for some reason this performance by Siouxsie and the Banshees, which I discovered on YouTube a couple of years ago, is my favorite version. The trumpets, the choral round, the triumphal tone --- love it.


Is this video just one take?

About 3 minutes in, it came to me that I hadn't seen any cuts.

Don't have the patience to watch it again.

source: Small Business blog