The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Ward Churchill Makes The Mercury News

From today's San Jose Mercury News letters page:

Hire teachers, fire bureaucrats

The March 24 paper informs me that on the one hand, Californians rank ``the well-being of children'' as their greatest worry and see quality of education as the state's biggest problem (Page 15A), while on the other hand, a new study shows that high school graduation rates are shockingly low (Page 1A). A sign of the times, however: The only solution mentioned in either article is that state officials ``want to implement a system that would track individual students.'' Tracking, testing and other bureaucratic measures do nothing except measure, with ever greater precision, just how badly we are failing our children. Worse, they waste money desperately needed in our classrooms.

How about we fire a few thousand bureaucrats, and hire a few thousand teachers instead?

Ben Haller
Menlo Park

How would we even know whether California's schools were "failing our children" unless we measured their progress? If there were no individual testing, the schools could "solve" the graduation rate problem by graduating everyone regardless of grades. Presumably this would make the wilfully ignorant Mr. Haller happy.

I work in software and I interview job candidates. One question that I ask is how one would make a poorly performing web application work better. It's kind of a softball question, because there are lots of possible approaches and none is demonstrably wrong.

But if someone were to say "I wouldn't waste any time trying to measure the application, that's for sure," well ...


I criticize most letters that appear in the Merc, but not all:

Protesters' morals are on parade

On March 20, I and a few others attended the San Jose Peace Rally at Cesar Chavez Plaza as counterprotesters.

We carried American flags and held signs denouncing terrorism and promoting freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Naturally many of the ``peace and justice'' folks took exception to our pro-American views. To every protester who approached me in debate, I asked the ``Ward Churchill question'': Did America deserve what it got on Sept. 11?

Everyone I spoke with answered in the affirmative. To me, that says a lot about who these protesters are and where their moral compass lies.

Scott Abramson
San Mateo



I think what the writer of the letter was trying to say is that it is a "given" that the schools are failing California's children. It goes on to say that perhaps a better use of funds would be to hire more teachers rather than pay for tests that simply confirm the obvious -- that the system is failing.

I think it's a bit superficial to pick at a cursory statement about testing when the central issue of the argument is really about funding more teaching positions at schools. Or perhaps, it is this position that you oppose.

As for your "apples to oranges" comparison of measuring students' performance with that of a web application, I would also add that if it took two minutes to load a webpage, I just might say, "I wouldn't waste any time trying to measure the application, that's for sure..." because it is a given that the app is performing poorly. In this scenario, it would simply be a waste of resources to bother testing performance, since I think almost anyone would agree that a two minute load time would indicate an application failure.

By Blogger ontilt, at 9:29 PM  

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