Thursday, October 20, 2011

For profit schools at GEEX

This past weekend, thanks to my friends at Fongo Bongo Games, I was able to attend GEEX, the gaming and electronics expo.  For the most part I was impressed, I got to meet some Mandalorian Mercs, some rebels from Rogue Base, as well as members of the 501st legion.  I also got to see a screening of Ghostbusters SLC.  On a more serious note, Southern Utah University had a pretty good presence there, they even brought robots.  The downside is that they were outnumbered by the for-profit schools that were in attendance, such as Broadview University and Stevens-Henager college.  While SUU works hard to provide a quality education for their students, these other schools are in it to make a profit, if their students gain any benefit, it is purely secondary.   Proprietary schools offer a sub-standard education and charge a premium price for it.  I believe that the South Towne Exposition Center should be ashamed for letting these predators into their facility.  The attendees of GEEX are, largely, young and not well informed about the difference between a real university and a for-profit one.  They came there to play games and check out cool new tech, not be harassed by recruiters for these profit oriented institutions.  I also have to say I am disappointed in Salt Lake Community College and the University of Utah for not putting in an appearance and leaving these proprietary schools largely unchallenged.  Come on, an expo full of young people drawn to computers and electronics, there has to be some interest there.  To sum it up, well done SUU and stay away from those for-profit schools kids, they are bad for you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Skeptical Literacy on Debunkatron

Extra perceptive readers out there might have noticed that Skeptical Literacy has been added to the, "resources and communities for your debunking toolbox," section of  Guess that means I should get some new content up here soon.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Boiron bullies blogger

I don't know if anyone happened to see the article in the British Medical Journal, but the international maker of homeopathic . . . things, Boiron, threatened an Italian blogger.  The blog in question, B-log(0), had a couple of posts talking about Boiron's successful product, Oscillococcinum and it's lack of any active molecules.  With a name like Oscillococcinum, it's hard to imagine why this stuff hasn't caught on in the states.  Well, when a big company has a few snarky comments made in their general direction by a small blogger, what's the natural things to do?  Shoot them a threatening letter saying their blog was untrue and derogatory and is tarnishing the reputation of the company.  I guess ignoring them and not drawing attention was too much to ask for.
Well, on behalf of threatened bloggers the world over, let me say that homeopathy in general lacks active ingredients and is little more than a mechanism for taking advantage of the placebo effect, not to mention naive consumers.  Sorry, but a legion of layers writing mean spirited letters isn't going to change that.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Student protests, Utah needs more of these

When I heard that Skyline high school was the subject of a protest carried out by between 75 to 100 students, my first thought was good, if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention. So what were they protesting, pointless wars for empire, endless political bickering in the nation's capitol, petty bigotry and intolerance at home? No, it was an asinine tardy policy at their school. Still, you have to celebrate what few signs of life you can find coming out of the suburbs.

So, what about a tardy policy could be so annoying as to cause such an uproar? Well, the granite school district thought it was appropriate to impose fines on students who are tardy for class. Three bucks the first time and five dollars for each subsequent tardy. To me, that sounds rather excessive. From my time as a student in Utah high schools and later as a student teacher and substitute teacher, I can tell you that the logistics of getting from point A to point B in an overcrowded Utah school makes being late inevitable at times. Certainly there are some students who are just being jerks, but charging a student with a five dollar fine for what was most likely a potty break in just mean spirited.

But the school district must have thought there was some sort of problem for there to be such a policy in place. According to local news coverage, the school district claimed that there were 25,000 tardies in the year before they implemented these fines and now that there are about 11,000 tardies per year. Well, that sounds like a lot of students being late for class and they have reduced the number by more than 50%, but let's take a closer look at the numbers. According to the numbers I was able to dig up, Skyline high school graduated 415 student in 2010. If we assume all the students graduate (which they don't) and the enrollment numbers at the school stay constant (again, probably not true) that means there are about 1,245 students at the school. To get the lowest number of class periods possible, let's also assume the school is on the block schedule and the students attend four 90 minute classes a day over a 180 day school year. That gives 896,400 total student class periods in the school year. 25,000 tardies per year gives about a 2.7% tardy rate. So, on any give class period, approximately 97.3% of the students will be on time. To put it another way, the average student will be late to class four to five timer per school year. These numbers represent the highest percentage I was able to come up with. If Skyline instead has 2000 student going to 7 classes per day, 25,000 tardies is less that a 1% tardy rate, or 1 to 2 tardies per student per year.

To me this sounds like a solution in search of a problem. I know Utah school districts don't have that much administration, but if this is the kind of stuff they have time to come up with, it's time to trim some fat from the administrative budget. Tough economic times call for hard decisions, time to bounce a spokesperson or two to the curb.

To any Skyline students who happen to stumble onto this blog, it seems that next week is your school district's spring break. That gives you a whole week to network with student at other schools in the Granite district and organize a much wider disruption of classes when school resumes a week from Monday. Bear in mind that stepping out of line in any way, shape or form can subject you to attest, fines and never getting anything higher than a B for the rest of your secondary education. Still, it is your school and your education, may as well stand up to the petty tyranny of sad little men when you have the chance.

To any Granite school district administrators who have managed to read this far, lighten up and ditch the negative policy.  You have more important things to worry about, at least, one assumes you do.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Utah state legislature never fails to be weird

The Utah state legislature usually leaves one with plenty to be skeptical about.  On the upside, they did repeal H.B. 477, which would have limited access to government records.  On the downside, they also passed H. B. 477 in the first place.

The silliest bill passed may very well be the official state firearm being named the Browning M1911 handgun.  Since John Browning was from Utah, it does make some sort of weird sense.  Another odd bill passed was H.B. 317 which recognizes gold and silver coins issued by the federal government to be legal tender but does not compel a person to accept such coins as tender.  Reading the fine print, it sounds more like a sort of tax dodge for people who speculate in gold and silver.

It is pretty easy to just verbally beat up on the legislature, and while I plan to do plenty of that, I do want to point out at least one thing that they did do that was positive.  They did not pass H.B. 109. This bill, which is called, "Religious Liberty Recognition," is more like a feel free to discriminate against homosexuals if you can possibly construe a religious justification for said discrimination.  Well done in not passing that piece of hate legislation guys.