31 March 2010

Florida Senate Bill #6

Yes, this is just what our schools need to improve. This Republican bill has passed the state senate and is on its way to being passed by the state house. And what would #6 do?

Well, according to a summary from WaPo's education column, The Answer Sheet, it would:
*Require that school systems evaluate and pay teachers primarily on the basis of student test scores. Testing experts say this is an invalid assessment tool.
*Require that experience, advanced degrees or professional certification not be considered when paying teachers.
*Require that new teachers be put on probation for five years and then work on one-year contracts, which would allow any principal to easily get rid of any teacher who bothered them in any way.
*Require the creation of new annual tests for every subject that is not measured already by state assessments or other tests, such as the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate end-of-course tests.
It's hard to imagine a plan that's more dedicated to testing-oriented education. It's also hard to imagine a plan worse than this. This would mean that essentially the only people who will become teachers in Florida will be people who literally cannot get anything better when they get out of college. And it also means that there will be little chance of retaining decent teachers; with sparse opportunities for reward or advancement, their time would be much better spent getting some more education or the like and getting out of teaching as quickly as possible. If #6 passes, teaching would become a great job right out of school, but every year that passes would see everyone other career-track professional get paid according to their increasing experience and credentials. Why would anyone stick with a job where you are continually (yearly!) uncertain of your future and where you have no prospects?

M.S. at the Economist's Democracy in America correctly interprets the message the bill sends:
I'd like to offer you a job in an extremely challenging and rewarding field. The pay is based almost entirely on performance metrics... We can offer you a five-year contract to start. By "contract" I mean we'll let you work for us, if things work out, but we can of course fire you at any time. And after that you'll have solid contracts! Each contract lasts one year, and we can decide to let you go at the end if you're not performing up to our standards. And by that time, you'll be earning...well, actually, you'll be paid at exactly the same rate as when you started out. We're prohibited by law from paying you more just because you've worked for us longer. If, however, you want to go get qualified in some new technical field or obtain an advanced degree, then...we can't raise your pay either. We basically just pay you a flat standardized commission depending on how well you perform on the mission.

The mission is to train 18 to 25 children to correctly fill out the answers on a series of standardized tests. You have no control over which children will be assigned to you, and unlike other commission-based workers (door-to-door salesmen, say), you will be stuck with the ones you're handed for the whole year. Average salary is $45,000 a year, but if you work your butt off and get lucky with the kids who are assigned to you, you could push it to, oh, $60,000.

If this offer doesn't sound attractive to you, it's probably because you have other career options.

28 March 2010

Driving to Work

One of my schools, 종달 (Jongdal), is on the opposite side of the island from me. It is not a fun commute. I can't go through the center of the island, because there's a huge goddamn volcano in the way. I guess in the larger picture, having the volcano just be in the way is the least of possible problems it could cause. But I have no perspective and it just bothers me right now.

To get to my school, I had been taking the bus. The bus is a silly thing, because it stops frequently in between when I get on and when I get off. Combined with its insistence on obeying the traffic laws, this means that it took about two hours to take two buses to my school, and two hours to get back. Four hours a day were being consumed with waiting for buses and waiting on buses. It was ridiculous, and also it made me feel bad that no one ever wanted to sit next to me because I am a foreigner.

So I got a car. I got a shining, roaring beast of a beautiful car. Its power is only exceeded by its beauty, and its beauty is only exceeded by the gravitational pull of a black hole. Spoken of in prophecy and worshiped by primitives, my mighty vehicle and well really okay I got a '97 Kia Sephia.

My new car has many good qualities. The bumper has been securely refastened with some kind of paste, for example. For Safety. And while none of the interior lights work at night, if you turn on the headlights and pull up to a wall you can see pretty well by the reflected light inside.

Some philistines claim that a car needs "working brakes." But to those people, I say ye, "Shut the hell up and help me pour water on the engine so it stops smoking."

On the plus side (frankly, the only plus side) the car only cost ₩500,000 - about $450.

With the aid of my noble chariot, I expected to cut my commute down from two hours to fifty minutes. So I sketched out a path and started out this morning in high spirits.

I learned a few new things since then. For example, I learned that if a sign indicates that the road is splitting to go in two directions, then that sign means right fucking now. There is no delay of a hundred meters or a quarter-mile or three feet. That son-of-a-bitch is becoming two roads at that very instant, and is just happening to do you the courtesy of mentioning it as it occurs. Ingrate.

I also learned that there are only four kinds of Korean roads.
  • Normal roads, as we may know them in America. These roads are paved, interrupted on occasion by intersections and stoplights, and go in straight lines or curves.
  • Mountain highways, which twist and go up and down as many hills as possible. Take a piece of paper and crumple it up, then imagine a road going up and down the folds of that wadded-up mess of inclines and angles. Sharp turns occur along rocky precipices which DID NOT FRIGHTEN ME AT ALL SHUT UP.
  • City streets. There are no rules and no laws. People cross the street where they please and whenever they want. If they want to, they can stop and nap. U-turns are legal at all times. Every lane is a turn lane. There can be no mistakes. There is only Zu'ul.
  • Village streets. They are about four-and-a-half feet wide, crammed with garbage and giggling children who get caught on your muffler. If you want to turn, then you had better know some serious geometry.
At long last, I got to my school. It took me longer than I'd planned, but it was still less than two hours. And thanks to my magnificent new vehicle, I've been able to take up smoking in a very novel way.

The basics.

The basics:
  • I have now been living on Jeju Island, South Korea, for almost a month.
  • The weather has been bizarre, with snow in the morning and warmth in the evening some days. But this has stopped and it is getting warmer and warmer.
  • I work at two schools. One is near me in Jeju City (the main city of the island) and the other is on the other side of the island. I only go to the far one, Jongdal Elementary, twice a week.
  • Lizzie works at one school all week, and it's about five minutes away.
  • We are both pretty happy with our schools, although I dislike my commute.
  • It is very beautiful here.

23 March 2010

The Corner on Health Care

National Review's The Corner blog is customarily screechy and wrong.  I suspect it's in their guiding principles - nothing else explains the acquisition of Jonah "Everyone I dislike is like Hitler" Goldberg.  But since they went into panic mode over the health care reform bill, it's just been delicious gravy on top of that glorious victory.

Like most conservatives, they were trumpeting their win a few weeks ago.  But now socialists will abort twelve babies every hour.

Mark Steyn writes there:
If Barack Obama does nothing else in his term in office, this will make him one of the most consequential presidents in history. It's a huge transformative event in Americans' view of themselves and of the role of government. You can say, oh, well, the polls show most people opposed to it, but, if that mattered, the Dems wouldn't be doing what they're doing. Their bet is that it can't be undone, and that over time, as I've been saying for years now, governmentalized health care not only changes the relationship of the citizen to the state but the very character of the people. As I wrote in NR recently, there's plenty of evidence to support that from Britain, Canada, and elsewhere.

More prosaically, it's also unaffordable. That's why one of the first things that middle-rank powers abandon once they go down this road is a global military capability. If you take the view that the U.S. is an imperialist aggressor, congratulations: You can cease worrying. But, if you think that America has been the ultimate guarantor of the post-war global order, it's less cheery. Five years from now, just as in Canada and Europe two generations ago, we'll be getting used to announcements of defense cuts to prop up the unsustainable costs of big government at home. And, as the superpower retrenches, America's enemies will be quick to scent opportunity.
Longer wait times, fewer doctors, more bureaucracy, massive IRS expansion, explosive debt, the end of the Pax Americana, and global Armageddon. Must try to look on the bright side . . .
That's right.  He used the term "Pax Americana" while we are engaged in two wars, one of which is approaching a decade in length.   And he has also predicted, flat-out, global Armageddon.

I think I will be collecting quotes this week, to share with my grandchildren someday.  Or maybe - thanks to recent legislation - with my great-grandchildren.