Some news from the North American education scene


Comment by Holman W. Jenkins Jr

Here's more evidence that "academic freedom" doesn't apply to anyone actually on or near a campus. The chancellor of British Columbia's Thompson Rivers University has become a public enemy after uttering judicious words on global warming on a Canadian Broadcasting breakfast show last week. Chancellor Nancy Greene Raine, previously an Olympic skiing champion and national heroine as Canada's official "female athlete of the century," told listeners: "In science, there's almost never black and white. We don't know what next week's weather is going to be. To say in 50 or 100 years, the temperature is going to do this, is a bit of a stretch for me."

The result was a "furor on campus," reports the local Kamloops Daily News. Professors have demanded Ms. Greene Raine's ouster from the ceremonial post. A Canadian government meteorologist "questioned why Greene Raine would offer comment about something on which she is not versed. He noted that no one comes to him for advice on skiing."

In fact, poor Ms. Greene Raine was making exactly the judgment that all citizens and politicians are called upon to make in the global warming debate: How reliable are long-range climate predictions? How should we weigh the costs and benefits of various policy prescriptions? Nor is she alone. Freeman Dyson, the legendary physicist and mathematician, offered similar views in a commencement address at the University of Michigan last year. For that matter, Ms. Greene Raine was kicked off a film of Canadian celebrities talking about global warming in 2005 when the producers discovered she thought spending money on poverty and disease was more urgent than spending money on climate change.

Questions of whether to adapt to climate change or try to prevent it, of how much to spend on CO2 reduction and the like, are questions the public is apparently supposed to shut up about. Message to Ms. Greene Raine and anyone else: Your job is merely to register support for "good" environmentalists versus "bad" skeptics, then submit to whatever policies the Al Gores of the world prescribe for our salvation.

From The Wall Street Journal, 13 December 2006


Below is the experience of a customer of one of America's largest companies -- Verizon. The customer has a grasp of decimals, once a grade-school basic but no longer so, it seems. Anyway, who cares if a firm charges you 100 times more than it says it will!

Last week I called to inquire about the data rate per kb for internet usage. I was quoted ".015 cents per kilobyte". Upon paying my bill I noticed that the rate was much higher- in fact $.015/kb. I called back to complain but was shocked to here "the rate is .015cents per kilobyte" and "... .015 cents is $.015".

At this point I was dumbfounded by her ignorance and hung up. Calling back I was shocked to experience this scenario a third time so promptly asked for a manager. He reiterated that ".015 cents per kilobyte is equivalent to .015 dollars per kilobyte". I then spent 30 minutes trying to explain to him how these were two very different values to no avail.

While these 4 employees gross deficiency in elementary mathematics is appalling, the fact that Verizon employees these people who are so inept as to misstate a rate by a factor of 100 is disgusting and probably legally unwise. You at this point have one customer that is very angry and frustrated due to this misrepresentation that resulted in a bill literally 100 times larger than expected.

I would suggest that all phone representatives be corrected on their erroneous math as the third representative put me on hold and stated "all the people here say .015 cents is 1.5cents" before retrieving a manager; hence the problem runs beyond the four I spoke with. Initially, I wanted a refund but after experiencing this abyss of ignorance I feel my fees will be better served towards teaching remedial math towards these employees and will be satisfied with an apology.



Lack of achievement must be hidden -- ANYTHING that upsets the leftist fairyland vision of equality must be hidden

Needham High School has abandoned its long-standing practice of publishing the names of students who make the honor roll in the local newspaper. Principal Paul Richards said a key reason for stopping the practice is its contribution to students' stress level in "This high expectations-high-achievement culture." The proposal to stop publishing the honor roll came from a parent. Richards took the issue before the school council, which approved it. Parents were notified of the decision last month. Richards said he received about 60 responses from both parents and students and the feedback has been evenly split for and against.

Richards said one parent with three children attending Needham High told him publishing the honor roll is a constant cause of stress in her family. According to that parent, one of the three students routinely made the honor roll while the other two did not. Another parent who didn't want his name used said his two youngsters, a senior and a junior at Needham High, both consistently received honors and high honors. He said he, "took special pride in opening the newspaper and seeing his kids names." He said he could also see how the publishing of names could put stress on other kids who did not make it.

Richards said publishing of the honor roll represented "an unhealthy focus on grades." He pointed out that there are lots of other ways that students achieve, such as in clubs, musicals, concerts, athletics and community service. He said the ranking of students solely based on grades goes against the school's overall mission which is to "promote learning."

The Needham Times has traditionally published the school's honor roll. Editor-in-Chief Greg Reibman said the paper has "always been interested in recognizing the achievements of all Needham students -- not just in academics but in sports, the arts, community service, and in any other way." "We understand that the school is trying hard to deal with some enormous challenges. I don't think anyone believes this alone is going to solve some of these very tough issues, but we respect the decision of the experts who certainly have the students' best interests in mind," Reibman said.

Needham High's principal said the decision to no longer publish the honor roll is not nailed in cement. Richards said it is "subject to review." He said, "We'll go through this year without it and assess the impact on the school culture."



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