History In Halstead

Location: Halstead, Kansas, United States

This is my seventh year at Halstead which is also where I live with my wife and my soon to be two year old daughter.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

I enjoyed this infographic from The Onion Posted by Hello

Crisis In Education

It seems that every summer I have at least one epiphany of education and then in the spring I have a crisis of education. Like clockwork yesterday was my day of crisis. Let me explain:

I am not the type of teacher who teaches because of some great idealized dream of changing the world and convincing all of my students that they can achieve whatever they can dream of. I am very practical about my job and career. This does not mean that I do not try to do my best. I take my career seriously and I do try to do the best job that I possibly can. The district pays me to do a job and I will do it to the best of my ability. This is just part of my personality. I am somewhat a perfectionist about any external task that might be evaluated. I tend to go above and beyond in attempts to impress others. Now here is the crisis:

I also expect that my students should have the same attitude about learning as I do about teaching. They might not want to learn something but since they are being evaluated they should do their best. It just seems natural too me. Sadly, it is not natural to some of my classes. Indifference has crept into my classroom and my students have been apathetic. This in turn hurts my drive to teach. It is tough to teach and be motivated when students are half asleep, talking to each other, doing another classes homework, staring at their pen cap, playing a game on a calculator, reading a book, drawing in their agenda, sketching on their hand, eating candy the snuck into class, reading a note they got passed, and drooling on the tables. It seems my energy level is based off of my student energy level. This is probably because I love questions in class and is students do not care then there aren’t a lot of questions.

So what is the solution? Well, I have decided to rededicate myself to the content of my class. I will teach it and expect my students to strive to do their best. Instead of slowing down and begging them to do well, I will keep the expectations high and the pace rigorous. I hope this will keep the energy level high and finish the year on a high note.

Speaking of high notes, I am currently helping a former graduate with a paper on the Brown v. Board case. She is writing on Eisenhower’s role in the case and his views. She is supporting the hidden hand theory that says Ike played a significant role in the pushing civil rights even though he did not show much support in his words. It is always a pleasure to help a student in their pursuit of historical knowledge.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Becky Is Brilliant

In an ongoing discussion about the minimum wage law, Becky brought up this issue that I think deserves some discussion:
Debates are really great for some people, but debates like this one, for me, are really frustrating. I can state what I think all I want, and if I'm successful, maybe I"ll even change someone's mind! But what does that DO really? Addressing issues is very important and being educated on things, but I always feel so empty. What have I actually done to accomplish anything? Jim Wallice came to speak at our school a few weeks ago, and he said something that really struck me. A lot of middle-upper class people like to talk about things like this and feel like our opinion is right, but then we just go back to our comfortable lives and not do anything. To me, there's only so much talking can do for me. I think action should be implemented more in schools, and everywhere! Global warming is a good example ^_^--we can sure talk about it a lot and know a lot about the issue, but that won't stop it from happening. Riding a bike or walking to cut down on gas is just one thing the individual can do. I want to feel the same way about all the issues we debate about--if we feel so strongly about issues, what action can WE take to make things better?

My first thoughts are: learning that people do have other opinions than yours, and then looking at the merits of each side can change peoples' minds or strengthen your own views. Trying to get student's to be independent thinkers is one of major goals as a teacher. I am not sure I totally agree with all of what Jim Wallice says. I think younger people (freshmen and sophomores in high school and some older than that)should listen and talk first and that will hopefully promote learning. From there they can decide if further action in warranted. For instance, a lot of students can be easily persuaded and I think if they were to mobilize into action everytime they heard something then they would never actually achieve anything of substance.

As far as action: I think there could be some major problems if schools try to take a role of promoting specific actions. How can educational institutions promote social agendas that many people (students, tax payers, parents, communities...) would not support. For instance, could a school really promote action on issues of religion, abortion, welfare, prison reform, taxation, immigration, environmental policy, gun control, or elections. I do not think you want to have schools telling a captive audience of impressionable minds what view is right or wrong. So instead, I think the safe and productive route is encouraging intelligent debate in a open and safe forum.

What do you think? What should schools do and encourage?

Immigration and Reduced Wages

I come back to this topic every now and then. Usually, when I find information the supports my view that free trade and open immigration is good. Today I read a post by Bryan Caplan over at EconLog and he makes a good point about the argument that immigration reduces wages:

Everyone in a country can get richer as per-capita income falls. Proof by example: Suppose the residents of Country A earn $50,000 per year each without immigration, and $60,000 per year with immigration. They benefit from cheaper lawn-mowing. The residents of Country B earn $2,000 per year if they stay at home, or $10,000 per year if they immigrate to Country A to mow lawns.

Now what happens to per-capita income in Country A if immigrants double the population? Per-capita income falls from $50,000 to .5*$60,0000 + .5*$10,000=$35,000. The more immigrants come in, the more steeply per-capita income declines. "Immigrants hurt our standard of living. QED!"

Of course, nothing of the kind has happened. By assumption, immigration makes both natives and immigrants richer. But per-capita income declines, as a matter of pure arithmetic. The numbers don't lie, but they are very easily misinterpreted.

He has some other examples for different situations that are also worth reading.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

An Interesting Way Of Explaining It

Here is the link to a reprint of a wonderful article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

If You're Paying, I'll Have Top Sirloin

It gives a wonderful metaphor about government spending and why I am extremely prudent about raising taxes and increased government spending. Here is a sample from the article:

This reminds me of a very strange restaurant. When you eat there, you usually spend about $6— you have a sandwich, some fries and a drink. Of course you'd also enjoy dessert and a second drink, but that costs an additional $4. The extra food isn't worth $4 to you, so you stick with the $6 meal. Sometimes, you go to the same restaurant with three friends. The four of you are in the habit of splitting the check evenly. You realize after a while that the $4 drink and dessert will end up costing you only $1, because the total tab is split four ways. Should you order the drink and dessert?

Read the entire article and see if it meshes with your views?

I would be especially interested to see how Brittany and Becky feel about it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Another Teachers Blog

I enjoy reading other people's blogs and occasionally I come across one that is especially relevant. Enter A Passion for Teaching and Opinions. This is an economics and government teacher in California who is also a basketball coach. Gee, no wonder I like him. Anyway, Coach Brown has some interesting things to say and he didn't rub in the Bucknell game too much.

I strongly encourage you to take a look at his site and really consider responding to some of his posts. He has some interesting takes on a lot of subjects.

PS Glenn if happen to read this, here is another great reason to use blogs!

PSS I also have Coach Brown linked on my favorites lists.

I Love The West Wing

I have loved the West Wing since it came on the air. I still look forward to watching it every Wednesday on NBC and then again and again on Bravo. I have the DVD series and can not wait until the next episode. Anyway, tonight's episode was one of the best in a long time. It was great entertainment and good education. Let me tell you my thoughts:

1. Alan Alda is a great actor. He makes a great moderate Republican candidate and he comes off as a wonderful Senator.

2. Tonight's episode had a lot of good issues in it. A close democratic primary, a debate about religion in politics, an interesting debate about the vice-president and the idea of balancing the ticket, the idea of increasing the debt ceiling and finally the minimum wage law. Imagine all this great stuff in one episode

My only beef is this (pardon me for sounding like a complete West Wing junkie here but bear with me. Also my brother will appreciate this). President Bartlett came out in favor of raising the minimum wage law. He states that it is the right thing to do. Now this is not a surprising thing from a Democratic president but remember he is also a Nobel prize winner in economics. The same winner who supported reducing tariffs, allowing outsourcing (creative destruction), and increasing immigration. I am really surprised that a Nobel prize winner would support the raising of a minimum wage. This was the only problem in an otherwise wonderful episode.

FOR DISCUSSION: Have you ever seen a TV show that references something you discussed or learned in school?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Basketball In Kansas Is Over

What a depressing week for Kansas basketball.

First K-State Men do not get an NIT bid

Then KU loses in the first round of the NCAA tournament

Then Wichita State loses on an incredible hail mary pass with 0.7 seconds to go for a wide open layup in the NIT second round

And finally K-State women lose late last night to a very good Vanderbilt team.

I would think that this is about as bad as it can get for basketball in the state.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Afraid To Ask Questions

This was an interesting post on from the History News Network about students talking during school.It seems that a lot of students do not like to ask questions. According to the article:
A recent newspaper article about asking questions in the public school classroom poses an interesting problem. It seems that many middle school students in the Milwaukee area and elsewhere, as many as one in three, are afraid to ask teachers questions because their peers will tease them, calling them “stupid” or “dumb.” Says one girl, “When you’re in school, the thing you care about most is what other people think.” Other reasons for student silence include a child’s temperament, poor language skills, and unsympathetic teachers. The unwillingness to participate in class carries a price: Educational specialists observe that students who don'’t ask questions are likely to fall behind, become discouraged, and lose interest in school.

This is a huge problem. The classroom needs to be a place where there is a complete open forum to discuss ideas, theories, feelings and just generally absorb more knowledge. Asking questions essential to this pursuit. I am not sure students realize how much better classes are when the students are asking questions and contributing to the discussion. I think sometimes one of my weaknesses as a teacher is not fostering and encouraging enough questions. Hopefully the rest of this year I can do better.


Yet another reason I love teaching.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

I Don't Mean To Brag But...

my daughter is pretty darn cute. Check her out at my wife's blog, Lindsey's Mom Lindsey just turned five months and is doing well. She still doesn't do any cool tricks but I think dshe is working on something pretty awesome. I'll keep you up to date.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

How To Tell If You Know Your Econ

Read this post from Institutional Economics. If you smile or laugh at least three times then you know your economics. If you have already read it than you really into economics.

This just makes me laugh for some reason. Maybe it is the expression? Posted by Hello

Find The Career For You

I came across the 2005 Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor. It is a must browse for any high school students. It lists numerous jobs available in the United States along with descriptions and projections through 2012. It also lists the requirements for these jobs and other similar type jobs.

I do not think that most students know all the jobs and fields they can go into. I really feel it is a crime to enter into a field of work that you do not have a passion for. Obviously salary is important but you also need to make sure that you are happy doing your job since you might be there for close to 40 years.

FOR DISCUSSION: Go to the Handbook and find a job that interests you that you did not know about. Tell me about it.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Former Student Makes Me Think

Brittany made this comment in response to Small School Unintentional Tracking and it really got me thinking:
Students are definitely placed on a gradient that determines how they are viewed academically by the teachers (and perhaps themselves)
Who is resposible for what level of class a student is placed into: the student, the teacher, the parents or someone else?

What effect does the level of class have on a students performance? Do students try harder in certain classes?

Do teachers view students of different levels as better or worse than others?

Efforts to raise minimum wage fail

I am happy to see this for a number of reasons:

The Senate on Monday defeated two proposals to raise the minimum wage, in a test of muscle over what's expected to be a yearlong struggle to increase an income floor that's gone unchanged for nine years.

A Democratic proposal to raise the rate by $5.15 to $7.25 over three years failed 49-46 in the Senate Monday. A Republican proposal to increase it to $6.25 in two years fared even worse, losing 61-38.

The proposals came as amendments to legislation that would make it harder for individuals to file bankruptcy, a priority bill with financial institutions and credit card companies. In neither case did sponsors of the measures expect to win, because leaders of both parties had set a 60-vote super majority threshold for passage. That unusual arrangement allowed both sides to get senators' votes on the record but protected the underlying bankruptcy bill against delaying ploys.

The debate pitted a proposal by Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass., to raise the minimum wage by $2.10 against an amendment by Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., that would raise it by $1.10. Santorum's proposal also would have exempted businesses with revenues of less than $1 million. The current exemption level is $500,000.

Santorum also would have permitted workers and their employers to negotiate compensatory time over a two-week, 80-hour period rather than the current 40-hour workweek. Critics said that would deny hourly workers overtime pay.

"Americans are working harder than any other industrial nation in the world," Kennedy said. "They are producing more but making less."

Why I am I glad about this:
1. Many economists point out that in the long run minimum wage laws create more unemployment and poverty.

2. Minimum wage laws increase the price of goods which often times hurts the ones that these laws are trying to help.

3. I think national minimum wage laws are unneeded. I have no problem with local laws but its is silly to make the national law that is below the levels in most of the nation.

4. Finally Sen. Kennedy's line: "Americans are working harder than any other industrial nation in the world. They are producing more but making less." is in my opinion the mistake many people fall into when listening to politicians. The quote has no real economic implication but it says that corporations are greedy and trying to take advantage of the worker. I would like to ask Sen. Kennedy if he would like rather see Americans producing less but making more and dealing with the inflation that it would bring.

FOR DISCUSSION: What are your opinions of minimum wage laws?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Economics Online Question #5

Many believe that Frank Baum's "The Wizard of Oz," is an allegory concerning a certain economic debate that took place in the late 1800s. What was this monetary debate and who did the characters in the story represent?

I Found Out How To Add Links!!!

I feel so technologically superior today!!!!! I have wanted to add a links section and I have done it!!! I still can not get it to have the cool fonts that the Archives section has but that is OK for now. I have links!!!

Small School Unintentional Tracking

Most who read this blog know that I teach in a small school district in the Middle of Kansas. Recently, I have noticed that there has been a shift in how we group students. When I first came to Halstead students had very open choices in their class selections. There were only a few parameters like "All juniors took US History".

Over the past few years some changes have happened. Some changes have been teacher driven and others have been due to the priority status of the Kansas State Assessment Tests. We have added a variety of remedial and and honors classes to better serve our students. While the intention is good I have noticed that we have unofficially started to track students. Let me give you an example:

A students who is taking more of the slower paced classes is going to automatically be pushed into a specific US history class? Why? Our small district has only three US History classes and all but one coincide with classes catered to students who take more time to get certain concepts. This means that all of those students are in a specific US History class. The same thing happens to those students in advance classes. Why is this bad?

Well, it takes away from a diverse or heterogeneous classroom. It stifles creativity and it limits the development of interpersonal skills. I am not sure it will lead to the demise of the nation but it is something that needs to be thought about.

Dragons End Their Season

The Halstead Dragons lost to the Hesston Swathers on Friday night. The final score was 56-45. It was a strange game because we just never seemed to play with any confidence or determination which is strange for this team. We led by one going into halftime but just never could get it going in the second half. Congratulations to the Swathers who went on to beat Hillsboro and advance to the state tournament. Halstead will say good bye to four wonderful seniors:
Omar Hasan
Robbie Knapp
Nate Carmichael
Bryson Deewall
These four seniors showed great leadership and were the spirit of this years team. It was fun to watch them over the past four years.

Anyway, we now move into golf season. It should an interesting year. There is a lot of potential but a very young inexperienced team. We are fortunate to have an assistant coach this year which will be a tremendous help.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Comments From the Supreme Court

I was reading the comments and questions from the Supreme Court debate on Ten Commandment Monuments on public property. I thought these two comments were especially interesting:

"If an atheist walks by, they can avert their eyes," said Justice Kennedy, who also complained of society's "obsessive concern with any mention of religion."

Scalia was persistent in proclaiming the religious meaning of the Ten Commandments. "It is a symbol that government derives its authority from God, and that's appropriate," said Scalia. For those who disagree, Scalia said, "turn your eyes away if it is such a big deal for you."

I am not sure exactly what I think of the comments or the cases yet but I am leaning towrds saying the monuments should be removed. I think a valid argument could be made that depending on the version of the commandments used on the monument, you could have an endorsement of religion so it probably is best to remove it.

Of course, I also see the historical importance of the commandments in the establishment of law. I guess I am sitting on the fence on this one. Maybe this is why I am not a Supreme Court Justice.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


The Halstead Boys basketball team beat the Marion Warriors tonight in the first round of substate play! Sweet!

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