Thursday, December 31, 2020

Get Smart

Cisco tried. They really did. They worked hard. They looked high and low. For a Smart City. Couldn't find one. Surely they looked at the city that brags soooo much about how smart they are. After untold millions of dollars Cisco pulled the plug. Walking, at a good clip, away from any notion that these unicorns, smart cities, even exist. But if they did look at Dunwoody, and any of the newish cities in the area, they would have seen a bureaucracy dedicated to businesses and the support of developers where the people, through their representatives are structurally restricted from advancing their concerns. How smart is that? Apparently not smart enough for Cisco. But what do they know?

Monday, December 28, 2020

Quarter Acre And A Tool

We seem to have a recent spate of the Seven Dwarfs singing "Urban, urban uber alles" which at first seems quite odd. It came up in the great deer hunting hand-wringing sessions where someone laid out the line about "with 1/4 acre lots" as if ALL lots in Dunwoody are that small. Far from it. A quick ride through Dunwoody, say Happy Hollow south to the dead end, turn right, head on over to Peeler and scoot west to Chamblee Dunwoody and you will pass a significant number of lots much, much larger than a quarter acre. And you might be surprised to learn that quite a few Dunwoodians are on septic which is rarely done on 1/4 acre. Or maybe you'll remember the early days when the city wanted to locate pocket parks under power lines only to learn that land, with the easement alone more than 1/4 acre, actually belongs to homeowners adjacent to these lines. Of course city hall's hired guns and the dwarfs doing their bidding are not going to share those tidbits. 

Because the city wants to eliminate suburbia with suburban-scale lots replacing these with clutter homes on 1/4 acre lots, with high rise residences in Dunwoody Village, and with apartments everywhere. Why? Well developers certainly "support" this, but so do government grants. You probably feel a bit like Mr. Winkle, awakening to find out that the suburban home you bought is actually urban, and in decline. We now have a Friends-and-Family bureaucracy at city hall to deal with "urban renewal." Non-stop grant-grubbing. 

But they may be too late. Although significant investments have been sunk into propaganda suggesting this overly high density wasn't really about profiteering by greedy developers but was demanded by the coming wave of Gen-Z and Millennials the truth leaks out that as these younger generations come of age they actually prefer suburbia over urbanity. And this comes from credible sources like Forbes, and Business Insider and not some industry owned propaganda bureaucracy at city hall. And guess what these youngsters are really looking for? They want deluxe, upscale homes in the suburbs. EXACTLY what Dunwoody has always offered. EXACTLY what the city was allegedly founded to protect. And EXACTLY what folks at city hall who've sold out to developers intend to destroy. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

The New New

DeKalb public schools may now be leading the way toward a new, better future and it is the voices of teachers that are showing the way. 

DeKalb's teachers are not going back into the classroom and this is a forcing function. 

The force is being applied to parents and it causes parents to examine, to reflect and ultimately to act. The first examination is comparative: is the virtual classroom *really* inferior to the modus operandi of a year ago? Given this evaluation will be done by those receiving the service it will not be a polyannish, relativistic comparison, it will be harsh, realistic and objective: "even if my child is learning [virtually] nothing now, is that really any less than before?" 

As parents have more visibility and gain greater insight into the "who, what and how well" of what DeKalb has been doing they must inevitably conclude that before times were no better and in some ways worse than these after times. Thrust into the role of defacto teacher the incremental uplift to THE teacher, particularly for elementary grades will be a net win regarding effort and inconvenience and significant gain in learning. There will be parents who refuse to send their children back to the classroom, not because of COVID risks but educational harm. Because they have crossed "da Nile" and now they know. 

But then what?

Educationally, parents must grapple with the end-game, with the "when" and "how." Transitioning in the middle or later grades, in order to gain credentials, will result in an achievement mismatch with the parent-taught student far exceeding the industrial-educated child. The industry will insist that returning students place by age, rather than achievement. Think social demotion.

This will drive a movement to continue successful parent-child education through secondary levels and this will fuel a political movement. Parent-voters will demand a state level AP, SAT/ACT driven credentialing program accessible to families, bypassing the monopoly held by traditional schools. This movement will not ignore the money. No longer will eSPLOSTs be approved knowing that most of the money is wasted but with the hope that some, no matter how little, might benefit some students. Millage rates in excess of the constitutional limit will come under increased, intense scrutiny by voters and by the State. As the many pay for the increasingly few, even legal millage rates will be driven downward. 

This will all happen first in DeKalb but it will not long be limited to one school system. Public education is a failure. It has failed children. It has failed parents. It has failed society. Now a pandemic storm has swept away a profound fog of delusion and with parents, voters, seeing clearly change is inevitable and irreversible. 

If you are one of those whose vision is clear, thank a teacher.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Abandon All Hope...

...those who read this.

There ARE striking similarities to what has and is about to happen in DeKalb public schools, but before you get too worked up consider that folks in Brookline are generally wealthier and smarter than folks around these parts. Suck it up. The truth hurts. And yet that doesn't change the facts.

Even still the basic dynamics are hauntingly familiar. It is a long, but good read that will scare your mule.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Grade Inflation

How poetic: Dunwoody gets a "D."

Seriously, this is the kind of city with the kind of service to residents that would make reviewers on Amazon start with "I'd give it a zero if I could" because it is just that bad. There is only one reason this city could possibly rate a D: 'cuz Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Is There No End... the incompetence? 

Just look:

What's wrong with that picture? OK, fine, you're right. Latest update is weeks ago on a topic that is moving faster than a city bureaucrat handing out tax breaks to developers. To find out what is really wrong you have to see this boondoggle of a website in action. New! Improved! Really?

Look at the first thing under Resources: Dunwoody COVID-19 followed by FAQs. Yep, two separate links. Sorta but not really. Click on one, either one. It doesn't matter because they take you to the same circle of interweb hell:

Pretty cool, huh? The entirety of city hall summed up in a very short URL. What is this city about? Blank and blocked, that's what. At least if you are a mere resident. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Merely Adequate

Welcome to Georgia, home of merely adequate. We have enshrined in Article VIII, Section I:
The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia.
Don't spend too much time looking because you won't find the part where "adequate" is defined but you will find much about delegating this "primary obligation" to local yokels and you'll even find a millage cap handily exceeded by the DeKalb School System. We pay more than the legal limit begging the question: do we get more than the legal minimum?

  • DeKalb [literally] brags about a 2020 graduation rate of 75.97. Is almost one in four NOT graduating adequate?
  • Illiteracy in our schools is so chronic and so epidemic that evaluation and reporting has been squelched over the last decade as if even looking would be like a nausea inducing glance at fresh vomit. Older, un-canceled reports indicate that 29% of eight graders in the US are functionally illiterate and high school senior reading proficiency in decline with over 25% reading below the "basic" level. With Georgia lagging the nation and DeKalb below average in the state can anyone, outside DCSD, call this adequate?
  • Justification for taxing those who do not send any children to DeKalb public is a social contract, the notion that ALL of society, even the childless, benefit from an educated community. Are we getting an adequately educated population by any objective measure?
Are there any three reasonably objective (IE: not a DCSD employee) observers who would dare suggest that what DeKalb residents are getting from their public schools is even close to an "adequate education?" Maybe it is time to recognize, and act upon, the plain fact that DeKalb County Schools are in breach of the social contract and have failed in meeting the responsibilities required of them by the State's Constitution.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Giggle This

If you're paying attention to news from the Social Justice Universal Overlords you've probably heard that Timnit Gebru has parted ways with Google. Dr. Gebru has worked in AI and Machine Learning and has been an advocate for diversity in high tech. It should come as no surprise that most of her life has been spent in academia having earned her PhD in 2017. 

Google ain't academia. Google is big business. Yes, high tech. Yes with an impressive R+D department, which is where Dr. Gebru was assigned. But is IS business. So when Dr. Gebru co-authored a paper (does anyone write alone anymore?) it received internal review by her colleagues in the Research group and the feedback was not positive. Now this happens all the time with submissions to refereed journals in the academic arena. The author who prefers to publish rather than perish will make changes and re-submit. That is how academic publishing works.

In business things are bit different. When you work for a company your work product, like research, papers, software and patents are assigned to the company. Especially in high tech. So while the good doctor may have expected Google to hold her in the high esteem she would likely enjoy in academia this is business and it is Google's research and Google's paper to publish. Or not.

Dr. Gebru's reaction was what anyone in DeKalb would expect: overestimating her self-assigned importance she threatened to quit.  And Google did what any company should and most would do: they accepted her offer. She tried to characterize this as "being fired" but it was she who laid a threat on the table demanding they respond and expecting Google to back down and let her have whatever way she wanted. The SJW community reacted but impact was limited. Why you ask? There is no certain answer but it just may be that most folks are suffering from "whiner fatigue" exacerbated by pandemic loneliness. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

There Is No Going Back

Let's talk about schools. It should be obvious by now that in DeKalb there will be no return to F2F, in the classroom schooling. Some say this is nonsense pointing to other districts that are and have been in a return-to-the-classroom mode for some time. Others, equally hysterical, talk blood on hands, one is too many, and other hyperbolics spawned in their echo chamber to put an end to any consideration of classroom housed education. 

If we take a big step back perhaps we arrive at a defining question: so what?

It isn't as if the previous operation was any good, at least not if your concern is what your child learns and how well they compare to a broader cohort, say other children across America. And it isn't as if the U.S. as a whole is out in front on a global basis ranking 12th among the top twenty high income countries when it comes to literacy. Worse yet 50% of adults cannot read a book written at or above the 8th grade level and 44% do not read a book in any given year. More humorous than statistically sound, one must wonder what those 6% read-was it The Cat In The Hat or Bozo Bit The Balloon? According to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, 32 million of American adults are illiterate and 21 percent read below a 5th grade level. Even more damning, particularly of public education is the fact that 19 percent of high school graduates are functionally illiterate. And yet they have that sheepskin. 

So even in the before times public education was an epic fail delivering 1 out of five graduates that are functionally illiterate and this does not account for the approximately 5% that give up altogether. These are nationwide stats and let's go out on a limb and guess that DeKalb public schools are NOT an outlier on the high performing end. Just a guess, but it looks like a good one:

Yep. We suck.

It is not likely to have gotten much worse with "virtual-whatever-the-hell-is-going-on" simply because it always kinda sucked. Look at it this way: if nationwide 25% either left public schools diploma-ed but functionally illiterate or just left and DeKalb is worse than the national average then are we looking at a machine that pumps out one out of three that are, at best, functionally illiterate? Is this a system we want to return to? Can anyone even justify such an idiotic suggestion? 

And if you read "The Secret Shame" you'll conclude DeKalb isn't going to improve whether in a virtual or real world. The simple fact is that urbanesque systems, like DeKalb, are run by the left/liberal/progressives and as it turns out they haven't a clue when it comes to educating our children. Adjusted for all other factors and measuring educational outcomes the conservatives are serving up a can of educational whoopass to the liberals. Unfortunately at almost every level of education things are run by a liberal establishment and in DeKalb they are empowered with a $1B budget.

So. Is there any [value in] going back? Will it get any better? Can it get any worse? Isn't it all just an inevitable waste of money? Does any of it really matter? Does anyone even care? If they do, what will they, what can they, do about any of this?