Wednesday: Hili dialogue

June 1, 2022 • 6:30 am

It’s not only the first of June 2022, but also Hump Day (Wednesday), known as (read right to left, as required):

כאַמפּ טאָגx

(or “khamp tog”) In Yiddish. It’s also National Candy Month, National Dairy Month, National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, National Iced Tea Month, and National Papaya Month. As far as day anniversaries, it’s National Hazelnut Cake Day as well as World Milk Day. I had milk in my morning latte, so I’m good.

Stuff that happened on June 1 include:

  • 1533 – Anne Boleyn is crowned Queen of England.
  • 1812 – War of 1812: U.S. President James Madison asks the Congress to declare war on the United Kingdom.
  • 1857 – Charles Baudelaire‘s Les Fleurs du mal is published.

What will a first edition of this classic cost you? About $28,000, but $217,000 if signed:


Brandeis is below, a handsome man. I won’t be alive when there’s an open atheist appointed to the Supreme Court. (Or has one already been? I’m not sure.)

A news report on the trial. Eichmann was cremated, and his ashes scattered at sea (outside the territorial waters of Israel) so there would be no memorial to the man.

  • 1974 – The Heimlich maneuver for rescuing choking victims is published in the journal Emergency Medicine.

Be aware that there’s an alternative maneuver, the “Five and Five” that is recommended by the Red Cross over the Heimlich maneuver (you can use both, though, in alternation). Here’s a diagram, and see the Mayo Clinic guide for how to identify and then help a choking person:

  • 2001 – Nepalese royal massacre: Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal shoots and kills several members of his family including his father and mother.
  • 2004 – Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols is sentenced to 161 consecutive life terms without the possibility of a parole, breaking a Guinness World Record.

Nichols is serving his sentence in the federal prison ADX Florence (Colorado), a hellhole of a place where the most dangerous federal prisoners are kept. Many are locked in their cells 23 hours a day, don’t associate with other inmates, and get one hour out per day for exercise.  The cell.


*The EU has considerably reduced oil imports from Russia, ostensibly by 90% but really by only about 2/3. The reason is that the reduction refers only to oil delivered by ship, not by pipeline. But Russia can sell its surplus oil to plenty of other countries, even if they have to offer a discount. The upshot: a sanction that will squeeze Russia a bit but not all that hard.

*Biden’s approval ratings, according to Five Thirty Eight, are about as low as they’ve ever been, and are about as low as Trump’s lows. Here’s the timeline since Uncle Joe took office.

*The NBC Evening News last night said that Biden has tasked his aides and White House officials to craft a message that will boost the approval ratings, but don’t know what they’re supposed to say. That seems a bit pathetic, and is confirmed by an article on NBC article called “Inside a Biden White House adrift.”

Faced with a worsening political predicament, President Joe Biden is pressing aides for a more compelling message and a sharper strategy while bristling at how they’ve tried to stifle the plain-speaking persona that has long been one of his most potent assets.

Biden is rattled by his sinking approval ratings and is looking to regain voters’ confidence that he can provide the sure-handed leadership he promised during the campaign,people close to the president say.

Crises have piled up in ways that have at times made the Biden White House look flat-footed: record inflation, high gas prices, a rise in Covid case numbers — and now a Texas school massacre that is one more horrific reminder that he has been unable to get Congress to pass legislation to curb gun violence. Democratic leaders are at a loss about how he can revive his prospects by November, when midterm elections may cost his party control of Congress.

Ceiling Cat help us!

*In fact, Biden wrote his own editorial (well, someone wrote it under his name), publishing it in the Wall Street Journal, of all places: “Joe Biden: My plan for fighting inflation.” Excerpts from his tripartite plan:

My plan has three parts:

First, the Federal Reserve has a primary responsibility to control inflation. My predecessor demeaned the Fed, and past presidents have sought to influence its decisions inappropriately during periods of elevated inflation. I won’t do this. I have appointed highly qualified people from both parties to lead that institution. I agree with their assessment that fighting inflation is our top economic challenge right now.

Second, we need to take every practical step to make things more affordable for families during this moment of economic uncertainty—and to boost the productive capacity of our economy over time. The price at the pump is elevated in large part because Russian oil, gas and refining capacity are off the market. We can’t let up on our global effort to punish Mr. Putin for what he’s done, and we must mitigate these effects for American consumers. . .

. .. . Third, we need to keep reducing the federal deficit, which will help ease price pressures.

He paints a pretty rosy and hopeful picture, but that’s what all Presidents do when the economy is in dire straits.

*This barely even qualifies as news any more. For what it’s worth, it’s from the West Cook News, the organ of West Cook Illinois. The opening of the article, “OPRF to implement race-based grading system in 2022-2023 school year.” [
“OPRF = Oak Park and River Forest ] Here’s what they’re going to do:

Oak Park and River Forest High School administrators will require teachers next school year to adjust their classroom grading scales to account for the skin color or ethnicity of its students.

School board members discussed the plan called “Transformative Education Professional Development & Grading” at a meeting on May 26, presented by Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning Laurie Fiorenza.

In an effort to equalize test scores among racial groups, OPRF will order its teachers to exclude from their grading assessments variables it says disproportionally hurt the grades of black students. They can no longer be docked for missing class, misbehaving in school or failing to turn in their assignments, according to the plan.

“Traditional grading practices perpetuate inequities and intensify the opportunity gap,” reads a slide in the PowerPoint deck outlining its rationale and goals.

It calls for what OPRF leaders describe as “competency-based grading, eliminating zeros from the grade book…encouraging and rewarding growth over time.”

Teachers are being instructed how to measure student  “growth” while keeping the school leaders’ political ideology in mind.

If there is no equity now, it must be imposed by redefining “merit” so that all groups get the same average grade.

Grading: (h/t: cesar)

But: there’s GOOD news tonight. Reader Sue calls my attention to two accounts of Quack Responders rescuing ducklings that have fallen into a storm drain (believe me, it’s a big issue for urban mallards!). One rescue was in San Francisco, and the hapless babies were restored to Mom:

The other rescue was in Dublin, California, where cops used a drone to locate the babies. The tweet is below; its not clear if they’ll be put with Mom, but if they aren’t, theyll have to go to a good rehab facility:

Who says that all cops are bastards!  NOT TRUE!

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, it’s time for the Great Awakening:

Szaron: Are you sure that he is asleep?
Hili: I think so.
Szaron: So we can start walking on him.
In Polish:
Szaron: Jesteś pewna, że on już śpi?
Hili: Chyba tak.
Szaron: To możemy zacząć po nim chodzić.

And here’s baby Kulka:


From Merilee:

From Bruce:

From Dom: copulating spiders. Well, to each species their own. . .

From Simon, an example of an unprovoked anti-Semitic attack (they happen in NYC far more often than you hear about them). But a truck driver comes to the rescue! Sound up.

From Barry: time-lapses of plants. . . and a new word for you.

From Ginger K.: a rock-climbing panther and a befuddled lion:

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew Cobb. Both of us love weasels, ermines, and stoats; perhaps it’s something about the elongated bodies. But their faces are cute, too.

Shouldn’t somebody try to stop that thing?

It still baffles me why medieval artists screwed up so badly when they tried to draw cats:

This is an excellent tweet from Bette Midler. And of course there’s no rational answer:

61 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. That school adjusting grades by race reminds me of the old joke:

    Doctor: You need an operation.

    Patient: I can’t afford one.

    Doctor: Well, give me ten bucks and I’ll retouch the x-rays.

  2. Or has one already been? I’m not sure.

    How about Obama and Trump. Were they religious?

    Towards the end of his life, Adolf Eichmann may not have been a Christian in the traditional sense. But he did say he believed in God.

  3. Oak Park and River Forest High School administrators will require teachers next school year to adjust their classroom grading scales to account for the skin color or ethnicity of its students.

    If the measures are only applied to certain groups by race/ethnicity, then I have to think this is illegal. Title 7 of the Civil Rights act prevents such discrimination in any program receiving federal funding, and I’d take good odds that Illinois takes federal education dollars. Even if they don’t, it would surprise me if this didn’t violate some Illinois state anti-discrimination law.

    If it’s applied to everyone, then it’s “merely” a bad idea. I’m not even sure how you implement the “no penalty for not handing in work.” If you don’t give the student a zero for not doing an assignment, what do you give them? Does this mean students are only graded on the work they hand in? So if I ace my very first assignment, I should not do any more work in the class for fear that any other assignment will lower my grade? Talk about perverse incentives!

    1. Wow. Clearly illegal, yes. However, the same could be said of affirmative action policies in employment, and look how long that’s been going on. It’s no surprise that the policies mirror each other. It’ll be interesting to see the challenges. I don’t think they’ll succeed – at least no time soon.

    2. My last principal tried to implement a no-deadlines policy and was even going to force us teachers to grade assignments during the summer🙀😵‍💫Insanity! Real life doesn’t work that way.

  4. Brandeis is below, a handsome man. I won’t be alive when there’s an open atheist appointed to the Supreme Court. (Or has one already been? I’m not sure.)

    I’ve always suspected that William O. Douglas, who served on the Court for 38 years after being appointed to replace Brandeis was an atheist, even though his father had been a Presbyterian minister.

    During that last six years of Louis Brandeis’s 22-year term on the Court, he served alongside fellow Jew Benjamin Cardozo (who had previously spent a distinguished career as chief judge of the highest court of the State of New York). Cardozo died in office in July 1938 and Brandeis retired in February 1939. Cardozo was replaced by justice Felix Frankfurter, thereby establishing what became known as the “Jewish seat” on SCOTUS, being held in turn by Cardozo, Frankfurter, Arthur Goldberg, and Abe Fortas. After Fortas was forced to resign amidst an ethics scandal in 1969, I don’t believe there was another Jew on the Court until RBG in 1993. Ginsburg was joined the following year by Stephen Breyer — the first time since the 1930s that there were two Jews on SCOTUS — and they were joined in 2010 by Elena Kagan, the first and only time in history that three seats on SCOTUS were held by Jews at the same time.

    1. If an openly atheist person were nominated, the senators would not question him or her on his or her religious views, would they? That would be messy. And it would be good entertainment 🙂

  5. In other news of the day, SCOTUS has blocked the Texas law which would have forbidden Twitter, Facebook, from regulating and blocking some user content. It’s a temporary block, as the suit against it makes its way through the system.

    What’s interesting is the lineup: Roberts, Kavanaugh, Barrett, Sotomayor, Breyer approved the block, while Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kagan were against. Figure that one out, Ken!

    1. Strange bedfellows, indeed. That’s the kind of weird line-up one sometimes sees in Free Exercise Clause religion cases.

  6. That guy who came in with the tractor to stop that cart is the hero. The end of that cycle looks like it would have hit the plane, and then you’d have a real issue.

    As for Bette Midler, I wonder how much private security she has? I daresay she doesn’t think that they should be disarmed. As Uvalde showed, now more than ever, when seconds matter the police are just 78 minutes away.

    1. This is exactly the sort of reflexive reductio ad absurdum that makes mainstreamers wonder what the heck right-wingers put in their tea, to make them so paranoid.

      No, a push to regulate how many guns, what type of guns, and where guns can be carried by the regular populace would not instantly require that all private security people be disarmed. The UK went that way, but Australia and NZ didn’t, and Canada sort of went in the middle (in some cases they can be armed, but not all cases). Midler is being perfectly reasonable, and it’s not at all hypocritical, to push for expanded gun control laws while supporting the concept of armed security guards. Only the Sith, and the NRA it seems, deal in absolutes. 🙂

      1. I think DrBrydon’s point was different. Certainly wealthy celebrities living in walled compounds would not expect their own security to be compromised, whether police are defunded of law abiding people are disarmed.

      2. And yet it was a Jedi who made that statement, which is in fact an “absolute” statement, about the Sith. Sorry, this is not an important response to any substantive points, but it has always bothered me that Obi-wan got away with that. 😉

      3. To correct any misapprehension about carriage of firearms by private security employees in Canada: It is more correct to say that while some guards can be armed, the vast majority of security guards (and ordinary residents) will not be deemed eligible to carry, even to protect movie stars up here in Hollywood North. The only commonly seen armed private security are armoured-car guards engaged in transferring cash for the banks, including refilling ATMs. They carry holstered pistols provided by the armoured-car company, worn on the exterior of company uniforms, not concealed carry. Licences to carry restricted weapons like handguns are granted at the discretion of a chief firearms officer who is a member of the RCMP; he almost always says No. Of course members of criminal gangs are armed however they see fit without any oversight at all. So far this seems to work OK for most people as most shootings occur between people who know each other and we don’t care overly much about the personal safety of foreign movie stars. Some deterrence is achieved by prompt arrests after most shootings. Yes, really.

        If Bette Midler or her bodyguards carry handguns, they would not be able to bring them into Canada. If they wanted to do some hunting while they were here, they could bring in most bolt-action rifles under a 60-day visitors permit. If Ms. Midler is good with that, I’m OK with her.

        It is stated government policy to mandate eventually a compulsory buy-back of the centre-fire semi-auto rifles like the AR-15 that were put on the prohibited list in 2020. The current regime where you can own them but not use or buy/sell them is described as an amnesty until the government figures out a way to take them away with the minimum fuss. The just announced intent to similarly freeze the handgun market (because of the Uvalde shooting) is also reasonably seen as a prelude to a mandatory buyback/seizure. It’s fine to argue that disarming people of everything except hunting firearms is exactly what the government should be doing. But to call it paranoid when opponents of the plan worry that that’s what the government intends to do with gun “control” seems unfair.

      1. And yet rich people don’t move to the UK just to save the expense of armed private security. I wonder why not.
        Do you really think Russian oligarchs and money launderers in London aren’t capable of armed response?

        1. And yet rich people don’t move to the UK just to save the expense of armed private security. I wonder why not.

          That’s not the point. I was answering a comment that implied Bette Midler should not be criticising US gun laws because she has armed private security (although no evidence was advanced for that assertion). The armed private security actually has no bearing on Bette Midler’s comments. Maybe she’d prefer to live in a society where she doesn’t need armed private security.

          Do you really think Russian oligarchs and money launderers in London aren’t capable of armed response?

          It’s illegal for any private person to carry a hand gun in the UK. I’m not saying that the bodyguards of Russian oligarchs in the UK are not armed, but if they are and if they get caught, they are in for mandatory jail time, especially if they discharge their fire arms.

    1. As I’m sure you know, that ‘marmot’ was actually a ferret. A marmot is a rodent, a high-altitude woodchuck.

  7. On the choking first aid: I have saved my (late) Mom from choking, twice, and my son and wife once each. Each time the thump on the back did it. But that picture isn’t very good. You need to bend someone over quite far to get the best assist from gravity.

    I have also saved myself from choking by giving myself a self-Heimlich using the back of a chair. It was 4am, I was eating breakfast and no one else in the house was awake.

    1. I’ve used the Heimlich twice. The first time on a customer at a restaurant I was working at in the late 70s, the second time, thirty-something years later, when my sons and ex-wife (with whom I had learned the technique when I accompanied her to a first-aid class while she was in nursing school) were at my house having dinner and she started choking.

      No sooner had she coughed up whatever she was choking on than she turned around and accused me of having given her an extra hard shot to the solar plexus for old-time’s sake. 🙂

  8. The West Cook news report, copied by many right-wing sites, is at best pre-mature and at worst an outright lie. The school district has emphatically denied that it is going to a race based grading system. The school district has issued a statement saying this: “Prior to implementing grading changes, if any, recommendations will be made to the Board at a public meeting. Again, contrary to the title of the article, the district has not implemented, and has no intention of implementing, any grading and assessment policy based on race. “

    Moreover, a media bias rating site has stated about West Cook News: “In conclusion, the West Cook News is an imposter site, lacks transparency, and publishes false information. As a result, we rate them right-center, biased, and Questionable.”

    Obviously, I cannot predict whether the school district will in the future implement a race based grading system in disguise. But, as of now the right-wing site is accusing the school district of something that has yet to be implemented or approved.

    1. Here’s another link that seems pretty even-handed.

      But even from OPRFHS’ own statements, a couple things seem pretty clear: (1) they are lowering standards (2) motivated at least in part by a desire for equity and to address the “racial and socioeconomic discrepancies often experienced by our underrepresented student population.” (That quote from Laurie Fiorenza, OPRFHS Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning.)

      Reading between the lines, it also sounds like they had serious problems with their on-line learning during Covid. I.e. it sounds like this is when kids started skipping classes and assignments etc. Which bad habits might be hard to break as they come back to in-person schooling. I empathize, but I don’t think the best solution is to eliminate zeroes or ignoring it when kids don’t do assignments. Maybe for the first semester you hand out easier homework so that the kids have an easy time getting back into the swing of doing it. But you still expect them to do it, you still grade it, and you absolutely expect non-disruptive attendance. The latter is not really about the student, it’s about ensuring the other students get the education the state has promised them.

    1. A friend of mine got into a spot of bother when his flight was delayed because a food truck hit his plane. I don’t know how it happened. But now that I’ve seen the video…

      By the way, I am getting the edit button now. I don’t know if anyone’s fixed anything or prayed in exactly the right way; but I got it consistently yesterday, and it’s turning up this morning. Cool stuff!

  9. Speaking of bad drawings of cats, I’ve just started watching a movie, “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” (streaming on Amazon). He was an eccentric artist who drew lots of cats in the early 1900s. Our host did a writeup about him in a Caturday post from a couple of years ago. It stars the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch. If the film is at all accurate, Wain was a strange fellow indeed! The cats don’t appear until about halfway through the film, which is about how far I’ve watched. I can’t say it’s a great movie but it has lots of cats I suspect. Here’s the IMDB entry:

  10. “From Simon, an example of an unprovoked anti-Semitic attack (they happen in NYC far more often than you hear about them). But a truck driver comes to the rescue!”

    And it does seem that black males are, disproportionally, the aggressors in these situations. This is the part that has the woke left very uncomfortable on how to report such incidents, as an oppressed class (black men) are abusing another historically oppressed class (Jewish people), but who are also considered mostly “white”.

    But since racism by their lights is “prejudice + power”, this leaves the left scratching their heads as to whether these can be considered race-based attacks, as “oppressed groups cannot be racist.” For me, there is almost certainly racial and anti-Semitic bigotry that is motivating these attacks, and it’s an easy call to classify these as racial and anti-Semitic hate crimes.

    This is yet more evidence that the “prejudice + power” definition of racism is bogus.

    1. To be fair, it doesn’t mean “prejudice + power” is bogus but just isn’t a universal explanation for racism. There’s definitely some truth to “structural racism” but the claim that all racism is structural is definitely bogus.

      1. “There’s definitely some truth to “structural racism” but the claim that all racism is structural is definitely bogus.”

        John McWhorter recently proposed getting rid of the term “structural racism”, because the often vague and indirect effects of past policies and cultural practices on group differences today are a completely different type of phenomenon than what motivates racial incidents (see definition of racism below).

        And those who love the “prejudice + power” definition only invented it, in the words of Thomas Sowell, to define away incidents when people of color were clearly exhibiting racism.

        By racism, we mean dividing the world into discrete racial groups, assigning (often negative) characteristics to these groups, and assuming any member of said group has these characteristics and therefore it is legitimate to abuse them. Which is exactly what we see in that video.

          1. That is a good example, however keep in mind that many black leaders supported harsh laws against drug dealers as they were so concerned with the effects of drugs on their communities.

            When I think of “structural racism”, I like Coleman Hughes description of it. Its the “plug” that is rolled out when we see group differences that are otherwise hard to explain.,

            For instance, at the YMCA we go to, there is a poster by the main swimming pool detailing the statistics on how people of color are disproportionately victims of drowning, even at public pools. One may call this “structural racism”. However, it is clearly the side effect of far fewer black kids getting access to swimming lessons, not racist practices at pools where life guards refuse to rescue black kids. Some of that lack of access may be due to cost, but in our case the YMCA gives free swimming lessons to disadvantaged groups. So there may be other issues as well, such as what time of the day the swimming lessons are held (which may cause problems for single parent households), and even cultural resistance to the importance of swimming lessons.

            In other words, the disproportionately higher rates of drowning in the POC community may in fact be a problem that has some decidedly non-racist causes, and labeling it “structural racism” may artificially increase the amount of actual racism reported in our society.

            1. Sure, things are always more complicated than they might seem. The swimming issue is another good example of structural racism. Sure, there are undoubtedly places where the problem has been ameliorated by, say, YMCA pools, there are still probably ten places for every one where such a solution is available. I can also imagine that “black people don’t learn how to swim” is a meme that prevents Black people from getting lessons even when they are available. It’s going to take many generations to remove racism from society, if it ever happens at all.

              1. Agreed, but my main issue with the term “structural racism” is that it is not only too vague, but it can hinder racial progress.

                For instance, those good employees at the YMCA that I described, who offer free swimming lessons to POC and try their best even to arrange transportation and offer flexible class schedules as additional accommodations, are decidedly anti-racist people. Yet, someone from the outside who merely looks at the drowning rates and labels that as “structural racism at the Y” is in fact smearing those people who are doing their best to fix a problem they did not create.

                That could be a huge disincentive to those people to continue such thankless efforts.

              2. Why would anyone call it “structural racism at the Y”? What is your evidence that that is happening? I don’t see how your “poster at poolside” anecdote supports this. Assuming that what the poster says is true, isn’t it just stating an important statistic? Are you just saying that it’s some sort of political statement and, therefore, doesn’t belong at the Y — the politicization of swimming in other words?

              3. “Why would anyone call it “structural racism at the Y”? What is your evidence that that is happening? ”

                Easy…they could point to the drowning rates and simply conclude that black people are systematically discriminated against at places that offer swimming lessons, of which the YMCA must be one of the main providers in the US. How does the discrimination occur? The anti-racists would have no issues coming up with reasons:

                – Maybe POC are excluded up-front (as in falsely told that some classes no longer have openings,), perhaps in insidious ways such as name-profiling and other gate-keeping tactics.
                – Maybe POC are given lower-quality lessons or disproportionately assigned to classes with poorer instructors.
                – Maybe the lessons are deliberately scheduled at times inconvenient to POC.
                – Where are they POC swimming instructors? They could note the lack of instructors who are POC as evidence of racism.
                – Note the paucity of POC on the numerous competitive swim teams that the YMCA sponsors. More racism!

                Ergo, the “swim culture” at the Y must be systematically racist.

                I mean, it took me 30 seconds to think of those…I’m sure the woke could come up with many more!

                It’s not hard at all to see how this would occur… haven’t you been aware of all of the anti-racist zeitgeist that we live in now? When faced with these racial inequities, the burden of proof would be on the Y to defend charges of racism, and not on those bringing the charges.

                All of this falls naturally from the mantra of folks like Ibram X. Kendi, who ascribe all racial group differences in outcomes to racism, period.

                Imagine for instance, in a discussion about underperformance of POC (except Asians of course) in math at a particular school. Imagine being the person who offers that “maybe the black kids just don’t prioritize math as much as other groups”…and offers data indicating that black kids tend to study less than other groups. How would that work out for that person in today’s climate?

                No, it must be the way the school teaches math, something EXTERNAL to the affected POC that puts the school at fault. I see no reason why it would be different for any other finding, such as swimming skill and participation rates, that shows POC are negatively affected compared to other groups.

              4. Seems like you are reading a lot of stuff into a simple statement on a sign. A simpler explanation is that the Y is concerned about swimmer safety. I dislike Wokeness with a passion but I don’t see it around every corner. And then there’s the stupid story about putting litter boxes in school restrooms for use by “furries”. Supposedly that’s false but even if it were true, I would consider it just a stupid little thing that will undoubtedly pass. The Right’s attempt to make such things into existential threats must be resisted strongly.

      2. I think it depends on what you mean by “power”. Clearly in the clip the man committing the antisemitic attack had power at first. As soon as the balance of power shifted, he stopped being racist and started trying to get away.

        Who has power depends on context.

        1. By the way, I wasn’t commenting on that particular antisemitic attack, just the claim that “prejudice + power” and structural racism weren’t real. There are clearly racist incidents that don’t have much to do with power. Perhaps we should coin a term for it: plain-old racism or POR. (If someone has already invented this, I apologize.)

    2. “It does seem that Black males are, disproportionately, the aggressors in these attacks.”

      We saw the same thing last year, when people started talking about anti- Asian attacks. The attacks were blamed on White supremacy; when it turned out that many of the attackers are Black, people made excuses, then dropped the issue.

  11. It calls for what OPRF leaders describe as “competency-based grading, eliminating zeros from the grade book…encouraging and rewarding growth over time.”

    Can anyone explain what “competency-based grading” is? If the old scheme of grading was not based on competency, then what was is based on?

    Clearly, “competency-based grading” will in practice have little to do with actual competency in the relevant subject matter!

    Orwell, and George Carlin would have a field day with this stuff.

    1. Competency-based grading is used for adult and professional education, especially when there are clear and discrete educational modules that build on each other. Consider your ninth grade English class; you probably had to read a dozen books, learn vocabulary and grammar, and analyze poems. There are multiple tasks graded together in a single composite grade. At the end of the year, either you pass the class, or you fail it. If you you passed enough of your tests, even if you never mastered the vocabulary, you would advance to tenth grade. That means that, if you failed all of your ninth grade vocabulary exercises, you would be as a clear disadvantage, because your tenth grade English teacher assumes you know all of that vocabulary.

      Competency-based grading shifts the paradigm from ‘did he pass enough tests’ to ‘has he demonstrated an adequate mastery of each required skill’. That is especially important when subsequent skills build on earlier ones.

      I don’t want a doctor who only knows 185 of my 206 bones; sure, 90% is good, but it is not enough.

      1. “Competency-based grading shifts the paradigm from ‘did he pass enough tests’ to ‘has he demonstrated an adequate mastery of each required skill’.”

        So what determines “adequate mastery of the skill”? Will this be a shift from objective measures of mastery such as exams to more subjective measures, such as the teacher’s assessment?

        “Competency-based” grading, as a phrase, is up there with “evidence-based medicine” in its strangeness. They are also rather passive-aggressive dismissals of competing systems.

        All grading systems are in some way measurements of competency, just like all medicine should be based on some form of evidence. Just as no practitioner of medicine proudly states “my form if medicine is evidence-free”, no instructor thinks they have a “competence-free” system of grading.

        “Evidence-based” medicine should really be “science-based”, as I would presume that such a system uses much more rigorous testing protocols and modern statistical techniques that other systems do not employ or even actively reject, even though those other systems may rely on other forms of evidence (such as trial and error). That would be a legitimate and honest way of describing the difference between different medical systems.

        I don’t have a better term for “competency-based grading” though…yet.

        1. The term still works for me, in the sense that I would distinguish between competency-based grading, composite grading (10% from the midterm, 20% from the final, 10% from homework…), and holistic grading (which was the preferred touchy-feeling policy 10-20 years ago, where we had students develop portfolios showcasing all of their work – and sometimes even encouraging students to grade themselves.) If you want, call the first one ‘single competency grading’ and the second one ‘multi-competency grading’.

          > So what determines “adequate mastery of the skill”?

          That’s a separate issue. It depends on how the school system (state, school district, text book, etc.) chooses to implement matters. There was a big push to shift from truly subjective grading to more objective grading using clearly defined rubrics. Look up how standardized tests (SAT, etc.) want their raters to grade essays. It’s not perfect, but it is a step. Once the rubric is developed, they work on coordinated inter-rater reliability (yep, that’s the term). Even standard school textbooks have grading rubrics for teachers to use.

          If you look at overall subject mastery like building a house, each discrete subject is a brick. If you build on weak bricks, upper levels will not have the support they need. Composite/multi-competency grading tries to average out the strengths and weaknesses of a wall full of bricks, without identifying potential points of failure/collapse.

          I’m not up to date on home schooling practices; I believe they have been doing modular/competency-based education for years. It seems to be accepted as best practice in environments not constrained by synchronization issues (needing to push a hundred students through the same subject material on the same schedule).

    2. Quick follow up, no edit button.

      I used the term ‘mastery’ above. People have shifted to the term ‘competency’ because apparently we don’t say ‘master’ any more. Plus, ‘competency’ refers to having sufficient knowledge in a field, and does not require true 100% mastery.

      One of the things we see in competency-based adult education is that adults have the ability to take the same class and test over and over again until they demonstrate competency and ‘pass’ (whoops, many competency-based proponents avoid the words ‘pass’ and ‘fail’ because they are too final.). I pursued advanced certifications in one of my hobbies; I failed a test, and was able to practice, take the test again, and pass when I demonstrated competency.

      The question then is how to accommodate the looser schedules required by comptency-based educational paradigms. The distance learning we have seen over the past two years has shown how it can be implemented.

    3. “Competency-based grading” can refer to various practices, some of which are actually sensible. But in the article it seems to mean ignoring or minimising the influence of demonstrated incompetence, in this case by “eliminating zeros from the grade book”.

      Some searching turned up several ways to do this which do not at first glance appear idiotically unfair . The current eduspeak term is “equal-interval grading” when mapping between percentage marks and letter grades. Instead of something like (A ≥ 90, B ≥ 80, C ≥ 70, D ≥ 60, E ≥ 50, F ≥ 00), which has 10 point intervals for each passing grade but 50 points for F, equalise them by having F ≥ 40. Thus the minimum percentage mark that can be given is 40%, even for handing in a blank paper, or nothing at all. I am not kidding. That’s how one achieves “eliminating zeros from the grade book”.

      IMO, this con would better be called “equitable-interval grading”.

  12. My one cat sets itself for 15 mins before the alarm goes off, the other 15mins after, in case I’ve hit the snooze button.

  13. There has been a lot of speculation about Samuel Pepys eye problems, but as far as I can judge, he had some minor hypermetropia (‘far sightedness’) and astigmatism (different refractions on different axes), aggravated by presbyopia (which kicks in at about 40 -45 in emmetropes, but earlier in hypermetropes). I also think he probably had ‘dry eyes’, often, but not exclusively, associated with rheumatoid disorders in males (in females the menopause is enough to cause it). he complains about ‘pain’ butit is not clear it is scratchy corneal pain or uveal (accommodation) pain. The hypothesis of uveitis can be rejected IMMO, untreated uveitis is rarely self-limiting. some early cataracts cannot be excluded, butb his vision not deteriorating very much is against that. Glaucoma can be excluded, untreated glaucoma inexorably leads to complete blindness.'Arcy%20Power%2C4,to%20long%20periods%20of%20convergence.
    I would have loved to have examined his eyes, and I’m 99% sure I could have helped him. (Despite him hating the Dutch -‘it is as if the devil sh*ts Dutchmen’- and my Dutch descent, I would have loved to help. And his chronicles are priceless).
    As a Trivia: sunglasses were invented by the Chinese, they were not for vision or for protection from the sun. Instead, they were used to obscure the eyes of judges in court so no one could determine their expressions.

    1. I would have loved to have examined his eyes, and I’m 99% sure I could have helped him. (Despite him hating the Dutch -‘it is as if the devil sh*ts Dutchmen’- and my Dutch descent, I would have loved to help. And his chronicles are priceless).

      Wasn’t the Nederlands Republic in a state of open warfare with the British state at the time that Pepys was writing his diary? (Not sure if they were at war with Scotland though – still separate countries, even if they shared a monarch.)
      On which subject, I see the US has already contributed it’s bit to the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in their (thankfully) unimitated style with the (first) Platinum Jubilee Mass Shooting. Does anyone know if the plans include one mass shooting per day of the jubilee weekend, or a top’n’tail pair? Anyone got a phone number for the NRA?

  14. 23 hours a day locked up is not unusual in British prisons, & is more to do with lack of staff that any deliberate punishment. I would think having a TV with US programming was some form of torture…!

  15. Re Supermax, Colorado. I think we burn a lot of fuel arguing over the death penalty when we should be talking more about solitary confinement and long periods of it which is quite common in our system. I think in years to come it’ll be seen as terrible.
    D.A., J.D.

  16. > I think in years to come it’ll be seen as terrible.

    Alternately, I think in years to come, we’ll see more of a movement for voluntary solitary. One tendency I’ve seen in the last few years – even before the pandemic – was how many people had shifted from being introverts to being full isolationists. I suspect it ties into two growing trends: recognition of social anxiety and the mentality that leaving a comfort zone constitutes actual harm. It’s been coming up as a sci-fi trope since the pre-Internet days; even Asimov wrote about it.

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