Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted anything. I will try to quickly summarize my absence in terms of other commitments.

1) I've been involved in efforts to broaden our course offerings at Bullard, both in terms of crafting a physical science elective and in winning approval for piloting a course in 'The Great Ideas' as a senior elective in our Law Magnet program. In general, the former has not been encouraging. Our district requires three years of science coursework as a consequence of a long-vanished NSF grant, and it is politically inadvisable to go back now and push the sensible view that not all students stand to benefit from an extra year of science. At the same time, we are under pressure to offer courses that satisfy the University of California's (a-g) requirements, specifically the requirement of being what the UC considers (d) a laboratory science.

Keeping in mind that I'm one of the few instructors in the state who have taught all four of the standards-based courses (Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science and Physics), consider this: the UC does not count Earth Science, even though the state of California has a specific CST (state test) on the course and uses those scores to calculate our AYP (annual yearly progress) and API (Academic Performance Index) scores for the fed and state, respectively. This lack of alignment between our state universities and the public school science curriculum creates all sorts of problems, and those problems are magnified when the existing bureaucracy mandates an additional year of science for all students, even those who haven't passed any math courses after three years of high school.

But I've complained about that already, why mention it again? Well, because we need to have courses for those kids who are not college-bound in order to satisfy the district's three-year requirement and yet, is Franz Kafka in charge, we can't seem to get the district to approve courses that don't meet the UC (d) requirement. But the reality is, that if we make them take courses that satisfy the UC, they will be so rigorous that the vast majority of these kids will either fail or just scrape by. Hello? If they can't pass chemistry or physics, the UC isn't going to admit them anyway! In fact, it's very difficult to be admitted to the UC with just 'passing' scores in those courses. You almost certainly have to earn at least an 'A' in one and a 'B' in the other to have any reasonable chance of admission. So, what is the point of requiring them to take an additional UC (d) course of some sort when they will never take the other laboratory science courses that are required gateways to admission to both the UC and CSU?

So, short of lobbying for a new board policy (which is a titanic undertaking), we seem to have reached an impasse.

On the other course, I've received some modest encouragement. I made a fairly detailed preliminary proposal to the Law Magnet Board and got zero sense that there was any interest from the very reserved Board members. But, after I left the room convinced I had talked too much, they apparently had good things to say. The Magnet Director approached me later in the week and asked me to spend more time developing it and he would find an extra pay contract to facilitate it, with the idea being that the Board was generally supportive but wanted to make sure that the proposal would really have a good chance of getting through the district. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but better than the bureaucratic wall needed to surmount approval of a new science offering.

So, that's taken a LOT of my time. But there's more....

2) I've begun the effort to raise funds for my Galapagos adventure, which would not only allow me to make the trek to the heart of Darwin's insights, but also pick up six units of post-graduate credit and move up the district's salary schedule. This is going to require me to get leaner and meaner in terms of my advance planning with my other obligations.

3) I'm on the School Site Council and I've been cajoled into working on various committees, including a potentially-contentious issue of uniforms. I've been button-holed on this topic by partisans on both sides, and I'm going to have to do my level best to look at all the facts objectively. My 'take' for those who have been actively pushing for a uniform policy (which is rare in high schools) is that they need to do the hard work of convincing the community at large to support them before they attempt to involve the Site Council. The law that would allow Bullard to pursue such a policy has a few hoops to jump through.

4) Easter is coming soon this year on the liturgical calendar, which is something you can never say about Christmas. I had to do a lot of extra lifting to keep the church's music program moving forward in the fall when the 11:00 service's choir director's health was precarious. I am hoping that this won't be the case for the rest of the year, but I do seem to be stretched again. As per usual, I did a 'science/religion interaction' talk for this year's Evolution Sunday, so that was a little extra.

5) I have a surprise for a certain well-known blogger that I have put quite a few hours into. I say no more.

6) Our local bunch of skeptics has certainly been active making noise about the Fresno City Council's practice of invocation, and then there is the matter of FCC Professor Brad Lopez, who I know from his attending RTB meetings at People's Church. He's a zealot who appears to have chosen the wrong forum for presenting his religious views. I have sympathy for the guy, but if the allegations are true, he's in deep doo-doo. All of this has filled up the local comment blog for the Fresno Bee. Many of the commenters are friends of mine, and so I have spent time I would normally blog on those comments. What can I say? I like a good argument.

7) Um...guilty pleasure admission....I got caught up in playing Mass Effect 2, and spent about 40 hours over three weeks working my way through the game. That doesn't sound like that much compared to the amount of time a lot of people spend slackjawed in front of the television, but it's way more than my usual recreation quotient. The time adds up.

You know what? Here I am blogging, when I could be (gulp) finishing on-line traffic school to clear a ticket. Gotta run!