Five at 8 – 11/16/09: The limits — or not — of student privacy

Last Friday I commented on the uplifting nature of the banjo. Here’s reader Doug Glass’ submission, selected for its Monday Morning Rouserability:

The secret to surviving Monday? Treat it like an Old Crow Medicine Show concert.

1) Curmudgeon test. You know you’re a likely curmudgeon if you roll your eyes at the story of the parent in Northfield who objected that his/her son’s test score was posted on the blackboard (you also know you’re a likely curmudgeon if you use the word blackboard). Posting the scores of a class on tests violates the students’ privacy.

This was in an advanced placement class and the scores were posted for kids who got A’s and B’s.

When I was in class, my industrial arts (shop) teacher made everyone turn off their machines, and held up the trinket I was making — some gizmo to hold a potted plant. “Look class, Mr. Collins made a drunken plant holder.” Laughs all around. It ruined me for life. Have I mention I’m building an airplane?

This, of course, is the other end of the spectrum; not praising those who do well, but shaming those who do not.

Discuss in the comments section. Be sure to reveal your SAT score first.

2) Have you ever wondered who decided a particular word — made of random consonants and the occasional vowel — was a swear word? Yeah, me neither. But you better add “meep” to the list.

3) A new MPR poll shows 56% of those surveyed like instant runoff voting. The next poll should ask how people feel about waiting for days — maybe even longer — before people know who won.

4) What’s it like living with the burden of knowing that your father ran Auschwitz?

5) Good feature. Everything you always wanted to know about building a wind farm in Minnesota, courtesy of the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.


An interactive discussion today at MPR looks at new models for regional journalism. What story in your community needs more attention?

Here’s the Web site for the Future of News project.

Live bloggers: David Brauer


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The U.S. Senate is scheduled to begin debate on its version of the health care reform bill this week. But questions about cost, a public option, and language on abortion could derail Democratic leader Harry Reid’s efforts to get the bill passed.

Second hour: Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, “The Lacuna,” is the story of a man who spends his youth among legendary Mexican figures Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, then grows reclusive in older age. Kingsolver talked with Kerri Miller on Nov. 11 as part of the Talking Volumes regional book club series.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: On the first day of the Northstar commuter line, Midday discusses transit in the metropolitan area with Peter Bell of the Metropolitan Council and Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough.

Second hour: A live broadcast from the National Press Club featuring the new chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, Deborah Hersman.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Was the shooting at Fort Hood an act of terror, or an act of insanity? Who is finding a job in this economy, and a look at Sarah Palin’s news book.

Second hour: Before Byron Pitts became an award winning correspondent at CBS News

— he had a secret. Then, when he was twelve, a therapist told his mother he

was functionally illiterate. Byron Pitts talks to Neal Conan about his new

memoir — Step Out on Nothing.

Notice in the clip above he refers to a teacher who said in front of a class, “Congratulations! Your best work so far. D-plus.” I suspect that teacher also taught shop.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The train is rolling on the Northstar Line. As long as you can get to the station before 6 p.m., it presents a suitable alternative to driving, we hear. But what if you need to stay late at work? Ambar Espinoza looks at day one.

And so will Laura Yuen and Tom Weber. Their great race will feature one driving a car, and one taking the train. When they arrive at their destination, they’ll then play volleyball while standing in knee-deep mud.

Today is the 30th anniversary of Walter Mondale’s “boat people speech” to the United Nation. Dan Olson will take a long look back. He didn’t write the speech, which brings up an interesting question about history. If we found out that Abraham Lincoln didn’t write the Gettysburg Address, would we look at it differently?

Some clinics in Minnesota apparently have swine flu vaccine but are not alerting patients and families to its availability and in some cases are deliberately misleading patients about its availability, MPR’s Lorna Benson will report. At least one clinic acknowledges being less than truthful about its supply of vaccine to avoid overwhelming demand. Legal? yes. Ethical, probably not, according to one ethicist.

  • Ken Bearman

    Bob, the next poll about Minneapolis’s ranked choice voting system should ask people who didn’t vote how they know they prefer the old system when they didn’t use the new system.

  • Bob Collins

    Excellent point!

  • Tyler

    Regarding Point the First – is that “privacy” or “competition” ? My performance at work isn’t private – why should kids’ test scores (at least in the passing range) be?

  • Krista

    The best way to get back at a teacher who shames you is to be successful in spite of his or her lack of faith in you. Build that plane, Bob! One teacher told me that I was the worst student she had ever had. I went on to a successful career as a teacher anyway. It feels good to prove them wrong!

    PS-I didn’t take the SAT

  • Al

    You don’t have to have used the system to know if you don’t like the reasoning behind it. 56% is hardly an overwhelming majority, particularly when the report of people who didn’t vote who don’t like it was 54%, if I remember the report right. Based on the fact that voter turnout was pathetic, it likely could be mathematically show that more than 50% don’t like the new system. At any rate, the number of people polled who do and don’t like the system is pretty close to 50/50 and anyone trying to use the numbers to support their side is stretching the truth.

    Does anyone know the turnout rate? If so, the actual % that are in favor of the system would be:

    (0.56*turnout rate)+(1-0.54)(1-turnout rate).

    This would have been nice to have in the story this morning, showing the polls were basically a wash.

  • Alison

    ACT 29 or 30.

    It’s pretty sad when kids can’t be recognized for doing good work. Great message to send! Perhaps we should also stop rewarding students who are soccessful in athletic competitions.

  • Elizabeth T.

    56% is an absolute majority. Under IRV, we win.


    There’s no reason a child shouldn’t have her grades posted, at least as far as the letter goes, or just a Pass/Fail. So you failed? Get over it and do better. Do you honestly think the other students don’t know that?

    The problem is trying to shame the kid at all. Failing? Sometimes you just can’t get it. Period. There’s no shame at failing. The shame is in not trying. Suck at shop? Go build a plane. Suck a trigonometry? Becomes a composer.

    Trying a guilt trip isn’t going to make you child do any better.

    I came within a hair’s breadth of failing Calculus in high school. However, I did fine in college, and after 2 years of graduate physical chemistry courses (which are basically all just calculus), I was still getting Bs. I adamantly believe it’s not how fast you get there, but where you actually go.

    I can’t even remember what I got on my SAT (mediocre) / ACT (very well). I did, however, get a 1250 on my GREs a few years ago. And, after I add the letters MPH after my name, no one’s going to care about any of it, much less my high school grades.

  • Al

    Yes, 56% is an aboslute majority. It’s an absolute majority of the 21% who voted. And I don’t believe that those 21% are the only people this matters for.

  • bsimon

    “I don’t believe that those 21% are the only people this matters for.”

    If it mattered so much, why didn’t they vote?

    That’s like chosing not to vote, then complaining that your candidate didn’t win.

    In the story broadcast this morning, one interviewee did mention that he’d like to see a few more elections before concluding that IRV/Ranked Choice works. I agree. But I’m in the 56% of the 21% that both voted and like the new system. If you’re in the 54% of the 79% who didn’t vote & don’t like the new system, maybe you ought to try it before reaching a conclusion.

  • Al

    It’s not about whether I think that I, or anyone else, is incapable of casting a vote under the new system. It is about whether I think it is a fair system. You don’t need to actually vote to determine your views on that.

    I, too, would like to see a couple of these votes play out, but I am leaning toward not liking the system because I believe many people will not comprehend just how votes are counted. I believe it has the real potential to lead to increased distrust of the system. Thankfully I no longer live in MPLS, but had there been ranked choice voting in my city I wouldn’t have been thrilled. I would have gone into the booth knowing that I was capable of filling out choices and I would have left knowing the same. This would have had no bearing on my thoughts about fairness.