Saturday, August 17, 2013

From the file marked "Inane"

Cross-posted as a guest post over at Comment Home.

From the Baltimore Sun: 

Eastern Shore professors to get bulletproof whiteboards 

Calling "campus violence a reality" to prepare for, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore announced plans Thursday to spend $60,000 on the Clark Kent of teacher supplies: an innocuous-looking white board that can stop bullets.
The high-tech tablet — which hangs on a hook, measures 18 by 20 inches and comes in pink, blue and green — can be used as a personal shield for professors under attack, according to the company that makes it, and a portable writing pad in quieter times.
18" x 20"? I could hide my head and part of my upper body behind that. (I just checked, and I'm about 22" across at the shoulders.) Of course, covering my head and upper torso would be a good thing. If we've learned nothing else from the movies we have learned that it can take days to die from a bullet to the gut.

But the man behind the bullet-resistant white boards envisions an ancient phalanx.
[George] Tunis envisions teachers using the whiteboards to fend off attackers individually or as a group, standing side-by-side to create a wall that could shield evacuating students or to fend off an attacker.
"It's designed to be a last resort and to buy you some extra time," he said.
Yeah, extra time is good. I can see a shooter faced by a phalanx of professors (possibly including wannabe Hoplites from the Classics Department) holding these white boards up in formation, blocking all of 20" of vertical target, max. All he'd have to do is aim low and chop them down like a Ma Deuce through the under-growth in Vietnam. It'd take a committed mad man whole milliseconds to figure this out.

Also from the article:
"It needs to be a great whiteboard and a useful tool so that it doesn't get hidden in the closet," said maker George Tunis. His Worcester County company Hardwire LLC starting out making military armor, then adapted it for the classroom after the tragic shootings last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed.
Maybe it's be useful if you're writing answers down and flashing them to the class? I don't know. But we used most of the large blackboards that measured their dimensions in feet when I was a TA in college, and I don't ever remember a professor only using a space that measured that small. So these things aren't even all that practical for a classroom, despite the claims of the manufacturer.

Distressingly, the school in question doesn't seem to have anyone capable of doing a cost-benefit analysis. How many classrooms does the nation have? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? How many of these classrooms see the kind of random violence where such a device MIGHT have an impact?

These things cost $299 a pop, so they're not cheap. But at least they come in a variety of attractive colors! I'd suggest that they add red to the pink, blue and green currently offered. It would better hide blood spatter and thus be more intimidating to any shooters out there. (See "red coats" for more.) Or perhaps they should be rainbow-colored on the non-writing side, to demonstrate the school's commitment to diversity.

Spending $60,000 on these for this one college in a backwater part of Maryland seems ludicrous. It would be ludicrous for just about any other school as well. (And if there is a school for which this isn't a ludicrous expense, they need to MOVE THE SCHOOL!) Surely there are other things that can be done with the money.

So, can anyone else think of how the school could have better spent the money? Remember that this is a one-time expense (or at least not a regular expense) so hiring an additional security guard is out, as that is an ongoing expense.

What better ideas has everyone got?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

NBCNews: Businesses, Unions, Colleges all say employee hours being cut over Obamacare but WH says “no evidence”

From a report about the report:

But the White House, NBC News reports, says that there is no systematic evidence that this is because of Obamacare....
Right. Instead it's because of the shitty economy.