Big Gummit Gonna Do It

I like a lot of what Diane Ravitch puts out. Here is good reasoning hooked to some bad premises. You may have to register with NY Times before you can read it.

Every State Left Behind
By DIANE RAVITCH
Published: November 7, 2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/07/opinion/07ravitch.html

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Should We Let Go of the Apron So Early?

No, I don’t always fall down prostrate in front of pseudo-science’s attempt to codify the art of teaching, but some of this made sense.

Long hours help academically, but impair social development
By Helen GaoUNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
November 1, 2005

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/education/20051101-9999-1n1earlyed.html

Intelligently Designed Boycott

Are you following the whole Kansas School Board thing with ID and science education? I am a biology minor, so this stuff is in my blood, and I originated in KS, so this is deeper in my blood, and I am an educator, so I am supposed to watch all this, but I am fascinated as a learner as well. Read this article then consider some of these questions:

  1. If a little boy refuses his ball to the ballgame because he can’t pitch, is he acting like a little boy?
  2. In a debate, how does one “overemphasize uncertainties”? Isn’t a debate centered on two notions, that which is known and that which we theorize or postulate (i.e. feel less certain about, but believe it comes from the known). How do we educate if we cannot question?
  3. Is the position of the Associations of “scientists” related at all to any notion of scientific inquiry if we are not allowed to inquire?
  4. To quote before I question, “The standoff is a reprise of events in 1999 when the National Academy, the science teachers group, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science withheld copyright permission for materials that Kansas sought to incorporate into science education standards it developed that year. At the time the board had a majority who espoused creationism or intelligent design, beliefs that hold, respectively, that the Earth is only a few thousand years old and that complex life could not have arisen without help from a superintelligent being. Scientific evidence indicates that the Earth is more than 4 billion years old and that evolution can explain all of life’s biological complexities.” So I can’t even quote a view from someone I disagree with without that person claiming copyright infringement because they don’t want their words compared with mine? What have I just done?!?

Okay, I think I am done for the moment. And what compelled me to suggest we teach logical reasoning to our students?…

Intelligently Designed Boycott

Are you following the whole Kansas School Board thing with ID and science education? I am a biology minor, so this stuff is in my blood, and I originated in KS, so this is deeper in my blood, and I am an educator, so I am supposed to watch all this, but I am fascinated as a learner as well. Read this article then consider some of these questions:

  1. If a little boy refuses his ball to the ballgame because he can’t pitch, is he acting like a little boy?
  2. In a debate, how does one “overemphasize uncertainties”? Isn’t a debate centered on two notions, that which is known and that which we theorize or postulate (i.e. feel less certain about, but believe it comes from the known). How do we educate if we cannot question?
  3. Is the position of the Associations of “scientists” related at all to any notion of scientific inquiry if we are not allowed to inquire?
  4. To quote before I question, “The standoff is a reprise of events in 1999 when the National Academy, the science teachers group, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science withheld copyright permission for materials that Kansas sought to incorporate into science education standards it developed that year. At the time the board had a majority who espoused creationism or intelligent design, beliefs that hold, respectively, that the Earth is only a few thousand years old and that complex life could not have arisen without help from a superintelligent being. Scientific evidence indicates that the Earth is more than 4 billion years old and that evolution can explain all of life’s biological complexities.” So I can’t even quote a view from someone I disagree with without that person claiming copyright infringement because they don’t want their words compared with mine? What have I just done?!?

Okay, I think I am done for the moment. And what compelled me to suggest we teach logical reasoning to our students?…

Caesar Meets the Media

Not sure what that title means, but it went through my head when I saw the following. Not sure if others are keeping abreast of the gummit’s desire to give vouchers to private schools for helping with displaced Katrina folk, but this fella from People for the American Way was not impressed:

Don’t subsidize religion
If private schools get public money, they need to be held accountable.
By Ralph G. Neas

Senators about to pass an education package in response to Hurricane Katrina could make a huge mistake by creating what would be the largest private-school vouchers program in the nation’s history.

Right-wing special interest groups see Katrina as an opportunity to implement an ideological agenda that has little to do with the hurricane itself. One aspect of this opportunism is the insistence that education relief include a vouchers program to send massive federal funding to private schools.

Here’s what’s wrong with this proposal:
•First, public money should be used to support public schools that have taken in Katrina evacuees and the rebuilding of schools devastated by the hurricane. Instead, the proposal would funnel hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into private schools’ bank accounts. And it could subsidize private education for the wealthiest students.

•Second, by allocating federal funds to religious institutions, the vouchers plan would undermine the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. The current Senate bill includes no effective oversight that would hold schools accountable for violating bans on the use of taxpayer dollars to support religious indoctrination.

•Third, while provisions to protect civil rights have been included in the bill, it is not clear that the bill would prevent the unconstitutional use of federal tax dollars to fund discrimination. In particular, the bill would allow private schools to use federal dollars to discriminate in hiring based on religion.

There is an alternative, constitutional way to support students who have relied on services provided by private schools called “equitable participation,” which would clearly and unambiguously hold private schools accountable for the use of public funds, as well as resolve any constitutional questions.

We believe some senators with long records of supporting public education are considering support for new voucher provisions because they believe such provisions are the unfortunate cost of winning Senate approval for the urgent relief needed by families and school systems affected by the recent hurricanes. We support that relief, but it should not be held hostage to voucher proponents.

Ralph G. Neas is president of People for the American Way.

Can We Talk?

It happens about this time every year. School classrooms take some time off and become conference rooms. Parents come in and see the teachers to find out how Johnny is doing and it all becomes a test of the parent and teacher’s perspiration protection. Why does Mr. and Mrs. Doe come into Mr. Teacher’s room with so much timidity. Why did Mr. Teacher, just before the Doe’s showed up, pop a breath mint and say a prayer of panic? Why are Parent Conferences an object of such stress?

I think the answer lies somewhere in the fact that we have lost the ability to converse. Folks have been saying this for years regarding education: we just don’t know how to talk to each other anymore, and it not only affects Mr. Teacher’s literature class discussion, but it hits him in the stomach during the typical conference. When it comes to teacher conferences, we live in a two class society and I wish we would seek the third, or middle class, in this instance.

The first class of conference is the “feel good” class. Parents sign up because they feel they need to. Maybe nothing has been said by the teacher about Johnny’s performance, so they should stop in for a little check up. The teacher has not said anything about Johnny because Johnny is doing fine and he is too busy trying to put out the fires elsewhere to say, “good job” very often to Johnny or his parents. The parents arrive, introduce themselves, ask if there is anything they need to know, and get the “no, everything is just fine” speech for five minutes before leaving. This has not lasted much longer than the “hey, how are you?” “Fine,” routine that we all too often shoot through on our way down a hallway.

The second class is no better, and perhaps much worse. It lasts longer, but about as much is accomplished. It is the conference about Problem Pete. Petey is not doing well for Mr. Teacher. The grade card goes home, the parents sign up for the conference, and the stage is set for 20 minutes of heavyweight contention. The parents confer the night before: “I’ll say…, and then you will say…, and be sure to bring that test and show him…” The plan is in place. The teacher has his folder of materials. Both sides are armed. And as soon as the pleasantries are over (exactly 30 seconds into the conference), the barrage begins. Whoever fires first often “wins” if winning can be determined. The teacher states all the reasons for Petey’s failure, none of which has anything to do with the school or Mr. Teacher’s teaching. Pete’s parents fire back with this factor, and that assignment, and this unclear grading policy and etc. The list really is impressive, at least to the parents. And the twenty minute bell rings, the participants return to their corners, and Pete is still failing.

Let me dream about the third class or alternative to these two vignettes. How about if the parents and teacher both came together to converse? There is a verse and a con in that notion. The verse is definitely words, but words about Pete and his issues, not excuses or justifications. They should be words designed to help both sides see Pete more clearly. And the con there has to do with back and forth. Both sides are able to come together, to converse, to have a conversation about Pete. And as the teacher shares his side of the issue, and the parents explain Pete better to Mr. Teacher, the overriding agreement in the conversation is that Pete is a human, a young one at that, and that like all students he is still growing. And the teacher is a human, and can always grow in his skills. And the parents are not perfect, and welcome any help they can glean. And this very human endeavor of talking it through is reborn in this one little part of our dying culture. And if it is tended and nurtured, it might grow until once again we can have real and fruitful conversations again. And Pete in particular learns how to converse by watching his parents and teacher model it beautifully. God bless us one and all to be conversant.