Recently, I posted a response to Steven Brill's piece for Reuters, "The School Reform Deniers" on my personal blog (it was reposted by Raging Chicken Press a few days ago). In it, I call into question what he claims as his journalistic impartiality and also question what he resorts to calling "facts." In the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, Diane Ravitch reviews Brill's Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools in an article entitled "School 'Reform': A Failing Grade." Not only is she even harsher on Brill than I am, but she fills in a great deal of background.
The other day, I gave my Advanced Technical Writing students a quiz. One question: "Name three things you should do before starting any research project."
The answers weren't in their text. I had not told them what these things should be in prior classes. In fact, the question had not come up--which is one reason I asked it.
What I was doing was something of an experiment on the wisdom of crowds and an attempt to make a point about authority and the weakness of the multiple-choice test when it is the sole means of evaluation.
In her latest post on her Education Week blog "Bridging Differences," Diane Ravitch writes:
I worry about the one-sided treatment of education issues... in the national media. The corporate reformers seem shocked when anyone questions their narrative. They see no downside to their dogmatic belief in closing schools and firing principals and teachers, nor to their dogmatic faith that higher test scores are the goal of education. They accuse critics of "defending the status quo," even though it is they who are the status quo, the champions of get-tough accountability. They don't understand that they might be wrong, that their critics deserve a hearing, and that disagreement is healthy. ...
For many years, I kept a clipping in my wallet, something that [Robert Maynard] Hutchins said. It was the last line of his obituary in The New York Times (May 16, 1977). He said: "The only political dogma in America is that discussion leads to progress, that every man is entitled to his own opinions, and that we have to learn to live with those whose opinions differ from our own. After all, they may turn out to be right."
At the start of "Good-bye, Teacher... " Fred Keller quotes one version of that old doggerel:
Good-bye scholars, good-bye school;
Good-bye teacher, darned old fool!
I learned it as:
Good-bye pencils, good-bye books;
Good-bye teachers' dirty looks.
It doesn't matter; the point's the same. We were glad to get rid of teachers, for the summer, at least.
Crossposted from Daily Kos by GH, with permission.
A beat-up van pulls to a stop just up the road. A creaky screen door opens from the apartment at the end of the building. A young African-American girl runs out toward the van, barely hanging onto a gym bag that was obviously not meant for such a pint-sized carrier. The driver of the van, a middle-aged white man with glasses and a beard, throws the passenger door to the van open and the little girl tosses the bag onto the floor before climbing in. The apartment door, which had banged shut in the meantime, creaks open again as the girl's mother waves goodbye.
"Be good. Have fun," she tells her daughter.
"I'll have her back by eight," the driver replies as the little girl shuts the van door and waves goodbye to her mom.
As the van pulls away and disappears around a turn up the street, the girl's mother allows herself to slump against the door frame for just a moment. She lets go of a long sigh that betrays just how tired she is. She almost doesn't notice me as I approach her door to introduce myself.
(Written by an American expat living in the European Union)
Did you know that the library is America's last truly socialized institution and that everyday you come a bit closer to losing it! As a male who is a business librarian, (that is to say someone who holds graduate degrees in library science and an MBA degree in marketing), I understand very well that fee for service in America's library systems are creating a class of information have-nots. For some of you this means that your children aren't going to be able to read as well. It also means that as voters in a democracy, you will no longer be as well informed without full library services. As the series, the American dream vs the European dream which I was able to generously publish with the support of the Daily Kos community, we have seen that we cannot depend on the plutocrat owned radio and television media. Sometimes we have to go to print sources, even international print sources of the variety and scope that you can't possibly afford as an individual to subscribe to them all. Additionally libraries make online databases available to their patrons that allow you with the touch of a button to read international media sources from around the globe. You're in the process of losing this all and a lot more.
David Horowitz rails against the 'indoctrination' of American students by radical leftist professors. He isn't the only one—it's quite common to hear how universities are subverting the beliefs of youth. Problem is, it ain't happening; even if some try it (debatable), they have proven incompetent. The radical professors have been in place since the sixties. If, in fifty years, they haven't managed to shift America to the left, they aren't going to manage it now.
What's this fascination we've got with teachers? Why do we concentrate on them so much, when we talk about education, and on rating them, and so little on learning?
There's an article in today's The New York Times about claims that education will actually get better if we have more evaluation of teachers. That, by itself, is as silly as the now-discredited claim behind No Child Life Behind that more standardized testing will improve schools.
But that's where we're heading:
The other day, I came across this:
School teachers.... will, in the long run, probably be made obsolete by television, as blacksmiths were made obsolete by the automobile.
It's from a speech by Neil Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves to Death, called “Informing Ourselves to Death,” delivered in 1990.
The thing about citizen journalism is not that one has to be impartial or "objective" to provide valuable news service to one's fellow humans, but that one is part of a community the story concerns. Unfortunately, there are people who have taken the concept and bent it to their own ends. These tend to be political zealots without backgrounds in journalism who try to make "citizen journalism" a cover for what is really simply work by amateurs trying to score political points.
Among such people is James O'Keefe, a 26-year-old political ambush specialist masquerading as a citizen journalist. His latest offering is a highly edited (as usual) video from what appears to be a bar where attendees at a New Jersey teachers' union conference are relaxing.
Writing more than fifty years ago, the historian and cultural critic Jacques Barzun commented upon the multiple-choice test:
Taking an objective test is simply pointing. It calls for the least effort of mind above that of keeping awake: recognition. And it is recognition without a shock, for to a veteran of twelve years old, the traditional four choices of each question fall into a soothing rhythm. No tumult of surprise followed by a rallying generalship and concentration, as in facing an essay question; no fresh unfolding of the subject under unexpected demand, but the routine sorting out of the absurd from the trivial, or the completing of dull sentences by word- or thought-cliches. No other single practice explains as fully the intellectual defects of our student up to and through graduate school than their ingrained association of knowledge and thought with the scratching down of check marks on dotted lines.
I'd like to ask ePM's Hawaiian Blog mistress if there is more to this story than what it appears to be, but slashing education budgets and cutting down on days in school just does not strike me as a good thing to do:
At a time when President Barack Obama is pushing for more time in the classroom, his home state has created the nation's shortest school year under a new union contract that closes schools on most Fridays for the remainder of the academic calendar.
The deal whacks 17 days from the school year for budget-cutting reasons and has education advocates incensed that Hawaii is drastically cutting the academic calendar at a time when it already ranks near the bottom in national educational achievement.
While many school districts have laid off or furloughed teachers, reduced pay and planning days and otherwise cut costs, Hawaii's 171,000 public schools students now find themselves with only 163 instructional days, compared with 180 in most districts in the U.S.
Given our kids results, not just Hawaiian kids but US kids across the country, in comparison to other nation's kids you would think states would be considering longer school years and more money and resources for them? I know that this is an old report but I have yet to see anything to suggest these trends have changed. Even the reports suggesting otherwise - misleadingly with a lot of selective wording of their own, IMHO - read like "It could be worse" and "Yay! we haven't slipped into last place, yet.". Well?
This is an Open Thread.
Now read this!
Crossposted at DKos. Graphs there are in wider format.
Updated numbers and commentary from Emmanuel Saez (h/t Krugman) reminds us just how bad things are and have been for a while. One might hope that the current economic crisis does not divert our attention from the longer term issues.
I would argue that pretty much all of our problems and issues, be it health care, education, environment, collapsing public infrastructure, jobs, trade, taxes, and yes right-wing populism can be directly linked to income and wealth inequality. And the fact that inequality has gotten MUCH MUCH worse ever since 1979-1980 (I suggest looking up who became president in the United States at that time):
On the one hand, it is not just a U.S. story. Income inequality has risen throughout the developed world, according the OECD.