Thursday, October 30, 2008

Because we should - Happy Halloween

Bobby "Boris" Pickett - Monster Mash (rare color clip)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why Students aren't running things.

Micheal Wesch is the professor whose students made what many consider a seminal video on education. I include it here because I figure that it's a pretty good example of why the adults in the educational system shouldn't really listen to the opinions of students.

When you do, you run the risk of justifying that senioritis is legitimate, that students really are different today, that technology is necessary, that teachers are solely responsible when their students tune out, that cheating is a natural response to teacher pressure, that students can't memorize but should learn information retrieval instead, that blah, blah, blah ....

Wesch - In spring 2007 I invited the 200 students enrolled in the “small” version of my “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology” class to tell the world what they think of their education by helping me write a script for a video to be posted on YouTube. The result was the disheartening portrayal of disengagement you see below. The video was viewed over one million times in its first month and was the most blogged about video in the blogosphere for several weeks, eliciting thousands of comments. With rare exception, educators around the world expressed the sad sense of profound identification with the scene, sparking a wide-ranging debate about the roles and responsibilities of teachers, students, and technology in the classroom.

Students are forever whining about their work.

Why do we have to learn this stuff?
Because you can. Because you’re here and you signed up for it.

When am I ever going to need this?
I don’t know. What I’m teaching you isn’t directly applicable, but it does train your mind in a way of thinking that you haven’t been able to use before.

Why do I have to take this class?
Beats me, kiddo. You’re the one paying money for this. If this is your way of wasting Daddy’s money, then have at it. If it is pointless, then wander over to Admin and drop out. Why spend months in a class you can’t learn in, that you disparage constantly and that you don’t like? How dumb are you to put yourself through months of something you consider a boring hell?

These students all think they’re clever because they can make a YouTube video disparaging education. They think that because they can stick an iPod bud in their ear and watch a movie on the laptop while browsing Facebook and texting the kid next to them that they’ve made a statement.

It’s pretty amazing if you think about how shallow and silly they really are.

Doesn’t bother me but I want to challenge them all - “If it’s so pointless, wean yourselves from the parental feeding tube and fend for yourselves. Drop out, get a job, change the world. Put that infinite information retrieval ability to the test. Show the world what special people you are. You’re the digital natives, the 21st century students. Show us your magnificence.”

Or at least shut up. I'd be grateful.

Sometimes the story seems fake.

I ran across this "case study" example for how the increase in minimum wage can negatively impact a business. These numbers just don't seem to add up. See what you think.
Here’s a personal case study in how that works to squeeze workers out of the minimum wage job market:

My parents own an ice cream shop, and rely heavily in its operation on eight 16-20 year olds working part-time schedules of 16-24 hours a week, along with one full-time manager who is assisted by my parents in their free time. Over the course of a 7 day work week, they typically employ the part-time workers for a total of about 340 hours a week.

Raising the minimum wage by .70 increased their straight wage expense by $240 a week, or about $1000 a month. But it had collateral consequences as well, as their worker’s comp. and unemployment insurance costs rose in relation to their payroll, as did their payroll tax contributions. The combination of wage increase and the various increases that spin off that wage increase was about $1500 a month. This is against a total wage expense for the part-timers of about $8000 a month.

Now, the ice cream parlor business is somewhat inelastic from a price stand point — people won’t continue to pay higher and higher prices for an ice cream cone when the alternative is simply to do without. So, that increase in operating expense could not, in total, be passed on to the customers. Instead, my parents worked a few more hours themselves and trimmed back on the hours they had the part-timers working. When one of the part-timers quit, they didn’t hire a replacement for her.

Now, the same thing is going to happen next month — another increase of .70 per hour, totaling about $1500 a month in additional operating expenses is going to kick in. This will come on top of significant increases over the past year in product costs — multiply the increased cost of milk you are paying at the supermarket several times over and you get a feel for the increased cost of buying ice cream on a large scale for a business establishment.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Politics and the American Teenager.

Central Florida 7th grader called racist for wearing Palin t-shirt.

I've got to give her credit for having the guts to wear that shirt. I know how students can behave. It isn't pretty sometimes.

My own students were needling another for supporting Palin/McCain. They took the tack that her religious beliefs were non-mainstream. That's not appropriate in an argument and I said so, but I have to wonder what drives my students to automatically jump on the obamabandwagon. After I told them that attacking a candidate based solely on a vague notion of her religion is wrong - argue her positions on policy, track record, and governing style instead - none of them seemed to have any idea of what policies Palin stood for that they disagreed with.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Failure is an option

What is wrong with Education in America is embodied in this one sentence:
For the first time in seven years, Seattle public high-school students who do poorly can receive a failing grade on their report cards.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More Testing Blahs.

As some of you know, I'm not a great fan of the NLCB testing. I should be more clear here - I don't mind the tests themselves - they're fine tests.

What I dislike is the uses that the results are put to and the interpretations and decision based on the results.

To wit, we gave the writing test today and one of the better students academically was talking about her essay. The topic was something by Gandhi - be mellow and don't stress out - and she wrote a polemic on the testing of students and the idiocy of the state's analysis of results. Completely off topic, no?

So, a fairly decent essay that is completely off-topic will be considered a 0. Our principal will discuss the results later in the year and say things like "We should put in our action plans to align our curriculum better to the GLEs / state standards / Frameworks. We must motivate our students to do better."

Welllll. No.

Our curriculum might need adjusting, but this is not a good reason why. These kids don't care about the test and their results will be meaningless.

Testing, testing ...

So the principal doesn't apparently trust the faculty to proctor the state NCLB testing. So we're dutifully teaching our classes and Principal PJs takes them kids off to be tested. We find out later that he packed them too many to a table unnecessarily (there was plenty of room but the kids crowded together - no surprise), left the room unattended while he chatted on a cell phone and wandered to a bathroom, and the students had a food fight with the motivational bagels and juice!

So today an English teacher was designated at the last minute to help him stand watch. (Tomorrow, it's a math teacher.) Apparently today was much calmer.

Any bets on how long this goes until TSHTF**? Until someone reports to the Supt? Oops, too late. Superintendent already knows. State will be notified. It's flying.

** "The solidified fecal material makes contact with the gaseous propulsion device."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

3 days for un-tucked shirt?

From KPHO in Phoenix, AZ comes this heartwarming tale of no-nonsense school administrators living up to their stereotypes:

A 12-year-old girl who didn't tuck in her shirt was suspended from an Albuquerque middle school, KOAT-TV reported. Judy Benavidez said her daughter, Natalia, is a good student and not a troublemaker. But Natalia is on a three-day suspension from Harrison Middle School because her shirt was untucked.

A school district spokesman said a special announcement was made this year that students could be suspended for dress code violations.

Hey, they made an announcement. They warned the kids. What did the kids expect? This is willful disrespect for the rules.

Of course, a 3-day suspension is a stupid administrative over-reaction, but I'm being redundant.