Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Super-Duper Teacher Mentors

Just what we need ... more teachers with slightly above-average ability getting $20,000 to do less teaching and more "mentoring".
President Obama wants to create a “master teacher corps,” starting with 50 math and science teachers who’d earn an additional $20,000 a year to act as mentors, plan curriculum and lead school turnarounds. The administration proposes spending $100 million this year and $1 billion next year to increase the corps to 10,000 teachers, reports National Journal.
And how will we choose these Masters of the Classroom?  I figure that we'll use standardized test scores to select them for inclusion in the program, require them to submit 50-page portfolios of their teaching, including evidence of effectiveness as witnessed by superiors, a minimum of 40 hours of video recordings of the best lessons in their "toolbox".

What does "awesome" look like?
It looks like me, of course.
These subjective, holistic-sounding pieces of evidence will then be analyzed by three panels of master educators using an objective-sounding yet surprisingly sloppy RUBRIC to whittle down the candidate pool to those who are the "top talent", a euphemism for "someone willing to put a family life on hold while cranking out endless reams of drivel in exactly the proper format required."

Amazingly, the winners of this particular lottery will be those who are tallest, prettiest and who are the same skin color as the examiners. And then they'll throw in some others so they aren't accused of being racist or anything. Ethnicity will not be a factor until it has to be one to keep the list of "top talent" from seeming too monotonic.

After the candidates spend the requisite 200 hours putting together the 40 hours of video and another few hundred typing the portfolio into proper format, while grading endless term papers, reading and analyzing daily stacks of exit cards, preparing for and analyzing more standardized test data than the DOE ... then the Board will eliminate 90% of them.

The ones left won't be the best teachers; they won't be the best mentors; they probably won't even be well-educated.  They certainly won't have the personality to mentor their peers without being annoying little know-it-alls.

They'll be great at the trappings of education and lousy at doing the job that they're "paid" for.

The Crisis that is Khan

Karim Kai Ani via Washingtonpost.com.
teachers aren’t “pissed off” because Sal Khan is the world’s teacher. They’re concerned that he’s a bad teacher who people think is great; that the guy who’s delivered over 170 million lessons to students around the world openly brags about being unprepared and considers the precise explanation of mathematical concepts to be mere “nitpicking.”
Experienced educators are concerned that when bad teaching happens in the classroom, it’s a crisis; but that when it happens on YouTube, it’s a “revolution.”

Monday, July 16, 2012

Preparation ...

Almost time for the highlight of my summer ... Battle of Hastings re-enactment and seven days of other battles and fighting.  Total blast.

Me and 12,000 of my closest friends:

I'm here somewhere.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fill the Pail, then Light the Fire.

"Education is not the filling of a pail, it's the lighting of a fire." So says nearly everyone who runs professional development and teacher training schools, as if anyone could ever think critically about something without any facts to think about.  You can't have a decent conversation about the Civil War unless you have a knowledge of who fought it and why, when and where the battles took place, the rhetoric and speeches from some of the major players and a sense of the history that led up to it. Harper's Ferry touched off the fuse, but WHY? Why was the country ready to light on fire? Was it about slavery or states rights or federalism? Who fought on which side? What's with the Stars and Bars? Which side still traded with England?

If you don't know some of the facts, your opinions and viewpoints are worthless.

It's the same in math. If you can't factor trinomials, then there are scads of things that you can't do much thinking about. If you spend three minutes to do a fraction addition that the rest of the class does in seconds, then your understanding of probability is delayed, if not severely impacted. If you reach for a calculator to add ½ and ⅔, it makes it difficult for you to focus on what you really wanted to accomplish.

Imagine a class of Korean and Japanese kids (like one I had some years ago).  All had limited English skills.  They were always looking up words in the dictionary instead of memorizing, always working out the meaning word by word, and always resisting when we said "Just use English ... We know it's hard but it will pay off."  One day, we finished our math work early and one asked me about a Reading homework (instantly, the rest chimed in).  They were having trouble understanding what was going on.

I read the story quickly, two or three pages, a minute or so. It told of a man who lived in the woods ... his wife disappears ... detectives can't find evidence but they're sure husband killed her ... husband had a tremendous pile of split firewood ... no body in the wood pile, in the house, buried ... they realized it was warm and he didn't need the wood to heat the house ... why so much split wood?  Then a detective says "Aha, to work up an appetite."

None of the students got it.  They were so wrapped up in the definitions of words, in the structure of the sentences, and meaning of sentences that they couldn't put it all together at once and understand the whole. They didn't have enough facts and basic understanding to do any critical thinking. The "can't see the forest for the trees" analogy.

As an experiment, I grabbed a couple of weaker American students, dyslexics and generally slow readers ... they all got it instantly ... "Ewwww." I grabbed some European kids who had more years in country ... they all got it instantly ... "That's gross." The Asian kids were still stymied, even while other kids tried to explain without giving it all away.

Lighting that fire should be your goal, but the facts and knowledge are the only things you have for fuel.

And the original wasn't Yeats, it was Plutarch:
For the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth. Plutarch , page 259
Not that the Internet has a clue:
You can vote it up on Joanne Jacobs for least favorite edu-homily.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cheating on Tests Again

Joanne Jacobs has:
Aspiring teachers paid a Memphis school official to find substitutes to take a teacher certification exam, prosecutors charge. Clarence Mumford, 58, is accused of charging $1,500 to $3,000 per test. The scam involved at least 50 teachers and would-be teachers required to pass the PRAXIS in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas from 1995 to 2010, according to the indictment.
Really? The PRAXIS test is really easy.  The English one has simple grammar and a writing test that a chipmunk couldn't pass but only because the chipmunk can't type. The math test has decimal place-value questions and fractions. Every one of those teachers should be immediately fired.

After taking the test and passing it, they can take their place in the new-hires whirlwind.

The Math PRAXIS 2 is pre-calculus.  If you can't pass that, you shouldn't be teaching math ... and a case could be made for middle and elementary school, too.  Teachers shouldn't be the stupidest ones in the school.

Another KA analogy.

Some things can be automated. Brick-laying can be made far easier using one of these very cool machines but it still takes a human to lay things out in the required pattern. Education is far harder. Automatic education won't work all by itself, no matter how much the knuckleheads want Khan Academy to be that way. Khan Academy, like the Tiger-Stone bricklayer, makes things easier in some ways but you still need more ... a teacher. Salman Khan and his "off-the-cuff" videos aren't the devil ... but they aren't an education, either.

Students and Social Media - Delaware gets Smart

It's not signed by the Governor yet, but Delaware may institute intelligence ...
Both chambers of the Delaware Legislature have now given unanimous approval to a bill that would keep schools from taking even a single peek at their students’ social media profiles. The prohibition applies to all the state’s students, regardless of whether they are enrolled in a public or a private school. The measure, HB 309, is one of a pair dealing with social media privacy. The other, HB 308, addresses the kind of access employers may demand of their current or potential employees, and is still being debated by lawmakers.
About freaking time. Until it happens, though, my long-standing advice to students who are required to "friend" a school employee: make a new account.

The student should have two Facebook accounts and two Twitter accounts, two of everything that the school feels like monitoring.

One, under the student's real name: nice and shiny and clean and sanitized - posts about squeaky clean and honest living, the thrill of academics, and messages to parents and family. Use this one to set up future job prospects and post photos showing one in a good light. Use this one to help your grandmother get on Facebook. "Friend" your seven-year-old nephew and be a positive influence. Dutifully give this information to the goody-two-shoes compliance officer and don't forget to friend the coach and his flunkies.

The second account, set up under a pseudonym such as "Attila the Bunny Rabbit" is the one that has all of the true friends, the honesty and the fun.

For me, this is the difference between the Math Curmudgeon and my real life. Plausible Deniability.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Leap of Logic: Romeo and Juliet Updated

That's right.  Putting a new, flashy cover on the book will mean more teenagers will read it.

No kidding.  Adding nifty-neato-graphics hasn't worked for any math book written in the last century, but maybe Shakespeare is different? Understand that I'm all for kids reading Shakespeare ... and I've often said that if parents really knew the crudity, sex and violence in  his plays, kids would never be allowed to read them. I'm just not sure that the problem is the cover. Anyway ...

ABC News breathlessly tells us that: Sexy Covers Lure “Twilight” Teens to Capital-L Literature

"Yes, that is the Bard’s bad boy on the cover of the new Penguin edition of the classic Shakespeare tragedy."
"No frills or lace. Instead, Romeo sports a white tank top and a three-day stubble. He still talks funny, but publishers hope the catchier cover will at least get young people to give the Elizabethan prose a try. Shakespeare owes a debt to the “Hunger Games” trilogy, the “Twilight” series and Harry Potter. The runaway success of those series taught publishers that young people weaned on videos are not afraid to pick up old-fashioned books, some of which can go pound for pound with “Moby Dick” or “War and Peace.”

Shakespeare owes a debt?  Romeo and Juliet is somehow an analogous book for Harry Potter fans? A kid reads Hunger Games and just naturally picks up "War and Peace"? The "funny language" issues aren't going to get in the way either.

Has this idiot ever read Romeo and Juliet?

Not an issue.
Romeo (brash 17 year-old) wants to marry Rosaline but she says no. He falls for 13-year-old Juliet at a party even though he has no idea who she is, but he tells her he loves her on sight ... which means she realizes that she loves him right back.

If it stopped there, you might be forgiven for thinking of this as a romance, albeit somewhat creepy because of the whole age thing. (Think a high school senior wanting to marry a freshman.)

Tybalt wants to murder Romeo for coming to the party. Benvolio and Mercutio make vague threats and Romeo arrives but tries to stay out of a fight, so Tybalt kills Mercutio and then Romeo kills Tybalt. It's still a romance, though, because Romeo sleeps with Juliet that night ... because sex with a child the night after you meet her is so romantic.

Romeo has to skip town because of the killing thing, and since Juliet is only momentarily upset by the murder of her cousin, she fakes suicide to get out of an arranged marriage of her own. Romeo thinks the fake is real so he commits suicide and then Juliet commits suicide when she finds him lying there.

How heart-warming.  "And the fathers lived happily ever after in harmony."

Puts me in mind of this eCard which has been going around recently:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Credit Recovery or Fraud?

From Joanne Jacobs:
Three Los Angeles seniors who failed a required class, were able to transfer to a credit-recovery school for two days, pass and return to graduate with classmates, reports the Los Angeles Times. Teachers are annoyed.
The students withdrew from STEM Academy of Hollywood as late as June 13, a Wednesday, attended the adjacent Alonzo Community Day School the next day, and checked back into STEM to graduate that Friday.
Teachers are annoyed indeed.

It makes you wonder a lot of things: the idea that the other school was "adjacent", the idea that you can "drop out" with two days to go, the idea that the second school's standards are so low that the kids failing at school #1 can take a few quizzes and tests in 2 days and pass and then re-enroll in time to graduate, and the idea that STEM "has" to accept the credits.
 Alonzo, the alternative school, is intended for students who are at risk of dropping out. Although it has a traditional school day, it measures credits only by work completed, not the time the students spend in class, said Principal Victorio R. Gutierrez.

How about growing some cajones and refusing to let them re-enroll?  It's obvious to all but the most insufferable twit that they are gaming the system.  At least delay the acceptance of the credits until after some paperwork has been done -- just long enough to keep them from walking with the rest.

Erin Andrews moves to FOX. So What?

Erin Andrews, ESPN
"Erin Andrews Moves On From ESPN To FOX Sports" the headline yelled.
Sometimes, it's time to move on. For Erin Andrews, that was the case. After eight years in the fishbowl that is ESPN, the Lewiston, Maine-born Andrews finished up her contract at the Worldwide Leader last weekend, and was immediately brought on at FOX Sports, which jubilantly announced her hiring in a gushing press release.
What an amazingly dumb thing to say.  If she thinks ESPN is a "fishbowl", where everyone is looking at her, then what does she expect at FOX? At least ESPN only sorta sold the titillating aspect of what is Erin Andrews.  I think FOX is going to market the hell out of her body and her looks but downplay the sports knowledge. She might be as knowledgeable as Suzy Colber and Rachel Nichols but FOX is gonna make this woman into a spectacle.

Poster girl for Title 9¾

Sometimes taste should decide fashion.

§176. Respect for flag No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America;
(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.

I know Americans are more aware than citizens of most other countries of improper handling or display of the flag, but I still feel this is inappropriate. Certainly, someone should have pointed out that Perry was going to be a huge part of the show, broadcast nationwide and the performer's ego might take a backseat just once to taste.

This isn't a call for a Congressional over-reaction by anti-desecration amendment to the Constitution but rather a request to the broadcast networks to remain aware that tolerance may be a US virtue but that flouting that tolerance shouldn't be quite so obnoxiously visible.

Oh well, I guess this makes it okay. Or not.

I'd be interested to know if gunny "spoke" to him before his commander or after, and if the "conversation" was pleasant.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy Fourth

Fireworks: Vermont Symphony Orchestra in Stowe ... thanks to Bill Jalbert

Our Sacred Honor

Ordinarily, I don't like the man -- I think he's a blowhard -- but this is well worth reading. I found this a couple years ago and I'm bumping it back up to the top.

The Americans Who Risked Everything

My father, Rush H. Limbaugh, Jr., delivered this oft-requested address locally a number of times, but it had never before appeared in print until it appeared in The Limbaugh Letter. My dad was renowned for his oratory skills and for his original mind; this speech is, I think, a superb demonstration of both. I will always be grateful to him for instilling in me a passion for the ideas and lives of America's Founders, as well as a deep appreciation for the inspirational power of words which you will see evidenced here:

It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.

Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren't nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.

The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that "the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stockings was nothing to them." All discussing was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.

On the wall at the back, facing the president's desk, was a panoply -- consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!"

Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissension. "Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York."

Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase "by a self-assumed power." "Climb" was replaced by "must read," then "must" was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called "their depredations." "Inherent and inalienable rights" came out "certain unalienable rights," and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.

A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.

Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: "I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American." But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.

Much To Lose

What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you, the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?

I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.

Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half - 24 - were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, nine were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.

With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th Century.

Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward. Ben Franklin wryly noted: "Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately."

Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: "With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone."

These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember, a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.

They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.

It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers. (It was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag.)

Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks:

"Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.

"The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.

"If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens."

Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.

William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers' faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, "but in no face was he able to discern real fear." Stephan Hopkins, Ellery's colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: "My hand trembles, but my heart does not."

Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.

· Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered -- and his estates in what is now Harlem -- completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.

· William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin.

· Philips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.

· Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.

· John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.

· Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.

· Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton's parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the Revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.

· Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington's appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.

· George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.

· Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.

· John Martin, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were: "Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country."

·William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.

· Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage, he and his young bride were drowned at sea.

· Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where they were singled out for indignities. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.

· Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson's palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, "Why do you spare my home?" They replied, "Sir, out of respect to you." Nelson cried, "Give me the cannon!" and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson's sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson's property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50.

Lives, Fortunes, Honor
Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.

He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons' lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man's heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: "No."

The 56 signers of the Declaration Of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. "And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

My friends, I know you have a copy of the Declaration of Independence somewhere around the house - in an old history book (newer ones may well omit it), an encyclopedia, or one of those artificially aged "parchments" we all got in school years ago. I suggest that each of you take the time this month to read through the text of the Declaration, one of the most noble and beautiful political documents in human history.

There is no more profound sentence than this: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness..."

These are far more than mere poetic words. The underlying ideas that infuse every sentence of this treatise have sustained this nation for more than two centuries. They were forged in the crucible of great sacrifice. They are living words that spring from and satisfy the deepest cries for liberty in the human spirit.

"Sacred honor" isn't a phrase we use much these days, but every American life is touched by the bounty of this, the Founders' legacy. It is freedom, tested by blood, and watered with tears.

- Rush Limbaugh III

Irrelevant Education

Innovative Educator tweeted and and bunch of people re-Tweeted:
"I don't believe ALL students need the same thing. Nearly all of what I was forced to learn in HS was irrelevant."
Really?  Let's see, English, Math, Science, History, Languages, Fine Arts, Vo-Tech.

Yep.  Useless.

To an alternative education blogger, I suppose, but not for anyone who actually needs to think for a living.

Everyone needs to focus on a different path through life but that most of the stuff we "force" people to learn in HS provides a valuable foundation for the education that's really important to our students.

HS Requirements serve two purposes.

The first is to make sure that idealistic teenagers who pretend to have a clue are "forced" to experience certain things.  Most teenagers have no idea of their own strengths or weaknesses, have little experience with life, have never gotten out of their comfort zone nor have they really done much of importance. They can't be trusted to know what's good for them to the point of total control over their education. They are only just realizing who they are and what they like.  They will avoid work even though they might enjoy it after all.

Second, and probably more importantly, requirements are society's way of saying "This is what we feel is important, these ideas and concepts are good ones, and this manner of thinking is the sign of a mature mind." We understand that teenagers aren't there yet ... hell, lots of adults aren't there yet, but that doesn't mean we give up at the first sign of rebellion in a teenager.  We all have sat down and lamented not applying ourselves when we were younger and so we (the community and the teachers and the School Board) set up the HS program to be sure that we at least introduce teenagers to the things that we as adults have found we need.

We need to understand that no one will be successful at everything and teenagers are no different.  We can't expect that every kid will be successful at math (or poetry, or science, or writing), but we have to try so that we can be sure that it's not just adolescent stubbornness. We have to try to nurture the artist in the mathematician and the math-geek in the musician.  They don't know their strengths.  Yet.

This is why HS is a requirement.  That's why there's 4 years of English, 3 years of math, etc.  These aren't the sum total of education, they're only the minimums, the first milestones on the road to a better life. We teachers know that some of this is "boring" but we're in the position of teaching dribbling to the beginning soccer player ... the game is confounding without that basic skill. We also know that students will regress in all the courses they don't like so we push them to level 5, knowing that the regression to level 3 is better than teaching to level 3 and regressing to 0.  We can't pave the entire road but we can make enough steps that students can go back and fill in as needed when they realize the necessity.

It is this point that the alternative education people get wrong so often.  They are too often giving up on the children they are supposed to be teaching, following the child who is wandering lost instead of leading the way. "He's just misunderstood. He's got an alternate knowledge base. He's just as intelligent but not in an academic way and you're trying to shoehorn him into things he hates.  Bad teacher."

True, many geniuses felt that school was boring and pointless, but that's because they already understood, didn't like the repetition, and wanted to move on. Penn Jillette is a great example. School might have been irrelevant to him but the education wasn't.

Just because YOU didn't see the purpose of everything in school, it's not because you are a misunderstood genius, too. It's much more likely that you're just a spoiled and willfully ignorant child.
~ Curmudgeon.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Money isn't always the way out ...

Throwing money at the problem (like buying every kid a computer without having a clue about how to make it work) isn't the answer ... but starving the patient doesn't help the recovery.
We now take you to Bill Ferriter in South Carolina for his perspective on this.