"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Science Lesson on Eclipses

Driving down to Florida in the wee hours of the morning, we were fortunate to see Venus accompany us most of the way until the sunrise, and the moon was absolutely brilliant. It's good to get away from the cities and suburbs so you can remember what the night sky looks like.

I did not see the eclipse on December 21 (the winter solstice), but came across this clip from Open Culture you might enjoy. It is a time elapsed video of the eclipse...it's quite extraordinary. You might want to check out the pictures of the Milky Way included in this link.

Blessed Christmas wishes!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home Economics Class Recipe: Florida Christmas Cookies

I'm in Florida for Christmas which is an awesome place to be in December. As a native Floridian, I believe the natives take for granted the beautiful weather here (usually) around Christmas. It was pushing 60 degrees here today with a light breeze and that is very cool in North Florida. We have a small fire in the stove right now which takes the December chill out of the house. Dinner was at a favorite neighborhood restaurant where the special was a dozen of oysters for $4.00. It was a fabulous day with family, perfect weather, and tasty food. (And to the delight of my UF alumn husband, he has his choice of all kind of Gator clothing and paraphernalia that is understandably impossible to find in Missouri).

It's been a pleasure putting Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and common core standards on the back shelf for a few days. To celebrate Christmas and the special cooking we do once a year, here's a recipe that captures the flavor of Florida.

Hope your Christmas plans are coming together!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The NEA, Arne Duncan, and Students Caught in the Middle of the Education Wars

I wanted to draw attention to an excellent post by Culture Vigilante regarding "Educated Citizenry 2020". This post does an excellent job detailing the NEA's involvement in promoting early childhood education.

I was particularly interested in the reporting on the NEA's position on charter schools. The NEA has detailed their "acceptable" charter and non-traditional public schools which they approve. Why should a teacher's union dictate to a govermental agency...or a state educational department or local school district...on what type of educational model it would "accept"? Just typing that sentence makes me think..."what"? Why are we, the taxpayers and legislators, allowing the union to tell us what THEY will accept to teach our children, and that THEY will have to power to review any systems outside of the traditional educational model? Does anyone else this is ludicrous?

I don't know how much of the NEA's recommendations to take to heart. This link was passed on to me by a watchdog about Arne Duncan's idea of charter schools. It doesn't seem as if he is too impressed with the NEA's resolutions. He insists that states must expand the number of charter schools to receive RTTT funding. It doesn't seem as if he is asking the NEA for permission to make that edict.

I have one particular observation on the NEA's position that I wanted to highlight. Look at the NEA's resolution "b" listed in the Culture Vigilante's article. The union asserts:

"Charter school programs must be qualitatively different from what is available in mainstream public schools and not just an avenue for parental choice".

That's an interesting sentence. The parental trigger option is supposedly for parents to use because they believe their public schools are failing. They want a school that will offer their children a true alternative. That's the original intention for charter school operations.

Arne Duncan loves charter schools....but what most people and legislators don't understand is the common core standards and Race to the Top mandate the same curriculum. Charter schools programs cannot be qualitiatively different from public school mandates...they are the same. This has been mandated by Race to the Top and common core standards.

We have a standoff then, between the unions wanting to keep their power and Arne Duncan who wants to expand taxpayer monetary disbursement to hedgefunds and investors.

When can children be excused from the crossfire of adults who just want power and/or financial gain?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chris Christie and the Missouri Legislature Discover the Bad News--There is No Money.

Chris Christie understands economic reality. Speaking about the rail project he had to cancel:

“We don’t have the money,” Christie explains, “we literally don’t have the money.”

Our state legislators may have realized we financially can't afford the goals set forth in the new educational plan "Educated Citizenry 2020". According to the Missourian, there is recognition from the committee these goals may be financially unattainable at this time:

On Friday, the Missouri Senate's Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee produced a report setting forth some ambitious goals to improve the quality of public education offered to Missouri residents. But the committee chairman acknowledged there probably is no money to carry out some of the initiatives — at least not in the next few years.

Pay raises, new programs and expanded government services all have become a rarity in recent years — replaced by layoffs and spending cuts as state officials have patched together budgets with federal economic stimulus funds and falling state sales and income taxes collections.

That federal stimulus money is about to run out. And tax revenues, though finally showing signs of growth, remain far below the levels of just a few years ago. Gov. Jay Nixon's administration is projecting a $500 million to $700 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — a gap equal to almost 10 percent of the state's general revenues.

As we wrote about in our previous piece about these new proposals, citizens should be asking the following questions to the legislators:

  • What is the total cost of the program?
  • If there are unfunded/underfunded mandates in this program, how will these be addressed in this climate of budget cutting in the state?
  • How does this plan promote smaller government?
  • How does this plan promote more local control?
  • Does this plan promote more parental rights and involvement?
  • How are charter schools considered a viable alternative as they will operate under the same mandates as traditional public schools?
If the goals are determined to be financially impossible at this time, perhaps the discussion should center around the validity of the goals themselves.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The BEST ABC Primer for Students on the Market Today. It's not "A" for Apple, "B" for Boy...

If our states are going to force Common Core curriculum in the schools, I would suggest this (via Hot Air) primer be taught in kindergarten so children can learn their ABCs. The name of the study material is entitled "A Child's First Book of Government Regulations".

They will also get an idea of how America is ruled (not governed) today. You might as well start the children at an early age to learn how government is control of their decisions...not their parents or themselves.

Do the people have any voice at all or have we been reduced to a nation of mandates set forth by Congress?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Humorous Classroom Learning Experience: A Day in the Life of a Sign Language Interpreter.

Here's a humorous clip about the education of a teacher from a sign language interpreter. Sign language interpreters are a wonderful group of people who work diligently for deaf students who require sign language for their primary mode of communication or utilize it for increased understanding. I have found them to be a dedicated group of professionals who must be flexible and "on" at all times in the classroom.

Regarding the flexibility issue of being an interpreter; did you know there is not "one" sign language used in the United States? There is American Sign Language (ASL) which is based on French grammatical structures, Signed Exact English (SEE), based on English grammar structure and Pidgin Signed English (PSE), a combination of ASL and SEE. The interpreter must interpret in the language preference of the student, so you can understand why flexibility is important.

Every country has its own sign language, just as every country has its own unique spoken language. And as in spoken language, different regions of the country have their own "sign slang". In spoken language, I would liken it to the "Coke" vs pop vs soda debate.

Big hugs to interpreter everywhere...especially to those in the St. Louis Special School District. You all are the best!
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