"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, November 26, 2011

Revisionist History and the Rewriting of the Meaning of Thanksgiving. The Practice of "Gratitude" is SO Inadequate and Wrong.

We're winding up the Thanksgiving weekend and I've been reading articles about gratitude and the reasons for our celebration. Traditionally public school students have been taught to be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Throughout the years the religious influence has been watered down for political correctness, but in some lesson plans, the word "gratitude" has been pre-empted in favor of other words when teaching about Thanksgiving.

When you think about Thanksgiving in a historical way, what words come to your mind? A lesson plan from Education World suggests other "character education" words trump and should replace the word "gratitude" when celebrating Thanksgiving:


The U.S. Congress has decided to change the name of the holiday celebrated on the last Thursday in November. The name "Thanksgiving," the lawmakers say, doesn't capture the entire spirit of the day. The holiday should be a day for more than just giving thanks. Now, Congress has asked your class to help choose a better name.


Working in teams, your class will

  • brainstorm what the day called Thanksgiving is all about.
  • research Thanksgiving customs and experiences.
  • identify character traits that might be demonstrated in our Thanksgiving practices.
  • choose a new name for the holiday.
  • create a short PowerPoint presentation explaining your choice and reasons for it.
Why should this day be for more than just giving thanks? Why doesn't giving thanks capture the entire spirit of the day? Is it because we are giving thanks to God? Is it because gratitude is outdated?

The lesson plan has a social worker on the "team" to come up with a new and improved version of Thanksgiving:

The Social Worker: researches character traits and makes a list of at least 3-5 traits other than gratitude.

Here is a link for the new traits:

GoodCharacter.com Click trustworthiness, respect, fairness, caring, and citizenship

Education World publishes a lesson that teaches Thanksgiving needs to be renamed so students can learn other character education traits. Forget teaching about the quest for religious freedom and the gratitude Americans have traditionally practiced on this day. What holiday will be next for tweaking? Do we need to encourage children to role play as social workers to teach the qualities of trustworthiness, respect, fairness, caring, and citizenship to celebrate Thanksgiving? Where is the honor to God for blessings received in those character traits?

Public education students should read Rich Lowry's article, "A World of Gratitude" (reprinted below) about gratitude. "Gratitude" is an important "character education" trait. Thanksgiving need not be renamed to fit some current political agenda. If we cease to practice gratitude, we cease to acknowledge our history and lose ourselves in the process.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. © 2011 King Features Syndicate

A World of Gifts
Gratitude is central.

Eventually social science works its way around to confirming eternal verities. So it is with gratitude.

An article in a psychological journal a few years ago noted that “throughout history, religious, theological and philosophical treatises have viewed gratitude as integral to well-being.” Psychology has recently worked to quantify the wisdom of the ages and confirmed — sure enough — it was correct.

A raft of recent research has established that grateful people are happier people. They are less depressed and less stressed. They are less likely to envy others and more likely to want to share. They even sleep better. As the journal article put it, empirical work “has suggested gratitude is as strongly correlated with well-being as are other positive traits, and has suggested that this relationship is causal.”

Gratitude has long been a neglected quality. A decade or so ago, the Encyclopedia of Human Emotions didn’t include it. (For that matter, neither did Bill Bennett’s affirmatively traditional The Book of Virtues.) As the New York Times reported back in 1998, “Psychologists rarely think much about what makes people happy. They focus on what makes them sad, on what makes them anxious.” They were more likely to study, in other words, the miseries of a Woody Allen than the wellsprings of joy.

Gratitude constitutes what philosopher David Hume called a “calm passion.” It doesn’t have the theatrical potential of anger and hatred, or courage and sacrifice. Nonetheless, there’s a reason it has been considered central to the good life and a good society by all major religions and by thinkers stretching from Cicero (“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others”) to Oprah (“Whenever you can’t think of something to be grateful for, remember your breath”).

Gratitude acknowledges our dependence on others and the debt we owe because of it. Grateful people want, somehow, to return the favor of their undeserved windfall. It is a sentiment that, in the jargon, is “pro-social.” A leading figure in its study, Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, maintains that it binds us to others beyond the ties of family and of commercial transactions.

Gratitude is at the root of patriotism, of the impulse to preserve and improve our patrimony. In a culture that tends to celebrate self-glorification, gratitude points us beyond our own demands and discontents. It inclines us to see all around us a world of gifts.

What did we do to inherit a country that is free and prosperous? To deserve Charlie Parker or Mark Twain? To build the Golden Gate Bridge or the Chrysler Building? To measure up to the beauties of the Catholic Mass or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? Or simply to prove worthy of traffic lights and potable water?

In the classic essay “I, Pencil,” Leonard Read writes an account of the production of a pencil from the point of view of the pencil. The bottom line is that no one person could ever know enough to produce it alone: “Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.” If that’s true of the humble pencil, how much more so does it hold for our civilization?

Without gratitude, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote, “We are left with the numbing, benumbing thought that we owe nothing to Plato and Aristotle, nothing to the prophets who wrote the Bible, nothing to the generations who fought for freedoms activated in the Bill of Rights.” He called for “a rebirth of gratitude for those who have cared for us, living and, mostly, dead. The high moments of our way of life are their gifts to us.”

John Adams captured the grateful attitude when he acknowledged the hardships of this vale of tears while celebrating it all the same (if in anachronistic language): “Griefs upon griefs! Disappointments upon disappointments. What then? This is a gay, merry world notwithstanding.”

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving and Education: Teaching Gratitude and Recognizing Blessings

Below is a great article on "Teaching Your Kids to be Thankful" detailing many ways to encourage children to recognize and express gratitude for the blessings in their lives. Especially intriguing to me was the "Thankful Paper Chain" activity that can also morph into a Christmas lesson on gratitude.

Gratitude is an important lesson parents must teach their children (and adults must remember to practice). Tomorrow we'll write about some educators who don't think teaching gratitude is very important. But today, as you give your own thanks with your family and friends, hug your children and view them as blessings provided to you for caretaking.

Happy Thanksgiving and may blessings abound!

(from http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/thanksgiving/articles/teaching-kids-to-be-thankful.html)

Teaching your Kids to be Thankful

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach your kids about being thankful. Here are some ideas to teach your children how to appreciate the blessings in their lives.

Giving Thanks Placemats

The goal of this craft is to create a collage filled with drawings and pictures of all the things your children are thankful for. Cut photos from magazines, or print some photos from your computer. Older children can write captions under the photos or draw their own. Be sure to put the child’s name and the year on it.

If you make this collage from two standard letter size pieces of construction paper taped side-by-side, you can take the completed collage to a copy shop when you’re done and have it laminated. It then becomes a placemat that you can use every Thanksgiving for years to come.

Thankful Paper Chain

Another way to remind your children of their blessings is to create a paper chain. This is similar to a regular paper chain – where you cut strips of paper and connect them together as loops, but there’s one difference. You write on the strips of paper before you connect them. Write the things you are thankful for with your children. For instance, “Grandma plays games with me” or “My teacher is nice.” The fun part of this activity is to make the chain as long as possible – showing all your blessings. If you’d like to keep this up during Christmas, just use green and white paper.

Thanksgiving Tree

This is another take on the idea above and works really well if you have several kids in the family. Get each child to trace their hand on yellow, red, or brown construction paper. Cut out the hand shapes and write (or have the child write) what they are thankful for on the hand shape. Cut a tree trunk shape out of brown construction paper. Glue it on a large piece of poster board. Let the kids add their hand shapes as leaves above the tree trunk, turning it into a beautiful fall colored tree.

Thankful Book

This idea is similar to the others, except it’s more of a keepsake. Purchase a photo album or scrapbook kit and make a “blessings” theme. Add photos of loved ones, including stories about why they are special to you. Also, include pages of your favorite foods, favorite stories, favorite movies and all the other things that make you happy. Any time your kids feel down, you can open your blessing book to see all the reasons you have to be happy – and thankful for the blessings in your life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Little Thought on Investments

With the Fed pumping more and more dollars into the economy, tanking the value of the US dollar, people are looking for places to store their wealth to protect it.  Gold prices soared recently as that gleaming yellow metal became a safe haven for wealth. The latest trend shows farm land being gobbled up and speculated upon by hedge fund managers, as food is poised to become the next valuable commodity. What's next?

You have only to look at the memos coming out of the Dept of Ed and speeches by our President to see what is THE most valuable asset in America.  It's our children. So many people want them; want to teach them, to guide them, to mold them. They can hardly wait to get their hands on them as soon as possible after their birth (early ed.) They want to catalog them like valuable works of art (LDS). They want to make sure they are reaching their optimum output capacity (assessments.) High end vehicles get less attention and care.

So if you're looking to invest your most valuable asset, your time, into something that will provide lasting results, consider your children. While you have them over this holiday break, take some time to enjoy your investment.

And those stay at home moms and dads who have been told, by the feminists and others, that they aren't doing anything meaningful, remind them that you have been given the incredibly important job of overseeing the production of our country's most valuable asset, our children. The product of your work will last decades.  Can they say the same?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Message to DESE: "Occupy Mayflower". Teach THIS to Missouri Students.

What is the purpose of DESE? From its Mission Statement:

The mission of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is to guarantee the superior preparation and performance of every child in school and in life.

How does DESE guarantee" the superior preparation and performance of every child in school and life"? We've had issues with DESE's standards (particularly Social Studies and its skewed version of history) and the emphasis the department places on international education vs learning about America's laws and founding principles.

As we near Thanksgiving, I wondered what students in Missouri might be learning about the landing by the Pilgrims and other settlers from England. Would they be learning this was in fact a "divided" community (Puritans vs non-Puritans) in which the people had to design their own form of self-government to live peaceably?

The roving and increasingly scattered population found it difficult to attend the General Court, as the governing meetings at Plymouth came to be called. By 1639, deputies were sent to represent each town at the other General Court sessions. Not only self-rule, but representative government had taken root on American soil.

I can't tell from the DESE Special Calendar of Events that the department has any interest in teaching why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving or the importance of the Mayflower Compact (image above). The link to "Thanksgiving" leads to this:

Public holidays.

9.010. The first day of January, the third Monday of January, the twelfth day of February, the third Monday in February, the eighth day of May, the last Monday in May, the fourth day of July, the first Monday in September, the second Monday in October, the eleventh day of November, the fourth Thursday in November, and the twenty-fifth of December, are declared and established public holidays; and when any of such holidays falls upon Sunday, the Monday next following shall be considered the holiday. There shall be no holiday for state employees on the fourth Monday of October.

The only mention of Thanksgiving on the website is the regulation deeming it a holiday for the citizens. Why is the Mayflower Compact important in 2011 anyway? Since DESE teaches students they live in a "constitutional democracy" then I propose DESE downplays (or ignores) the historical knowledge of the reasons the Puritans made the trip. How society was formed with Puritans and non-Puritans alike is not worth mentioning even though it impacted the governing structures of the country in the future.

What does DESE mention on its site for students, educators and parents? What DOES DESE find important to highlight on its calendar with information and teaching resources? (Here are some sites with accompanying information through 2011):

June 5 World Environment Day
June 12-16 National History Day Contest
August 1-31 Children's Eye Health and Safety Month
August 26 Women's Equality Day
September 1-30 Library Card Sign-Up Month
National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
September 8 International Literacy Day
Sept. 11-17 National Arts in Education Week
September 11 Grandparents' Day
September 16 Constitution Day
September 24 Worldwide Day of Play
September 26 Family Day
October 1-31 Disability History and Awareness Month and UNICEF Month
October 6 Read for the Record
October 9-15 Fire Prevention Week and National Educational Office Professionals Career
National Metric Week
National DECA Week
October 20 Lights On Afterschool
October 22 Make a Difference Day
October 23-31 Red Ribbon Week
October 24 United Nations Day
November 13-19 American Education Week (Nov. 16-Education Support Professionals Day; Nov. 18-Substitute Educators Day)
November 14-18 International Education Week
December 1 World AIDS Day

These sites have information primarily from lobbying groups (such as the NEA and the American Library Association) or federal government sites. The sites with no information except the notation that it is a holiday set by either the state or federal government include:

June 14 Flag Day
July 4 Independence Day
July 27 Korean War Veterans Day
September 5 Labor Day
September 11 Schools must display flags at half-staff for September 11 Anniversary
Emergency Services Day
Emergency Personnel Appreciation Day
September 16 POW/MIA Recognition Day
September 17-23 Constitution Week (September 17-Citizenship Day)
October 10 Columbus Day
October 19 Missouri Day
November 11 Veterans Day
December 7 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Schools must display flags at half-staff

A few thoughts come to mind while comparing those holidays or special days/week and wondering why some have teaching resources/information and others are just noted with the legal notice from state laws:

  • Is DESE is too incompetent to write up information on holidays such as Independence Day, POW/MIA Recognition Day, Veteran's Day, Pearl Harbor Day and September 11? Wouldn't it be a good idea to explain on the calendar WHY flags are being flown half-mast on that date? Why is "Grandparent's Day" given a link with resources on September 11 but the explanation of what happened on that date (with nearly 3,000 people dying in a terrorist attack) is not mentioned?
  • Does DESE believe in American exceptionalism? If so, why are the resources scant for those holidays recognizing that trait of our founding documents and persons exemplifying this belief?
  • DESE highlights the increasingly centralization and special interest lobbies present in education. Read the mission of the UN under the United Nations Day link: "Let us unite, seven billion strong, in the name of the global common good."

    Message for UN Day 2011 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Does The Mayflower Compact and its importance in American governmental structure pale by comparison to the "global common good"? Our students are not learning so much about America, rather, they are learning how to become "good global citizens" and focus on the "global common good". I wonder what William Bradford would think about this turn of events. I wonder if Missouri students even know who William Bradford was and his important contributions via the Mayflower Compact.

DESE has seemingly forgotten why and how we are founded. What's listed on its calendar and what is linked (and what is not) does not place much emphasis on American history. To remedy this turning away from America, DESE should teach "Occupy Mayflower". It would be a study of how a representative government was created and how that representative government formed our future historical documents. Looking at this calendar, a taxpayer would think the Missouri standards are currently concentrated primarily on global studies, special interests and social justice. I doubt this is education that will
"guarantee the superior preparation and performance of every child in school and in life."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Having a National Educational Curriculum Makes Certain Aussies and Kiwis "As Cross as a Frog in A Sock"

Some of the current educational buzzwords in the United States have been:
  • globally competitive
  • career ready
  • common core standards
  • cradle to grave education
  • education equity
  • social justice
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) ready
  • international standards
We read educational articles and learn how American students are:
  • falling behind the rest of the world
  • not competitive on the global stage
  • needing standards (that are untested and not supported by real data and real research) that are internationally benchmarked
  • needing a nationalized curriculum because all students should learn the same material at the same age regardless of geographical location
ONLY WHEN we achieve a national curriculum, standards and assessments will this alleged downward trend in education be reversed and we will once again be a nation consisting of smart students who can compete on the global level. According to Arne Duncan:

In an event yesterday sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) State and Local Officials Initiative, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan emphasized the importance of a global approach to education. Noting that the United States is experiencing both increased competition from and collaboration with other countries, Duncan described education as the great equalizer and connector, not just for students in American schools, but also around the world.

The push for this "global education" is starting to become a little less "global" in the world. Not all the countries in the world have rose colored glasses on when it comes to global curriculum; they don't even approve of a nationalized curriculum.

Kudos to educators and parents in Australia and New Zealand for questioning the wisdom of a "one size fits all" approach to education and grading students on the same standardized measure for all students.

From Australia:

National curriculum threatens Australia’s innovation

Leading British educator Stephen Hepplen is cautioning Australia against its federal education reforms, which include a national curriculum, arguing they’ll stifle creativity at the state level.

“One of the huge advantages in Australia is the states have taken it in turns to lead,” He told The Age. “With standardization you lose the ability for one state to innovate and pass the baton on to another.”

Australia’s first national curriculum was endorsed by all the country’s education ministers last December, covering English, Math, Science and History through tenth grade. The ultimate goal, according to the government, is a curriculum that goes through twelfth grade and also includes Languages, Geography, Art, Health, Physical education, Information and Communications Technology, Design and Technology, Economics, Business and Civics and Citizenship.

From New Zealand:

Parents speak out against New Zealand’s national standards

Over 150 families in Wellington, New Zealand are asking the federal government to not hold their children accountable to the recently adopted - and heavily debated - national standards, according to Television New Zealand.

The standards cover what children should be doing from the moment they walk in school doors in “year one” through eighth grade. So far, more than 50 schools across New Zealand still don’t include the national standards as targets in their charters - something they are now required by law to do.

The parents of children at Raphael House Rudolf Steiner School in Lower Hutt are upset their school has to implement national standards when the holistic philosophy of Steiner education means children do not start learning to read until they are seven.

The focus in New Zealands eight Steiner schools is on growing the child’s mind, soul and body. Judged against state education standards, pupils would fail until they are about 11, when their reading and writing levels will typically match and average child’s.

“It’s completely against the philosophy of our curriculum,” [mother Monica] Brice said. “We would have to tell our children that they’re not doing well, which would be terrible for their self esteem.”

The Department of Education and Arne Duncan should follow the discontent of Australian and New Zealand citizens. Perhaps being "global" isn't such a bad idea after all if those "global" ideas are akin to our constitution and protect individual rights. These citizens recognize the centralization of curriculum negates states' rights for educational directives and the death of innovation.

As they would say in New Zealand, this plan for nationalized curriculum is down the gurgler.

(And here's the definition of "as cross as a frog in a sock" in Australia: Frog in a sock, as cross as a : sounding angry - a person or your hard drive!)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Sunday Education Weekly Reader: 11.20.11

Welcome to the Sunday Weekly Education Reader for 11.20.11. This week in review includes stories reporting on:
  • Lessons for OWSers from Monty Python and a university professor
  • Tracking kids from kindergarten to college in Washington state
  • An unintended consequence of Common Core standards for school districts
  • Educators thumbing their noses at NCLB and state accountability measures for one student
What Have the Romans Done for Us? is a piece combining the meaning and contributions of capitalism via Monty Python and Gary Wolfram from Hillsdale College.

These are good lessons for OWSers on the benefits of capitalism.

Wolfram writes:

Whenever I watch media coverage of another Occupy Wall Street event I am reminded of an exchange between Jewish protesters in the 1979 Monte Python movie Life of Brian. One of the protesters asks another what the Romans have brought to the area and the conversation goes like this:

Question: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Answer: Brought peace?
Response: Oh, peace – shut up!

The point is that the Roman institutions brought a good deal to the area that was being overlooked by the protesters. The Wall Street protesters, in their hatred of capitalism, overlook things including the fact that over the last 100 years capitalism has reduced poverty more and increased life expectancy more than in the 100,000 years prior.


Washington state education officials know a lot more about your kids than they ever knew about you. They can now track a child from kindergarten through college enrollment and soon will be able to tell you everything about every kid who has gone to school in Washington from preschool through their first job.

How did the US ever put a man on the moon, did entrepreneurs create new industries and other countless Americans live fulfilling lives without the government tracking student achievements? Look at the excerpt above from the article: officials...soon will be able to tell you everything about every kid who has gone to school...

That unfortunately will include such information as eye color, gestational age at birth, political affiliation, family income and over 300 other data sets.


Missouri's Superintendent of Education stated last year the implementation of Common Core standards would cost the state $0. That's right, $0. One of the most "transformational" changes in education would be free! From DESE in a previous posting on MEW and our analysis:

"No additional costs are anticipated for revising and maintaining the standards in Missouri".

The new system will include assessments for grades 3‐8 (much like our current MAP), end‐of‐course tests (again, the same or similar to those we are currently using), and tools that all teachers can use to improve classroom instruction. The plan also calls for the system to include an end‐of‐high‐school assessment which will measure mastery of elementary and secondary content and assure that every child is ready to go on to post‐secondary training, education or employment. There is no cost to Missouri associated with the SMARTER‐development assessment system.

Pay attention to the last sentence. The new assessment system relies heavily on computer generated assessment answers from the students. This means districts will need computers for each student, or expanded computer labs at every school. We believe these assessments will be very different from the ShowMe standards and WILL require extensive professional and software development for districts. Again, who is going to pay for the computers needed by students required by the mandates? Where is the money to train the persons necessary to score these new on line assessments?

Perhaps Nicastro was partially correct in stating the implemenation of Common Core is $0 if she is talking about the cost to the state. To the districts, however, it's a different story. They are the ones particularly hard hit and stuck with these unfunded mandates. More computers are necessary to comply with the common core assessments. With more computers mandated to be compliant, districts face the responsibility for not only paying for them, they must also pay for their repairs.

How are districts to pay for laptop repairs with shrinking budgets? Will this be happening in your district?

William Shuttleworth, superintendent of the Maine School Administrative District No. 28, said he “shivered” when he recently wrote out a check for $56,000 in repairs to laptops at the district’s Camden Hills Regional High School. He added: “I don’t want to write another one.”

Failing students take a toll on NCLB and AYP reporting in school districts and can impact funding and adminstrators' jobs.

This superintendent takes a chance with a struggling student and remembers why he has the job. It's not for test scores; it's to help students.

Educational thought for the week:

" Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. " --George Orwell

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