"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

Search This Blog

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Teacher Tells Students What's Most Important in Life. You Might Be Surprised.

That's an important question.

How are teachers (and parents) to teach children today?  Is becoming a global citizen and competing in a global economy the most important goal for students?  Is developing a managed economy and learning how to fit into that economy the reason for your child's existence?  

Watch Jeffrey Wright, a physics teacher, impart his educational lessons to his interested students.  More teachers like him and his passion for his subject might help solve any STEM crisis.  No computer could ever replicate the amazing way he teaches and captures his students' attention.  

The latter half of the video illustrates him teaching the students the most important lesson in life...and it's not from any Common Core standard I've come across.

The article description in the NY times of the video:

Jeffrey Wright uses wacky experiments to teach children about the universe, but it is his own personal story that teaches them the true meaning of life.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

More Common Core Battles Emerging

"CCSS isn't a solution to, but instead it is a deliberate doubling down of, the vile policies of NCLB and RTTT."

The Common Core Standards battles are occurring more frequently.  Education activists and teachers are confronting teachers/education industry reformers and are not mincing words in their concern of individuals/corporations supporting the standards. Robert Skeels in Schools Matter weighs in on the support an educator (a Latin teacher) gave CCSS:

The following is my edited commentary in response to comments by a CCSS supporter on the Professor Ravitch post: A Teacher of Latin Writes In Defense of Fiction.
Kaye Thompson Peters, I've grown weary of the trite "apple and oranges" device that you employ everywhere in your stalwart defense of Corporate Core. You even used it in a gushing apology for Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on Hoover's fringe-right EdNext. While you might not be uncomfortable that Pearson Education, Inc. has been promoting your writings on CCSS, it does cause some of us consternation. When discussing CCSS in relation to NCLB and RTTT, we're not conflating apples and oranges, we're discussing a bushel of rotten apples foisted on us by a bunch of billionaires suffering from the Shoe Button Complex

You can read more here.

This article came in my email late last night about another Common Core proponent's (a paid education reformer) stance on the standards,  My View: Common Core means common-sense standards:

Common Core fixes previous shortcomings by setting rigorous standards that ensure a child is mastering necessary material, not just memorizing it. It has been said that Indiana’s old standards were good, but they were a mile wide and an inch deep. The old standards expose students to everything but do little to ensure they truly understand any of it. The Common Core is focused on targeting key materials students need to know, coherent so that student learning builds upon the previous grades, and rigorous to ensure students master the concepts and processes behind the information.

The writer, Kristine Shiraki, is interim executive director of Stand for Children Indiana.  What is Stand for Children?

Stand has seen an enormous influx of corporate cash. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began by offering a relatively modest two-year grant of $80,000 in 2005. In 2007, Stand for Children received a $682,565 grant. In 2009, the point at which Stand’s drastically different political agenda became obvious, Gates awarded a $971,280 grant to support “common policy priorities” and in 2010, a $3,476,300 grant.

Though the Gates Foundation remains the biggest donor to Stand for Children, other players in the world of corporate education reform have also begun to see Stand as an effective vehicle to push their agenda.

New Profit Inc. has funded Stand since 2008—to the tune of $1,458,500. According to its website, New Profit is a “national venture philanthropy fund that seeks to harness America’s spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship to help solve the country’s biggest social problems.”

The Walton Family Foundation made a 2010 grant of $1,378,527. Several other major funders are tied to Bain Capital, a private equity and venture capital firm founded by Mitt Romney.

 The commentors to Ms. Shiraki's letter to the editor question her statements and ask her to provide data to confirm her contentions.  From the online version of the article:

Kristine, Could you post to this comment section the names of any teachers from Indiana who were on the writing team for the common core English or math common core standards? I have attached a link for Hoosiers to see how much representation Indiana had on the creation of the common core. http://
www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_K-12_dev-team.pdf Some readers may recognize the name Mark Tucker who is on the ELA team, a highly controversial political figure.

We both know that states can only add 15% to the common core standards and they may not delete or edit any standards as they are copyrighted and owned by two trade organizations in Washington DC, NGA and CCSSO. Stand for Children should be honest on this point. The new PARCC test that is replacing IStep will not test over the 15%. In this world of high-stakes testing, few, if any, teachers will have the time or incentive to teach any additional standards.

The idea that the common core standards are "fewer, clearer, deeper" is also untrue. The only people claiming Indiana's former standards were "a mile wide and an inch deep" are Tony Bennett and your organization. See for yourself here http://
I'm pretty sure that Shiraki's days as interim are numbered, in part because she lacks a fact checker so she gets her facts dead wrong and her flacking falls apart. For instance, Shiraki, can you or duh Star tell us (call Tony for help if you need to) just which particular countries were the Kommen Kore "standards" benchmarked against? Since, we both know that you will have to look them up, when you reply please do cite page numbers from which you are consulting. My gentle suggestion is, Shiraki, you won't find that page because it doesn't exist anymore than your claim of international benchmarking does.

Why would Fordham suggest to Indiana that Indiana keep its higher and better academic standards and not adopt Kommen Korps? While one may argue about the benefit or value of high standards no one argues about the value of the carrot suspended in front of the horse drawn wagon.

So, (and any other flack can help her) Name the Counties against which CC is benchmarked. Or, retract your mis statement and admit that Stand for Children actually supports dumbing down standards.

More and more citizens are starting to question organizations like Stand for Children, Bill Gates Foundation, The Walton Foundation, CCSSI, the National Governors Association and other education reformers who seem to believe that deciding and setting "common policy priorities"  for the citizenry might not be as appreciated by the taxpayers as they had once thought.   They may not have even given the taxpayers a thought in the crafting of these policies, actually, since none of them were involved (or are currently) in the implementation of the standards in school.  The elites have come up with the plan and we get the pleasure of paying for it. 

If groups/individuals complain or lobby their legislators,  you then will see education reformers' letters to the editor written about how wonderful these unproven, untested and unfunded these standards really are.  Their message?  "Trust them.  They create more federal control but really, they are in your state's best interest. "

 Who is setting the "common" priorities taxpayers get the pleasure of paying for and these same taxpayers are not directing their own community's educational direction?  And the second question: why are these groups putting millions of dollars into this legislative fight against grassroots organizations/citizens who don't want this education reform that has been crafted by private corporations and paid for by tax dollars?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fiscal Cliff For Education

Whiteboard Advisors is a policy consulting practice that provides "policy counsel, strategic consulting, and market research for education investors, entrepreneurs, philanthropies, and government leaders." Their recent newsletter had this to say about the looming fiscal cliff.
"Fiscal Cliff May Cause School Closures: If a budget deal is not reached by January 1, there will be an 8.2% decrease in federal education spending which reduces funding by about $4 billion. These cuts could trigger layoffs, increased class sizes, and significant facility/operations limitations. While a typical district’s budget is 12% federal dollars, for some districts this figure is as large as 85.5%. These cuts would also seriously limit Title I funding, impacting a high percentage of low-income students."
That sure sounds pretty dire, but let's take a moment and look at the numbers White Board is mentioning.

We must assume that 8.2% decrease in federal education spending they are referring to is the amount that will automatically be cut as per the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka "the supercommittee"), a bipartisan committee which was charged with finding a way to slash the nation's government spending by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years if some other agreement is not met before January 1, 2013. Let's set aside the discussion of whether these are actual cuts to today's spending (which they aren't really) or whether they are cuts to future increases in spending (which is closer to the truth) and just assume they are cuts to what everyone has gotten used to spending on education right now.

That $4 billion becomes $400 million a year if we do some basic math and spread it evenly over ten years.  Now let's divide that number across the basically 14,000 school districts nation wide.  That cut comes out to $28,571 per district. Kind of puts it in perspective, don't it? It may mean a large district might have to slash one or two teachers, or have two to three fewer aids, but that's not exactly the picture the Whiteboard Advisors paints.

This was very simplistic math which doesn't paint an accurate picture for all districts. You have to look at the second part of WA's point to see how the impact varies for different school districts and understand why they predict some schools may have to close next year.

They claim the average school district receives 12% of its funding directly from the federal government. This is a little like saying the average weight of a class of first graders plus their teacher and bus driver is sixty one pounds.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics only ten states receive more than 12% federal funding, with a few outliers at 15% (Louisiana) and 16% (South Dakota). Twelve percent may be a statistical average, but the low number of states receiving more than 12% gives you an idea how much more those ten states get on the whole. Twenty three states receive less than 10%.  Missouri only gets 8.3%. A clear majority of states (40) receive below 12% of their education funding from Washington. Damage from federal spending cuts is going to be disproportionately felt by states who have been used to a higher portion of their education funding coming from the Feds. That makes WA's prediction regarding the fiscal cliff a minor bump in the road for New Jersey which has kept their federal input to the enviable 4.1% of their total education budget.

How much of that money makes it to individual districts is more complex to calculate. Title I funding, the main mechanism by which federal education dollars are allocated, was meant to improve equity for disadvantaged kids in all communities in all states. However, the formula used to calculate which districts get what actually tends to penalize smaller districts (which are typically rural and have higher poverty rates) because of a provision known as “number weighting.” You can read more about the effects of number weighting here, here, and here.  This accounts for about a third of the inequity in the formula.

The other two thirds occurs because they use “statewide average per pupil expenditure” to calculate where the money goes. Simply put, states that spend more per pupil get more money from Washington. In theory this appears to promote the agenda of those who think we need to make per pupil spending on education our number one priority. The reality is that states with better economies and higher local tax rates for education spend more per pupil because they can and they are rewarded for doing so.

This means that school districts most likely to be hit the hardest by any federal spending cuts to education are those in states with already low per pupil spending rates, small districts and those with high poverty rates. I feel for the districts that have 85% of their annual budget funded by federal dollars, but I am also tempted to ask "What were you thinking?"

In Missouri, our funding formula tries to counter some of this effect by essentially pooling all the district funds and reallocating them more evenly across all districts. That was the intent anyway. The problem comes back to decisions made at the very local level. To read a good summary of the impact of the funding formula check out this article by the Rural School and Community Trust. The upshot is this. Districts that decided to fund their school system primarily with money from outside their district (whether federal or state) are hit hardest by budget cuts from those entities and a down economy. Some districts in our state have as much as 60% of their budget coming from the state funding formula. The RSCT article refers to an Ozark school which is having to let go of several teachers because the state allocation dropped recently. It dropped equally for everyone in terms of real dollars, but dropped more in districts which, percentage-wise, used more of those dollars.

When districts rely so heavily on outside sources of income they are truly at the whim of their bankroller in terms of operability. They are put in the position of doing whatever the people/agencies holding the purse strings tell them to do, or trying to get away with whatever the rules tell them they can. In our state that means that there is incentive for smaller rural districts to overreport their total enrollment to keep their formula funding up to their current spending levels. Several of them do this. An education system that requires a teacher and a classroom must pay that teacher the same amount whether there are twenty students in her class or eight. A system that pays them in this way will squelch any attempts to investigate other delivery methods for education. With guaranteed money coming from the state, there is less incentive to try to collect funds from local taxes. It will also enable them to avoid consolidation which could help them in the long run.

The folks at the Whiteboard Advisors will provide, for a fee, advice on policy, strategic planning and market research. Their main customers are education investors, entrepreneurs, philanthropies, and government leaders. Districts who will be hit hardest by any spending cuts are not likely to have the money to pay WA's consulting fees even though they are the ones most likely to need "strategic" advice. They will have to rely upon the education philanthropies and government leaders to help them out of the financial bind. I wonder if anyone will advise them to restructure their local funding formula to be less reliant on other people's generosity.

Sources: http://febp.newamerica.net/background-analysis/school-finance

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Compare and Contrast The Holy/Unholy Relationship Between Jesus and Mary

Here's an assignment for you over the holidays as we are still in the Christmas season: compare and contrast the relationship between Jesus and The Virgin Mary.  You will need two points of view on their relationship.  From the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Writing Center:

COMPARE Focus on all important similarities between the two concepts or
topics presented. Some professors may use just “compare” when
they really mean “compare and contrast,” which calls for
examination of differences as well.

DEFINE Give a clear meaning of a term or issue, with detail to indicate you
really understand it. A good definition should show limits or
restrictions of the term as well as some comparing and contrasting
elements. You may also use examples, but an example alone is an
inadequate definition.

There is a reason I used UNCW Writing Center's link.  One of the points of view on the Jesus/Mary relationship comes from a newly hired English literature professor at the university.

The first view (as heard in the Gospel lesson in the Fourth Sunday of Advent) Luke 1:39-45:

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb.  And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

The second view on the Jesus/Mary relationship is from Alessandro Porco, newly hired English literature professor at UNCW,  From PopMatters:

Tell us about your latest book:
My latest collection of poetry is Augustine in Carthage, and Other Poems (ECW Press), which will be officially released in late March / early April. It’s been four years since I finished writing The Jill Kelly Poems (ECW Press)—my book-length ode to the adult-film star affectionately referred to as “the anal queen.”

Basically, these little artifacts began as a dare and evolved into something quite lovely (albeit, depraved, too). As a whole, these limericks make The Jill Kelly anal-sex poems seems like a rather Victorian G-rated affair—hence, my nervousness. While I certainly don’t want to spoil anything (here’s my pitch: by the book to read what I’m talking about), I can give a hint of what I’m describing: e.g. the Holy Mother Mary satisfying Jesus and, maybe, just maybe, there may be some sexual intercourse involving amputees. If that sounds like something you’d be into, please do pick up the book (and, then, maybe you should see somebody)!

To compare and contrast, it is important to evaluate the information from your sources.  From the Writing Center:

EVALUATE React to the topic or problem in a logical way, applying theories or
principles learned in the course. If available, use other reliable
sources as well as your own reaction to support your statements.
Include reasons for your opinions and how and why you formed
your evaluation.

In researching the first view from the Bible verse, it would be helpful to research other verses and scholarly works about why Mary is considered blessed because of her relationship with Jesus.

In researching the second view of "the Holy Mother Mary satisfying Jesus", here is some information on Professor Porco from campusreform.org:

The University of North Carolina-Wilmington has hired an English literature professor whose pornographic poetry verse include fantasies of sexual relations with freshmen female students, an education watchdog (John William Pope Center) reported this week. (MEW note: for more poems by Porco and discussion on the professor's writings, access this link)

Professor Alessandro Porco, who was just hired by the UNC-Wilmington, has authored a number of explicit pornographic poems.

In Prof. Alessandro Porco’s poem “Hot Girl-Girl Action University” the fictional university president Jill Kelly offers a welcome to the freshman class.

“Who would say No to a gang-bang?
Who would say No to Prof. Poon-Tang?
Who would say No to my scholarly toungin’?
Thank you fathers for your daughters.”

That poem is part The Jill Kelly Poems, ranked 3,963,932 on Amazon, which chronicles the life of a porn star through poetry.

In another collection, Augustine in Carthage (MEW note: where Mary/Jesus poem appears), Porco included what he describes as the “21 of the filthiest limericks I could think to write.”

Does it seem to you that Professor Porco thinks women are used to satisfy others and themselves regardless of their relationships?  How would you feel about your 17 year old freshman daughter being taught by a man who might just view women as sexual beings used for his pleasure?  Oh, silly me!  It's based on a fictional female university professor so I take that to mean it isn't the professor's true beliefs and young women should welcome a different way of behaving and thinking about themselves, right?

An education watchdog group is not too happy with Porco's hiring at UNCW:

Jay Shalin, of the watchdog group the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy pointed out the controversial hiring in an opinion piece earlier this week and argued that parents should be wary of placing their young adults in the classroom with Porco.

“Parents should think twice about placing their impressionable offspring into the hands of Dr. Porco and his UNC-Wilmington colleagues who found him to be an acceptable,” wrote Shalin.

“[T]here is something disturbing and predatory—and all too real—about that line, when written by the lascivious Dr. Porco,” he added.

The university's response?

Campus Reform was unable to reach Porco for comment, but a spokesperson for the University of North Carolina -- Wilmington said the school had hired Proco based on his expertise.

He "was hired based on his record of scholarship, experience, subject matter expertise, and references,” Janine Iamunno, executive director for university relations, told Campus Reform in a statement on Friday.

“[W]hile some may disagree personally with the content of an individual’s writings, the content of those writings constitute protected speech,” Iamunno added.

Compare and contrast the two points of view on the Jesus and Mary relationship.  Is Mary The Holy Mother and Blessed or should she be seen to satisfy Jesus?

We would love to hear your comments.  One reader did point out that protected speech may only flow in one direction, but that's a subject for another day:

Mary Creekmore · Top Commenter · Toccoa Falls College

Disgusting that taxpayers have to support this. But let a conservative Christian professor try to get hired at UNC. Court Denies Conservative Pundit-Professor's Bias Claim Against University.
By Peter Schmidt.

A federal court has rejected a claim that the University of North Carolina at Wilmington committed viewpoint discrimination against Michael S. Adams, a prominent conservative commentator and associate professor of criminology, by denying him a promotion based partly on its review of online columns and other expressions of opinion that he included in his application to move up the ranks.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How Public Education Got "Robert McNamara'd Into Submission" by the Elites/Intellectuals

Simon and Garfunkel were McNarmara'd in the 60's.  Taxpayers are currently being McNamara'd in education reform.

Neither Conservative Thomas Sowell or Liberal Mark Naison are happy with governmental control and the plan of the elites.   

Sowell thinks the intellectuals are to blame for our troubles...from Althouse:

"The more I study the history of intellectuals, the more they seem like a wrecking crew, dismantling civilization bit by bit — replacing what works with what sounds good."

Writes Thomas Sowell, in a column called "On Christmas, Liberals Are By No Means Liberal."
After watching a documentary about the tragic story of Jonestown, I was struck by the utterly unthinking way that so many people put themselves completely at the mercy of a glib and warped man, who led them to degradation and destruction. And I could not help thinking of the parallel with the way we put a glib and warped man in the White House.
Wow. That's harsh.
Here's the documentary about Jonestown. And here's Sowell's excellent book "Intellectuals and Society."

What caught my attention was Sowell's hrase "replacing what works with what sounds good".  Common Core Standards immediately came to mind.  Education reform wants to dismantle the 93% of Missouri school districts that were performing well so they can all be "common".  These standards may sound good...but why are we implementing standards that are unproven, untested and unfunded for those districts testing well?   

One of the reasons why CCSS is important to implement might be so the definition of what is historically important can be decided by private consortia.  (The history standards are currently under construction).  If your student doesn't know who Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy were, then he/she doesn't have the capability of linking of these mens' roles in the Kennedy/LBJ administrations' Vietnam War strategy to the roles of the elites in supporting Teach For America.  Liberal Mark Naison chimes in on the educational aspect of elitism and his apprisal of TFA, the "elite" cadre of teachers funded primarily by private corporations:

Teach for America Leaders-Are They the Robert McNamara's and McGeorge Bundy's of This Generation?

Increasingly, the leaders of Teach for America remind me of the Ivy League efficiency experts who brought us the Vietnam War, a war their children never fought in, just as the schools that TFA corps members are sent into, or the charter schools they found, are ones their own children would never attend. Here’s why: ********Robert McNamara, in the summer of 1965, recommended that the US send hundreds of thousands of ground troops into Vietnam, knowing that they could at best produce a stalemate, knowing that 10,000 American soldiers would be killed per year, to help protect its reputation as a "guarantor" of nations facing Communist aggression. However, would he have made that recommendation if he had know that his own son could have been one of those killed? Similarly, TFA leaders would never send their children to a school where the bulk of teachers have 5 or 6 weeks training and would be even less likely to send them to a school like KIPP where students spend an hour looking at the wall if they are disrespectful in class. ********Policies which claim to be in the “public interest” that only affect other people’s children and affirm race and class privilege, should be subject to the most careful kind of scrutiny. And that goes for the alternative certification route to teaching that only affects schools in poor neighborhoods, or hyper-segregated charter schools which promulgate a “no excuses philosophy” and implement a prison like discipline. 

Sowell and Naison agree on one issue: the intellectuals/efficiency experts are cut from the same cloth and cross political affiliations to control the lower class and maintain power. The takeover programs of education (Race to the Top, Common Core State Standards, Teach for America) are driven by a small number of private individuals/corporations propped up by public officials using taxpayer money without any taxpayer input and/or little legislative action. Whether or not you agree with the goals of these programs, many of these are mandates that have not borne the test of voter approval, even as taxpayer money is being used for implementation.

A foreshadowing comment McBundy made about the war may prove prophetic about current educational reform (unproven, untested and unfunded) policies of the elites (Obama, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, David Coleman, Jeb Bush, Bill Gates):

He was crisply articulate, but there was one persistent young man, who resembled Trotsky, needling Mac with questions about the war. Mac finally cut him off saying, "Your problem, young man, is not your intellect but your ideology."

Later, as we were clinking highballs, the Trotsky look-alike cornered Mac: " What about Vietnam?" 

Bundy: "I don't understand your question." 

Trotsky: "Mac, what about (italics)you(end italics) and Vietnam?" 

Bundy: "I still don't understand."

Trotsky: "But Mac, you screwed it up, didn't you?" 

Glacial silence. Then Bundy suddenly smiled and replied: "Yes, I did. But I'm not going to waste the rest of my life feeling guilty about it." 

When he died, McGeorge Bundy was working on a book about the war whose main message was that Vietnam was a terrible mistake.

It's a loss that he did not live to write in full what he had learned from the Vietnam calamity.

Young men died in Vietnam fighting a war the elites knew could never be won.  Are students stuck in public education with elitist/intellectual reforms (that won't work to improve education) about to be sacrificed for a vision that cannot and will not work (for students) but create wealth for the educational reformers?  Do you think the elites and intellectuals will "waste the rest of their lives feeling guilty about it"?

Simon and Garfunkel's "A Simple Desultory Phillipic" or "I was Robert McNamara'd into Submission".

Monday, December 24, 2012

Peace in the Storm

Reprinted with permission from my friend Ed Martin.  

Dear Friend, 

This year, the pending holiday season found me feeling out of sorts. Black Friday turned into Black Thanksgiving Day, a sure sign we are losing our balance. Then came a raft of bad news, sad news, and outright horrific news that made this December feel bleak and ugly.

The economy is performing worse than was reported in the runup to the election. The president seems determined to run us over the fiscal cliff. Then reports came in from Newtown that broke our hearts.

In these weeks before Christmas, I kept asking myself how exactly can we honor what is the great mystery of the birth of Christ?

This is how I felt last weekend as I was shuttling kids to basketball practice, birthday parties, and other assorted activities. This cloud followed me as I ran my own errands shopping for a Christmas gift or two. It was a stone in my shoe I could not get rid of, which is a sure sign the Father is trying to get something through the distracting din of life.

Scanning the radio, I stopped on a Christian station. The preacher was explaining the story about the storm on the Sea of Galilee and the reaction of the men at that time. The preacher painted a vivid picture of making a living on the sea in that day. It was perilous, and storms were fierce and destructive. He explained how seasoned fishermen feared these storms. The preacher then brought to the listener the application. 

The preacher said, "The storms will be all around us. Our problems will seem beyond solving. But God can settle it all down. We will want to panic - or at least we will feel panic - just like the guys in that boat on the Sea of Galilee."

Indeed. I am not panicked, but I can see panic on the horizon. I can feel the drop in temperature as the wind of fear begins to pick up. The preacher continued his thought.

“But we need to have faith.” he said plainly.

That night, I read the verses in Mark (4:35-41) to the kids and talked about storms and boating. Our four children are under 8 years old. They somehow believe I know EVERYTHING, including all there is to know about seamanship and meteorology! Oh the questions they asked!

The question I asked myself is this - “Why am I afraid, do I not have faith?”

This man had the power to silence the wind and the waves. This man slept soundly in the storm, at peace knowing the Father had His loving hand on him. This man when roused from slumber rose up, calmed the storm and challenged his disciples to believe in His sovereign power and provision. The Christ was not indifferent to the storm, he was setting the example of knowing peace in the midst of the storm.

Our world is always at a critical moment. 2000 years ago was critical. So is today, and so will be tomorrow. We need to trust that the abyss of fear is not for the faithful. The storms have no power over the life we have been given by the Holy Master of the Sea.

The sweet baby boy heralded by angels, worshipped by wise men and shepherd alike, is the same man who broke the power of the storm, the man who destroyed utterly the eternal power of sin. We are offered peace in abundance. May you have His gift of peace on earth within your heart.

All the best.



Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Abundant Peace.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

We Are Left With The Professors To Lead Us

For those of our readers who are so incredibly on top of things that they have time to read MEW today, I offer this prophetic insight from the Epilogue of Rose Martin's The Fabian Freeway: The High Road To Socialism in the U.S.A. copyright 1966. This is where they were heading back then.
"Particularly in England and the United States where the public is indifferent to ideology, the psychological approach is used, as was suggested long ago by the British Fabian, Graham Wallas, in his book The Great Society. Developed in depth over the years by Fabian-inspired researchers, that method has been graded and refined with a view to reaching every level of modern society—labor, business, the professions, the bureaucracy, senior citizens, career-minded youth, even pre-school children. It calls for the permeation of colleges, universities, and religious seminaries by Fabian Socialist-oriented educators and administrators, as well as the introduction of uniform “standards” and “guidelines” into federally financed educational systems. For total effect, it requires total control of communications and entertainment media, a state of affairs already in being, if not in full force.

The professor is still the main channel through which the Fabian Socialist outlook percolates to society at large. As the venerable Walter Lippmann said, in a keynote speech opening “The University in America” Convocation at Los Angeles in May, 1966: “Professors have become in the modem world the best available source of guidance and authority in the field of knowledge . . . There is no other court to which men can turn and find what they once found in tradition and custom. Because modern man in his search for truth has turned away from kings, priests, commissars and bureaucrats, he is left, for better or worse, with the professor.” 
Seems like we are there today.

For all we do to get Common Core out of our classrooms, we will still have the professor telling us why it needs to be in there, or telling his students why everything they learned from us was wrong, and we will pay for the privilege of having our children indoctrinated by him whether directly or through state taxes.

If you are looking for some reading material during the break, download the pdf of Rose Martin's work which one reader called " The Rosetta stone for understanding Fabian socialism, Communitarianism, and the past 100 years of world events."

Makes me think we will need more institutions like Hillsdale College which accepts NO federal or state funding so that they retain " academic excellence and institutional independence." Their mission, as stated in their College Honor Code, is to "develop the minds and improve the hearts of students, through which they rise to the challenge of self-government in a free republic."

Friday, December 21, 2012

How The Mighty Finland Fell

Ask most people how American students are doing compared to their counterparts overseas and they will tell you that we are middling at best and failing at worst. Ask who is doing it right and you will most likely hear, "Finland!" This northern country has been the utopia of education for many years,  growing as an edutourism destination to capitalize on her students' test scores on the PISA exam. Let's all be like Finland! Not so fast. A review of the most recent data reveals that this education envy may be misplaced.

Education Week compared Finland's 2011 performance on the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) to the US's. "The most striking contrast is in mathematics, where the performance of Finnish 8th graders was not statistically different from the U.S. average in the 2011. Finland, which last participated in TIMSS in 1999, actually trailed four U.S. states that took part as 'benchmarking education systems' on TIMSS this time: Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Indiana."

Even more revealing is an observation by Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "If Finland were a state taking the 8th grade NAEP, it would probably score in the middle of the pack," he said, referring to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Another comparison is Finland vs the state of Florida on the PIRLS test. In this match up of 4th graders on the subject of reading, the scores were about the same. Florida was the only state to voluntarily particiapte in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and is known to focus on literacy in the 3rd grade. Finland did score above the U.S. average in reading in 4th grade.

Pasi Sahlberg, the director general of the Center for International Mobility at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, in Helsinki, attempted to explain the various test results. "With specific regard to math, I was not really surprised. ... Finnish math curricula put strong emphasis on problem-solving and applying mathematical knowledge rather than mastery of content. PISA measures the former, TIMSS the latter."

What does this mean to U.S. students?  Sandra Stotsky, a former member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Professor of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, answered the question of whether this difference in the approach to teaching mattered. "...the answer depends on whether one wants this country to produce its own engineers, scientists, and mathematicians, or to depend on high school students with advanced math knowledge and skills coming from other countries to our universities."

What is striking in the article is the number of ways the state of Massachusetts comes out on top in the international ranking, yet the Massachusetts standards and curriculum are not the basis for the upcoming Common Core standards. How very odd if our goal is to have students prepared to compete in the global job market.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Whose Side are you on in the Common Core Standards War?

The Common Core Wars are heating up.  Today we will write about one battle brewing over at Diane Ravitch's site.  Ms. Ravitch published a small posting entitled In Defense of the Common Core Standards:

Roz Linder is tired of reading uninformed rants against the Common Core standards. She says most of the comments come from people who have never read them.

She says that it would be a worthy exercise to read the Common Core standards as informational text before making unfounded claims about what they recommend.

You can find them here. Please read them.

Dr. Linder writes:

Throw in the opportunity to read informational text about his plays, to explore themes and central idea, to stop being told what to think and just be given the tools to think. We have those tools nicely packaged…Common Core.

With stories emerging every day about teachers lamenting having to use them and questioning their effectiveness, I wondered why Dr. Linder (a former teacher according to her biography) supports them.  It looks as if she has become a capitalist offering her services to district so teachers/administrators can learn implementation techniques.  From her website:

Ready to bring professional learning to your city, school, or district? Email us at scheduleme@rozlinder.com for a customized quote or info@rozlinder.com for more information or questions.

I didn't see any of Ravitch's readers writing about this possible conflict of interest in her positive reviews of CCSS I applaud Dr. Linder for her enthusiastic support of the standards and that she can now be paid for helping districts to implement them.  The readers took her to task for her views on Common Core in the comment section.  An interesting comment came from a now famous ex-teacher in the education reform circles:

Kris Nielsen
Read them and was named a “specialist” at one of my schools. Here’s my take…freshly pressed: http://mgmfocus.com/2012/12/18/this-is-how-democracy-ends-an-apology/

Mr. Nielsen was the teacher who garnered much attention from his resignation letter sent to his North Carolina school district.  He entitled it "I Quit" and he spelled out the reasons which included his inability to teach students utilizing Common Core standards.  He speaks to Dr. Linder's praise of Common Core standards with his experience as a teacher and former CCSS facilitator. He DID read the standards.  He was "for the standards before he was against them" and he explains how he came to the realization that CSSS is misguided in This is How Democracy Ends--An Apology:


Almost a year ago, I offered my time to the middle school at which I was employed to give a two-night presentation that promised to ease parents’ concerns about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Connected Mathematics Program (CMP).  I was given kudos by my boss, my coworkers, and many of those parents.  We talked about the future, the upcoming tests by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), and we even did some hands-on math demonstrations.  It was a good time for me, and I hope those parents can say the same.  My message was simple: trust us–we got this!

Some of them were still skeptical, and they should be praised for that skepticism.

First, I want to offer you my apologies.  It wasn’t long after my presentation that I had a crushing realization that the entire thing (minus the hands-on stuff) was completely misguided.  I felt like a flip-flopper, but I’ve always valued the truth more than feeling good.  So, I’m here to clear the air.  The truth hurts and it should start scaring the hell out of you, because your children are your most precious gift and you will do anything to protect them.

The whole reason I was part of the team that put those presentations together was to ease your worry about the changes that were coming.  I’m here to retract everything I said.  You should be worried.  Very worried!

I was wrong.  The Common Core State Standards is a sham, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is an instrument of devastation, and it’s all run by the process you see in the following Venn diagram (don’t you love Venn diagrams?):
(MEW note: For better diagram clarity, visit Nielsen's website).

Before I start sounding too nutty, let me get down to the reality.  You’ll see that I’m not exaggerating.

America has long been known–despite our problems–as the country of freedom, innovation, and wealth. 

There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is our democratic and free public education system. Prior to NCLB in 2002 and Race to the Top eight years later, standardization was limited to SAT and ACT tests, NAEP and PISA tests, and graduation exams for Advanced Placement courses.  We valued music, art, drama, languages and the humanities just as much as valued science, math, and English (for the most part).  We believed in the well-rounded education.

Now, the Common Core State Standards has one goal: to create common people.  The accompanying standardized tests have one purpose: to create standardized people.  Why?  Because the movers and the shakers have a vested interest in it.  It’s about money and it’s about making sure all that money stays in one place.

It’s been happening for a few years already.  StudentsFirst, ALEC, the Walton and Broad and Gates Foundations, and other lobbying groups have created a false crisis in American education.  They want you to believe that America is in sad educational shape so that they can play the hero.  However, what they’ve begun is a snowball effect of legislation that devastates public education, teachers, and an already underfunded school system so that they can replace the public system, the unions, and the government employees with private systems that promise to pay less, bust unions, and remove benefits and pensions.
Teach For America is a prime example of a way to steal government funding, place it in the hands of private corporations, and remove that pesky career (tenure) teacher problem.  It’s worked like a dream–the average TFA teacher stays in the classroom for about 2-3 years.  Only a few remain for 5 or more years.  So, the new American teacher is a mass-produced, temporary worker in an ongoing assembly line.  Cheaper?  Usually.  And they don’t complain about pay, pensions, or benefits, since this is just a step in their career ladders.

Which means that students don’t have highly-qualified and seasoned teachers leading their learning anymore.  Even worse that that, TFA teachers are prepared and trained with test data as the be-all-to-end-all of priorities.  These teachers only know effectiveness by the scores their students receive on standardized tests.

Cooperation? Collaboration? Creativity? Communication? Critical thinking?  Life skills?  Only if there’s time (which there isn’t) and don’t expect it to be integrated or cohesive.  That’s not what the training is for.  Our students are now part of a larger plan–to prepare them for the “college and career readiness” laid out by the “job creators” on Wall Street–the ones that want your kids to understand that a job is what they’re trained for and that they are lucky to have, so stop whining about your pensions and benefits.  And forget about belonging to one of those pesky unions–we will have outlawed them completely by then.

But more importantly, all of the skills linked above lead our students to be profound, critical, and meaningful participants in a modern democracy.  Some would argue that our days as a free country for the people and by the people are limited, and running out fast.  If we continue to support the path that our nation’s educational system is on, we will speed up the end of our democracy.  When students are forced to learn for the sake of a score and are denied the opportunity to think and reason and question and appreciate the world in which they live, they are all the more easy to control and deny basic rights.

It’s already happening.  I despise watching people discuss and debate issues in this country these days.  No one knows how to do it.

America did not become what it is today because of common people.  We celebrate our diversity, exceptionality, and bravery at the same time that we are attempting to bury those traits.  The world is following our educational models of the past few decades at the same time that we are turning our backs on those successful models.  We are digging a grave for our democratic process at a time when we should be paying extra special attention to keeping it healthy.

Our next generation of learners can save us and keep us strong through their diversity, ingenuity, creativity, friendliness, cooperation, and forward thinking.  And their dreams.  The Common Core State Standards, standardized tests, and privatized teacher corps are stifling those dreams.  Our democracy will ultimately be the victim.


In the Common Core Wars, I think I'll join Mr. Nielsen's army.  Skepticism about unproven/untested theories being taught to students while others cash in on questionable practices should be forefront in these battles.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Education Views - Two Ends of the Spectrum

Before anyone can answer the question, "What do we do to fix education," they first must answer, "What is the purpose of education?" There is not as much consensus on the answer as you would think. The next question that should be asked is, "What is the best delivery mechanism for education?" Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes it is the public school system. But then again, if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Is school the best way to deliver education?

This young man from the UK gives his answer to both these questions in a very thought provoking way in his video "Why I Hate School But Love Education."

Contrast his viewpoint with that of Sec. Duncan who was interviewed by Reuters.

Duncan states, "We have invested massively in school-improvement grants ... and we have, partly as a result today, 700,000 less children in what we call "drop-out factories." (But) we have about a million young people who drop out of school each year in this country, and that is obviously economically unsustainable and it is morally unacceptable."

Children drop out of school for any number of reasons; to start working, pregnancy, apathy, because the family moves, mental challenges that make traditional learning very difficult to impossible. The tracking for drop outs is very poor so we don't always know the reason. We also don't know if they remain in the drop out category or simply move to another education opportunity. Some of the kids who drop out simply aren't ready to make it in the mass production system that is public education. When they are ready, they often get their GED. The point is, society has provided the school to the best of its economic ability, but the student decides not to avail him/herself of it. How exactly is that a moral failure on the part of society? It is very annoying when government bureaucrats throw around highly emotionally charged words like morality to make their issue (and themselves) seem vitally important.

When asked about equal access to higher education, Duncan's response included, "(For) the jobs of the future you've got to have some form higher education…. If you drop out, there is nothing out there for you. And if you just graduate from high school, very few of the high-wage jobs are there."

This young man's video challenges that common perception. IF you plan to simply participate in the school process (note he's not saying education), where you memorize facts or processes in order to spit them back out on an exam and then promptly forget them, and IF you then plan to wait for someone else to come up with an idea and then wait for them to hire you to help them bring that idea to market hoping that your college degree will be assurance enough for them that you can be taught to jump through the right hoops, then YES a college degree is necessary to have a job.

There is plenty of evidence that a college degree is not necessary for economic success.  The young man in the video happens to point out the extreme examples that everyone is familiar with, but there are plenty of examples out there are people who have had reasonable economic success without the degree. What separates them from those who are unsuccessful without a degree is their personal drive and interest in education which can be obtained from many sources besides college.  Reuters at least had the journalistic integrity to ask the follow-up question: "Research suggests, and conservatives argue, that just creating a highly educated workforce doesn't spark economic growth. For example, North Carolina has had better growth than Massachusetts. Do you agree?"

Unfortunately Sec. Duncan just can't help pounding the nail. "I think this is a huge piece of the answer and not the exclusive answer.… I think a skills crisis is a significant part of the challenge. So, again, it is just so critically important that we again lead the world in college-graduation rates. I think that would be a huge step forward in strengthening our economy, keeping good jobs in this country rather than going overseas… and reducing unemployment rates."

Just guaranteeing that kids graduate from college is the key to future success? Having graduates with massive student loan debt and a corresponding high expectation for high salaries to pay that back as a result is somehow going to keep jobs in this country? Flooding the market with educated labor (because skilled labor comes from other places than traditional college) is going to reduce unemployment? Perhaps Mr. Duncan should have stayed for Econ 102.

The critical mistake that Duncan and so many others make with a college education is the assumption that college is a transformative process. Underlying the focus on a college education is the belief that colleges and universitieis can take any raw material (student) that comes to them and transform them into people who will be successful in the business world.

The real push to get kids into college comes from historic statistics which show that people with a college education tend to make more in a lifetime than people without. This is true, but placing the credit for their success on the old sheepskin is a false correlation. Traditionally colleges and universities only accepted students with a proven track record for acedemic excellence and a personal drive to learn and succeed. If this were not the case, then Harvard would just take the first 2,000 students who apply. Instead, they only accept the cream of the crop. Is it any wonder that their graduates go on to be leaders in industry and very successful financially? They were driven to do so on their way in. The same is true of lesser esteemed institutions of high learning just on a lower scale. Yet even state schools have certain minimum scores and academic standards.

The push to put everyone through institutions of higher education believing them to be transformative is like taking a random group of kids to Neiman Marcus, dressing all of them in high end clothes and expecting them to suddenly start acting like cultured individuals. It is not the outer dressing, it is the person inside who matters.

Reuters also addressed the issue of inequality by citing Massachusetts which has seen "one of the biggest increases in inequality in the past 20 years." Forgetting that the state's nick name is Taxachusetts, they ignore certain economic realities that have little to do with education and a lot to do with human nature. There are fewer middle class living in MA because the cost of living is so high. Having parents who still live there I can attest to this problem. Their home is now worth more than 10x what they bought it for. That's great for them if they decide to move, but it is a killer for retired folks to pay the property taxes on that value. With high state income and sales tax, it is an expensive place to live. Neighboring states like New Hampshire have no state income tax so many middle income Massachusans have moved there. It is in our nature to make the most of our limited personal resources. The only people who can afford to stay in MA are the very wealthy and the very poor who live off government entitlements and subsidies. To lay this split at the foot of education is more than a bit disingenuous.

Sec Duncan, however, seeing another nail, is happy to pound away. He sees the split as a reason to step on the gas with changes to education. "... this movement towards quality, toward access and toward early-childhood education has to reach every child and every community who needs it. And that is simply not the case yet in Massachusetts and around the country. So it's not a reason to back off. It's a reason frankly to double down and to accelerate the pace of change."

The USDoEd would like everyone to run out and plop down a whole bunch of cash to buy a nail gun, and ignore the fact that many times some glue, or tongue in groove, or nuts and bolts would work much better. In the end it looks like we are going to get screwed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How Much Should/Can the Government Do to Shrink the Achievement Gap?

How many more governmental programs can address/solve the achievement gap? Can they make a difference?

Madison WI government officials have met and have some ideas on how to address the achievement gap present in the school district. I've linked two articles not only to read for the plans by these officials, but for the comments by the readers.  They seem skeptical and underwhelmed by instituting policies that are unfunded or underfunded and create more governmental support and/or control of children and families. 

The Wisconsin State Journal wrote Achievement gap in Madison School District under scrutiny:

Closing the achievement gap in the Madison School District will require a strong core curriculum in school and more support from outside of school, leaders of the district, city and county said Wednesday.
Madison School District Superintendent Jane Belmore, Mayor Paul Soglin and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi met Wednesday before the city’s Education Committee to discuss collaborative ways to help struggling students.

The three were in agreement about needs to improve student attendance, foster parent involvement and increase access to after-school programs. Other issues, such as increasing the amount of summer programming, received less attention.

"I would suggest that we not worry about funding. In other words: Design the best programs possible. Then we’ll worry about funding them," Soglin said.

Ann Althouse, based in Madison, picked up on the article and wrote in her blog:

"I would suggest that we not worry about funding."

"In other words: Design the best programs possible. Then we’ll worry about funding them."

The quote is from Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, and the issue is "the achievement gap" in Madison schools. Soglin has suggested "expanding access to nutritious food outside of school, supporting transportation for students and parents, and increasing the amount of time children spend in learning environments."

Increasing the amount of time children spend in learning environments sounds like a polite way of saying keep them away from their parents as much as possible.

Both articles spurred interesting discussions via the comment section on why readers are skeptical of the government leaders' ideas on how to improve achievement gaps.  Most apparently believe many of educational problems are out of the hands of government officials.

Snippets from the Journal's comment section:

Whazzat - December 13, 2012 8:04 am
MagnusP - you are spot on. There is another major issue responsible for the failure of minorities in the school system. Children should not be having children. We cannot expect good parenting skills from 16-17-18-19-20 year olds. The underachievement problem will not go away until leaders in the minority community address the issue. Kaleem doesn't want to talk about it because there is no money to be made tackling the real problem.

MagnusP - December 13, 2012 7:38 am

It is very simple. Parents do not demand that their kids stay in school, do their homework and get  passing grades. Until that happens don't worry about enhancing the educational experience.

wipolitics - December 13, 2012 7:23 am
"You cannot fail to parent your children at home, then expect teachers to work miracles with them in the classroom."

EnuMPowers - December 13, 2012 7:03 am
Is that an elephant in the room? Shhhhh, nobody mention it.
Hint - This isn't a school problem.

Althouse readers had comments about parenting (or lack thereof) and delved into other issues about fiduciary responsibility, testing for these gaps (and why) and the groups behind this push for increased governmental involvement:
bpm4532 said...
Sounds like a guy who is opposed to open enrollment.

If he believes his stuff he should start with one school and all those things should be funded by the education funds available to that school. Unfortunately, these big thinkers who have access to other people's money, dream this stuff up and impose it like a blanket. A hot, stifling blanket, underwhich you suffocate.

When it doesn't work, they want to expand it, coerce students from leaving and insisting that just a little/lot more money is required to achieve the goal.
Dave said...
"expanding access to nutritious food outside of school"

Um, isn't feeding kids the parents' responsibility? And now nutritious the food that parents feed the kids is isn't a matter of money. It's a matter mostly of convenience/laziness - nutritious food generally requires a bit more work than just throwing it in the microwave.

But even if you're on food stamps (and use only food stamps to buy food) for a family of 3, it's over $6000/year. That's over $500/month, which is more than I spend to feed my family of 6.

Nevermind the redundancy of food stamps and the school lunch program.

Or is he advocating universal boarding school, so the State can have full, interrupted access to kids, without parental influence, to turn them into good unthinking drones?
Dust Bunny Queen said...
"expanding access to nutritious food outside of school, supporting transportation for students and parents, and increasing the amount of time children spend in learning environments."

Expanding access to nutritious food outside of school? How is he going to do that. Come into the kitchen, raid the fridge and pantry and throw out the junk food. Supervise the cooking or non cooking of meals? He's gonna need a bigger army.

Transportation. YES. Chevy Volts for everyone.

Learning environment? What does he mean by that? Just sitting in a classroom for longer hours and having an incompetent teacher drone on at you and spouting politically correct talking points at you is NOT a learning environment.

No wonder our schools are failures at education. The people at the top levels can only spout meaningless claptrap and think mushy thoughts.
ricpic said...
Gaps are bad? Only to mad, as in crazy, egalitarians who refuse REFUSE to acknowledge that everything is hierarchical. Everything.
Shouting Thomas said...
You've inadvertently entered into Steve Sailer territory here.

He's written often about the "nice white lady" educational initiative.

I.e., taking black and hispanic kids out of their dysfunctional homes and passing them off to the nice white ladies for proper rearing. Pre-school and after-school programs, enrichment programs, school lunches, etc.

He's also noted that long, term, this will backfire, and he points to the "Lost Child" controversy in Australia. Literally, aborigine children were taken from their parents to be raised by "nice white ladies." This is now viewed as almost a form of cultural genocide.
Is the "elephant in the room" comment (from a State Journal writer) connected with this Althouse reader's thoughts?  

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...
All those proposals are doomed to failure.

I'm 5'8". You can bring in the best coach in the world, and I can be as motivated as can be, but the coach will never succeed in getting me to dunk a basketball.

All he/she will be able to do is get me to vertical jump the highest that I can, given my height, muscle characteristics, and proper technique.

With other people of different starting-gate potential and attributes, he/she will succeed - easily in some cases.

But as long as the coache's metrics are "# of persons able to dunk", rather than "each person jumping as high as THEY can", results will be disappointing, and (oh my) you may even see racial disparate impact in results, which will also be correlated with racial difference is average height.

All that to say that - the 10000lb elephant in the room is that students come in with widely varying IQ, and so achievement metrics that can only be achieved by persons of certain IQs (like dunks for tall people), will be under-achieved by those without those IQs, despite the best coaching, the smallest class size, the longest hours, the best study habits, etc.

If you're 4'l1", you can't dunk. If you're 70 IQ, you can't reach some academic metrics.

And it is wrong to punish coaches and teachers for anything other than "getting the best, given the limits of the starting materials".

And also, grouping results by Race is NOT a good idea. You will always be disappointed at the disparate impact, because like many other attributes that have a strong genetic component, it is not evenly distributed across all the Races of Man.

Reality's a serious bitch, but there it is. Ignoring it never works.

Now, let the un-informed charges of "racism" , begin.
Reread the first paragraph and this sentence:  

They seem skeptical and underwhelmed by instituting policies that are unfunded or underfunded and create more governmental support and/or control of children and families. 

So why do governmental bodies insist they have the answer by implementing more programs and regulations? 

Site Meter