Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Good For David Boren

David Boren, President of the University oF Oklahoma, has a moral compass.

He also knows how to take decisive action. Would that more of our leaders take heed.

David Boren is not a household name in most of the country. In fact, no University President anywhere across our land is likely to be as well known as the football or basketball coach. Nobel laureates on the faculty? Who cares!

David Boren is unusual. Former governor of the state of Oklahoma, former senator from Oklahoma, he resigned his senate seat to accept the position as President of OU. In his campaign for Oklahoma governor, he defeated James Inhofe. Boren was a Rhodes Scholar.

As for decisive action, he has expelled two members of SAE who were ringleaders in the racist chant, closed the SAE fraternity and forced them to move out of their building on campus.

"Sooners aren't bigots," he announced.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Intentional Destruction Of Public Education

I recommend everyone concerned with public education to read Jonothan Kozol's review in the New York Times of Diane Ravitch's new book:

This Is Only a Test

‘Reign of Error,’ by Diane Ravitch

Saturday, June 15, 2013

When Did You First Hear That Public Schools Were Failing?

I started school in the first grade (we had no kindergarten) in Greenwood, Mississippi in September, 1943. We had one first grade teacher and no teaching assistants for over thirty students. Our reader was Dick and Jane.

I never heard anyone complain that public schools were failing.

In third and fourth grade, I attended school in a two-room, four grade country school house in rural Tulsa County, OK. The room was spartan. No library. No hall. We entered class through a door leading directly outside. There was no bathroom. Only an outdoor privy. I rode a bus over an hour to get there.

No one complained that public schools were failing.

I attended fifth and started sixth grade in temporary classrooms in Midwest City, OK. There was one teacher for over thirty students.

No one complained that the schools were failing.

I completed sixth through eighth grades in a rural school East of Oklahoma City. There were two grades in each classroom. I had the same teacher for all four grades. Many of my classmates had never set foot out of Oklahoma County. Many had never visited the state capital, ten miles away. Many students quit when they reached sixteen.

No one complained the schools were failing.

I was taken by bus ten miles into Oklahoma City for ninth and tenth grades. On the school grounds, older boys bullied younger ones and stole lunch money. Ninth grade students showed up for class some mornings drunk. Some stole cars and went joy riding. Most smoked. Many were sexually active from about the seventh grade on. Teachers were mediocre.

No one ever said the schools were failing.

We moved to Anchorage, Alaska. I walked two miles to school every day through snow drifts, often in below zero weather before sunrise.

No one ever said the schools were failing.

I graduated from the University of Mississippi and eventually received graduate degrees from Tufts and Harvard. I had no trouble competing.

Apparently I wasn't irreparably damaged by all those public schools.

Oh, by the way, what did those schools have in common? They were segregated (except for Anchorage - we had one African American in the high school).

When did I first start hearing that public schools were failing? Not until after school integration.

Could there be a connection?

Here's a good article from Huffington Post by an author who sends his children to public schools. He explains why.

My children also went to public schools. They aren't noticeably deprived or intellectually deficient.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Speak Softly And Carry A Big Stick


We had a great weekend attending our grandson's graduation from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

Forrest Cox went to Michigan to play Lacrosse as a long-stick defense man. Thus carrying a big stick. Injury interfered. He focused instead on studying public policy at the nation's oldest public policy educational institution, now the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Forrest has an imposing physical presence. He also has a quiet demeanor and remarkable skill at getting people to work together. He does, indeed, speak softly. And persuasively.

The future is in good hands.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hitting The Road Again, With A Jaunty Step Of Hope

We're about to hit the road again - back home to Oriental.

Graduation ceremonies, in my experience, are seldom inspirational. But here in Ann Arbor, we were inspired.

New thoughts. Eloquent young people. Not committed to their own enrichment, but to making the world a better place.

All is not lost, after all.

More Later.

Friday, May 3, 2013

It's A Busy Day Here In Ann Arbor

Not quiet at all. We've been on the run from morning to night attending various graduation celebrations of our grandson. Turns out, he has accomplished a lot during his four years on campus. Has left his mark.

We're very proud of him.

The stories will come later. Have to get some sleep so we can get up and attend the next event not long after oh dark hundred.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

About To Hit The Road

Tomorrow morning, we are leaving for Ann Arbor, Michigan to attend our youngest grandson's graduation from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Blog posts may be a bit intermittent.

Public Policy seems to run in our family. We're pretty pleased that the younger generation is carrying on the tradition.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Roman Numeral Gap!

Following up on my earlier post on the cursive gap and the legislature's drive to require that students memorize multiplication tables, another yawning gap in education just occurred to me. The Roman Numeral Gap!

There was a time when normal students could read the roman numerals that appeared in movie titles. This was an accepted part of everyone's education.

Now students can't even read the Super Bowl numbers.

Surely the General Assembly can adopt measures to correct this yawning gap in our childrens' education.

Other shortcomings needing attention:

Diagramming sentences;

Greek alphabet;

Latin for everyone;

Courses in rhetoric;

Analytical geometry.

The Penmanship Gap!

I learned from this morning's News and Observer that both houses of the General Assembly have courageously tackled one of our most urgent educational crises - the disappearance of cursive writing. Not to mention multiplication tables.

I was first exposed to the discipline of cursive writing in 1945. Our rural school district assigned a handwriting teacher to visit each elementary school a couple of times a week to put students through the agony of handwriting exercises. Are there any qualified handwriting teachers out there now in this day and age?

Maybe we should put out a call for retired handwriting instructors.

So far as I can tell from the articles, the legislators have not addressed one of the most important issues - what penmanship style must be used. Surely we need to adopt a standard. Should cursive be taught in the Spencerian style? That style is elegant and has a distinguished history. Should cursive be taught by the Palmer method? That method is somewhat simpler and faster. Then there are Getty-Dubay, Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting, Icelandic (Italic), Zaner-Bloser, and D’Nealian methods. Shouldn't the General Assembly specify a standard?

The General Assembly really needs to develop a more complete systemic approach to our penmanship gap. For example, we seem to have a crisis in penmanship that spans many years. In view of the importance of correcting that gap, maybe we need to task our Community College system with developing continuing education courses in penmanship.

There must also be a program of incentives. Here are some ideas:
1. Require applicants for driver's licenses to fill out forms in cursive;
2. DMV only issue licenses to applicants with legible forms;
3. Require legible cursive in unemployment insurance applications;
4. Empower all local, county and state officials to reject any form not completed in legible cursive writing;
5. I'm sure you can come up with other ideas.

We may have to exempt written doctor's prescriptions from the legibility requirement.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Education What's Wrong?

Too Many Cooks Spoil The Broth, at least according to an old bit of folk wisdom.

I have taken a preliminary look at bills introduced into the General Assembly that concern education.

A plethora of cooks!

I have been amazed for years at the steady stream of venom aimed at public schools, their teachers, and all who labor mightily at educating our children.

Our schools are failing! How do we know? Everyone says so.

When did everyone start saying that? As it happens, people started saying such things about 1970. Why? I'll save that for another post.

Since (we all know) the schools are failing, we have decided to give them more tasks, increase class size, and provide more direction by politicians.

How is that working out?

As it happens, we have the testimony of witnesses.

One such witness is Kenneth Bernstein, a recently retired high school teacher from Maryland. He has written a warning to college professors about the students about to enter their domain. His essay is definitely worth reading.

As is too often the case, actual experienced practitioners are keenly aware of problems in their area of expertise, but are powerless to do anything about it.

Bernstein makes it clear how much teachers resent the fact that their professionalism and dedication are not taken seriously.
 
IMHO, he has a point.

The late W. Edwards Deming, world renowned expert in quality control, observed in general that 85% of problems in quality are because of management. Mismanagement, if you will.

And teachers are workers, not management. In short, they are not to blame. Only those who make and run a system are responsible for the outcome. Increasingly that is meddling legislators and other elected officials.

Not long before he died, Deming completed a book titled The New Economics For Industry, Government, Education. Anyone interested in making a positive contribution to any of these three areas of human endeavor should read his book.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Education And Ignorance

I took a first crack yesterday at Governor McRory's attack on higher education in North Carolina. Make no mistake - that is what it was.

Concealed in his remarks about "butts in seats" was an apparent contempt for liberal arts education. Also embedded in his remarks is an erroneous thought that has been given wide credence: namely, that our present level of unemployment is the result of a mismatch between jobs available and personal skills of job applicants. This view seems to be widely shared across party lines. To correct unemployment, some contend,  we need only train more persons in the skills that are so desperately needed.

Unfortunately for the theory, there is no evidence to support it. Unemployment is uniformly high across all fields of endeavor. The problem is lack of aggregate demand, not a jobs-skills mismatch.

Of equal significance, CEOs uniformly complain, not about inability to find qualified employees, but that they can't find employees who can analyze a problem and write persuasively about it.

They are looking in the wrong place for skills like that. They should be seeking graduates of liberal arts colleges.

Brian Rosenberg explains in today's Huffington Post.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pat McRory: "Philosophy Is Bunk"

OK, that isn't exactly what Governor McRory said to a national audience yesterday, but it isn't far off. Gender Studies (one might say that is a subdivision of history with an admixture of other disciplines) is also, apparently bunk.

What is education for, anyhow? Governor McRory has a simple answer. It is about getting a job. So if a graduate doesn't find a job, education has failed, right? So we must revamp our system of higher education to make it into an elaborate vocational school.

Balderdash!

The purpose of education in all places and all times has been to transmit our best understanding of the universe and how it works to the next generation. It is how society perpetuates itself. And how we expand our understanding of the cosmos, bit by bit and generation by generation.

Not everything we learn must lead to a job. Some knowledge is not primarily utilitarian. For example, all of our great universities began as places to study theology. Not directly utilitarian except for those seeking positions as clerics.

Take philosophy, which apparently arouses the governor's contempt. I took a look at UNC's description of the graduate curriculum in philosophy. It turns out that there are a number of sub disciplines. But all students must take courses in symbolic logic.

What is that good for?

Pretty much everything. Symbolic logic occupies the boundary between mathematics, science and computer technology.

How many jobs are there in the field? No one knows.

But great universities are research centers exploring and expanding the boundaries of knowledge.

Another way to think about universities is to think of them as agglomerations of knowledge and agglomerations of people who can expand our frontiers of knowledge.

North Carolina once was led by visionaries who saw the benefits of such an agglomeration as the Research Triangle.

That's a better foundation for economic growth and the future of our citizens than building a new factory.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ways To Learn

"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."

Will Rogers

I put the climate change deniers in the third category. And also the sea level rise deniers. 



Monday, December 31, 2012

Reforms And Other Illusions

Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.
- Pudd'nhead Wilson (Mark Twain)


There is talk of reform in the air.

Hang onto your wallets.

Based on experience of the last couple of decades, there's nothing so harmful to ordinary working people as "reform."

Remember the song about the "rich get richer and the poor get poorer?" That was about reform.

Examples:

Tax reform. Translation: Rich people pay less tax. Workers pay more.

Welfare reform. Translation: Mothers go to work. Who raises the children? TBD.

School reform. Translation 1: Take money and resources from public schools, divert them to charter or private schools. Translation 2: Blame problems on teachers.

Entitlement reform. Translation: Reduce entitlement programs.

Social Security reform. Translation: Reduce benefits.

Election reform. Translation: Make it harder for poor people to vote.

You get the drift.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Problems With Education

One of my problems well into my eighth decade is that I have lived for more than a third of the nation's history. For most of that time I was paying attention.

When engineers test materials or products, they have two kinds of tests: destructive tests and non-destructive tests. I have believed for a long time that our national obsession with testing has led to widespread use of destructive tests on our children.

A letter posted on Diane Ravitch's blog lends support to my view. The problem is not created by teachers, but by an unholy combination of politicians, school administrators and charlatans in the testing industry (not to mention the industrial-education complex).

I'll have more to say about this after the election.

In the meantime, I reflect on the fact that I never heard a word about supposed failures of the school system until school integration began to actually happen. Is there a connection? You can bet on it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Weekly Reader

Sad report today from McClatchy - Weekly Reader is gone from the classroom.

I still remember some of the news articles. Most memorable was the two-page spread explaining the 1948 presidential election. It included the symbols for every political party and the names of the nominees. There were many parties that year with nominees, including the Vegetarian Party. That's where John McCain got his line from his first presidential campaign - that he wanted to appeal to every party, including the Vegetarian Party.

Eighty-four years was a pretty good run, but our children will be the poorer without it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teachers, Unions And Nostrums

Good post today by the economist Jared Bernstein. I think it hits several nails on the head, so I take the liberty of quoting it in toto. Hope Professor Bernstein doesn't object:

"Students, Their Neighborhoods, Their Schools, and the Unions
"I’ve done just one post on the Chicago teachers’ strike, pointing out that ratcheting up the weight on teachers’ evaluations based on value-added modeling (VAM)—one of Mayor Emmanuel’s conditions—is a really bad idea.  Now, according to Reuters, the framework agreement they’ve reached out there scales back on that weighting.  Here’s a useful piece by Richard Rothstein with more background on how and why these tests fail to accurately and reliably identify effective teachers.
But this morning, I’d like to take a bit broader look at the issues in play here.  I open my WaPo this AM to read this:
"Two days after a student was gunned down while walking to Anninna Sigmon’s high school in Prince George’s County, she still wasn’t sure when she would feel safe enough to return to class.
“I just feel like I could be next,” said Sigmon, 17, a senior at Central High School in Capitol Heights. “People shouldn’t be afraid to go to school.”
"I am then reminded by this Rebecca Mead post that 80% of Chicago public school students qualify for free and reduced lunch, a proxy for poverty status.

"And it just reminds me how ridiculous it is for us to expect teachers to solve these problems for us while we’re busy beating up on their unions, cutting school budgets, laying off education personnel, and sharply reducing that part of the federal budget that could help make a difference in urban poverty.

"Of course we should insist on teacher accountability, but imagine for a moment being the teacher whose students legitimately fear for their lives upon walking to school.  Just how talented does she have to be to offset the impact that must have on the ability of students to absorb her teachings?

"Now that there’s a framework for an agreement in place, I think the Chicago teachers should be back in the classroom.  The fact that they’re not is a potent measure of the level of distrust that’s built up between the mayor and the unions.  But if you think teachers unions are the reason too many kids aren’t learning enough, you’re wrong.

"As Mead puts it:
"No doubt there are some lousy teachers in Chicago, as there are everywhere. But blaming teachers for the failure of schools is like blaming doctors for the diseases they are seeking to treat."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Taking Sentences Apart

One of my favorite activities in 4th grade English class was diagramming sentences.

This seems to be a forgotten art, like cursive writing, no longer taught. That's too bad.

Not only does the diagramming of sentences help students understand and perhaps correct the grammar in sentences they speak or write, it can be useful in studying other languages. I discovered this use of diagramming quite by accident in 1961 when I tried to explain to a fellow student of Russian the function of the dative case. After that, I continued to use sentence diagramming to make sure I understood newly encountered structures of the language.

Imagine my pleasure when I came across a post in New York Times Opinionator section extolling the lost art of diagramming. You can read it here. An earlier post on the same subject here gives a bit of the history. This is a purely American invention.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Commencement Address

Robert Reich, President Clinton's secretary of labor and currently a professor at Berkeley, has posted a commencement address. He titled it "the commencement address that won't be given." After you read it, you'll know why. [The following is censored. Be sure to read the original.]

He uses blunt language to describe the hurdles facing this years' college graduates:
1. Jobs - "you’re going to have a hell of a hard time finding a job. The job market you’re heading into is still bad. Fewer than half of the graduates from last year’s class have as yet found full-time jobs. Most are still looking"
2. Salary - "But even when you get a job, it’s likely to pay peanuts.
Last year’s young college graduates lucky enough to land jobs had an average hourly wage of only $16.81, according to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute. That’s about $35,000 a year – lower than the yearly earnings of young college graduates in 2007"
3. Career prospects - "But this parchment isn’t as valuable as it once was. So much of what was once considered “knowledge work” – the kind that college graduates specialize in – can now be done more cheaply by software. Or by workers with college degrees in India or East Asia, linked up by Internet."
4. Debt - "In a few moments, when you march out of here, those of you who have taken out college loans will owe more than $25,000 on average. Last year, ten percent of college grads with loans owed more than $54,000."
5. Future - "If unemployment stays high for many years, if the wages of young college grads continue to fall, if the costs of college continue to rise and state and local spending per college student continues to drop, and if the college debt burden therefore continues to explode – well, you do the math."

He offers some thoughts we should all consider: "You see, a college education isn’t just a private investment. It’s also a public good. This nation can’t be competitive globally, nor can we have a vibrant and responsible democracy, without a large number of well-educated people."

Reich is absolutely right, and that is the main reason it isn't good for my blood pressure when I hear the clever fools running legislatures in many states (including our own) talk as though it is only the students who are "customers" of education.

Balderdash!

To quote a former presidential candidate: "If you think education is expensive,try the cost of ignorance!"