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Global warming and Smithsonian chilling May 21, 2007

Posted by @Doc in corruption, democracy, Education, Environment, George Bush, Global warming, Politics, religious extremists, Republicans, Research, science, Smithsonian Institution.
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To some extent, science has always been more shaped by political realities and pressures than we usually admit. After all, science is “objective,” done properly, and when we look at a scientific study we like to think we’re looking at the best approximation of fact and truth possible at the present moment.

Of course, this is hardly so. Say you get a government grant to study Alzheimer’s and do an absolutely textbook, brilliant, landmark study that moves the field ahead ten years. You’re published in a premier journal, win awards, get quoted left and right, lock up tenure, etc. Nothing biased at all about it.

Except that government funds are not infinite, and back when that grant was being reviewed somebody decided to fund research into Alzheimer’s instead of research into something else, like maybe AIDS or HPV or Parkinson’s or whatever. (more…)


Best of the Web May 16, 2007

Posted by @Doc in Blogger's Choice Awards, blogging, Education, education blogs, political blogs.

My site was nominated for Best Education Blog!

We’ve been nominated for Best Education Blog as well as Best Political Blog. If you like what we’re doing, please click the image and cast a vote for us.


Media, markets and education May 11, 2007

Posted by @Doc in culture of learning, Education, educational reform, Libertarian, Scholars & Rogues.
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There’s a discussion in a comment thread over at Scholars & Rogues that may interest you, assuming you didn’t see it already. Gavin Chait is promoting the strength of global media (in particular talking about the health of newspapers) and I’m poking hard at a lot of the assumptions underlying the free market argument being made.

Predictably, it circles back around to education. Have a look.

In a Technopoly, no one can hear you think… May 7, 2007

Posted by Jim Booth in culture of learning, Education, educational reform, technology.
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XPOST: Scholars and Rogues

“Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong…”

Stephen Stills

The New York Times reported Friday that the Liverpool (NY) school district will begin phasing out student individual use laptop computers beginning next year. Citing problems such as students using their computers to cheat on tests, to surf porn sites, and to hack into local businesses as well as nightmarish problems with network security, laptop hardware/software problems and system crashes caused by large numbers of students surfing the Net when they were supposed to be studying, Liverpool, like an increasing number of school districts, has decided to give up on the grand experiment of having a computer for every child:

“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president here in Liverpool, one of the first districts in New York State to experiment with putting technology directly into students’ hands. “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”


Thoughts on Virginia Tech April 19, 2007

Posted by @Doc in Blacksburg, Columbine, Education, school discipline, Virginia Tech.
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I won’t sit here and pretend that EducationF1rst would have prevented this week’s tragedy in Blacksburg. Clearly there are pathologies here that no system in a nation of 300 million can expect to catch all the time. I like to think that a broad program of reform addressing curriculum, community investment, discipline and teacher quality would make these things at least a little less likely, but even if it did how would I prove it?

All I can do is acknowledge that things went horribly wrong, and in doing so take a moment to point people toward a few things that perhaps provide insight and support, as well as maybe an idea or two about practical steps we should look into.

  • Jo Scott-Coe properly questions the limits of standardization and wonders about the corrosive effects of our misguided emphasis on piecemeal tactics instead of a truly holistic strategy.
  • Jim Booth, whose wife works with the spouse of one of the victims, searches for solace in the words of our master poets.
  • My good friend Dr. Denny wonders, as I imagine a lot of professors are right about now, what would he do?
  • Robert Silvey expresses his frustration at America’s gun culture.
  • Gavin Chait, who lives in Cape Town, offers America a little perspective by noting that we’re not really as violent a culture as we sometimes imagine we are.
  • Being an entrepreneur and partner in a firm that sells technology that could have potentially helped alert students of the danger bearing down on them, I ask whether more lives might have been saved had the university acted last September. I also take time to consider Iraq, which has 3.5 Virginia Techs every day.
  • Finally, I offer to the entire Tech community and the residents of the great state of Virginia my deepest sympathies. I live in Colorado and was here during Columbine. It felt like somebody had killed my family – a feeling that was never really rational, but it was very real and it’s one I’ll never forget. We’re thinking about you.

Evolving a culture of learning April 6, 2007

Posted by @Doc in 2008 Campaign, culture of learning, Education, educational reform.
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The biggest challenge we face is one of momentum: America is not, and never has been, an intellectual culture. We do not, however much we might protest, live in a nation that treasures teaching and learning. On the list of things that we care about, education falls well to the south of things like entertainment and sports. Worse, in Instant GratificatioNation there is little tolerance for long-term solutions. We want it, we want it now, and if you don’t give it to us you will pay.

On the learning front, America is an object at rest, and objects at rest tend to remain that way until acted on by some force. The good news is that if we’re able to set our society in motion, that momentum then becomes something we can leverage in our long drive toward a sustainable culture of education.

The Culture of Education plank is now posted.

What Makes Teddy Run – Follow the Money…. April 5, 2007

Posted by Jim Booth in Domestic Policy, Education, educational reform, No Child Left Behind, No Child Left Untested, rich/poor gap.

Dr. Slammy did a pretty good take-down on Teddy Kennedy in his recent post on Kennedy’s support of No Test Publisher Child Left Behind. But Kennedy is only a role player in the debacle that is our current education policy.

The truth of the matter is that Dubya’s education policy (remember, friends, he was going to be the “education president” before Andy Card whispered in his ear that terrorists had flown planes into the World Trade Center as he sat reading to 2nd graders in a Florida elementary school) is based primarily on family connection he has with the text and test publishing industry through his cousins the McGraws. And with brother Neil making a mint off NCLB with his software company that sells test prep materials to school districts across America, well, it’s just one big happy family, now isn’t it?

As Stephen Metcalf’s now well known article in The Nation illustrates, this is not some haphazard approach to education reform. It is a carefully planned strategy with a specific aim:

“The…Bush testing regime emphasizes minimal competence along a narrow range of skills, with an eye toward satisfying the low end of the labor market. All this sits well with a business community whose first preoccupation is ‘global competitiveness’: a community most comfortable thinking in terms of inputs (dollars spent on public schools) in relation to outputs (test scores). No one disputes that schools must inculcate the skills necessary for economic survival. But does it follow that the theory behind public schooling should be overwhelmingly economic? One of the reform movement’s founding documents is Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America’s Public Schools, by Lou Gerstner, chairman of IBM. Gerstner describes schoolchildren as human capital, teachers as sellers in a marketplace and the public school system as a monopoly. Predictably, CEOs bring to education reform CEO rhetoric: stringent, intolerant of failure, even punitive–hence the word ‘sanction,’ as if some schools had been turning away weapons inspectors.”

This kind of approach to the problem shows clearly that economic self-interest is perhaps the only ideology driving what seems clearly to be this administration’s anti-“educated citizenry” agenda.Ted Kennedy may be a renowned Dem. But he’s a rich guy first. That “loose confederation of millionaires and billionaires, baby” that Paul Simon refers to is not a fiction. His support of NCLB, given his background as a champion of the less fortunate in American society, should raise red flags for thinking Americans….

I refer you to Deep Throat’s famous directive to Woodward and Bernstein (back when they were journalists and not bobbing their heads in the laps of the power brokers) – “Follow the money….”

ETS “perfect storm report” April 3, 2007

Posted by @Doc in Education, educational reform, rich/poor gap, test scores.

I haven’t had a chance to parse this in detail, but the top line sounds about right:

Our nation is in the midst of a perfect storm, according to ETS researchers — and the forecast is grim — unless we invest in policies that will change our perilous course. (more…)

Ted Kennedy doing his part in the War on Education April 3, 2007

Posted by @Doc in 2008 Campaign, Education, No Child Left Behind, No Child Left Untested, Ted Kennedy.

Our much-beloved senior senator from the state of Massachusetts is stumping for a massive No Child Left Untested Behind re-up, and we ought to all be concerned. As the footer to the article notes, Teddy was one of the authors of the act. He’s kind enough to acknowledge that it’s not perfect legislation and does point to important concerns (you need to fund the damned mandates, for instance), and I think we all agree with the stated goals – stronger standards, better teachers, a system that prepares students for the challenges we’re all going to face in the world, etc.

Then again, we all agree that we’d like world peace, too. (more…)

Discipline plank posted April 3, 2007

Posted by @Doc in 2008 Campaign, Education, school discipline.
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One of the most pressing concerns I see in our educational system today is a basic one – some schools are dangerous places. Even where the threat of physical danger isn’t great, administrators and teachers are often asked to manage and warehouse disruptive students whose presence degrades the effectiveness of the teaching environment in ways that materially harm other students.

This can’t continue.

Review the discipline plank here and let me know what you think.