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Two Million Minutes Screening in Palo Alto, California – Wednesday, December 5

two million minutes in menlo park

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A heads up to those who will be in the South Bay area on December 5th – Two Million Minutes will be screened at Landmark’s Aquarius Theatre in Palo Alto for a limited audience of 300:

Both Bob Compton, Executive Producer, and Tim Draper, Managing Director of Silicon Valley venture firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson (an expert in the film, quoted as saying, “America is the one country in the world that doesn’t seem to recognize that it’s in competition for the great minds and the capital of the world,”) will be screening the film and participating in a roundtable discussion afterwards.

Details are as follows:

WHEN: Wednesday, December 5th at 7:30pm

WHERE: Landmark’s Aquarius Theatre
430 Emerson Street
Palo Alto, CA 94301

If you’d like to attend, you can contact Meg Charlebois at Dittoe Public Relations [e-mail: meg@dittoepr.com ; phone: 317.202.2280, ext. 11] for an invitation. Seating is limited to 300 – spouses/guests welcome – so I assume that reserving a spot sooner rather than later would be wise.

There are several reasons to attend this screening:

It’s remarkable and provocative. You can get a taste of 2MM by reading my early thoughts on the film and browsing the latest news on 2MM’s What Should America Do? blog. Check out Neil Ahrendt’s blog, too – he’s one of the two American students featured in the film.

It generates discussion. And not the typical mealy-mouthed education discussion, either. Read The Christian Science Monitor’s report on the Nov. 2 Harvard screening of 2MM – I expect the Menlo Park screening to bring lively discussion with plenty of informed, accomplished figures in business, technology, finance and education.

Aquarius Theatre is a fine place to watch a film [Note - venue change from Guild Theatre]. If the seriousness of purpose that 2MM carries doesn’t do it for you, the venue should. Aquarius Theatre, a staple in Palo Alto since 1969 – whose credits include debuting Francis Ford Coppola’s early offerings – exhibits a rare, simple charm [not unlike Brookline's Coolidge Corner Theatre]. You can get directions to the Theatre here.

If you attend the screening, drop me an e-mail – we can talk a bit about what you’ve seen, what you discussed and what you think we should do next.

The Guilford County Schools Diversity Sham

the guilford county schools diversity sham

It seems that Monica Walker, Diversity Officer for Guilford County Schools [Greensboro, North Carolina] doesn’t quite espouse values in the tradition of Levi Coffin.

Education blogger and GCS board of education candidate E.C. Huey recently examined the role of the Diversity Officer for the 71,000+ student school district. He found that Walker, a relatively new hire compensated at ~$80,000/year, is sending curious messages about race, ethnicity and diversity to the Guilford County community.

In GCS Diversity Officer… Uncensored, Huey analyzed a recent Carolina Peacemaker article about Walker’s diversity programs:

“Creating a World Without Racism: What It Would Mean for Peace, Justice and our Planet,” was the topic of the guest speaker, Monica Walker, at the ninth annual Peace and Justice Network Potluck, Sunday, Nov. 11, at the Central Library in Greensboro.

Walker, originally from Alabama and recently moving to Greensboro from New York, is an anti-racism trainer and the Guilford County Schools’ diversity officer. Before taking her current position with the Guilford County Schools, she taught in the justice and policy studies program at Guilford College. Walker has also worked as a trainer with Guilford County-based Partnership Project, which conducts anti-racism workshops.

Using her training skills Walker asked the audience to write down five words: remember, reconcile, reconnect, rebuild and redefine. She then connected each word to her main theme. Walker said, “Your ethnicity connects you to your community. It is so important to connect with our ethnicity.”

So far, Walker sounds like the garden variety, milquetoast diversity-monger that is increasingly common in public education. It could be worse, though such actors can certainly be employed for less than $80k. The article continues:

“She moved about the room and asked people, “What is your ethnicity.” The answers, of course, varied. She explained to those who said, American, that the country of one’s birth is their nationality, not ethnicity. She noted that race is a political description. She said that ethnicity is the traditions that have been passed on to one from their ancestors. She said to remember these traditions is important.”

And so it begins. I commented on E.C.’s post and will reproduce portions of that comment here:

What Walker is peddling here is an absolute load of tripe.

That Walker doesn’t seem to think that there are uniquely-American traditions is not only troubling, but shows a serious misunderstanding of the populations she’s supposedly trying to bring together. I’d be happy to spend 5 minutes with Walker in front of the magazine rack at any bookstore and bring her up to speed on American culture, which parts were unique and why.

Then I’d explain to her how her positions as an anti-racism and public school district diversity officer are uniquely American.

Yesterday I was reminded by Roger Kimball of a brief exchange between Ward Connerly and a New York Times reporter:

Reporter: What are you?
Connerly: I am an American.
Reporter: No, no, no! What are you?
Connerly: Yes, yes, yes! I am an American.
Reporter: That is not what I mean. I was told that you are African American. Are you ashamed to be African American?
Connerly: No, I am just proud to be an American.

Connerly went on to explain that his ancestry included Africans, French, Irish, and American Indians. It was too much for the poor reporter from our Paper of Record: “What does that make you?” he asked in uncomprehending exasperation. I suspect he was not edified by Connerly’s cheerful response: “That makes me all-American.”

As a descendant of Francis Cooke, my answer would’ve been similar. Nearly 400 years in the same spot is usually enough to forge the basic traditions and values that make up one’s identity.

But Walker wouldn’t have accepted that.

She also reminded us that:

“…race is a political description.”

It would come as a surprise to those descendants of peoples from Asia through Africa who carry sickle-cell alleles – or the Ashkenazi who carry Tay-Sachs – that their afflictions are simply a result of synthetic political constructs.

“Always directing her talk toward racism [emphasis mine], Walker said that one’s external constructions are what someone else had created. “Some of us need to redefine ourselves.””

To which I responded with:

Hopefully – though it is unlikely – Ms. Walker will realize that not everything in society is grounded in racism. That, along with a hefty dose of real understanding of race/culture/ethnicity, might help her “begin to connect” to others.

Until then, Walker will continue to have all the authority of a third-rate freshman in a Sociology 101 class.

And that’s a charge I stand by.

Mr. Huey wrote a follow-up post about Walker’s role at GCS:

The Rhino Times reported back on March 29 of this year that Walker’s position as a diversity officer is a first for Guilford County Schools. See this excerpt:

Walker is not only new to the school system, but her position was just created in the 2006-2007 budget. Walker has never presented the board data at meetings. Walker has attended at least one of the board’s Shared Communications Committee meetings and she has attended a handful of community forums. Other than that, what exactly she does in that position has not been brought forth to the board and she is earning more than $80,000.

I looked at the job description for Walker’s position [PDF, opens in new window]. It’s a masterful 4-page display of mealy-mouthed eduspeak that offers little in the way of helping us understand the GCS Diversity Officer’s responsibilities [though it does mandate that a successful candidate must display a reasonable amount of "Manual Dexterity" and "Must have minimal levels of eye/hand/foot coordination"].

Huey’s research uncovered a resume full of unfortunate associations:

Walker is also listed on a site titled “Anti-Racist Alliance“. I brought up this site because this portion of this particular homepage is troubling:

This website is designed for individuals, educators, activists and trainers who are interested in participating a national movement for racial justice. . This is a curriculum designed to create change! By entering the curriculum on whiteness you will begin a journey into what it means to be white in America, the consequences of whiteness for people of color and reparations in the form of federal government initiatives to end disproportionality and poverty, the ultimate impact for racial equity

She’s listed on this site as one of many folks peddling a $15 DVD on Internalizing Racial Oppression on behalf of PISAB.

It’s not far from what popped up recently in Delaware, that charming residence life program which reminded us that all whites are, by definition, racist oppressors.

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Guilford County is a diverse place and GCS is a large system; that there’s a director of social/cultural programs is not unreasonable. But paying $80k to a race-baiter so she might advance her ideology – including convincing children that race is just a social construct while centuries of bred-in guilt [and all related reparations] is a necessary burden for every white – is outrageous. Walker should be ashamed of herself and the GCS board/administration should be doubly ashamed for promoting her service.

The District would know her harmful ruse [or at least have the opportunity to recognize and ignore it] if they had any clue what Walker does. Simply put, they don’t. From The Rhino Times:

Attending her first Guilford County Board of Education meeting since she was hired in August 2006, Chief Diversity Officer Monica Walker had no clear explanation as to why she had not been at any previous meetings, but she told board members at the Tuesday, Oct. 9 meeting that she has been very busy…

… Walker said much of her time has been spent providing “Undoing Racism” training at Mission Possible schools.

Board members didn’t have many questions for Walker, just a lot of thank yous for the work she is doing. Chairman Alan Duncan said he would like to “see you more often from here on out.”

To which, Walker said, “That’s OK. You don’t have to.”

Superintendent Terry Grier said Walker has one person helping her in her department and that he thought Walker was “carrying a big load.” The support staff that Grier wanted to go along with Walker’s department was cut in the 2007-2008 budget.

“She is doing a marvelous job,” Grier said, about Walker working with various departments.

A quick recap:

  • She doesn’t go to meetings for the organization she’s charged with bringing together and stated clearly that she won’t in the future;
  • Her job description is vague and open-ended;
  • Board members don’t have a clear picture of what she does;
  • She gets a thumbs-up anyway.

The Guilford community – and especially GCS – needs to recognize Walker for what she is: a paid advocate for a particular ideology, and a fairly unpalatable one at that. Any hiring manager examining Walker’s history and who is familiar with the culture of social work education [or view the latest comprehensive report on the National Association of Scholars website] would have raised an eyebrow long ago. Unfortunately, the GCS board and administration did not and the recent media coverage suggests that they will not.

So, in short, Guilford County will continue to lay claim to yet another ineffective, harmful and expensive diversity sham.

It’s the stuff of black comedy. We can only hope that GCS and its Superintendent Terry Grier will bring in The Bobs, Porter and Slydell, to ask that most necessary question:

And when Guilford County finally gets the answer, let’s hope they take the appropriate action.

Fair Use for Public School Teachers

fair use in the classroom

Cross-posted on KitchenTableMath.

A month ago I wrote about a Florida A&M University law professor’s decision to use questions out of a test-prep guide for a significant portion of the final exam. In Using Test Questions from Prep Guides – Ethical, Legal? I said:

“Reproducing questions from review books happens frequently in New York. We have state-issued curricula for most all high school subjects with a statewide final exam. Barron’s publishes review books for these state exams and it is very common for teachers to make unit tests from questions taken directly from the review books. No one really complains [other than that it suggests a classroom teacher is “teaching to the test”], but I find it highly unprofessional and unnecessary at the post-secondary and especially at the law school level.”

I wanted to elaborate a bit on the rules by which New York State teachers – and those nationwide – must abide when using someone else’s material.

There are four basic conditions to meet fair use requirements [from the House Judiciary Subcommittee]:

1. Brevity – a single poem, passage, short story, etc. is used;

2. Spontaneity – the material is included close to the time when the material is used;

3. Cumulative use – “generally no more than nine occasions per teacher per term”

4. Notice of use – credit to the author must be given with year of publication and appropriate copyright symbol.

Brevity. The intent of fair use is, generally, grounded in brevity. Teachers [and anyone creating instructional content] depends on passages, illustrations and small pieces of work to develop curriculum. Most K-12 teachers don’t have a problem here.

Spontaneity. I find this a bit troubling. How many times have we chided students for leaving their work until the last minute? But if you’re a teacher in New York, go for it – your use of copyrighted material is fair if you put yourself in a position that necessitates a shortcut.

Cumulative use. I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit puzzled by 9 uses as a threshold – it seems arbitrary, though I doubt this is ever policed. How one could use the same material 10+ times in a term and still profess that one is advancing a student’s course of study at a reasonable pace is beyond me.

Notice of use. This is where teachers usually stumble – they just don’t bother to credit the original authors. But satisfying point #4 is easy provided that you’re committed to respecting the intellectual property of others. Author’s name, the larger source, publication date, copyright symbol – the end.

I don’t expect teachers or anyone else to document ad nauseam every bit of intellectual property they decide to use [it's faddish in the ed-tech community to cite image sources to the nth degree on blogs, something which I don't bother to do unless it's real intellectual property/art]. But showing the most basic respect for another’s work by labeling it properly is a necessity – it shows our students that their future work will be credited and that their teacher is a competent scholar.

Browse a detailed summary of Basic Books, Inc. v. Kinko’s Graphics Corp. if you’re so inclined. And if you can’t be bothered, at least take those four baby steps that fair use requires. It isn’t hard.

Parent Involvement Matters

parent involvement matters

Those devoted to education – and those who keep up with the education blogosphere – know that the two most important factors in determining student success are teacher quality and parent/family support. As this post’s title reminds us all, Parent Involvement Matters.

And those who are long-term readers of this site know how I feel about the role of non-educators in the education debate.

Most parents aren’t certified educators and most don’t even work in the public sector, let alone schools. But too often schools forget a few things about parents:

1. They are veterans of childhood and schooling;
2. They can contribute intellectual and experiential diversity to advance public schools;
3. They oversee the day-to-day operations of developing their own children into adults.

In short, they’ve done it, they’ve got a lot to offer and they’ve got a horse in the race.

Unfortunately, the root of most school-community problems is poor communication with parents. Schools simply have to do a better job communicating with parents, engaging them in the decision-making processes of districts and providing forums in which parents and community members can discuss school-related issues.

I was pleased to be introduced to ParentInvolvementMatters.org, a newly-released website that is committed to:

Recognizing the strong link between meaningful family involvement and children’s success in school and in life, we are advocates for building collaborative parent-school communities that promote networking, communication, and problem-solving.

They’ve collected some excellent Parent Involvement Resources ranging from materials to facilitate parent communication in your district to research on the role of parent involvement in education.

And if you’d like to advance Parent Involvement in Schools, they invite you to:

Browse their website at www.parentinvolvementmatters.org, sign up for their mailing list and stay tuned – they’re continuing to grow and they’re improving communication between districts and communities.

Two Million Minutes: A Global Examination

One of the few constants we have in education is time – and how we choose to use that time has a profound effect on both the individual and the country in which we live.

That principle is at the core of Two Million Minutes: A Global Examination, a recent film by entrepreneur/venture capitalist Bob Compton that juxtaposes how students from China, India and the United States are using those high school years. Compton’s vision, interspersed with commentary from Robert Reich, Bart Gordon, Richard Freeman and others, paints a vivid portrait of the position of the United States – and its potential future – in the global economy.

In its own words, 2MM is:

… a deeper look at how the three superpowers of the 21st Century – China, India and the United States – are preparing their students for the future. As we follow two students – a boy and a girl – from each of these countries, we compose a global snapshot of education, from the viewpoint of kids preparing for their future.

Before reading my comments on the film, I invite you to view the trailer on YouTube:

Having screened the pre-release of the film [the DVD will be available on November 15, I believe], I’d like to present my comments and whet your appetite for a must-see.

2MM is a clear, direct and eye-opening film that analyzes our global readiness with 6 examples – a boy and a girl from China, India and the United States – and sharp, relevant commentary from a diverse crowd of authorities.

We see a relaxed, individually-focused pair in the United States in stark contrast to the intellectually- and career-driven Chinese. And the Indians, though somewhat in the middle of that continuum of seriousness, are still seemingly more committed and prepared to contribute in adulthood than the average American student.

2MM isn’t the first to expose this difference – it is, however, the first to present the situation conceptually yet convincingly and ask, “Now what?

But I think this film goes beyond posing that question. 2MM shows clearly that the US, India and China [or more simply, the US and everyone else] have very different concepts of what education is and how it supports the answer to the question, “How do we live?”

In 2MM, the Indians and Chinese have a solid answer to, “How do we live?” – both explicitly and implicitly – and have built their education systems into that mindset. In the United States, we simply don’t use public education to live our lives in any specific way. We use school to teach skills [in theory] that will equip students to pursue whatever they’d like to pursue. We don’t have an answer to the question.

Two things are happening right now: 1) our world is flattening; and 2) we can see it. In a way, our shutter speed has increased due to communication advances, so we’re able to look at/analyze parts of that flat world with a speed and efficiency that we’ve never been able to. We’ve got a more easily analyzed plane and a better way to view it.

What we’re seeing – what 2MM shows – is almost a split-screen video of a few different approaches to how we live our lives. If we think of it as a race and the world as the field upon which that race is run, we can look at it this way:

1. The Chinese and Indian students are trained, prepared and committed to running from the starting line to the finish line within well-defined boundary lines. They’re going from Point A to Point B in a straight line. They don’t deviate.

2. The two American students aren’t running that same well-defined race. They’re watching it, figuring out how to organize it, they’re marketing it, they’re considering all the possibilities related to it – but they aren’t going from start to finish in their own lane. And if they choose to run, they’re running the way they want to and in whichever direction they choose.

There are advantages to both approaches here – we know this. But it also isn’t new. What’s new is that our flatter world and faster shutter speed allows us to juxtapose the two starkly different approaches. 100 years ago, when our flatter earth was mountainous and our progress slower, and when we were unable to see so clearly how different countries ran their races, it was very difficult to see. Now we’re all on the same plane, we’re looking at the progress in real-time and we’re seeing two separate performances.

The question isn’t, “Now what?” – it’s, “How do we want to live?” and then reforming or re-developing a public education system based on our answer. 2MM lays the foundation for this discussion.

2MM raises questions not just about how we want to live, but whether we want to instead just accept what we’ve got, run with our strengths and accept the consequences.

And then there’s the business world with which Mr. Compton is intimately familiar – a world that can’t afford to wait 100 years for this question to be answered properly.

NCLB barely scratches the surface of answering this question as it relates to our education system – I’d liken it more to lifting the sheet that covers it, taking a peek and reporting back – and it has divided the country’s education profession badly. Suggesting that discussing such broad, holistic questions as, “How do we want to live?” and, “How does public education support that?” is a tough project is an incredible understatement.

But 2MM has the capacity to open up forums for this debate in a way that we haven’t yet seen. One need not be an educator or policy wonk to be engaged by this film – we’re all stakeholders.

The film’s blog is titled, “What Should America Do?” – it’s about time we get started on the answer. Two Million Minutes has already begun.

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