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Do You Remember History? The LPGA English Language Requirement

babe didrikson zaharias

You know that old saw? That one about ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it?’ [Hint: It was a chart-topper for George Santayana in 1904 or so.]

Not everyone does.

Remembering history has other benefits, too – when you recall the past, you avoid hyperbole that makes you look like a fool.

The issue at hand is the LPGA Tour’s new requirement that all athletes be proficient English-speakers. Not an unreasonable request, but the LPGA’s mandate could have been formatted, communicated and implement better.

But that’s neither here nor there – this is an education site, so we’ll focus on history.

Roy S. Johnson calls it the “Dumbest Rule Ever.”

Dear Roy,

Dumbest rule ever? Really? Dumber than mandating that all players be white? If I had some cash to waste, I’d invite you to speak to a few of the surviving Negro League players who visit the Hall of Fame here in Cooperstown – provided that you explained to them how requiring players to learn English is truly the dumbest rule ever.

As far as indignities in professional sport go, this one isn’t in the top 10. Get thee some historical perspective post haste, Roy. And if your editor, and not you, wrote the title, give him/her hell for it.

Linda Lowen, who writes the About.com Guide to Women’s Issues, calls it “Racism, Nationalism, Sexism.” The case for racism is misguided, but one has to understand that she argues it because of the high number of Korean-speaking golfers on the LPGA Tour, who represent the bulk of those affected by the ruling. Requiring those who grew up in Korea and who don’t know English fluently to become proficient with the language is different than racism.

Nationalism? Well, the LPGA just wants its athletes to communicate with the English-speaking, English-driven American market. I can understand that request. It has nothing to do with the United States and everything to do with the LPGA’s economic sustainability. That’s different than nationalism.

Sexism? Oddly enough, she doesn’t mention sex in the article – she just quotes an unhinged, illogical Bob Ford [not the one who shot Jesse James] who sees this as a slippery slope:

“Will there be a required physique for the tour? Will there be a sexual-orientation requirement to appease those lusty sponsors? Why not? You get the impression the LPGA would dress them all like Olympic beach volleyball players and have them drive the beer wagons during the pro-ams if possible….

An organization dedicated to women that perpetuates the stereotype that how a woman talks and how she looks is more important than what she accomplishes has lost its bearings.”

Relax, Chicken Little. I’ll let you fire a few neurons and figure out why this language requirement isn’t sexism. Even Ford’s characterization of golfers as cigar-smoking old boys has historical counters, like the PGA’s reception to Babe Didrikson-Zaharias – the other The Babe – all the way back in the 1940s.

The LPGA pretty much wants to make sure the athletes can do things like… conduct interviews easily. If you want to make a solid argument over this issue, argue that the LPGA was irresponsible by mandating before it had implemented a voluntary, well-supported effort to give its athletes the resources they needed to learn English. That’s a fair, reasonable argument. Freakouts about racism, nationalism and sexism are not.

Sportswriters are notoriously awful at two things: statistics and history outside the sports they cover. They’re probably hopeless with the former, but they could at least pretend to work on the latter.

Welcome to the College Rankings Game, Forbes

forbes college rankings logo

Forbes has released its new college ranking system so that college-seekers might have an alternative to US News.

As you might expect, there’s some good, some bad and some surprises.

I like what I see so far – you can read my brief summary and analysis of the Forbes system [and links to other takes] over at the GlobalScholar blog.

The Knowledge Adventure Store Brings Back Memories

For some reason, I thought that Mavis Beacon-style typing programs on the IBM PCjr were games. Apparently they aren’t, but now I can type like a[n accurate] madman.

There’s lots of stuff on the market – some free, some not, some good, some worse. I’ve always liked JumpStart’s games. They’re geared toward the youngest crowd, but they’re fairly inexpensive [$10?] and always charming and useful.

I was browsing through the educational software at Knowledge Adventure this afternoon – I remember when it was just Number Munchers, Oregon Trail and Zork. We’ve come a long way, baby.

And now if you see what you like, you can pretty much buy it and download it right away. Sheesh.

Another intriguing feature is BooksByYou – sort of a template/narrative program in which you can tweak a pre-made storyline and toy with layout and artwork. Then they’ll throw your book through Lulu [self-publisher, print-on-demand] and mail you a hard copy. Not bad for the young ones – seems very easy and very cool.

Check it out, lots of neat stuff there.

BREAKING: Hillsborough Election Results Are In, Valdes Wins, Kurdell Doesn’t

get thee to another profession, carol kurdell

I’m on a slightly political bent, so I’ll call this fairly good news.

It’s a non-partisan primary, but if a candidate gets a majority, they win. If there’s no majority selection, the top two finishers runoff in November.

With 90%+ precincts reporting, we’ve got the following results:

hillsborough county election results

Susan Valdes over Schmidt. Good, she’s alright. I guess this means Faliero’s childish attacks didn’t work. Sorry, Jennifer.

Carol Kurdell doesn’t win – and thank God for that. Kurdell is the posterwoman for do-nothing, self-satisfied, status quo school board members nationwide. You can read about all 3 candidates – Gorham, Kurdell and Mims – here.

Stephen Gorham is a great choice. He’s young, well-educated, confident, experienced – good stuff all around. The thing I like least about him is that he doesn’t live in my school district. Hillsborough County Schools need him very, very badly.

Jason Mims has been a dedicated community member and hopefully isn’t too disappointed with 17%. He’s made his concerns known about minority issues in Hillsborough’s schools, and I’m sure he’s not going anywhere.

And Carol Kurdell, whose hobbies seem to be rubber-stamping, bloviating and dishonesty, got what she has long-deserved. This edu-huckster is going to bed tonight without a win.

It might seem that I’m a bit hard on Kurdell. In truth, I actually feel guilty for not railing against her weeks [months?] ago because her in/actions warrant it.

Most recently, Carol Kurdell touted in campaign literature her success in cutting property taxes and fuel prices [one can only assume that her having ended the Cold War and liberating Europe in WWII wouldn't fit on the flier]. Oh, the pander, the pander! And had any of it been true, I’d have praised her.

Unfortunately for Kurdell, not everyone in the Tampa area is an idiot. The St. Pete Times cut her down in short order by pointing out that the FL legislature – not local districts – set the tax rate, and that she’d flubbed the fuel prices. Her response?

It [campaign lit] doesn’t note that she was one of seven elected officials involved in the decision.

“Well, you know. The board did it. I was part of the board,” Kurdell said.

Let’s hope that Mr. Mims’ supporters get behind Mr. Gorham in the runoff, and then “was part of the board” can stick to Kurdell. 16 years of mediocrity – including coddling, with the occasional turning of a blind eye, of an ineffective Superintendent – is enough.

Naming Paternalistic Schools is Dumb Politics

the left will come out... tomorrow... and the next day, and the next day...

I hate criticizing work that I admire, or the people who deliver it, but this “paternalism” debate needs a wake-up call. If you’re new to the topic, you can start by reading a brief summary of David Whitman’s book in The New Paternalism is the Old Education.

This impressive project, embodied in these schools we’re calling “paternalistic,” is being weighed down by a misunderstanding of politics/communication. In an effort to tout the virtues of a paternalistic system, education reformers run the risk of doing more harm than good, partly because they don’t get it, partly because they haven’t a clue what they’re up against, and partly because they stink at political strategy.

First, let’s make sure we understand what we’re all calling “paternalism.”

Courtesy of Michael Umphrey at the Montana Heritage Project, Whitman describes it:

“Paternalistic schools teach character and middle-class virtues like diligence, politeness, cleanliness, and thrift. They impose detentions for tardiness and disruptive behavior in class and forbid pupils from cursing at or talking disrespectfully to teachers. But the new paternalistic schools go further than even strict Catholic schools in prescribing student conduct and minimizing signs of disorder. Pupils are typically taught not just to walk rather than run in the hallway—they learn how to walk from class to class: silently, with a book in hand. In class, teachers constantly monitor whether students are tracking them with their eyes, whether students nod their heads to show that they listening, and if students have slouched in their seats.”

I’d argue that decency isn’t a “middle-class virtue,” but I understand Whitman’s intent.

George Will has a shorter, applied definition:

“Paternalism is the restriction of freedom for the good of the person restricted. AIPCS acts in loco parentis because Chavis, who is cool toward parental involvement, wants an enveloping school culture that combats the culture of poverty and the streets.”

The education folks who are excited by the promise of schools like AIPCS – and there’s a lot to be excited about – desperately want to see this model expand into underserved/troubled areas. I don’t blame them; when we identify success, we need to replicate it with all deliberate speed.

Unfortunately, that excitement comes with a desire for pretty packaging, hot marketing sells and appealing slogans.

Dumb move, education reformers.

Check the comments on the articles I’ve linked to at the end of this piece – the projects that Whitman describes have received names like “Real School,” “Total School, “Elite School” and “Relentless School.”

They’re all wrong. Proponents of these systems need to call them “school” and leave it at that.

The issue here is in re-framing the debate. Education reformers on both sides want to put their successes in their own terms and then sell those terms to willing communities – there’s nothing wrong with that. But the projects Whitman describes are re-definitions [in my opinion, traditional definitions] of how we think about public schools. If we think this model is what school should be, we need to call it “school.”

In reading George Will’s piece, you’ll notice that he’s not an evangelical marketer of paternalism. He acknowledges [rightly] the paternalism, but he also knows that an attempt to re-frame the debate is useless. Try as hard as you want, folks – the progressive education left will re-frame ten times more effectively.

Check out Kevin K. Kumashiro’s The Seduction of Common Sense: How the Right Has Framed the Debate on America’s Schools:

“Timely, accessible, and thoroughly researched, The Seduction of Common Sense exposes the insidious nature of current educational reforms and offers promising directions for anti-oppressive change.”

It’s an embarrassing treatise from a second-rate scholar and third-rate thinker, but no matter. You’ll see in its 100+ painful pages that the progressive left is so committed to re-framing the education debate, and so skilled and shameless at it, that they’ll pull a switcheroo and project their actions onto you.

News flash: The progressive left in education will always be one step ahead of the right in re-framing, at least in my lifetime. For a host of reasons well beyond the scope of this blog or post, they’re better at it. That can’t be helped.

If we want paternalistic schools to succeed and spread, we have to take back the word “school” – and then we have to associate it with demonstrable successes like what Whitman and others have detailed. The more we extend ourselves from that original word, the easier it is for the progressive left to re-frame, criticize and deconstruct. The closer we are to the simple, basic truth, the more the progressive left re-framing looks like unwarranted derision – and the less effective they’ll be.

“Paternalism” is going to get eaten alive. Save it for pointy-headed cocktail parties and book chapters no one will read – it is an interesting academic discussion, no doubt.

But when you’re talking to parents, voters, teachers, and otherwise normal people, for the love of God, just call it “school.”

FURTHER READING:

The Long Term Effects of Paternalism [Going to the Mat]

What if Paternalism Boosts Achievement the Wrong Way? [Thoughts on Ed Policy]

Jay is from Mars, Stafford is from Venus [Flypaper]

What’s In a Name? [Core Knowledge]

George Will: “Paternalistic” is Right [Flypaper]

Total schooling: Is that what KIPP offers? [Gotham Schools]

Naming names: Paternalism, meet political correctness [Flypaper]

Total schooling [Joanne Jacobs]

School Where You Can Belong [Montana Heritage]

Where Paternalism Makes the Grade [George F. Will, Washington Post]

An Interview with David Whitman: On Sweating the Small Stuff [EdNews.org]

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