Wanna Impress the Kids? Don’t Do Any of This.

Skolnick, Revenge of the Nerds

School’s upon us – and so is the terrible professional advice doled out by ‘expert’ speakers and teachers that pocks the path to success like errant dog-doo in the park.

John Thompson guest blogs [or blog-shares, or partner-blogs, I've never figured it out] over at This Week in Education. Here’s today’s charmer – “Back to School”:

“A summer of verbal give and take in the blogosphere could not keep me in shape for the big league trash talking of the urban classroom. I picked up some tricks from the back-to-school convocation, however. The keynote speaker, Jack Berkmeyer, said that we should randomly dub a student as “Sparkie” and rather than yell at a student who is disrupting class, we should yell at a student who is not in class. Then, when students do not listen, the teacher should just express their frustrations to the chalkboard. “Chalkboard, I went into the classroom to talk to students, but I see that you are the only person who will really listen …”

Sometimes I warned the designated “Sparkie” and the rest of the class of the reason why I would engage in those antics. Other times I just started to converse with my new, inanimate best friend. I loved shouting at last year’s student ”Caitlin, what am I, a potted plant? Just because you don’t listen the to plays that your coach calls …” And now, the students have a standard comeback, “D.T., talk to the chalkboard.”

When I was defeated in one round of trash-talking, the student’s closing reply was “D.T. I have not begun to rag on you. When I do, I’ll be looking at your sneakers.” This was the student who had complained, “D.T. if you make me write so much, I’m going to have a cardeo-viscectomy [sic].” – John Thompson”

Eep! I replied.

It’s “Berckemeyer.

And how much did the school pay Jack – or is it Jacko, Piggie or Chuckles? – to encourage adults to ditch self-respect and erode their own modeling of professional behavior? At least it’ll serve the staff well when they audition to be that well-meaning but pathetic teacher in the next CW urban school sitcom. You know, that role of a teacher who’s about 20-25 years behind and who stands in sharp contrast to his class full of eye-rollers?

Here are some other tips:

1. Use words like, “hip” and “gnarly.” You want to weave a pedagogical tapestry from two skeins of thread: Berckemeyer’s advanced psychology and Jeff Spicoli way-cool charm.. Trust me, it’ll totally give those kids a cool learning buzz.

2. Be daring with your wardrobe. Parachute pants are in; so are ripped pink half-shirts.

3. Put on a Billy Squier CD [or cassette, if you want to be state-of-the-art] to serenade kids as they walk into class. They’ll LOVE it.

I’d write more, but I can’t just give this stuff away for free. Maybe next year you can pay me $5k to inspire your staff a la Berckemeyer.

Best of luck to you and your staff in 2009-2010, Spanky. Hope you like your new nickname – it’s gonna make for a rad year!

I really do.

I really do.

ACTA’s College Rankings and The New Duhploma

‘Tis the season – every year, same song. The US News college rankings pop up every August like Irving Berlin’s/Bing Crosby’s White Christmas does in early December.

Not this year, thanks to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. introduces a novel way to rank colleges – on how they provide academic knowledge. [For those of you not used to the education sector, ranking schools by their ability to educate is a novel, courageous proposition.] The Wall Street Journal mentions ACTA’s efforts:

“The newest entrant in the ranking game is the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which has the quaint notion that a university be judged on what it teaches its students. At the group’s Web site,, schools are given grades based on the extent to which students are required to take classes in the core subjects of a general education, such as math, literature, science and history. Their effort to change the focus to learning is no doubt an admirable one, but I suspect that it will have a limited effect. Any grading scale that gives an “A” to the University of Arkansas and an “F” to Yale may prove too contrarian to capture the public imagination.”

Any newspaper that can’t fathom why Yale could earn an F is too ignorant of the state of higher education to capture my imagination.

The New York Daily News explained why Brooklyn College and Hunter stood tall in ACTA’s rankings.

… and how does your alma mater rank? I’d check mine – Boston University – but it’s not yet on the list.

What do I think of this new ranking system? I think it’s wonderful – finally, a ranking with an academic seriousness of purpose to replace that nearly-useless US News tripe. There are few organizations – if any – that could do it better than ACTA.

If the image below doesn’t entice you to check out, nothing will.

You Know, the Internet Does Professional Training, Too

One of the most effective education-related facets of the internet is its ability to make available professional training/certifications. While blog after blog is discussing [in vain, usually] the merits of web/distance education vs. a traditional classroom, and arguing their electronic doctrines in cult-like fashion, some folks are taking the time to add a bit to their professional resumes.

Those who were paying attention ~12 years ago could see it in network administration and programming certifications. After that, it was multi-nationals using internet/intranet resources to deliver, speed up and reduce costs with professional development. Now, you can pretty much advance any trade or profession online.

Hoven Tax Associates’ ‘CPE on Demand’ offers CPA and CPE courses and continuing education credits through their own ‘Hoven CPE Courses and credits‘ site. It’s an easy way to keep up with changes in tax laws and is fully recognized by the NASBA:

“Hoven Tax Seminars is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy as a Quality Assurance Service (QAS) sponsor of continuing professional education…

…Hoven Tax Seminars is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) as a sponsor of continuing professional education on the National Registry of CPE Sponsors.”

They also offer a CPA and CPE resource center and an accounting course guide – their ‘tax explanations for real estate investors’ book is also worth a look if you’re interested.