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Currently Browsing: Books on Education

“Once they got over the shock, students got hooked on the attention and the sense of purpose”

Joanne Jacobs,

Greg Lippman and Jennifer Andaluz together provided the brains, muscle and elbow grease to found Downtown College Prep, the subject of Joanne Jacobs’ “Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the School That Beat the Odds”. To get the ball rolling, they created a small summer institute that would establish and test the themes that would drive DCP. From page 25:

“To connect with potential students and parents and try out their ideas, Lippman and Andaluz organized Summer Bridge, a free skill-building program for underachieving middle schoolers. Lippman’s parents donated the money for the program; San Jose State provided classroom space. Middle school counselors in San Jose recommended students, mostly Hispanic, who were struggling in school.

Expecting the usual summer snooze, Bridge students found themselves sweating through reading and math skills in an academic boot camp with Lippman and Andaluz as their drill sergeants. But, once they got over the shock, students got hooked on the attention and the sense of purpose. Their parents wanted more. Bridge parents began meeting with Lippman and Andaluz to discuss a charter high school.”

They did that without a fat, taxpayer-driven bank account. Makes you wonder what a public school with a $27,000 per-pupil budget is capable of – and why were aren’t seeing it.

“The complete lack of sugarcoating may seem harsh to outsiders, but students seem to appreciate the honesty”

Joanne Jacobs,

Chapter 1 of Joanne Jacobs’ “Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the School That Beat the Odds” introduces San Jose’s Downtown College Prep, a charter school serving mostly Mexican immigrant families. DCP takes underperformers and develops them to succeed at a 4-year college or university. From page 9:

“”At DCP [Downtown College Prep], low achievers aren’t told they’re doing well; they’re told they can do better, if they work hard. The school doesn’t boost self-esteem with empty praise. Instead, Lippman and his teachers encourage what is known as “efficacious thinking,” the belief that what a person does has an effect. If you study, you’ll do better on the test than if you goof off. Work hard in school, and you can get to college. You have control over your future. So, stop making excuses and get your act together. The complete lack of sugarcoating may seem harsh to outsiders, but students seem to appreciate the honesty.”

Kids are the best fraud detectors alive. Honesty shows love and sincere concern. It’s no wonder that students at DCP – or anywhere, for that matter – prefer respectful honesty as they develop.

“Parents who have money can exercise school choice…” but “Nobody says…”

Joanne Jacobs,

From the introduction [p. 2] of Joanne Jacobs’ “Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the School That Beat the Odds” comes the following passage. It’s sober, honest commentary on the reality of failing schools.

“Parents who have money can exercise school choice, either by buying a home in an area with good public schools or by paying tuition.

But less-affluent parents are stuck with what they get. If the local school is led by a distant bureaucrat, staffed by inexperienced or burned-out teachers, whipsawed by education fads, and dominated by bullies, parents are told reforms are on the way: Just wait a few years, and then a few more.

If the school is just second-rate, parents are fed happy talk about how everyone’s special and those nasty test scores don’t indicate the real learning kids are doing. Why, they’re going to be lifelong learners! It doesn’t matter that they’ve learned nothing so far. They can look it up on the internet.

Nobody says: “Juan can’t read or write well enough to fill out a job application; he doesn’t have the math to qualify as an apprentice carpenter, electrician or plumber. He can go to community college, because they’ll take anybody with a pulse. But he’ll be stuck in remedial classes to learn what he was supposed to learn in elementary or middle school. The odds are he’ll get discouraged and quit.” That, they don’t say.

… and when someone does say it, the victimized cry foul. Not the truly victimized, either.

An Online Degree Site That’s Easier to Navigate

If you subscribe to any education-related newsletters – or about a billion like I do – your screen drips with ads for online degrees and distance learning opportunities.

… and sites that offer, facilitate and aggregate online degrees and distance learning opportunities. At a certain point you just stop paying attention.

Throw into the mix that some programs are good, some are bad and some are even worse.

“An Online Degree by Distance Learning” – aptly named, I suppose – gives the quick and dirty version. Not a million choices, just the top three as determined by AODDL.

Do any of the programs interest me? Not especially, and my ‘top three’ list would likely be different, but I do appreciate the simplicity. The reality is that, as far as online-only outfits go, they’re all quite similar. If it’s accredited, you’re in business. There’s more variation in quality between brick-and-mortar institutions that offer online degrees.

Here’s a few recent news items about online programs:

And while you’re at it, check out Hubert Dreyfus’ “On the Internet,” a seminal treatise on the promises and pitfalls of mass education via the internet. The second edition comes out in a month – the first edition was one of the more provocative, important books I’ve read in the last 5 or 6 years.

Ambrose Bierce and the Devil’s Dictionary on Education

ambrose bierce

For those who haven’t come across Bierce, he was a biting critic of literature and culture in 19th- and early 20th-century America. Bierce’s short stories are singularly engaging and, in my opinion, few in American literature have demonstrated such a command of language. Bierce was introduced to me by a well-traveled writer who said, “On his worst day, maybe coming off a week-long bender, Bierce was sharper than you or I will ever be.” He was probably right.

Bierce occupies some real estate on the shelf to the right of my desk. I decided to pull a sample of the education-related definitions in his Devil’s Dictionary.

ACADEME, n. An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.

ACADEMY, n. [from ACADEME] A modern school where football is taught.

BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

GRAMMAR, n. A system of pitfalls thoughtfully prepared for the feet for the self-made man, along the path by which he advances to distinction.

HISTORIAN, n. A broad-gauge gossip.

HISTORY, n. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.

LEARNING, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.

LECTURER, n. One with his hand in your pocket, his tongue in your ear and his faith in your patience.

ORATORY, n. A conspiracy between speech and action to cheat the understanding. A tyranny tempered by stenography.

PHILOSOPHY, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

PLAGIARISM, n. A literary coincidence compounded of a discreditable priority and an honorable subsequence.

PLAGIARIZE, v. To take the thought or style of another writer whom one has never, never read.

I reference and sample Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary with regularity – it’s too witty to ignore. Though I use a hard copy, you can get a .txt file of the Dictionary via Project Gutenberg.

And, if you’re so inclined, peep The Ambrose Bierce Project and The Ambrose Bierce Appreciation Society.

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