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Currently Browsing: Massachusetts Education

Great Links Curriculum for Tuesday, November 18

If you aren’t already following me on Twitter, you ought to start. I link to and comment on education stories ’round the clock.

And if you’re new to Twitter or aren’t sure how to get started, check out TwiTip’s 10 Easy Steps for Twitter Beginners. Give it a whirl!

Now for the Great Links… and some real stinkers that also deserve attention.

Via EIA, Andrew Sullivan and Michelle Rheetwo peas in a pod? Believe it or not, yes. I suppose even Sullivan gets to be sensible every once in a while. Blind squirrel, broken clock, etc. etc.

There aren’t too many men teaching K-12, reports Eduflack. In MA, fewer than 25% of K-12 teachers are men. And it’s everywhere, too – in April 2007 I wrote a post about male elementary teachers in NY dropping to 9%, a 40-year low. Some folks like MenTeach have been trying to raise awareness for a while now. Check them out and subscribe.

Ted Tedesco of Woodbury, Vermont is a hero. He’s worked to restore the Pledge of Allegiance in that small school district. The admins’ solution to his request is ridiculous, but at least everyone sees it. That, and a generation of kids in Woodbury knows how important it is to defend their country and their culture. As I wrote in the comments of the Core Knowledge post:

“A few months ago I attended a reunion banquet for a tiny, rural high school that closed shop during the consolidation efforts of the 1950s. Their meeting included the Pledge of Allegiance. When the Pledge came up in the agenda, all of the ~100 in attendance rose – and some with great difficulty, as they were in their 80s and 90s – to recite it.”

You know where I stand on this issue, and there’s a reason why I call the Green Mountain State “The People’s Republic of Vermont.” [Sorry, Jessie.]

Across the pond, here’s why I like the Tories. They’ve got a plan to re-introduce a bit of rigor to GCSEs and A-levels. The GCSEs in particular have been gutted – remember this physics teacher begging the government via petition to return mathematical rigor to secondary physics?

“Hot Boys”? I’d prefer that EdSector’s Quick and the Ed bloggers had a bit more self-respect. I already have trouble taking them seriously – these post titles don’t help.

Schools suing bloggers? You betcha. PRO on HCPS links to a libel case against an unhappy parent. Well, if “libel” means “a school district seething when held accountable by the public.” Guess who won? [UPDATE: PRO on HCPS gives us a better link for schools suing bloggers.]

Litigation is expensive when you’re trying to fire a teacher, administrator or school employee. In nearby Utica, NY, Craig Fehlhaber’s hearings have cost the Utica City Schools $250,000 – and counting. If Fehlhaber wins, the district will likely have to reimburse his attorney’s fees as well. We went through the same process in Cooperstown several years ago. If you ever wondered why schools tend not to dismiss bad employees, now you’ve got one reason.

Dave at ‘Friends of Dave’ – a very sharp blog, subscribe with all deliberate speed – highlights some recent irony in California. The California Association of School Business Officers have a conference at which they’ll discuss our tough economic times and how their districts can cope. And that conference is at a hotel/spa/golf course in Newport Beach. Dave has a sensible take on it all, but c’mon, CASBO. He says, “It is a bit ironic that the people who are typically the ones telling their co-workers that they can’t have an extra ream of paper are the ones having a really nice time at a Hotel and Spa on the beach.” Agreed.

Victory in Iraq Day – November 22, 2008. ZombieTime has declared 11/22/08 VI Day and I’m with him 100%. Read his post to see why it’s appropriate to declare VI Day and you’ll see why I support it, too.

“Building a GREAT teaching workforce,” described by American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence’s Dave Saba. Saba/ABCTE sing the praises – rightly – of a new report on the effectiveness of alternative certification programs.

Politics: An ACTA Must-Read and a Boston University Don’t-Bother-Reading

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

From the American Council of Trustees and Alumni:

“An article from today’s New York Times considers the debate over the extent to which professorial politics influences students. While nearly everyone agrees that faculties on the whole tend be politically one-sided, many observers dispute whether this imbalance has any consequence in the classroom. Brooklyn College history professor KC Johnson says “yes,” pointing out that the problem is less political than pedagogical, with many disciplines within the humanities (such as diplomatic and military history) being pushed to the margins. ACTA’s own Anne Neal agrees, noting that the problem lies not in a simplistic “left-right” characterization, but instead to the essence of what is taught. Do professors influence students? Yes, surely, since students cannot know what is not taught. That is why ACTA advocates the need for institutions to demand a coherent core curriculum offering exposure to such central subjects as Western Civilization and American History.

ACTA has, as the Times notes, followed these issues closely, with our publications on Intellectual Diversity and the core curriculum advancing a critique of the current state of higher education, and showing ways in which trustees can help their institutions reach a solution.”

What isn’t taught is, at this point, more destructive than much of the tripe that is taught.

Ralphie, A Christmas Story

When you’re done with those links, hop on down a few rungs and read the latest plea from Boston University Dean of Students Kenn Elmore. In “It’s time to show them what we’ve got”, Elmore writes with all the flair, conviction and intellectual seriousness of A Christmas Story’s Ralphie on that ‘What I Want for Christmas’ theme:

“Plenty of naysayers doubt that individuals with the opportunity to vote for the first time will actually show up.  They also point to prior statistics that cast a doubt that you — a young voter, a student — will even show up tomorrow or have cast an absentee ballot by now.  We often hear about record numbers of young people registering to vote but are disappointed on election day.  We apparently want to be on the list but just don’t have the time to make it to the party.

Let’s show the country that its young people care and have a say in the direction of our cities, towns, states, and nation.  Your local candidates, referenda questions, and national officers in waiting need to know that you showed up and made a decision.  Get prepped and do what you’ve got to do tomorrow.  Show the nation that we’re here and ready to bring it in the future.  Show ‘em what you got!

Be safe and stay well,

Kenn Elmore

P.S. Don’t forget that there are elections held every year (not every four).”

C+!

That post script is in line with an older post in which the good Dean “bemoans” the ignorant public.

Though I’m impressed that he nailed referendum/referenda, I do wish the Deanship was an elected and not an appointed position.

The College Credit for Obama Campaigning Scandal, UMass Amherst

Oh boy. This one’s getting coverage everywhere.

Mr. Malchow at the Dartblog wrote a fine summary:

“The college chaplain at U. Mass-Amherst is Kent Higgins. Like chaplains at many colleges, he is more than an administrator for campus faith organizations; call him a community organizer, bucking up the events, speakers, and causes which hew to his leftward bent, and attenuating those that do not. In this instance, it appears that Mr. Higgins laid intricate groundwork to secure for Obama canvassers academic credit “for the experience.” The scheme started to gain attention, and Mr. Higgins hastily put together the same package for McCain supporters. Really a rather funny story, which ends happily on account of—what else?—public embarrassment.”

The NAS’ Peter Wood has the play-by-play, then he follows it up with a piece at Phi Beta Cons.

University Diaries describes herself as an “enthusiastic Obama supporter” and still thinks it was a stupid idea.

I’m with HubeI don’t believe them, either.

Free Video Lecture on China, India and the 21st Century Global Economy

global economy

There’s a lot going around re: the 21st century global economy – part myth, part truth, part sense, part insanity. I’ve written several times on the film Two Million Minutes and responded to a few articles about education and the global economy.

The Teaching Company just sent the following bulletin which offers a free video lecture about China, India and the 21st century economy. My experience with TTC has been excellent, and their free lectures are top quality. I’d recommend them to anyone.

There is substantial interest in the future of the global economy because of the rising influence of rapidly growing countries like China and India. As a thank you for being our customer, here is a specially commissioned video lecture on the future of the global economy: Will China and India Dominate the 21st-Century Global Economy? delivered by award-winning Professor Lee Branstetter of Carnegie Mellon University.

Economists predict that China and India are set to dominate the 21st-century global economy and become the new engines that drive economic growth. But how will this transition affect the standing of the United States within the global economy? What are some of the challenges that the United States will face in adjusting to the rise of these Asian economies? What are the opportunities for American growth and prosperity in this situation?

View this free video lecture between now and September 29, 2008, to discover what startling effects the rapid growth of these two countries may have on the economic future of the United States.

Will China and India Dominate the 21st-Century Global Economy? is delivered by Professor Lee Branstetter of Carnegie Mellon University. An Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Professor Branstetter received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His teaching skills have earned him the Thomas Mayer Distinguished Teaching Award and a Harvard University Certification for Teaching Excellence. Professor Branstetter’s award-winning research has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

Feel free to send the link to this free video lecture to family or friends who might enjoy it—it is free for them as well.

Sincerely,

Brandon C. Hidalgo, CEO
The Teaching Company

Intellectual Dishonesty and Fearmongering on the Boston University Dean’s Blog

ahhhhhhh! the end is nigh!

I wrote yesterday about my dissatisfaction with the Boston University Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore’s push for voter registration. It’s a poor use of resources, it’s outside the scope of the Dean’s office, and it’s reason #52,907 why higher education is prohibitively expensive. I responded to a spirited commenter on that post and explained my reasons a bit more fully.

Today, the Dean’s Blog posted a guest editorial which makes the following claims/suggestions:

  • The US is divided, unhappy, starving, and hated worldwide;
  • Global warming caused Hurricane Gustav;
  • Newspapers are full of suicide bombings;
  • All students should vote, just not in Massachusetts;
  • The last 8 years were a total disgrace.

Elmore introduces the guest post in “How Does Your Vote Really Count?”

“I often wonder if my vote is like pressing the botton [sic] on the walk signal at a street crossing — does it matter?”

Since Elmore started with a near-non sequitur, I suppose I’ll start there, too.

No, Dean Elmore, pushing those buttons probably doesn’t matter. Take New York City’s example:

“The city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the emergence of computer-controlled traffic signals, even as an unwitting public continued to push on, according to city Department of Transportation officials. More than 2,500 of the 3,250 walk buttons that still exist function essentially as mechanical placebos, city figures show. Any benefit from them is only imagined…

… Most of the buttons scattered through the city, mainly outside of Manhattan, are relics of the 1970′s, before computers began tightly choreographing traffic signal patterns on major arteries.”

I’d bet the situation in Boston is similar. Now that we’ve answered one of Life’s Big Questions, let’s move along to the bulk of the post, written by Dr. Margaret Ross, Boston University’s Director of Behavioral Medicine:

“I am not a particularly politically knowledgeable person …”

Eep. Admitting a lack of knowledge about a topic as an introduction to 300 words on it? I’ll let that slide. And though Dr. Ross isn’t a “particularly politically knowledgeable person,” I am – so on with the show:

“…but this election scares me more than others have.  The country is in a very vulnerable state:  people are terribly divided and angry, scared about their survival, we have been in a prolonged recession with no sign of relief, prices for basic necessities are high, healthcare is more of a mess than ever, the weather patterns show inexorable climate change (yet another storm is ravaging the Caribbean, Cuba and will travel to the southeastern United States).”

I agree partly with Dr. Ross – I’m not scared, but I’m concerned. That said, I’m not a hyperbolic fearmonger like Dr. Ross.

We’re not all “terribly divided and angry.” I hold a very unpopular view of the political climate for my demographic, and I don’t sympathize with most of the friends I have. I’m not angry at them, and that philosophical/conceptual rift is normal when one is truly in a diverse crowd. Relax, Dr. Ross – this isn’t a civil war between Code Pink and the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s just people being people.

Also, I’m not worried that I won’t survive. Gas prices are high – it’s a serious hardship for those who don’t live in a city. Those fuel prices make food more expensive, too, but we aren’t starving. Because I’ve cut back on shrimp and clams isn’t evidence that I’m “scared about [my] survival.” It just means I eat more soup and pasta.

And this is where the Good Doctor’s hyperbole and fearmongering really comes in – recession. Things aren’t wonderful – we all know that – but Hell in a Handbasket isn’t around the corner, either. For a crash course on what a recession is, check the Wikipedia entry.

Then consider that the GDP in the second quarter grew by 3.3%, according to the Department of Commerce, that inflation is nowhere near the 12% it was in 1980, and that our civilian unemployment rate of about 6% isn’t all that bad.

It’s also news to me that “inexorable climate change” is linked directly to Hurricane Gustav. Then again, I’ve only got a BA, so she’s the expert.

“We are fighting a war that few can comprehend or believe in.”

Actually, Dr. Ross, the polls aren’t as dire as you make them out to be. About 2 in 3 Americans oppose the war in Iraq – while that’s a majority, considering 1 out of 3 to be “few” is intellectually dishonest or downright ignorant [I'll let you choose]. Feel free to look over these poll results for several questions re: the war in Iraq.

“We are not respected as the force for good that we have been in the post World War II era; quite the contrary.”

I’d dispute that assertion if it wasn’t a book-length discussion. I’ll pass.

“Newspapers are filled with suicide bombings and natural disasters and we almost have to become hardened in order to continue to function.”

I hate to sound crass, but at this point I think that Dr. Ross reads only the New York Times and never leaves Boston/Cambridge.

“So, it seems to me that this election is a turning point.  We have two strong candidates, with very different ideas about how things might be done to begin to repair the horrendous damage of the last few years.”

It should be a turning point either way. I don’t think we have two strong candidates – I think we have only one – and I don’t think that you really think there are two strong candidates, either.

“My hope is that students all over America will vote.  It usually will mean registering and often will require procuring an absentee ballot.  I also hope that students will register to vote in their home states.  In general, Massachusetts votes Democrat.  There is every reason to expect this will be the case in the 2008 election.  Therefore, the votes of the many students in school throughout Massachusetts will be more significant if they are cast in the states from which these many thousands of students have journeyed.”

Any advice for those New Yorkers at Boston University whose vote is useless, using that rational model, regardless of where they cast it?

“PLEASE register to vote, and please register in your home state.  Your vote will be crucial.  The votes of the many American students could well determine the results of what promises to be a very close election.

We have lived for many years with the results of what was a fatally flawed election in 2000.  My hope is that 2008 will bring us a new start.”

I don’t think it was “fatally flawed” at all. Oddly enough, the Supreme Court and our electoral college system both support me.

Dean Elmore takes over:

“Thanks Dr. Ross.  I’m going to take another view.

Isn’t voting in local elections more important?  Do local and state officials, and our representatives to Washington make more of a difference in the quality of our daily routines?”"

That’s an issue worth discussing.

But first, Dean Elmore might want to consider why he posted a tendentious, intellectually dishonest, ill-informed guest editorial that embarrassed his office and his University. Differing viewpoints are good and discussion is good – as long as everyone is informed, fair and honest.

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