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The Ugly Truth About the New Jersey Student Walkout: No Sense, No Debate

The scene depicted at the right is an old one, but a segment of New Jersey’s student population wants you to think that it’s from April, 2010 – and that Governor Chris Christie is wielding the hose.

Today, students in New Jersey public schools walked out of class to protest budget cuts:

Civil Rights Protest, Hose

Thousands of New Jersey high school students walked out of class Tuesday to protest budget cuts, a statewide event organized through text messages and social networking websites.

The anatomy of a protest was on full display at Englewood’s Dwight Morrow High School. It started with a small group of students who tested the waters Tuesday morning.

“Education should always be the first priority,” said junior Amber Diaz.

I’d argue that insisting on reform, which includes the defeat of bloated, unsustainable fiscal plans and the failing systems that perpetuate them, isn’t making education a lesser priority, but that argument tends to get lost when the NJEA and “for the children!” are on the other side.

What’s remarkable here is the truth behind this walkout: that not only was it misguided, but that its supporters – including the event’s organizer Michelle Ryan Lauto – aren’t all that interested in figuring out any real solutions to New Jersey’s education problems.

Derrell Bradford, Executive Director of Excellent Education for Everyone (E3) is an education reform warrior. I’m no shrinking violet, but he’s the best. If I had a child and could choose one person on the national education scene to advocate for him, I’d choose Bradford. He live-Tweeted the walkout in Newark with some salient observations:

– Students in Newark protesting budget cuts…not the terrible caliber of education they receive. Let’s get our eye on the ball folks.

– @ByronArnao Better than my view. Newark has 9 of the worst high schools in NJ. I wonder which one these kids go to http://twitpic.com/1ivmu8

– Newark student walkout just rolled past my window. Appx 40% of kids here fail exit exam…in one of America’s most expensive districts.

– Newark students protest budget cuts. Newark pays less than 10% of its school costs and has 20% of the state’s worst schools.

– Wonder if more seat time would be preferable to rallying for schools that are draining the life from our kids. Stop defending failure.

I agree with Bradford; the walkout misses the point. The protest doesn’t take into account that there are reforms that result in responsible budgeting and, believe it or not, better educational outcomes for students. One could also assume that eliminating instructional time – especially in Newark, which does an abysmal job of educating too many of its youth in even the most fundamental areas – doesn’t help achievement. Eventually Bradford got on with his day:

– At a school in Jersey City with kids learning, and not protesting. Imagine that. #edreform #njea

Amen, brother.

I took the policy discussion to Twitter myself; I was told by one New Jersey teacher that the walkout was a ‘good way to learn about the 60′s’ and by an NJ administrator that it was an ‘authentic edu experience.’

Reasons #13,984 and #13,985 why I didn’t go to ed school, but I digress.

So what of the protest’s organizer, Michelle Ryan Lauto, and her commitment to finding the best solution to a difficult problem? Mashable tells us how it went down:

“According to students who took part in the protest, it was largely organized via social networking efforts — texts, MySpace and, of course, the original Facebook Event. Lauto has been tweeting about the walkout all day, expressing her joy at the turnout and excitement about the barrage of interview requests she has received from the media. In fact, we’re currently waiting on comment from Lauto, who — last she e-mailed us — was preparing to meet a camera crew at her house.”

May God bless Lauto; the media already has.

Surely a graduate of an NJ public school, and now a college freshman, with the initiative to create a massive Facebook campaign resulting in the removal of thousands of students from class would be interested in open, intellectually honest debate about education – and her Tweets proved it:

– LONG day. I am so proud of everyone. All you courageous protesters show so much promise and hope for the future. Always speak your mind.

I disagree with Michelle’s protest, but I’m on board with “Always speak your mind.” We need to discuss solutions to New Jersey’s problems now more than ever, and there are quite a few problems and solutions to consider in this mess. I Tweeted her:

– @Michelle_Ryan  Since you’ve Tweeted “Always speak your mind,” I will – the NJ student walkout you organized was disgraceful. #njea #edreform

And that’s when this darling of political discourse – of civil disobedience, of courage, of ‘fight the power’ no matter how illogical or misguided – showed how committed she was to open debate:

Yipes. She’s learned a lot about political advocacy in less than a year at Pace; only engage on your terms, and if it doesn’t follow your narrative, shut’em up. Or run for the hills, whatever.

Such is the intellectual depth behind her protest – that standard youthful mantra, ‘I believe what I want to believe, I won’t be bothered by any arguments against it, and gosh-darnit, we’re entitled to whatever we want, NOW!’

Now, of course, Michelle is famous – a budding Alinskyite [actually, as an article said, an actress] who’s shown Governor Chris Christie the power of New Jersey’s youth. She gushed all day about interviews with CBS, the New York Times, CBS Radio, NJN, Associated Press… she’s a pro.

I’d paste those messages, but our darling Michelle has gone from blocking me to blocking everyone – she’s protected her Tweets. Sorry, folks!

Is she interested in any real dialogue about education reform in New Jersey? Not a chance. If your narrative doesn’t match hers, she doesn’t want any part of it. Something tells me a few thousand kids in New Jersey shared that philosophy today – and that the NJEA loved every minute of it.

After all, these are the same folks who think that New Jersey is about to be ruled by the next Pol Pot, that “A–hole” is spelled “C-H-R-I-S-T-I-E” and that you should “never trust a fat f—.”

They also just used thousands of New Jersey schoolkids, whether Michelle Ryan Lauto and her teenage hordes realize it or not.

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.

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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.

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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,

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The Teaching Company

Monmouth University Professor Pities the Undereducated American Military, Round 2

W and J-Horn!

[Photo: President George W. Bush holding Monmouth's Jim Horn]

Monmouth University’s Professor Jim Horn, Educator Extraordinaire, froths at the mouth whenever the military comes up in e-conversation. And, since Master Horn must love frothing at the mouth, he brings up the military frequently.

I wrote in late January about Horn’s piece “Unending War Relies on Steady Supply of Dropouts and Pushouts,” in which he wrote:

“These youngsters today have failed to make it in the testing factories we call schools, and recruiters, armed with these kids’ school data (NCLB mandates it), have an unending supply of hot leads.

What would that recruiting poster look like–an army one group of dropouts and pushouts who can still contribute to the America’s world class military economy. Sign your body up today!” [emphasis added]

Not surprisingly, he’s at it again. In a brief treatment of the proposed changes to the GI Bill – a topic worth serious thought and discussion – Horn takes the opportunity to lambaste the American GI, who he’s classified as “undereducated”:

According to the Pentagon, which directs the spending of $3 billion every week in Iraq, this new GI Bill proposal is too expensive. And from their perspective, Webb’s bill threatens the readiness to conduct war without end (or maybe just a hundred years), which can only be carried out by underpaid, undereducated “volunteers” who do not have viable career options outside the military. (We all know that if we were drafting middle class kids to serve as IED targets in Iraq, this war would have been over a long time ago). [Bold emphasis added]

Before I parse this, remind yourself of the meaning of the word tendentious:

… having or showing a definite tendency, bias, or purpose: a tendentious novel.”

“Marked by a strong implicit point of view; partisan: a tendentious account of the recent elections.

Got it? Let’s hit the analysis.

First, Professor Horn wants you to look at the sheer amount of money being spent per week in Iraq:

“According to the Pentagon, which directs the spending of $3 billion every week in Iraq, this new GI Bill proposal is too expensive.”

And, he hopes, you’ll think it’s a ridiculous sum. He also hopes that you’re as agenda-driven and logically deficient as he is. That way, the argument that we’re spending tons of money per week on something unnecessary – at the opportunity cost of depriving veterans of money for education – will take root and blossom. It would have been a far stronger point if he’d compared the amount of monetary change in the proposed GI Bill to the vasts of military spending overall, but doing so wouldn’t have allowed him to poke the Iraq war with a stick and quickly run away.

“And from their perspective, Webb’s bill threatens the readiness to conduct war without end (or maybe just a hundred years)”

Well, everyone knows that John McCain wants to station nukes on every streetcorner in every foreign country for at least 100 years. Haha!

But Jim Horn, that silver-haired teenybopper, is infected with a star envy/crush that runs both deep and bold. I can’t help but remember his cutesy comment to the semi-fasting Kozol on the HuffPo:

“Thank you for your eloquent commitment to what’s right for so many years … A trusted lieutenant, should you need one. Jim Horn”

This time, too, he was likely just purposely distorting McCain’s comment by following in the footsteps of another one of his heroes.

“…which can only be carried out by underpaid, undereducated “volunteers” who do not have viable career options outside the military.”

Underpaid? Probably. I’ll give him that one.

But undereducated? This is standard Horn-fare – to pity the military for being ignorant, dumb, enslaved, stupid, unaware, backwoods cannon-fodder for Big Oil, Bu$hCo, Condoskeeza, Dick “Dr. Evil” Cheney, etc. It’s almost as charming as when Susan O’Hanian thought it was funny to sing – yes, sing, in a NCLB protest song – that NCLB was created as a way to divert attention from our wars. [She removed that line from her song, but then wrote in her newsletter that she regretted it.]

Thanks, Jim, but I don’t think they need your pity.

Not only is his claim about the mental ineptitude of the American GI rude and patently untrue, it doesn’t even make sense given the context. If our GIs are undereducated and intellectually worthless – so worthless that they “do not have viable career options outside the military” – why on earth would we pay them bucketloads of money when, as Jim suggests, we’re getting substandard production out of them?

Stick to education, Jim. You might have trouble in the private sector, despite your claim to believe in the foundations of education, which do include – to your chagrin – basic economic principles.

The scare quotes around “volunteers” can’t be ignored, either – I’ll spare you the obvious analysis, but I do ask that you remember that definition of tendentious.

“(We all know that if we were drafting middle class kids to serve as IED targets in Iraq, this war would have been over a long time ago).”

Jim is likely right. If there was a draft of any sort, the country would probably have a different approach to this war. But since we aren’t drafting anyone, it’s completely irrelevant.

Demeaning, tendentious language abounds – from calling GIs “IED targets” to referring to John McCain as “the Republican War Hero candidate” to implications of selfish, inhumane class warfare. And really, tendentious language here and there, light sparring, etc. isn’t a terrible thing. It’s not always destructive or mean-spirited, but Horn is a willing practitioner of the vile.

My disapproval has nothing to do with Horn’s politics or beliefs – public and higher education, the military and pretty much everything else can be criticized fairly. And for what it’s worth, I do hope that Jim Webb’s bill passes and increases education benefits for veterans. I am on Horn’s side entirely on this particular issue, but I condemn his reasoning and his discourse.

It has everything to do with his motivations.

Because of that, I’ve got to channel George Patton one more time:

You’re one lowlife son of a bitch, Jim.

The University that puts up with your pseudo-professional screeds is nearing that classification, too, as well as the unindicted co-conspirators who stay silent at the Education Policy Blog.

Sometimes, for better or worse, there’s just no other way to put it.

I’ll leave you with two excellent reads:

Math Creates Spin, Reactionaries, Murderers and Even Worse: SOLDIERS!

MATH = DEATH

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel released a few weeks ago its comprehensive report on the state of math education in the US. The panel recommends that algebra be treated as algebra again, among other things.

You can:

Alternatively, you can:

Pretend to read the 120page report, then select carefully a paltry 3 sentences to show your community, all of which support your political agenda and unyielding commitment to poor math education and a general lack of transparency. Although I usually find The Ridgewood Blog compelling, they’ve made a serious mistake here. They’ve assumed that Tim Brennan read the whole report to select those 3 sentences [doubtful].

Discard the report’s merits entirely. Even the Constructivists, who could embrace this report and align it with their calls for relevance, have chosen instead to be defensive and reactionary.

Friend/foe Gary Stager dropkicks the report:

“It’s easy to see how someone might think that several years worth of fraction study prepares a child for Algebra. Fractions have numerators over denominators, separated by a horizontal line. Many algebraic equations have something over something else, also separated by a line. That’s all you need to know. Right?”

He goes on:

“Children who struggle to manipulate fractions do so because the skills are taught absent a meaningful context in a culture where fractions are rarely ever used.”

Remember, Gary – fractions aren’t just numbers separated by lines, though it’s a convenient straw man. Fractions are ratios, which are, at the most basic level, comparisons of one thing in terms of another. Then we assign meaning to that comparison of values. Then we can apply it to context, if necessary.

We all do this a hundred times a day [not just in cooking recipes] – and the Constructivists should be the first to admit that.

Threaten to kill your teachers [and yourself] if they fail. It’s science, not math, but that’s ok. The issue is the same: do we meet the challenge, do we admit that we aren’t trained to meet the challenge, or do we just freak out and draw national attention? Well, someone chose that third option:

NEW BRAUNFELS — A middle school principal threatened to kill a group of science teachers if their students did not improve their standardized test scores, according to a complaint filed with the New Braunfels Police Department. [Hat Tip: Intercepts]

Lament that your students will use math. One thing schools of education don’t want its graduates to do is to make cannon fodder for that most evil institution: the United States Military!

“Patriotic or not, I feel like the Army is snatching my student away. College funding or not, I feel like the happy and prosperous life I wish for my students is somehow incompatible with conscription. Maybe it has something to do with the sentiment expressed by Kurt Vonnegut, who fought in the Second World War, that the US military today is “being treated, as [he] never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.”” [snip]

“There’s an email in my inbox from the Conference on Math Education and Social Justice. It says teaching math in New York City helps create balance in an unjust world. It doesn’t know that it might actually send Stephanie into harm’s way.”

Please, dear diarist, if you care about Stephanie, don’t teacher her math. Keep her safe instead. Might our diarist be a former student of Monmouth’s Jim Horn?

Edwize is starting to be a daily source of black comedy. I’d enjoy it more if I didn’t know it was real and anything but uncommon.

And some just say to Heck with it! Is Algebra Even Necessary?

O math, why must ye causeth such deth and stryfe?

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in the Education Blogosphere

If you’ve got 5 minutes, check out the video of the wildly entertaining Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain performing the theme song from the Sergio Leone classic “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” The first minute is slow, but it picks up. It’s a must-watch [as is this medley which starts with Handel and works into The Eagles, Sinatra and more].

That triad of Blondie, Angel Eyes and Tuco is an awfully fitting taxonomy for the weekly goings-on in the education blogosphere…

blondie, the good

  • Ed in ’08 has finally progressed from their ineffectual “Rock the Vote!”-style participation rhetoric by highlighting the documentary 2 Million Minutes on their homepage. As I’ve written in the past, 2MM is a serious look at how we go about secondary education – and education in general – in the United States as compared to India and China. If you haven’t yet seen the trailer, there’s a link right on the Ed in ’08 homepage – I encourage every education blogger to look into 2MM and request a screening in your area.

——————–

  • The Online Education Database [OEDb] has released their rankings of online education programs. They factored in acceptance rate, financial aid, graduation rate, peer Web citations, retention rate, scholarly citations, student-faculty ratio, and years accredited. The overall score is used to rank each college by its average ranking for each metric for which data was available. In their words, “We think more transparency is a good thing; a set of objective, quantitative rankings — however imperfect — should help shed some light on the relative attractiveness of the most popular accredited online colleges.” This is an excellent first step toward separating the legitimate opportunities for online degrees from the pretenders – and worse, the diploma mills – that weigh down the industry.

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  • Congratulations to Darren of Right on the Left Coast for his 3rd year blogging anniversary. Congratulations are also in order for D-Ed Reckoning, who not only relayed some fine anecdotes about his 15-year history with the internet [$22/hour for CompuServe use?] but also managed to draw ire from Alexander Russo. How dare you suggest that you’ve been reading a seminal education blog longer than that Perez Hilton of the education blogosphere, Mr. DeRosa? You should know your place.

——————–

angel eyes, the bad

  • The Houston Chronical’s School Zone blog is usually fairly good, but they really blew it this week when they posted, “Fried Chicken for MLK?” HISD’s menu, in tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., included fried chicken. School Zone presented the situation as if a lineup of mammies in blackface gleefully slopped the stereotypical food on the tykes’ plates – but that isn’t even close to the truth. A look at the menu shows that not only was the fried chicken served along with hamburgers and a rancher salad, it wasn’t even headlining the list. Also, the MLK, Jr. Center of Atlanta confirmed that fried chicken was his favorite meal [along with General Lee and many, many others, I might add]. School Zone’s source for internal commentary on the issue? Gayle Fallon, President of the Houston Federation of Teachers. Grow up, School Zone – and specifically the author of this post, Jennifer Radcliffe. Leading with tendentious headlines – then burying the relevant facts in paragraph 4 – is shoddy, race-baiting journalism.

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  • The Hillsborough County School District [Florida] has embraced grade inflation of the highest order – it’s all a curve on the District-level exams. One of the most harmful effects is that the curve essentially pits classes from one school against others. You don’t have to know everything, you just have to beat those dummies over at [insert underperforming school's name]. This is quite likely to mask troubles with this year’s scheduling change that forces teachers to instruct in 6 out of 7 periods – no more planning. Not only has HCSD emasculated the purpose of an exam – an exam being the certification of knowledge – but it’s succeeded in clouding real analysis of its personnel decisions. The Wall sums up the relevant concerns.

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  • The Education schools fail. It’s old hat by now, but Jay P. Greene and Catherine Shock’s pithy City Journal article on the prevelance of “multicultural” courses in education schools relative to math courses is worth a read. From the text: “The average ed school, we found, has a multiculturalism-to-math ratio of 1.82, meaning that it offers 82 percent more courses featuring social goals than featuring math.” Skoolboy’s got it wrong and Sherman Dorn misses the point.

tuco, the ugly

Horn’s latest post, “Unending War Relies on Steady Supply of Dropouts and Pushouts,” plays that tired, offensive reel that our armed forces are populated by hopeless, talentless, dumber-than-dirt dropouts who have chosen the military in lieu of a life in the gutter:

“These youngsters today have failed to make it in the testing factories we call schools, and recruiters, armed with these kids’ school data (NCLB mandates it), have an unending supply of hot leads.

What would that recruiting poster look like–an army one group of dropouts and pushouts who can still contribute to the America’s world class military economy. Sign your body up today!” [emphasis added]

Sign your body up today, you mindless, ignorant rubes! Horn thinks you’re only good for stopping bullets in Chimpy McHalliburton’s never-ending quest to trade Blood for Oil.

I asked one of those animalistic, Morlockian subhumans currently serving in the Army about Horn’s post. After all, he fits Horn’s stereotype well: after graduating from a rural public school in the US, he went to college in Canada [that cesspool of Re-thug-lican, flag-waving, Toby Keith-loving trash, correct?] where he graduated in just 3 years with a double major in international relations and history. A year after earning that degree, he joined up with the US Army – not that he had a choice, being one of those dropout/pushout sacks of garbage that Horn so pities.

He says about Horn’s piece:

Horn’s post is not only factually wrong but deeply offensive. I invite him to visit any major military post and converse with those whom he terms, “poor, brown and black” soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen. He will find young men and women who are passionate about their country, concerned with what is morally right and who seek to improve themselves through their service. - A 2nd Lieutenant, United States Army Infantry

He’d likely decline that invitation, Lieutenant – unless, of course, you asked him to come and enlighten you.

Almost as charming is Sunday’s post that pays tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. Well, for a sentence – then he takes a shot at George W. Bush. Titled “Tomorrow”:

we can celebrate the life and contributions of a great man, Dr. King

and

we can mark the first day in the last year of the worst President in all of our American history.

Sheesh, and Mr. Downes thought I abused Edmund Hillary’s legacy to make a “cheap political point.”

Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that Horn wrote one of today’s Onion Radio pieces, “Uneducated Outbreeding Intelligentsia Two-to-One” unaware that it’s a satire publication?

Monmouth University should be ashamed of itself for employing Horn, though they surely aren’t. And to Horn, I’ll say what George Patton would say if he were alive today:

You’re one lowlife son of a bitch, Jim.

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