"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Wrong Cuts...

Published in Bloomington Herald Times02/19/2010

To the editor

The wrong cuts

The proposed budget cuts in education ("MCCSC: Teaching, librarian and coaching jobs cut, no summer school, Aurora to be moved," Feb. 12) are typical of what is going on nationwide, and are a tragedy that need not happen.

In order to save $4.5 million, MCCSC is eliminating crucial and important programs, while the state continues to spend education dollars on expenditures that harm students.

For example: The plans include eliminating librarians while research shows that the presence of credentialed school librarians is related to increased reading scores.

At the same time, Indiana has a high school exit exam that costs the state about $450 million per year, over $400 per student. Studies of high school exit exams show that they are useless: They do not lead to higher employment, higher earnings, or improved academic achievement. In fact, researchers have yet to discover any benefits of having a high school exit exam. We are spending money on measuring the problem, not solving it.

— Stephen Krashen

Monday, February 22, 2010

ASIDE: Writing for mental and physical health

Have you ever been to eHow? You can learn how to caulk a bathtub, kill household ants, cook a lobster, or build a snowman (Hint: you need snow so here's an eHow on how to make your own snow!).

There is also an "eHow of the Day." Today's eHow caught my attention. It's about writing for mental and physical health and it's called How to Write Yourself Sane, by Michelle Vermillion Lawrence. She writes...
The power of the pen has been known for years. In the 1800s Lord Byron wrote, "If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad." Diaries and journals have been kept for centuries, but it wasn't until the 1960s that the therapeutic value of journal writing was recognized. After studying at the C.G. Jung from the New School for Social Research in New York City, psychologist Ira Progoff began holding workshops called the Intensive Journal method, which helped clients to heal psychologically by writing about their life experiences.
Read the rest which includes tips on how to get started at eHow.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What Sagan can teach us...

I watched the first episode of Cosmos on Hulu today.

Carl Sagan made the program during the Cold War, when nuclear obliteration was a real threat. It's dated. Some of the information is incomplete...or incorrect. That's the beauty of science. Everything is understood...until someone else questions your hypothesis and comes up with a better explanation. It's got 70s clothing...70s camera work...70s hair styles...70s (or is it Sagan's) drama and music. But, while the Cold War is ended, the threat of nuclear damage still exists...from terrorists or mismanaged power plants.

Sagan's voice was prophetic. We may have eased the tensions between the two superpowers of the world, but we have brought another threat upon ourselves -- Climate Change. The effects of the human impact on the Earth's environment is just as destructive to our civilization as would be a nuclear war. The Earth will survive to live out it's planetary life. Sagan's comments are directed at the so-called intelligent life on Earth.

"We on earth have just awakened to the great oceans of space and time from which we have emerged. We are the legacy of 15 billion years of cosmic evolution. We have a choice. We can enhance life and come to know the universe that made us or we can squander our 15 billion year heritage in meaningless self-destruction. What happens in the first second of the next cosmic year depends on what we do here and now with our intelligence and our knowledge of the cosmos." -- Carl Sagan

Thursday, February 11, 2010

This is not the dream...

Today's Education "Reforms" Were Not Martin Luther King's Dream
by Diane Ravitch

There is something distinctly unsettling about seeing people invoke Martin Luther King Jr.'s name to support the current effort to privatize large swaths of American public education. It has recently become customary to claim that "education is the civil rights issue of our time." True enough, for no one can succeed in our society without an education. But the people who make this claim insist that public school students should be enrolled in schools run by for-profit corporations, hedge-fund managers, and earnest amateurs, who receive public money without any public oversight. There are now about 5,000 such schools, called charter schools, across the nation, and President Obama wants many more of them. As it happens, about 98% of these schools are non-union; their teachers work 50-60 hours each week, which could not happen if they were union schools.

Today's education "reformers" think they are advancing a civil rights agenda by creating charter schools, advocating merit pay, enshrining standardized tests of basic skills as the highest measure of achievement, closing neighborhood schools, and getting rid of unions.

Was that Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream? King fought for equality of educational opportunity, not for a "Race to the Top" for the lucky few. He fought for fundamental fairness and justice for all, not for special treatment for the few. He never promoted private management of public education. When he was assassinated, he was defending the right of workers to join a union. It is impossible to imagine him standing alongside the business executives and politically powerful who demand more standardized testing, more privatization of public schools, and more schools in which teachers have no organized voice.

-------

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. She is a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and a non-resident senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

She is a former undersecretary of education under the first President Bush.

Born in Houston, Texas, she holds a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, and honorary degrees from 8 other colleges and universities.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Here's an idea...Make a Teacher US Secretary of Education!

Kids are tested to death...and we teachers know it. The only ones who don't seem to know this are the ones who mandate the testing.

It comes from the state houses and from the Governors' offices, from the US Congress and from the Oval Office. Why on Earth we allow someone without any training in Education, without experience in teaching - in essence, without any education credentials - to be the US Secretary of Education is beyond me. But we've done it twice in the last 5 years Margaret Spellings (B.A. Political Science) claimed that she was qualified because she was a mom and Duncan (B.S. Sociology) never even attended a public school...

The politicians and business folks (Bill Gates, Harvard drop-out, for example) who claim to know so much about education simply because they went to school, are very hot on Scientifically-Based or Research-Based education. None of them, however, can tell you the scientific basis, or the research basis for using standardized tests to decide whether students should graduate from high school...or should be promoted to the next grade or be retained in their current grade. You know why? Because there is none.

The glut of standardized testing in the US has not improved learning one drop. It has, on the other hand, frustrated teachers, increased student drop out rates, and lessened the time we can teach.

I'd love to change places with Arne Duncan for just one week...let him work with the students I work with...help them in their struggles (without the benefit of my 30+ years of experiences and training) and see how much standardized tests help him. I, on the other hand, would spend the entire week gutting No Child Left Behind (aka No Child Left Undamaged), Race to the Top (aka Race to the Edge), and doing everything I could to return a little sanity to public education in the US.

"Not everything that counts can be measured. Not everything that can be measured counts." -- Albert Einstein