Friday, June 29, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Values And Leadership Edition

Conor Friedersdorf examines David Brooks, values, and leadership.  The two key paragraphs:
David Brooks kept an audience of hundreds rapt Thursday for a compelling 45 minute lecture on two competing codes of human conduct: the code of honor and valor that we associate with the Greeks, and the code of humility and love that we associate with Jesus Christ. In his estimation, we're at our best when we succeed in blending these codes, but we've largely abandoned both.
Friedersdorf concludes:

But challenges to authority aren't mere attitude, mounted for their own sake as an intellectual pose. Challenging authority is in fact indispensable if authority is to remain just, legitimate, and tempered by the humility that is a precondition of good leadership. Brooks invokes Lincoln as an example of a great leader. He was mocked, challenged, and disrespected more ferociously than any political figure today. America's problem isn't its inability to follow, but its refusal to constrain its leaders in ways that force them to resist the temptations toward excesses inherent in their positions.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Debate Camp 2012 Update

The utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics lectures have all been delivered.  We didn't get into the really deep philosophy that would explain why the Blogger spell checker wants to change deontology to demonology.  We'd need at least another whole week to develop that idea fully.

The young'uns have brainstormed about big ideas including the following:
Resolved: The constitutions of democratic governments ought to include procedures for secession.
Resolved: The United States is justified in intervening in the internal political processes of other countries to attempt to stop human rights abuses.
Resolved: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory.
Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.
The values, criteria, and contentions in the affirmative cases over "Resolved: Oppressive government is more desirable than no government" have been coach checked; negative cases will be ready tomorrow, and the official arguing will begin on Saturday during the camp tournament.

Meanwhile, I'm impressed with a lot of students who are developing virtuous habits like thinking deeply about important issues, going above and beyond the call of duty to spend a week of their summer to think about both obscure and important issues, and who will make the world a better place. 

These students exhibit have shown themselves willing to follow a golden mean, have the best intentions, and work to achieve the best consequences every day they have been at camp. I hope no one tells them that they have exhibited the best qualities and acts that each of the three normative theories call for, so they probably didn't need to listen to the lectures.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: We Don't Hear Rhetoric Like This In 2012 Edition

Via James Fallows via Mike Lofgren comes this phrasing from the 1892 Omaha Platform of The People's Party:
"We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized. . . . The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced, business prostrated, homes covered with mortgages, labor impoverished, and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists. The urban workmen are denied the right to organize for self-protection, imported pauper­ized labor beats down their wages. . . . The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind, and the pos­sessors of these, in turn, despise the Republic and endanger liberty. From the same prolific womb of governmental injus­tice we breed the two great classes - tramps and million­aires."
It doesn't matter whether one agrees or disagrees, "imported pauperized labor," "prolific womb of governmental injustice," and "the ermine of the bench" are wonderful rhetorical flourishes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Predictions For November And Beyond

I'm going to be spending the week helping young Lincoln Douglas debaters learn a few rhetorical tricks.  We'll spend the week working on a variety of resolutions and looking at ways to affirm and negate them.  I've got my John Locke is better than John Rawls brief ready for "Resolved: Oppressive government is more desirable than no government."  We'll spend some time arguing about "Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system."

Blogging will be sporadic, so I thought I'd make some predictions for November so readers can debate whether I'm a little out of touch or a lot out of touch.

1. Romney will carry South Dakota with 57% of the vote.  The Mormon factor will keep him from breaking 60%.

2. Kirsti Noem will defeat Matt Varilek with 54% of the vote.  Varilek will run a good campaign that will keep her from being seen as an unstoppable juggernaut.

3. Democrats will make a few gains in the state senate but their caucus still won't number in double digits.

4. The sales tax initiative will fail.  The vote will be 60% against.

5. Governor Daugaard will get his large project/slush fund rather easily.

6. I don't have a good feel for the consensus on HB 1234, so the prediction is Governor Daugaard and his allies will outspend those opposed to the bill by 4-1.  The textbook publishers/test writers will funnel money into the campaign.  SDEA will not run a good campaign.

7. Governor Daugaard will have charter school legislation in the 2013 legislature.  It's what all the big Republican Governors are doing.

8. John Thune will still be a senator in 2013.  I think Romney will pick Rob Portman from Ohio as his VP candidate.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: The Last Decade In Teaching Editon

From Yong Zhao:
NCLB has led to a narrowing of curriculum, demoralization of teachers, explosion of cheating scandals, reduction of teaching to test-preparation, weakening of public education, and deprivation of the disadvantaged children of a meaningful education experience. The national standards movement in the U.S. has coincided with a significant decline in creativity over the last few decades. Of course, another side (or intended) effect is the increased wealth of publishing companies, tutoring services, and for-profit education ventures.
The Common Core, however dressed, shares the fundamental spirit with NCLB: standardization of curriculum enforced with high-stakes testing. In fact, the Common Core comes with more force on a larger scale. The side effects will be even more significant.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Admittedly Small Effort To Bring Liberals And Conservatives Together

Conservative Rod Dreher blogs at The American Conservative.  He has a regular feature called View From Your Table.

Liberal Kevin Drum blogs at Mother Jones.  He has a regular feature called Friday Cat Blogging.

In some cases, conservatives and liberals can combine the best of their ideas.

A Cat Views The Table

Are We All Utilitarians Now?

I'm getting ready to spend a week at a debate camp helping about 15 students develop their skills as Lincoln Douglas debaters (LDers). We'll work with material that won't be on the test.

 LDers traditionally have a value criterion framework that stems from either a deontological school of thought, a virtue ethics school of thought, or a consequential school of thought.

The deontological schools of thought emphasize rules or duty.  Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you is an example of a deontological rule.  This old Man Law advertisement humorously illustrates the thinking.

The virtue ethics school of thought argues that one should focus not on the rules but on the actor.  Under a virtue ethics framework, the actor practices the virtue and avoids the vices that come from lack or excess.  People become virtuous through desire and habit,  Lucy provides a negative example of virtue.  Like the scorpion that stings its potential savior, she pulls the ball away because she lacks the virtue produced by habit and desire.

The utilitarians emphasize avoiding pain and increasing happiness by doing the greatest good for the greatest number.  Mr. Spock illustrates the noble side of this theory.

Spock's noble sacrifice aside, utilitarians will throw the Golden Rule aside if doing so will produce the desired good for the greatest number.  Machiavelli encouraged his prince to eschew virtue if doing so would keep the prince in power and maintain order.

This morning as the last of the coffee gets cold, it strikes me that I don't hear much about categorical rules that emphasize treating people as ends unto themselves rather than means to an end. I don't hear much about improving individuals' virtue.  Instead, everything seems to be about a utilitarian cost/benefit analysis.  Allowing that world view to dominate will lead to a country where everyone has a price and no one is valued.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Some Questions About "Great Teachers" And HB 1234

David Montgomery is an indefatigable live event tweeter. (I really do mean that as a compliment even though calling someone a tweeter doesn't sound very complimentary.)

He tweets

Presumably, one reason for the adoration can be found in this Charlie Hoffman tweet that Montgomery retweets.

I doubt that anyone will argue that every classroom should have a great teacher.  If that's the case, why is HB 1234 premised on the fact that only 15% are great and 85% are sub par?

For the sake of argument, let's say that only 65% of South Dakota's teachers are excellent.  Under HB 1234 15% of South Dakota's teachers will be recognized as excellent when the bonuses are published as part of their salary.  Another 50% of the state's teachers will be doing an excellent job, but the public will deem them to be deficient because they weren't good enough to get a bonus.

I cannot in good conscience tell a student to consider a career in education in South Dakota when that job contains an 85% chance that that the people with whom she socializes or worships will believe she's incompetent.

Is This Presidential Campaign Really Between Money And Social Media?

Over at Madville Cory points to a Politico post that reports that "Obama beats Romney in Facebook followers 27 million to 1.8 million and Twitter followers 16 million to half a million."

Meanwhile, Political Wire quotes Clay Shirky who opines:
"Clinton used mailing lists in '92, and every election since then -- famously Howard Dean to Barack Obama -- has involved considerably more imaginative use of social media. And this election has not. I've been quite surprised by that."
"I had a student looking at Super PACs a while ago, and we said, 'Let's try and find out what the Super PACs' social media strategy is.' As she came back about 10 days later, she said, 'I think I know what the Super PAC's social media strategy is: Don't use it.' That's exactly the whole point of being a Super PAC, to be able to spend unlimited money on the kind of media where no one has the right or the ability to respond, and to minimize transparency. This election feels to me, right now, more Nixon-Kennedy than Obama-McCain because television has become the tool of choice for the source of unlimited fundraising. Politicians like television better; nobody gets to yell back to you if you're yelling on TV." [Emphasis mine]
Forget the arguments about the size of government, the advisability of same sex marriage, or any other issue.  The contest is apparently about the difference between telling everyone more than they want to know for free or spending billions to make sure that no one knows anything about you. 

Quotation Of The Day: Guilty Pleasure Reading Edition

Gary Gutting looks at guilty pleasure reading:
Fans of popular genres implicitly recognize this when they insist that their favorite books deserve the same sort of detailed attention we give to canonical classics.  That’s why we find Library of America editions and articles in professional journals on writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and H. P. Lovejoy.  Sometimes the attention is misplaced, and the high-powered analysis is more a matter of reading into the text than extracting from it.  But the sign of a superior text of whatever genre is its ability to continue rewarding—with pleasure—those who work to uncover its riches.
Gutting may be too dismissive of Chandler whose The Big Sleep is every bit the equal of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, a book beloved by English teachers across the nation.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

South Dakota School Funding Gets Graded

A report of education funding in each state entitled Is Funding Fair finds wide disparities exist:
  • The national average funding level, adjusted to account for student poverty, regional wage variation, economies of scale, and population density, is $10,774 per pupil, a $642 increase over the estimate in the 2010 report.
  • The highest funded states are those in the northeastern region of the country, with the exception of Wyoming and Alaska. The lowest funded states predominate in the South and West.
I have only been able to skim the executive summary.  South Dakota earns a B in fairness and an F in state effort.

Valerie Strauss puts the report in perspective with a bit more nuance:
Legislators can extend the school day, force new tests on students and link the scores to a teacher’s job, but a new analysis about disparities in school funding raises the uncomfortable question of just how effective any reforms can really be when issues of equity are ignored.
Governor  Daugaard may believe that South Dakota is being fair, so he can push through politically inspired reforms like HB 1234.  Strauss, however, continues:
Adequate funding, of course, is not the definitive answer to public education’s problems, but it is certainly a necessary if not dispositive prerequisite.
South Dakota's governor and legislature seem to be doing a great job of illustrating the difference between fairness and justice.  South Dakota is fairly distributing the results of it's inadequate effort but that doesn't mean the effort justly provides students the resources they are due.

Thune As VP Parlor Game Continues

The Washington Post on seems to have Thune on the short list:
The presumptive Republican nominee and his senior advisers and aides are hosting two days of policy sessions and campaign strategy discussions at the Deer Valley resort for more than 100 top fundraisers and their spouses. Those who raised more than $100,000 are expected to attend.
More than a dozen Republican heavy-hitters are scheduled to join the private retreat as special guests. According to a fundraiser who is attending, they include some GOP stars thought to be in contention to be Romney’s vice presidential running mate: Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. John Thune (S.D.).
George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, who helps run American Crossroads, the well-funded GOP super PAC, is planning to speak at the retreat, said the fundraiser, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the event and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Rove’s appearance could raise questions because of laws barring any coordination between super PACs and campaigns.
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, also is scheduled to attend, according to the fundraiser.
ABC's Jonathan Karl does not:

Quotation Of The Day: Pop Culture History Correction Edition

From this Mental Floss post about television series or episodes lost to history:
America’s first television sitcom starred a real-life married couple as a zany wife and her relatively normal husband, trying to stop her from causing too much mayhem.  It wasn’t I Love Lucy, or even the slightly earlier George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. Nope. Mary Kay and Johnny was the first series to show the lead married couple sharing a bed (not The Brady Bunch, as you might have heard) and the first to incorporate the leading lady’s pregnancy into the storyline (once again, not I Love Lucy).
I had never heard of Mary Kay and Johnny.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hollywood May Get Religion Wrong: What Are The Odds?

Rod Dreher sums up an upcoming Hollywood release.
Just so you’re clear: from the director of “Showgirls” and the team that brought you “Pulp Fiction” and “American Psycho,” comes a new cinematic life of Christ that claims the Virgin Mary was raped and that Jesus was no miracle worker, but rather the world’s greatest ethics guru.
Dreher neglects to mention Paul Verhoeven also directed Robocop, Total Recall, and Basic Instinct, so I don't know what could go wrong.

Ok, I will admit that I'm a little worried that Verhoeven might recycle some material..  I hope he doesn't have John the Baptist say, "Here at Security Concepts, we're predicting the end of crime in Old Detroit within 40 days. There's a new guy in town. His name is RoboCop."

Also, Robocop's analysis of eternal life lacks metaphysical nuance:
Emil: Smoke?
Dougy: Nah. You know those things'll kill you.
Emil: Yeah. You wanna live forever?
I would also hate to see "love your neighbor as yourself" reduced to Prime Directives "Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law.  Those directives seem so, for lack of a better word, robotic.  I also don't want hear Jesus call the disciples by saying, "Dead or alive, you're coming with me!"

Total Recall's discussion of eternal life is also a bit weak: "Relax. You'll live longer."  Likewise, when Jesus talks with his disciples about who people believe him to be, I'd prefer not to hear: "If I am not me, then who the hell am I?"  Also, these lines really won't work as a description of either Hell or the apocalypse:
The walls of reality will come crashing down. One minutie, you'll be the savior of the rebel cause, and the nest thing you know you'll be Cohaagan's Bosom Buddy, you'll also have fantasies about alien civilizations as you requested. But in the end back on Earth, you'll be lobotomized.
Taking lines from Basic Instinct would also be problematic.  I don't want either the woman at the well or the woman that Jesus saved from being stoned to ask: "What are you gonna do ? Charge me with smoking?"

On the plus side, Verhoeven could cast Samuel L. Jackson as a pharisee and have him ask the deeply profound theological question about hamburgers from Pulp Fiction:
Well, if you like burgers give 'em a try sometime. I can't usually get 'em myself because my girlfriend's a vegitarian which pretty much makes me a vegitarian. But I do love the taste of a good burger. Mm-mm-mm. You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?

Do Students Want Someone To Show Them The Money?

Derek Thompson correctly analyzes the problem with testing regimes:
These tests are super-high-stakes for instructors and principals, where they can determine who keeps a job and where state resources are spent. But they are relatively low-stakes for individual students in the short-term, especially if those students aren't looking to go to college and don't care very much about a weak grade.
If one doesn't care about weak grades that go on a transcript, it's difficult to believe that they will care about a state mandated test that isn't transcripted.

Thompson points to a "new study by Steven D. Levitt (of Freakonomics fame), John A. List, Susanne Neckermann, and Sally Sadoff [that] finds that Chicago students in low-performing schools did better on tests when they were promised money or trophies for their good grades."

The study shows that "[s]tudents were reportedly willing to exert significantly more energy at $80-an-hour, but not at $40-an-hour."  Locally, state mandated testing is spread out over 3 or 4 days and takes up a minimum of 10 hours, so 200 juniors could clear $800 each for a total of $160,000.  Students might love it; it might actually work, but I doubt taxpayers will buy it.

The study also showed "that the rewards were most powerful when they were framed as losses rather than gains  (i.e.: 'Here is $20. If you fail, I'm taking it away.')"

In addition, "'non-financial incentives,' like trophies, worked best with young people."  That fact offer little comfort, but it does lessen pressure on the bottom line.  Trophies don't cost $800 each.

Finally, "rewards provided with a delay -- 'we'll get you that check in a month!' -- did very little to improve performance."  In short, hand students the cash in an envelope as they walk out the door.

Bribing students to do well seems counterproductive for a couple of reasons.  First, $80 per hour will soon be $120 per hour.  Second, schools should not be about testing and grades; they should be creating lifelong learners and active participants in democracy.  I suppose the authors of this study will try to determine if voting would increase if everyone who voted got $80 for going to the polls.

Quotation Of The Day: Another Education Reform Edition

From this Valerie Strauss Answer Sheet post:
At the center of the modern school reform movement is the philosophy that public schools should be treated not as civic institutions but rather as corporate entities. . . .
Another central characteristic of school reform is the role of teachers: They don’t have one, at least when it comes to making decisions. Teachers have been scapegoated for many of the problems facing public schools, and their voice has been ignored in the education policy debate.

Another Minor Musing About Superheroes And Teaching

In an earlier post, I concluded that the search for a single superhero role model is counterproductive:
It takes a collection of gifted humans, a few mutants, some technological superstars, and effective leaders to create a climate to teach the students populating our classrooms because some of those students have kryptonite.
I still stand by that point, but that previous post seemed focused on a superheroes "powers" or technology that teachers can't bring into the classroom.

In Green Lantern and Philosophy, Daniel P. Malloy points out that Green Lanterns "must fearless and honest."  Further, "there are two capacities or 'elements' one needs in order to use a power ring: willpower and imagination" (239).

The self appointed reformers who fashion themselves as the Guardians of Oa want teachers to have superpowers.  Those reformers also attempt to prevent teachers from developing into an effective corps when they work to divide and conquer with testing, merit pay proposals, and demonization for being fallible humans.

Teachers don't have superpowers. They don't have a power ring that they can use to create whatever they need in a given situation, and they don't have a lantern that they can use to get a full charge every 24 hours. Like every other human being, they rely on caffeine, sugar rushes, and energy drink.

Teachers bring bring their character and temperament into the classroom every class period.  They and their students would be well served if teachers emphasized and developed courage, honesty, willpower, and imagination.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Plains Pops: Random Reading Links List Edition

Who would have guessed the author of "The Lottery" was a "practicing amateur witch"?

Young readers no longer reading as many "classics."

NPR recommends 5 science fiction novels and sums up some critics' lists.

Finally, Graphic Novel Reporter publishes Spring 2012 Core Lists and a slide show covering over 40 graphic novels.

A Minor Musing In Which I Play Political Consultant

In a Madville Times comment Donald Pay offers the following advice about the campaign to refer HB 1234:
Here’s the campaign. This isn’t about teachers, so don’t have teachers out front on this. It’s about students and incompetence in Pierre. Put parents, students out front against the bumbling idiots in Pierre.
Pay is correct; teachers will not successfully refer this bill if the pubic believes that they are merely complaining.

Pay is also incomplete;  Scott Kemp adds some necessary nuance:
Too many people don’t like teachers.
They don’t like them for their summers off, their short work hours, their “gold-lined” pension and their high salaries.
However, the reality is many people love the teacher.
They love the one in the room, helping their kid achieve great things. They love the teacher who coaches the sport, who supports their child when times get tough, who tries everything to connect with the child off the tracks.
Too often the conversation is about “teachers” and rarely about “the teacher”.
That’s how the narrative needs to change.
Governor Daugaard has shown that he wants to make the campaign about teachers and unions. Teachers need to make the campaign about students and the teacher who made learning possible.

Further, this campaign needs to be cast in the light of returning sanity to education and politics.  A piece of legislation that allows Rep. Steve Hickey to make his point only by speaking well of President Obama, a politician Hickey surely loathes, shows HB 1234 increases political insanity while harming education.

Finally, listen to Thoreau: "Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!" The legislation is unnecessarily complicated. Instead of getting into the bill's minutiae, remind voters that HB 1234 won't help parents stay involved in their students' education; it won't help students learn, and it won't help a classroom teacher teach.  It will hinder all of those goals.

Monday, June 18, 2012

HB 1234 Red Herring Update

I feel like Cassandra from Troy.  In early May, I wrote that Governor Daugaard would demonize unions as part of his defense of HB 1234, his signature legislation that imposes merit pay along with a testing regime and decimates continuing contract.

Today, as petitions were being filed, Daugaard responded:
“I’m not surprised that the Teacher Bonus Bill was referred because the teachers’ union put a lot of work into collecting signatures. I look forward to furthering the discussion with the people of South Dakota on this very important topic. The bill is aimed at improving student achievement by channeling extra money directly to our best teachers and phasing out teacher tenure.”
Let's parse this brief statement.

Daugaard claims that a nebulous "teachers union" not classroom teachers oppose the HB 1234.  He is contending that the "union" is not composed of real South Dakotans, and that the "union" wants students to fail while he, the defender of all that is right and good, is all that stands between students and the abyss.

Chicken Little told everyone the sky is falling; Governor Daugaard will tell everyone that the unions will destroy South Dakota schools.  Given that an asteroid may have wiped out the dinosaurs, Chicken Little has more truth on her side.

HT: Mike Larson

Quotation Of The Day: Baseball, Torture, Financial Crisis, And Perspective Edition

Scott Lemieux uses the Roger Clemens verdict to put the American justice system in perspective:
Roger Clemens not guilty on all counts. While normally I root against Clemens, as I’ve said in the case of steroid witch hunts I’ll make an exception. If only Clemens has tortured someone on behalf of the federal government or committed a massive bank fraud — he could have saved a lot of money in legal expenses…

A Minor Musing About Expanding Government Power

The local blogosphere on both the right and the left is hashing out Obama's immigration executive order; the local tea party is concerned about the rising numbers of corporations that are being crucified.  After all, some on the far right believe corporations are people whose life begins at the moment of incorporation.

The imperial presidency is a perpetual danger.  I wish the right had expressed more concern about the abuse of executive orders when George W. Bush expanded their use.  I also wish the tea party folk were more concerned about torturing actual human beings rather than the use of a hyperbolic metaphor about a corporation.

Meanwhile, both ends of the political spectrum should be worried about the government's seemingly insatiable demand for citizens' data.  Forbes reports,
In the second half of 2011, Google received 6,321 requests that it hand over its users’ private data to U.S. government agencies including law enforcement, and complied at least partially with those requests in 93% of cases, according to the latest update to the company’s bi-annual Transparency Report that it planned to release Sunday night.
That’s up from 5,950 requests in the first half of 2011, and marks a 37% increase in the number of requests over the second half of 2010, when Google received only 4,601 government requests and complied to some degree with 94% of them. And compared with the 3,580 requests for its data it received from U.S. agencies in the second half of 2009, the first time Google released the request numbers, the latest figures represent a 76% spike.
More alarmingly, the article continues, "Whether firms like Facebook, Microsoft, Comcast, AT&T and others have seen a parallel rise in requests can’t be determined."

Other governments are also increasing their requests for data:
Total government requests for users’ data from outside the U.S. have also been increasing steadily, spiking sharply to 11,936 in the second half of 2011 compared with 9,600 in the same period last year and 8,959 in the second half of 2009. And the number of foreign requests may be growing even faster than they appear to. Because mutual legal assistance treaties allow some countries to pass on their requests through U.S. government agencies, some portion of those foreign requests are lumped together with the U.S. requests.
Google has a far lower rate of complying with foreign requests, however. It only fulfilled 64% of U.K. requests and 45% of German requests, for instance, and complied with none of the requests from Russia or Turkey.
Most of these requests probably claimed the information was necessary for national security, so the political right will smile, nod, and go along with these warrantless searches even though those information requests are as unconstitutional abusive executive orders.  Pat Buchanan had a broken clock moment when he asserted that the U.S. should be a republic not an empire.  Critics of a President as emperor should should be vigilant and condemn all imperial actions even if the actions institute policies the critics support.

This Just In: Testing, Merit Pay, and HB 1234 Still Irreparably Flawed

During the past legislative session, teachers frequently cited Daniel Pink to show that merit pay doesn't work.  HB 1234 passed as Governor Daugaard twisted arms in the best Chicago politicalmachine style.

In today's Inc. Jessica Stillman reports on Justin Moore's analysis that shows merit pay is counter productiveMoore, a "co-founder and CEO of business-continuity and disaster-recovery company Axcient" takes issue with merit pay on several levels.

Governor Daugaard premises his flawed plan on the idea that money will motivate good teachers to do better work.  He rejected the idea that many teachers work for more intrinsic rewards.  Moore doesn't share Daugaard's belief that "cash is king" or "greed works."  Moore asserts:
If you have a sense of purpose in accomplishing something, you're doing it because you get some personal reward out of it, not because there's a stack of money being given to you at the end of it. It's been shown that financial incentives, while they work in certain situations, long term actually reduce creativity and eliminate some of that sense of accomplishment.
Moore also enunciates a principle that every governor, secretary of education, and testing proponent should consider:
"Measuring the wrong thing is actually worse than not measuring anything at all, because it will actually focus all your energies in the wrong place."
The testing regime certainly focuses teachers' energies on the test instead of students' education.

Moore does two other things that Daugaard refuses to do.  First, Moore eschews the top down approach:
"We rarely give top down goals," says Moore. Instead, managers sit down with employees to discuss what they need to accomplish and help them work out their own targets and metrics."
That approach sounds far different than the HB 1234 work groups that epitomize top-down thinking.

Finally, all of these reforms began with NCLB and its efforts to make 100% of students meet top down goals.  That unrealistic Lake Wobegon expectation could have been avoided if politicians had followed Moore's method for developing metrics:
The art of setting metrics, he continues, is in fact ensuring employees don't set unrealistic expectations for themselves by asking questions like: Do you really think that's achievable? Do you think you should give yourself some more cushion? Have you taken into account the unknown?
One would hope that if Moore's questions had been asked, someone in power would have come to the realization that 100% is not achievable.

Unfortunately, Axient's "disaster recovery" recovers data; it doesn't help citizens recover from bad political policies, so teachers will be left to their own devices to fix the disasters that ed reformers' policies will create.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Trash Culture Edition

From, this rather disturbing cultural analysis:
I've seen a lot of people debating why Americans are so obsessed with the apocalypse right now. Is it 2012? Is it the economy? Is it our Protestant religious background, with its Armageddon obsession? Or something else? But maybe it's this — we're feeling apocalyptic because we have so much richness of pop trash right now, and we know it can't last. We can't live in an era that gives us so much bad television and forgettable movies forever, and we see the deluge coming. If you think of trash culture as a form of wealth, then right this moment we're the richest we've ever been, or ever will be.
Other societies had their Golden Age; we apparently live in our Fool's Gold Age.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Shh! Don't Tell Anyone; High School Students May Learn Some Things That Won't Be On The Test

The National Forensics League has released ten potential Lincoln Douglas debate topics that students will debate during the course of the 2012-2013 school year.  NFL member schools will vote on the topics; five will be chosen for September/October, November/December, January/February, March/April and the NFL National Tournament in June 2013.  Individual Students will have to develop a value based position to write separate cases to affirm and negate the resolution
Lincoln Douglas Topic List for 2012 – 2013
Resolved: The constitutions of democratic governments ought to include procedures for secession.
Resolved: When making admissions decisions, public colleges and universities in the United States ought to favor members of historically disadvantaged groups.
Resolved: United States Supreme Court justices should be subject to term limits.
Resolved: The United States is justified in intervening in the internal political processes of other countries to attempt to stop human rights abuses.
Resolved: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory.
Resolved: On balance, the privatization of civil services serves the public interest.
Resolved: On balance, labor unions in the United States are beneficial.
Resolved: The United States ought to guarantee universal health care for its citizens.
Resolved: Oppressive government is more desirable than no government.
Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.
Lest the policy debaters accuse me of neglecting the work that some will be starting next week, the the policy resolution for the entire 2012-2013 school year is:
Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States.
Two person teams will develop affirmative containing a plan and negative positions on the topic.

The testing uber alles proponents may not like find these topics to their liking.  After all, it's probably impossible to develop a bubble test to answer these questions.  It's also hard to write a test that allows students both to affirm and negate the questions.

STEM fans like Governor Daugaard and Melody Schopp might take umbrage at the fact that many of the topics can't be answered with the pat answer: "use more technology."

Both the extreme testers and the STEM-will-save-everyone advocates will be hard pressed to explain that these topics won't help students survive in the "real world."  Right now, these bureaucrats probably think that if they ignore the facts high school debate will go away.  Of course, they governors and secretaries of education can do a bit more than hope;they can just pass laws like HB 1234 and the testing regime that comes with it.  If that effort fails, they can just cut education funding again.  In a single party state like South Dakota, the majority can do both without any debate whatsoever.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Plains Pops: Random Celebrity Edition

At the Washington Monthly, Ed Kilgore analyzes the extra air time that CNN's bearded media sensation with a linebacker's name will have:

"So CNN announced today that it’s canceling John King’s weekday 6:00 p.m. show, allegedly to free up King to do roving campaign correspondence work. I’m not much of a TV news watcher—it has the tendency to make me throw things—so CNN’s step did not change my day.

"But I did take notice when CNN indicated it would replace King’s time spot by expanding “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” from two to three hours. You don’t have to watch a lot of TV news to know that three hours of Wolf is pretty close to three hours too much.

"There is, to put it mildly, a gigantic surplus of journalistic talent out there these days. Not all of that talent is packaged in people pretty or glib enough to merit a TV gig, but I suspect there are enough folks available to provide an alternative to Wolf Without End. Makes you wonder what CNN’s target audience really is."

The Baltimore Sun covers Lebron James's reading list:

"As the Miami Heat prepare for the NBA finals, star LeBron James has been turning to books to relax. USA Today reports that he has finished "The Hunger Games" trilogy and is now reading "Decoded" by singer Jay-Z.

"Since the playoffs started (it seems like months ago), he also has "West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life," "The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream" and "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference."

Finally, George W. Bush got a part on Game of Thrones:

"HBO and producers of "Game of Thrones" apologized Thursday for a scene that depicted former President George W. Bush's severed head on a spike.

"The scene first aired last year and was repeated on a DVD release in March. But in a particularly bad piece of timing for HBO, stories about it spread online this week, when the network premiered a documentary on Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush.

"Bush's head was one of several on spikes in a scene where King Joffrey reveals to his fiancé the severed head of her father, who he had judged disloyal.

"The former president's features on the prosthetic head were partially obscured by long, scraggly hair and the picture flashes by quickly. But in a commentary included with the DVD, producers Dan Weiss and David Benioff pointed out the Bush head."

The moral of all the stories seems to be read more; talk less.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Some Minor Musings From Indiana

I apologize for formatting errors. I will try to fix later tonight from a computer instead of the phone

(1.)Mitch Daniels wants to increase tech ed and have high school students graduate with a tech certification. Will Daugaard start a STEM ├╝ber alles program during the next session? He seems to enjoy following the lead of other Republican governors.  Last session it was HB 1234 that seemed close to what Wisconsin's Walker and others proposed.

 (2.)Talking with people here about changing South Dakota schools or the South Dakota debate circuit makes me believe that the no one's asking the eight question:  what would we do if we were creating the school or the circuit from scratch?

 (3.)Finally,  officials in Indiana are worried about dry conditions and the threat of wildfires. That situation reminded me of a song that I forgot to put on my "Traveling to Indiana For Debate Nationals" Playlist.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Introversion Edition

I have long thought introverts are poorly served in classrooms.  In Quiet, Susan Cain provides examples and reminders that introverts have different needs and see the world differently.  The following sentence is one of Cain's concise summations:

"In short, introverts don't buzz as easily"

Monday, June 11, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Marketing And Stages Of Life Edition

From this Jill Lepore New York Times interview:

"Q: Speaking of Aristotle, he divided the “ages of man” into three: youth, the prime of life and old age. But as you write, we’ve since invented adolescence, middle age and various other stages. Are there practical consequences for all of this microclassifying?

"A: Mainly, the more faddish and newer stages of life are really just marketing schemes. Tweenhood. The young old. The quarter-life crisis. You can sell a lot of junk to a lot of people by inventing a stage of life and giving it a name."

My wife has forbidden me from using buying a motorcycle to alleviate my mid-life crises, so the marketers don't always win.

Plains Pops: Monday Morning Musings At NFL National Debate Tournament Edition

Item 1: Blogging will be sporadic all week.  Further, it will probably be sloppy because I'm reduced to typing with my thumbs on my phone.

Item 2: I spent about 12 hours in a van listening to sports talk radio on Saturday.  When the programs' hosts weren't analyzing how and why either the Celtics' "Big 3 or 4" or the Heat's "Big 3" would be broken up, thy were asking questions about the future of horse racing.  A couple of analysts pointed out that horse racing doesn't get big TV crowds.  If people can spend an hour a week watching the World Series of Poker or the World Poker Tour, I can't understand why people wouldn't watch horse racing for an hour a week.  Watching horses run is more exciting than watching someone muck a bad hand.

Item 3: If the Common Core backers really want students to read more non-fiction, they should do more to promote debate classes.  During the course of this week, students in congressional debate, public forum debate, and the supplemental debate event will be arguing about U.S. involvement in Syria, governmental efforts to reduce obesity, the wisdom of U.S. efforts to support the Eurozone, and stand-your-ground laws.  All of these issues are covered in this morning's papers.  If the the Common Core's goal is truly to raise reading proficiency, competitive debate is an invaluable tool.  If the goal is merely to raise test scores, competitive debate is slightly less helpful because good arguments are rarely reduced to the bubble test level.

Item 4: I know this complaint is not original, but I am getting tired of the Google, Apple, Microsoft product wars.  Religious wars have been conducted with less acrimony.  Google's Blogger is no longer compatible with Microsoft's Explorer, and Apple will no longer install Google Maps on its devices.  It might be easier for a Roman Catholic to take communion at a Lutheran church than it will be for a Google user to use Microsoft or Apple products.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Musing About Politics And High School Debate

People tend to believe high school teachers are liberals.  The thinking apparently stems from the logic that the National Education has endorsed President Obama and Obama instituted health care reform so teachers must be socialists.

At the National Forensics League's National Tournament, conservative vendors seem to be engaging in capitalism.  One vendor sells handbooks extolling conservative values of the Constitution.  My favorite, however. Is the Ayn Rand Institute.  The young, enthusiastic Randians handed out a free Ayn Rand Sampler that contained excerpts from Atlas Shrugged and The Virtue of Selfishness.  I'm unsure how Rand herself would react to her work being given away.

For the record I saw no Chomsky readers and no one offered handbooks deconstructing the Constitution.

Is it possible that education is not a liberal monolith?

Important Days To Remember During The Next Week

From this Mental Floss post, two June holidays that may get ignored.
June 10th: Ballpoint Pen DayPut away your quills, fountains, and felts, for today we honor the gravity-dependent ink dispenser we know as the ballpoint pen. It may not have the panache of a gel writing utensil, or the precision of a roller ball. But when it comes to getting ink onto paper and the bottoms of shirt pockets, ballpoints certainly get the job done.
I'm hoping the National Forensics League National Tournament, a gathering of pen geeks if ever there was one, hosts a Pilot G-2 twirling contest to celebrate.
June 15th: Magna Carta DayMagna Carta Day asserts the chronological depth of Britain. On June 15, 1215, King John I — influenced by heavy force — signed this document into law, granting unprecedented religious and personal freedoms to the English people. It remains to this day “kind of a big deal.”
Seriously, the Magna Carta is a big deal.  Americans need to remember that the struggle for political freedom has a long history and that an oligarchy, a monarch, or a dictator doesn't have to do much to limit that precious right.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Traveling To The National Forensics League National Tournament In Indianapolis: Weird Soundtrack Edition

Side one,

I began with bad traveling song cliches.

Everybody of certain age thinks about this song at the start of a road trip.
Fellow Highwaymen Johnny Cash has a classic, but it doesn't mention Indianapolis.

I saw an episode of this song while I was packing, so I threw it into the mix.

Then I moved on Indiana specific songs starting with the ridiculous, at least given the situation

Then the sublime

His name was Indiana Jones; it's my mix; it fits

John Mellancamp is from Indiana, so he rounds out the traveling album.

Every South Dakota debater lives in a small town.

They are either Jack and Diane or know kids who are.

Do I really need to explain this one?

Or this one?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Three Reasons The Current Political Landscape Is Depressing

Republicans are either greedy or crazy.  Andrew Sullivan points to this chart from Business Insider and the Romney response that follows.

One must ask whether we will still be a free enterprise nation and whether we will still have economic freedom. America is on the cusp of having a government-run economy. President Obama is transforming America into something very different than the land of the free and the land of opportunity.
Who would have thought that a "government-run economy" could produce record profits?

The Obama administration meanwhile seems to view basic rights as situational.  Glenn Greenwald reports,
The Obama White House's extreme fixation on secrecy is shaped by a bizarre paradox. One the one hand, the current administration has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers – government employees who leak classified information showing high-level official wrongdoing – than all previous administrations combined. Obama officials have also, as ACLU lawyers documented this week in the Guardian, resisted with unprecedented vigor any attempts to subject their conduct to judicial review or any form of public disclosure, by insisting to courts that these programs are so secretive that the US government cannot even confirm or deny their existence without damaging US national security.
But at the very same time that they invoke broad secrecy claims to shield their conduct from outside scrutiny, it is Obama officials themselves who have continuously and quite selectively leaked information about these same programs to the US media. Indeed, the high publicity-value New York Times scoops of the past two weeks about covert national security programs have come substantially from Obama aides themselves.
The result of this attitude and the practices that stem from it are clear:
In sum, these anonymous leaks are classic political propaganda: devoted to glorifying the leader and his policies for political gain. Because the programs are shrouded in official secrecy, it is impossible for journalists to verify these selective disclosures. By design, the only means the public has to learn anything about what the president is doing is the partial, selective disclosures by Obama's own aides – those who work for him and are devoted to his political triumph.
But that process is a recipe for government deceit and propaganda. This was precisely the dynamic that, in the run-up to the attack on Iraq, co-opted America's largest media outlets as mindless purveyors of false government claims.
Both sides are guilty of supporting their guy at all costs.  Over the past couple of days, the Republicans have apparently been to busy chewing raw red meat to talk, so I'll  pick on  Democrats who support their guy because they live in the real world:
I’m truly sorry the President did not bring you your unicorn and pony. Alas, our parents and overlords make promises they either can’t keep, won’t keep, or decide out of pragmatism or political expediency, they don’t want to keep. That is a rule of human dynamics. It is also a rule in our political system that we have far fewer choices when it comes to candidates than we do for digital cameras and skins for our cell phones 
You only have one choice when it comes to a national organization that cares at all about public education and is singularly focused on it…that would be the NEA. Likewise, there is only one candidate who gives two flips about public education…and that would be the flawed Barack Hussein Obama. Yep, he should have stood with the teachers. Yep, he should have been in Wisconsin fighting the good fight. He should have closed Gitmo and his drone attacks with their grotesque “collateral damage” are a moral outrage. But my outrage is tempered when I consider the alternative in terms of who could have been or might be Commander in Chief.
The commentor forgot to add that RTTT is NCLB made worse, but teachers should blindly support Obama anyway.

In a world where crazy, greedy, duplicitous, hypocritical, and fanatical dominate, it's hard to avoid being displaced and slightly depressed.

Teachers Need To Understand Godin's Heirarchy

Seth Godin asks those "selling a product or service to a business--to a non-owner" to consider the following hierarchy. The list is ordered with the primary needs on top.
  • Avoiding risk
  • Avoiding hassle
  • Gaining praise
  • Gaining power
  • Having fun
  • Making a profit
Godin asserts:
. . . a sales pitch that begins with how much money the organization will make is pretty unlikely to work. Instead, the amount of profit has to be tied in to one of the other more primary needs of the person sitting across the table from you (as well as the committee or boss she reports to).
Godin's analysis applies to current education situations on three levels.

At the most basic, students in the classroom have a similar hierarchy.  Granted, they don't get paid, but they are risk averse.  They may view school as a hassle, but appreciate the efforts to eliminate unnecessary hassles like repetitive homework.  I'm unsure about the wisdom of giving freshmen "power" but they need "autonomy."

On the ed reform level, South Dakota's HB 1234 and nearly every other effort I've read about seem premised on the belief that giving teachers a small chance to earn a little extra money justifies condemning them, increasing their risks and hassles, and reducing their autonomy, thereby making the job less fun. The reformers then feign shock that teachers resist merit pay.

Finally, at the larger societal level, the current crop of self-appointed reformers understand how to use the concept of reducing risk to sell their ideology.  Americans will put up with the hassles, insults, lost dignity, boredom, and expense of airport security with relatively minor complaints because these affronts are in the interest of national security.  To tap into that sentiment, some education reformers assert that public education is a threat to national security.

Teachers have used Bloom's for decades.  In the current climate, mastering Godin's may be more important both in and out of the classroom.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Education And The Food Network: Analogy #2

I'll have more to say about Common Core training over the next few weeks, but I'll throw out a couple of more food analogies tonight.

Last year, I apparently cooked grits; when the Common Core is fully implemented, I will be cooking polenta. Since the subject matter  won't change, I'm not sure what the difference is.

Meatballs taste better when the cook blends three meats.  The Common Core training emphasized three different elements: know, understand, and do, but the training emphasized separating not blending the elements.

Apparently, the concept of the either or fallacy has escaped those who prepared this training,  We were asked, "Do you want a teaching classroom or a learning classroom?"  I guess I want both.  I also want a restaurant to be a place where both cooking and dining occur.

Finally, the standards seem to stress conformity.  Guy Fieri, Melissa d'Arabian, Jeff Mauro all won The Next Food Network Star and all have successful shows.  Yet the standards for a $10 dinner and a sandwich fit for a king seem far different.  Fieri's search for diners, drive-Ins, and dives is "off the hook." For food that's a good thing; for the Common Core, apparently, not so much.

Quotations Of The Day: One Of These Statements Has To Be Wrong Edition

I haven't seen either Prometheus or John Carter, but I apparently am going to have to if I want to understand the following analysis that seems to come from a planet other than Earth.  I have no other explanation for why Matthew Di Carlo is a senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute in Washington, D.C. would write the bolded analysis below.
In education discussions and articles, people (myself included) often say “achievement” when referring to test scores, or “student learning” when talking about changes in those scores. These words reflect implicit judgments to some degree (e.g., that the test scores actually measure learning or achievement). Every once in a while, it’s useful to remind ourselves that scores from even the best student assessments are imperfect measures of learning. But this is so widely understood – certainly in the education policy world, and I would say among the public as well – that the euphemisms are generally tolerated.
In the real world, Diane Ravitch's analysis seems far more accurate:
One thing is clear. The tests are the linchpin of the attack on public education. The politicians throw about test scores as evidence that our entire public education system is a failed enterprise. (For a recent example, see my review of the Council on Foreign Relations report, which made the absurd claim that public education is a "grave threat" to national security.)
If it were "widely understood" that scores from even the best student assessments are imperfect measures of learning," even the best spin doctor could not make them "the linchpin of the attack on public education."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Graduation Speech Edition

From Michael Lewis author of Moneyball and The Big Short in a graduation speech at Princeton:
I now live in Berkeley, California. A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.
Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn't. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader's shirt.
This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He'd been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.
This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I'm sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything. All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you'll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don't. 

Education And The Food Network: Analogy #1

I get to spend today and tomorrow participating in a training module that will tell me how to align my classes with South Dakota's adaptation of the Common Core, so blogging will be light and more sardonic than usual.  I'm expecting this training to be such a big deal that I am wearing khaki pants instead of jorts.

I expect today's training to emphasize some basics.  The kind that remind contestants about on Chopped: fish and cheese don't work well together.  The judges never tell the competing chefs how to avoid putting fish and cheese together if the mystery basket contains sardines and Kraft singles, and I don't expect to get any hints that will help me avoid combining bad ingredients.  Some of the old state guidelines are still in place, so some subjects have the equivalent of a dessert mystery basket with four bitter ingredients.

I also expect to be told to cut back on the offerings.  That works well for Robert Irvine on Restaurant Impossible because he cuts back on a restaurant's menu frequently, but he leaves creates better recipes to put on the smaller menu.  Something tells me that all of the sauces that we're told will work today come from a bottle on the bottom shelf.  We may be able to add onion or garlic powder but there won't be any fresh ingredients.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Do Conservatives Have Cognitive Dissonance About Horses?

Apparently if a conservative finds a woman attractive and she rides a horse, that's a reason to vote for her.  If a conservative finds a woman unattractive, he compares her a horse in order to insult her.

Normally I'd avoid posting this YouTube video.  I try my best to ignore Congresswoman Noem,

I'm no prude, and I pride myself on being far more caviler than formal, but I find it ironic if not repugnant that any voter wants to tell any elected official:
Girl you make my speakers go "BOOM BOOM"
Dancin' on the tailgate in a full moon
That kinda thing makes a man go mhmm mhmm
You're lookin' so good in what's left of those blue jeans
Drip of honey on the money maker gotta bee
The best buzz I'm ever gonna find..
I'm a little drunk on you, and high on summertime
I'm also unsure why riding a horse or driving a semi qualifies one to be in Congress.  I still would have found something else to blog about, but I came across this campaign ad and commentary that showed the other side.
The Daily Caller headlines its coverage with "Sarah Jessica Parker sticks her nose into 2012 campaign" and opens its story with a ridiculous attempt to be clever: "Wealthy actress and socialite Sarah Jessica Parker is the celebrity horse that Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign is betting on to win low-dollar donations . . ."

Let's see if I can get this straight.  I'm supposed to support Noem because someone has a creepy school boy crush on her, and I'm not supposed to support Obama because 'Sarah Jessica Parker has a big nose and a face some could describe as "horsey."

There may be reasons to vote for Noem; I haven't found any, but she got elected so some may exist.  Her physical features are not one of them.  The dinner with Obama fundraiser is a cheap, cynical stunt; The Daily Caller, allegedly run by professional journalists, could make that point without taking a cheap shot at someone's physical appearance.

I'm still left with the question:  what is it with conservatives and horse?

HT @coralhei & Alyssa Rosenberg

Education Tweets Of The Week: Teacher Frustration Edition

John T. Spencer nails it

Monday, June 4, 2012

Will CNN Start Reporting On Bat Boy?

The Weekly World News would have loved these CNN headlines and tweets from the past few days.

"'Zombie apocalypse' trending as bad news spreads quickly"

"Finding Amelia Earhart: New clues revealed"

"Security Video shows entire Miami 'zombie' attack"

"Police in Germany arrest Canadian porn actor accused of dismembering man, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports"

"Web of doubt surrounds India spider attack"

"Study: Bed bug 'bombs' don't work"

I had forgotten how much fun it used to be to wait in line at the grocery store checkout.

Do You Want Fries With That: A Minor Addition To The Education Policy Discussion

At The Madville Times, Cory does a great job of illustrating the folly of Mitt Romney's education plan and why it won't help South Dakotans.

I have a minor addition.  Inherent in Romney's proposal and nearly all reform proposals is the belief that schools should follow a business model.  That idea probably came from the businesses most likely to benefit,  publishing companies like Pearson.

With the advent of the national Common Core standards, schools have two business models.

First, there's the  McDonalds or Walmart model.  I doubt that the country will be better off if it educates students in the same way that McDonalds produces burgers or McNuggets. Walmart doesn't stock its shelves with cutting edge products.  Further, just because people can use a self-checkout doesn't mean students can educate themselves without teachers.  The country needs original ideas, big box or fast food chain thinking won't produce them.

Second, there's the too big to fail model.  It produced some cutting edge thinking: create worthless pieces of paper, have a rating agency assert that those pieces of paper have value, and sell, sell, sell.  That thinking, of course, led to the recession.  If education is in "crisis" now, wait until it's a corporation that too big to fail.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Fat Man Analyzes Bloomberg's Proposed Biggie Drink Ban

This Wall Street Journal graphic made me think about something that I didn't want to think about: New York City Mayor Bloomberg's proposed ban on large sodas.

First, I'd feel a lot better if the sentiment ran 65% jokes, 29% against it, and 7% for it.

Second, how many of the jokes included something like "Bloomberg can have my Big Gulp when he pries it from my cold, dead fingers"?

Third,  the circled text on the right indicates that Bloomberg is going to run for President.  Why else would he want the NRA off his back?

Fourth, the circled text on the left indicates that he will ask South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard to be his VP.  After all, someone who understands "the direction we need to go to save the health of our children" would want to run with someone who is the only lobbyist South Dakota students have.

Finally, I want to live in a place that has solved poverty, hunger, crime, and unemployment so it can focus on the terrifying problem of  sugar abuse.  I had no idea New York City was that place.

I Muse About The Diane Ravitch vs. Tom Peters Twitter Spat

Earlier today Diane Ravitch tweeted:
I'm not sure what Peters said to prompt that response, but I'll take this tweet as one that sums up his view:
It's Sunday morning, so let's be clear; even though Diane Ravitch is doing God's work fighting against the testing for testing's sake regime, she's not God and can error.  Peters too is a mere mortal, so for all of his calls for excellence and demanding a "Wow!," he has mediocre days.

I'm a fan of both people.  I became a Peters fan 1990s when I heard him give a talk on a local PBS station.  The talk elaborated on the following paragraphs:
Can you put fun, love, passion, anarchist and thrill in your official credo, for your 10-person accounting group, your newly opened record shop, or the $50 million division you run? If not, why not?
I can read a "corporate culture" in about five minutes. So can you. Whether the subject is (a) a new restaurant, (b) a corner grocery or (c) IBM, GM or GE, you can feel the vibes in a flash. They broadcast "dull" or "exciting" with the utmost clarity. If you're bored out of your wits in the reception area (after being ''badged,'' undoubtedly), you're going to be bored out of your wits with each and every subsequent encounter. Are there exceptions to the rule? Not many.
Kawasaki wants us to be raging, inexorable thunder-lizard evangelists. Roddick hunts for anarchists. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield champion weird. And I want us to breathlessly pursue dramatic failures and flirt with firing. Funny thing, neither I nor Kawasaki nor Roddick nor Cohen nor Greenfield is even being a little bit facetious.
How about it?
Peters wrote the above paragraphs in 1992.  This morning, Larry Smith wrote,
Remember that passion is necessary for a great career, but it is not sufficient. There's no magic here. Success also demands persistence, focus, discipline, independence of mind, resourcefulness, experimentation and high creativity.
"Independence of mind," "resourcefulness," "experimentation," and "high creativity" sound like qualities that broadcast excitement, so the intervening two decades don't seem to have changed the qualities Peters claims lead to excellence.

If memory serves, NCLB  and subsequent policies sprang from the poorly phrased question: "Is our children learning?"  Students and the country might be better served by adapting one of Peters's pet phrases into a question:  "how can we produce raging inexorable thunder-lizard evangelists"?

NCLB, RTTT, and whatever Romney will propose have no chance of producing "raging inexorable thunder-lizard evangelists" or "anarchists."  The policies will produce "dull" students and teachers who never ask "is it weird enough?"  Instead, those polices will continue to force schools to emphasize the "common."