BCS Is to SAT: Education Fraud

26 11 2006

Go Florida’s flagship universities, whose college presidents FINALLY sound willing to pull back the curtain on academic competition, to “out” as humbug our ever-popular weighted numerical rankings of human achievement that move so predictably from lies, to damn lies, to statistics.

Or to cast this as a standardized test analogy problem, we might say school is to sports what the SAT is to the BCS — pseudo-scientific misinformation and education fraud.

Or maybe, what Gerald Bracey is to Gene Wojciechowski? 🙂

Article published Nov 26, 2006
School presidents talk playoffs

Sun sports writer

TALLAHASSEE – The Gators and Seminoles have found a common foe and now, they are going to work together to try to defeat it.

At halftime of Saturday’s game, Florida State President T.K. Wetherell said he and Florida President Bernie Machen are working on a proposal to eliminate the Bowl Championship Series and start a Division I college football playoff.

Wetherell said he and Machen are both putting versions of a playoff system together and will combine their ideas before officially proposing the plan to the NCAA. . .

Wetherell said arguments that a playoff would take athletes out of class for too long are bunk.

“It doesn’t make one bit of difference,” said Wetherell, a member of the FSU football team from 1963-67 and holder of the record for longest kick return in school history. “The athletes would miss the same amount of time they do now under the current system.”

Wetherell pointed out

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Five Minds The World Needs Now

26 11 2006

Some so-called policy expert from Columbia Teachers College is doing “national research” focused on homeschooling, apparently determined to prove it’s a threat to all he holds dear. Can that be called research, really? Sounds more like a self-serving ax-grind to me, shades of Stanford’s philosophy prof Rob Reich, who loftily categorizes even socially successful and personally satisfying home education as some democracy-damning form of “ethical servility”. . .

I was muttering to myself and stewing about the stupidity of such priggish bias passing as elite higher education, so I pulled out Harvard’s cognitive psychology and education expert Dr. Howard Gardner, who ought to trump even Columbia and Stanford “education experts” when the Game of the Day is institutional ivy creeping up our walls at home.

“. . .improving performance on a particular test is a terrible goal for
an education system. . . .we need to cultivate five kinds of minds, if we want to be successful as a nation and, more important, as a world.”

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs professor of education and cognition at Harvard University’s graduate school of education, in Cambridge, Mass.

Beyond the Herd Mentality:
The Minds That We Truly Need in the Future

By Howard Gardner

Published: September 14, 2005

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with having a high standing in some kind of international comparison. No doubt there are things to be learned from effective schools in countries like Finland or Singapore. And yet, the more I have thought about it, the more I have become
convinced that the goal of topping the international comparisons is a foolish one, and the rush to raise one’s rank a fool’s errand. In the process of pursuing a higher rank, educational leaders are ignoring deeper and more important purposes of education.

Let’s begin with the obvious. Only a few countries can have the lead in these “league-table comparisons.” And so, as in Olympic-level basketball, backgammon, or ballet, most countries are destined to be disappointed, and most ministers of education advised to shift portfolios before the next list is posted.

Consider, next, the tenuous relation between performance on such measures and the success of the society on other metrics. In the early 1980s, many Americans disparaged their schools as the source of economic doldrums and looked admiringly at the Japanese example. If only we could have the test scores of those Japanese students! In the next two decades, Japanese students continued to do perfectly well in examinations, and yet the economic and social performance of the country was unimpressive. Meanwhile, though there has hardly been a sea change in American schools, our society has enjoyed enviable economic prosperity during the same period.

Even when tests are instituted or cited for praiseworthy reasons, undesirable results often obtain. The peril of making tests all-important and of “teaching to the test” has been

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Dr. Phil Unschooling Show Today

24 11 2006

Just watched the whole thing with Favorite Daughter , ho-hum anticlimactic I thought, still, here’s the comment I posted:

Radical Unschooler of Mensa Minds

Aside – “BUTT paste” is the sponsoring product for this episode???

Never heard of such a thing and we don’t even use that word in my family, although we love the Broadway smash “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in which one lyric goes “pouring out my ass” — context counts not just in word choice, but in schooling and also unschooling.

I’ve been teacher-certified for 30 years, lots of public school experience and a well-used education doctorate. Yet my own kids have been radically unschooled at home with no regrets (theirs or mine.) There is no one best way, and no one should be able to decide for other people’s children, absent real abuse or criminal endangerment.

An education is something each child creatively constructs, not some standard dose of something inflicted on the child by law or social pressure in one-size-fits-all form. And education freedom is not about unions, political parties, conformity or opinion polls, wild guesses or personal prejudices. I feel for the couple on today’s show who does not agree about education and each so “adamant” about what to require of the children. They are doomed to fail as parents no matter what they do — in my opinion, but then I’m just a professional public school educator, what do I really know about them? 🙂

I wish the show’s producers had chosen to feature older kids who were always unschooled and academically brilliant, like mine (now 16 and 11). Was it intentional that only these very young unschooled children were shown, so results could be debatable? At 15, my always unschooled daughter chose to

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School Play? Oxymoronic

24 11 2006

Pups and Cubs Learn From Play
. . .not from canine curriculum, prepared by commercial contract with puppy mills and sold to some Dog-Eat-Dog Congress as profitable education.

Some kids are that lucky still, to have engaged parents who let them learn from authentic play, rather than doling out bribes alternated with beatings, education as basic training on some schoolish obstacle course.

By the time they reach an age to think about what they’d like to do, most kids have been thoroughly misled about the idea of loving one’s work. School has trained them to regard work as an unpleasant duty. . .

Surfing classes for spotted hounds, never mind status-signaling doggy dress or kitty strollers seem to be going in in a new but nevertheless ominous direction, not toward developing the next generation in any productive way, or even letting them all play until they grow into their public lives, but instead toward some demeaning dog-as-plaything indulgence of classless and extravagantly stupid human masters.

OTOH – it’s a delightful image all by itself; my children adore it and don’t see any spectre of education politics in it, thank goodness! Never having suffered the loss of self-directed play, everything is fun for them, and they cheerfully bounce along like dogs out for an unleashed stroll (not in a cat stroller!) and are almost never hang-dog–cynical or defeatist– even in the face of disaster.

I do believe this comes from a life of well-protected play and preserved curiosity about the world, and maybe it IS a form of behavioral conditioning – the kind that creates happy do-it-yourself confidence, rather than some counterproductive, passive-aggressive fear response to all trainers, teachers and bosses.

I’d put a high premium on self-reliant yet socially responsible technology, schedules, lifestyles, networking, world views and income generation. The kinds of learning based on intrinsic motivation, privacy and sustainability, learning that doesn’t require or prepare people to live and work in assigned dorms and barracks under constant public supervision and scrutiny.

. . .I think our kids need to learn differently and do differently, SO much better than we did and so far past school. Someday soon they’ll replace us as thinkers, caregivers, problem-solvers, diplomats, designers, and story-tellers. (If they survive!)

If we really expect public education to help save every dog and a happy world for us all to share, then public support of private exploration and play in every pup’s home environment would come much closer to creating the reality, than ridiculous resort surfing lessons for the elite, while the nation’s puppy mill overruns are left to scrounge kibble off the floor of society’s dog-pound schools. . .

How about “No Dog Dragged Outta Bed for Abuse” before we get to “No Dog Left Without a Surfboard?”

Astronomy for JJ!

22 11 2006

The power of story — on a really big stage. 🙂

Plowing through the electromagnetic spectrum

One of the many things I love about astronomy is the uncovering of a mystery. As someone once said (nuts, I can’t find the reference) Isaac Asimov once said (paraphrased) science isn’t moved forward when someone yells “Eureka!”, it gets that nudge when a scientist looks at the data and says, “That’s funny…”

Mysteries are everywhere, if you just know where to look. And their solutions can be found, if you know how to look.

. . .


There’s your complete picture. Any one of these images is interesting, even provocative, but none by itself presents the complete picture. Astronomers need many eyes to look into space, and see what there is to see. And what a canvas the Universe reveals… Power on unimaginable scales! Destruction a million light years across! Monsters lurking in the deep cores of galaxies, central engines capable of wreaking such havoc!

Yeah, that’s why I love astronomy. Sometimes it’s the mystery, and sometimes it’s the solution. But always, always, it’s the story behind the images.

Teach Your Parents Well

22 11 2006

A “deeply ambitious” parent education program in Florida seems to be making a difference for kids.

My peevish question as always, though: why didn’t these urban public schools reach these same blue-collar parents when THEY were the students? It would have made ever so much more sense. And are they managing to reach the current crop of future parents any better than the last generation, or will they have to wait for the Parent Academy to teach them anything useful about academic learning and parenting THEIR kids?

Happy Days Are Here Again!

21 11 2006


‘My stomach is touching my back’

Paul Ash

Monday, November 20, 2006

The federal government has decided to drop the word “hunger” from its vocabulary, according to a new report released by the USDA. The reason? USDA sociologist Mark Nord, the author of the report, claims that the term “hungry” is “not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey. We don’t have a measure of that condition.”

The USDA will now use the term “very low food security” to describe people who used to be considered “food insecure with hunger.” Statistically speaking, hunger will no longer exist in America.

The release of the report, however, follows five straight years of increases in the number of Americans unable to afford the food they need. Nord and the USDA may feel comfortable saying there is no hunger in America, simply because they can’t find a precise scientific measure to describe it. It is not so difficult. In fact, it’s so easy a child could do it. A young boy at a San Francisco food pantry knows exactly how to describe hunger. He says, “My stomach is touching my back.”

To be fair, the USDA’s point is not that hunger doesn’t exist, but that this particular survey, the annual “Household Food Security in the United States,” is designed to measure food security — an economic and social condition related to limited or uncertain access to food. Hunger is a physiological condition.

Because the USDA doesn’t ask survey participants about their physiological symptoms, it can’t claim that the study measures “hunger.” Unfortunately, no national government survey exists that does measure hunger in a more precisely defined way, and there are no plans to start one. In the meantime, the “Household Food Security” study is our federal government’s principal gauge of — forgive my use of the term — hunger in America.

If the government stops using the word “hunger,” people may begin to believe that hunger has gone away. It hasn’t. Just ask that little boy whose stomach is touching his back.

Whatever you call the problem, the statistics are grim: 35 million people in America are living in food-insecure households.

. . .

Yet for the past six years, the Bush administration has been cutting food-assistance programs, and in some cases, proposing to eliminate them.

. . .
The new Democratic-led Congress has an important opportunity to reverse these policies. They can take the lead in combatting hunger by restoring and increasing funding for the government food-assistance programs that provide vital nutrition to low-income Americans. And they should never be afraid to call hunger by its name.

Paul Ash is the executive director of the San Francisco Food Bank (www.sffoodbank.org).

So, when you are doing your Thanksgiving shopping — or, if you are like me and got out of it this year because your wonderful sister-in-law volunteered to do it all! 🙂 — throw a few extra cans in your shopping cart and drop them off at your local food bank.

Don’t think you have one nearby? Wrong. Search here. Or Google and find one near you.

I’m planning to buy what I can with those “points” the supermarket awards this time of year — whatever that gets me, goes to the food bank.

We do this a few times a year, along with some other area unschoolers, and it’s not nearly enough — but it’s something!

Happy Thanksgiving!