NYT Lip Not Service For Kids or Society

2 03 2007

. . .the Times puts its mouth where the money is, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Excerpt from a smart, savvy blog I just stumbled across thinking with my fingers about Orwell, politics and language (more on that later):

An editorial in today’s (NY) Times decries the basic skills of U.S. high school students as insufficient for our glorious information age.

“Marginal literacy and minimal math skills might have been adequate for the industrial age. But these scores mean that many of today’s high school seniors will be locked out of the information economy, where a college degree is the basic price of admission and the ability to read, write and reason is essential for success.” . .

Let’s leave aside sad fact that the Times’s chief concern is that we may not have a sufficiently educated workforce—that, for example, $69 million energy company CEOs might not have enough $106,000 petroleum engineers to do the real work at a place like Exxon-Mobil—you know, of stuff like actually finding oil and gas and getting it out of the ground. . .

There are many worthy causes competing for precious column inches in the Times, and we all understand the business reasons for, say, devoting two-thirds of the above-the-fold front page yesterday to the Academy Awards.

But if the Times wants to know why high school students aren’t doing well at math and reading, it could take a moment to look inward.

The fact is, students do in fact “see connections between what they read and their own experiences” when those experiences include seeing a sports section every day, and a science section only once a week.

Which perhaps perversely, made me think of Barbra Streisand or Bernadette Peters singing Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods — a happy lesson learned being put to better educational use outside school by the composer himself FOR kids, than self-appointed newspaper critics like Times editors would have government school do TO kids, paid for with our money instead of their corporate profits.
Which is the hotter ticket, do you think? 🙂

Careful the spell you cast,
Not just on children.
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you…

Careful the tale you tell.
That is the spell.
Children will listen…

P.S. Broadway composers Sondheim and Schwartz should be added to my Panel of Steves!

Tune In to Think TV

2 03 2007

Okay, how about this for a mid-season game show replacement?
We could call it, “Are You Smarter Than a Harvard Unschooler?”

Instead of Jeff Foxworthy, maybe Mensan Jodie Foster (see comment #2) would host, with a “Panel of Steves” or something, for punctuated equilibrium aka color commentary. Imagine tuning in for intellectual play-by-play between Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Steven Johnson, and Steven Colbert . . .

Questions would be unlike any past game show or quiz show, nothing like that insipid new show to make adults seem even less thinking than we ARE, and although I admit Jeopardy was at its best when champ of champs Ken Jennings gave ho’ as the alternate answer to rake, not like that either!

Questions could be drawn from The Reality Club’s Edge Foundation maybe, naturally with no forced-choice answers. Indeed they wouldn’t have any answers at all yet.

Maybe one question per show, maybe only one per year?

The Edge Annual Question — 2007

As an activity, as a state of mind, science is fundamentally optimistic. Science figures out how things work and thus can make them work better. Much of the news is either good news or news that can be made good, thanks to ever deepening knowledge and ever more efficient and powerful tools and techniques. Science, on its frontiers, poses more and ever better questions, ever better put.

What are you optimistic about? Why? Surprise us!

And contestants wouldn’t compete against each other to get on the show for more win-lose competition with penalties and payoffs –the whole audience would participate to test competing ideas, not as passive judges but active problem-solvers, submitting their own thoughtful responses online in a sort of “collective wisdom through deviance and diversity” approach. It will be the conceptual opposite of mass market attraction to the lowest common denominator . . . oh. Which will make it impossible to sell to Thinking Advertisers. Never mind.

What Harvard Homeschoolers Know Best

2 03 2007

. . .is homeschooling fit for Harvard, of course!
This part has me chuckling — Favorite Daughter must be fit for Harvard too, because this sounds just like her.

Karin Jentoft echoes her mother’s frustration with oversimplified attitudes towards homeschoolers.

“The stereotype is being ultra-sheltered with a skewed view on reality,” Karin says. “Very far right.”

While Karin Jentoft realizes the inaccuracy of these stereotypes, she does not offer her experience to be dissected as a counterexample. In fact, Jentoft rarely discusses her homeschooling experience.

“What bothers me is when homeschoolers are viewed as a strange sort of creature. It’s like,” she pauses, adjusting her voice to that same Jentoft falsetto, “‘What’s that? Poke, poke.’”

Actually it sounds like us. How we live and learn and talk and think.

While Carla Jentoft admits that she and her husband used homeschooling to address their beliefs with the family, these conversations took place in the context of relevant historical study.

“We had a lot of dinner conversations and we would discuss them,” she says. Her voice rises to a playful falsetto, “The Civil War, is it Christian or not? And the War of Independence, was it right?”

. . .The Jentofts enrolled their children in art and music classes and began to build a comprehensive home library.