Spelling Out NCLB: No, Congressional Lizard Brains!

31 07 2007

“This is not an escape hatch.”
–Democratic chair of House Education Committee about changing No Child Left Behind

So. At least that’s clear. Public school is a trap, NCLB is its ruthless trigger, and what matters most to Congress is insuring there’s no escape.

Mr. Miller acknowledged the many complaints about the No Child Left Behind law from school districts nationwide, saying: “Throughout our schools and communities, the American people have a very strong sense that the No Child Left Behind Act is not fair. That it is not flexible. And that it is not funded.
And they are not wrong.”

The whole miserable drama of NCLB is about real-world money and influence, not academic learning and thinking. It’s business, not education — self-protection of irrational grownups, not self-determination for educationally empowered kids. Kids are growing up as bait in this ever-expanding economic trap, while grownups are kidding themselves. And another story today that really IS about learning and thinking may explain why:
It’s the “non-conscious self-protective instincts,” stupid!

Doc’s Getting to Know You Meme

30 07 2007

Doc found a blog meme where the questions (not just answers) differ for each person.

So as Doc said, don’t be shy!

The Rules of the Meme:
1. Leave me a comment saying anything random, like [the food you hate most in all the world]. Something random. Whatever you like.
2. I respond by asking you five personal questions so I can get to know you better.
3. You will update your [blog] with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to ask someone else in the post.
5. When others comment asking to be asked, you will ask them five questions.

Here are Doc’s questions to me and my answers:

Read the rest of this entry »

“Exceptional” Power of Story in Junie B. Books for Kids

27 07 2007

As in “exception to the rule” — why are the Junie B. kids’ books so infuriating to so many standard-bearing parents and teachers, really?

Is it because Junie B. breaks the standard rules she’s been taught, or –aha! — it is really because Junie B. FOLLOWS the simple rules quite literally, without exception and thereby makes it laughable?

I’m thinking it’s an ingenious paradox, that the author accomplishes the former because her heroine does the latter.

To follow Junie B.’s own exceptional lack of exception, let’s put it this way:

Simplistic rules marching us all to one prescribed end is wrong. Calling it education is wronger. Church and state enforcing it on little kids is wrongest.

Parents and teachers who define their own purpose in life as following and imposing rules without exception, perpetuating standards through compulsion and restriction, refusing to make exceptions as in zero tolerance policies, demonizing intellectuals — and liberal arts and relativism and diversity of thought and incontrovertibly complex reality itself — must find it threatening when their own young children readily recognize and laugh at the obviously inadequate results of such a childish, nascent world view.

What makes it a paradox imo, is that if you WERE one of those folks, you wouldn’t be able to understand and consider, much less accept, this explanation of why you felt threatened by the Junie B. books. Read the rest of this entry »

What We Don’t Know About Bonobo(s)

25 07 2007

And while reading the New Yorker, make time for this new story too —  contemplate it in front of a fan, maybe over a julep?

In the far distance, such lines of inquiry may converge at an understanding of bonobo evolution, Hohmann said, and, beyond, the origins of human beings.

“It’s a long path, and, because it’s long, there are few people who do it. . . A student working with bonobos can close his eyes and pick a topic, and it can’t be wrong.”

. . .The bonobo fell out of the view of scientists at the very moment that the public discovered an interest. In 1991, National Geographic sent Frans Lanting, a Dutch photographer, to photograph bonobos at Wamba.
. . .“I became sure that the boundaries between apes and humans were very fluid,” he said. “You can’t call them animals. I prefer ‘creatures.’ It was haunting, the way they knew as much about you as you knew about them.” It became his task, he later told Frans de Waal, “to show how close we are to bonobos, and they to us.”

And if you really get into it, you’ll be rewarded with quotes like this one (that might explain a lot about third-millennium schooled teen behavior as well as bonobos?) —

Captivity can have a striking impact on animal behavior. As Craig Stanford, a primatologist at the University of Southern California, recently put it, “Stuck together, bored out of their minds—what is there to do except eat and have sex?”

Harvard: More Marine Corps or Modeling Agency?

25 07 2007

In the summer blog lull, I’ve been reading and reviewing saved stuff and just came across Malcolm Gladwell’s “GETTING IN” on the social logic of Ivy League admissions:

Social scientists distinguish between what are known as treatment effects and selection effects.

The Marine Corps, for instance, is largely a treatment-effect institution. It doesn’t have an enormous admissions office grading applicants along four separate dimensions of toughness and intelligence. It’s confident that the experience of undergoing Marine Corps basic training will turn you into a formidable soldier.

A modelling agency, by contrast, is a selection-effect institution. You don’t become beautiful by signing up with an agency. You get signed up by an agency because you’re beautiful.

At the heart of the American obsession with the Ivy League is the belief that schools like Harvard provide the social and intellectual equivalent of Marine Corps basic training—that being taught by all those brilliant professors and meeting all those other motivated students and getting a degree with that powerful name on it will confer advantages that no local state university can provide.

. . .The extraordinary emphasis the Ivy League places on admissions policies, though, makes it seem more like a modelling agency than like the Marine Corps . . . To assess the effect of the Ivies, it makes more sense to compare the student who got into a top school with the student who got into that same school but chose to go to a less selective one. Three years ago, the economists Alan Krueger and Stacy Dale published just such a study. And they found . . .

[go read the whole thing, it’s gripping!]

Big Hair Plus Big Airs Need No Standard-sizing

24 07 2007

Apply “Hairspray” for a firm hold on your non-standard look:

“I actually enjoy being in the position I’m in, because being on the red carpet and not looking like the other four girls next to me kind of makes me feel good about myself. It almost gives me a little more confidence, my size and my stature….”


Unschooled Favorite Daughter says the same thing here:

I’ve survived spending almost every day with people who challenge my physical self-esteem.

Allow me to explain: I dance. . .

Supposedly simple and objective, inoffensive size standards can confound our best intentions — see “Large Dogs Welcome” and the reports of research correlating size, looks and success in all fields, not just entertainment :

There is a correlation, say the [University of Miami] researchers, between professional success and men’s height, professional success and women’s looks. . .

But these statistics need some psychological interpretation. It’s obvious that taller men are no more competent but are they not, as a general rule, more confident? And is that not also true of better-looking women?. . .beauty is not in the eye of the beholder as much as in the mind of, as it were, the beholden. Therefore, the research is valid but not in the way the researchers think.

Non-standard thinking presents similar challenges to non-standard looks. Are there Hairspray-like fixatives for intellectual confidence too? (The government-issue generics don’t do a THING for me!)

Midsummer’s Country Fair is Open

23 07 2007

Hear that music? The country fair is back!

Snook has a nice big game booth on the Midway this time, where homeschoolers and unschoolers can pitch quarters at a dazzling array of schoolthink dishware to take home, piped out into carnival shape by lips like Harry Potter, Stanley Fish and Clarence Thomas.

This carnival’s barker (Meg) suggests we take the time to smell the kettle corn and cotton candy; don’t race from booth to booth with kids in tow. Enjoy each booth on its own, read the comments too, savor each flavor in turn, don’t make ourselves sick . . .


Sundance and Butch Could Teach Blind, Bankrupt French a Lesson

22 07 2007

Sundance Kid: “You just keep thinkin’ Butch. That’s what you’re good at.”
Butch Cassidy: “I have vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.”

Certainly, the new president himself has cultivated his image as a nonintellectual. “I am not a theoretician,” he told a television interviewer last month. “I am not an ideologue. Oh, I am not an intellectual! I am someone concrete!”

I’m not an outlaw like Butch but my thinking is outside the law, in the sense that it isn’t controlled or circumscribed BY the law. Read the rest of this entry »

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Big Holiday in Our Homeschool

21 07 2007


Are we having fun yet? What chapter or page are you on now, are you loving it (I am) and why are you taking a break for the intertubes before you’ve finished??


My answers are yes, page 175 right now (the kids had theatre rehearsal so there has been driving and errands, really cuts into the reading time!) and hey, that’s a good question, back to the BOOK . . .

. . . future generations will come to the books without the hoopla that has defined them since 2000, when the publishers first set a midnight release for the fourth installment, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

. . .[but] a reader’s “experience is a special, one-on-one intimate experience whenever you have it.”

Why We Have No Answers For Health Care (or any other) Crisis

19 07 2007

The last few minutes of Diane Rehm’s health insurance program today was a phone interview with a Dem Congresswoman from PA, Allison Schwartz. The specific question to Schwartz — because she’s actively working on it right now — was to describe the differences between legislation in the House and Senate.

A few minutes of vivid radio imo, painting the perfect picture of why Congress and the President both have approval ratings so low that if they were being graded under NCLB, they’d have to double just to approach “failing” and triple to pass, much less make the honor roll —

At Daryl’s the other day I commented:

I am DEFINITELY in Contempt of Congress.

NPR’s Morning Edition, July 9, 2007 · . . .Democrats took office in January with a 43 percent approval rating, which has now dropped below 30 percent. The biggest drop is among Democrats. The most disaffected are independents.

The AP poll this week puts Congressional approval down to 24% and the current president, hated though he is to Clintonian-impeachment depths,with a public approval rating about 33% (other polls put it at 29%.)

So there’s plenty of Contempt to go around and deservedly so, especially imo for continuing to quarrel amongst themselves and plot against each other in domestic wargames, instead of working to turn things around for US in the real world.

And I heard somewhere these incompetent — no, anti-competent! — folks are busy voting themselves another nice raise, in the middle of this debacle. Contemptible.

But there was some real public education (as in education of the public) in her next hour . . .(drum roll, please) . . . Howard Gardner! (Can’t we just let him run the country, or at least public education?)

Howard Gardner: “Five Minds for the Future” (Harvard Business School Press)

Renowned Harvard University psychologist Howard Gardner explains the five ‘minds’ everyone will need to succeed in the years ahead.

Physics Professor on Science, Religion and Compartmentalization

19 07 2007

We’ve been talking a lot here lately about how we humans can be, um, pretty irrational in our politics and voting, religion and sports, even schooling — wherever we vest our hope to best our fear.

The most recent conversations about evidence to this effect are up top; older posts you can review for extra credit (a little unschoolers’ joke) are here and here, and/or try searching the blog with words like “sacred”, “thinking”, “science” or “reason.” (Personally I think this one captures it all.)

So what happens when science itself is the “sacred value” and ultimate concern for its devoted actors, when we bring our hopes and fears, our human hearts and spirits, our ancient history and lingering lizard brains to the disciplined acts and attitudes of third-millennium science?

Apart from the usual irrational “answers” to that, comes evolved thinking on the matter from physics and astronomy professor Rob Knop at Galactic Interactions: Read the rest of this entry »

“Abstinence Education” Isn’t Rational Either

18 07 2007

. . .so wouldn’t you think our world-class economy and educational system would abstain from IT, hold it accountable for its own lack of results, just say no to it? But apparently our critical thinking skills program isn’t working too well either. . .

“Those who thought abstinence education financing would decline swiftly
under a Democratic watch were wrong: . . Opinions vary on whether the
absence of evidence — to borrow from Carl Sagan — is evidence of absence.”