What’s in a Name: The Label Kids Crave But Are Losing

31 08 2007

“Alexandria’s school administrators are caught in a political and moral trap” in last Sunday’s WaPo.

New PDK/Gallup Poll: Public’s School Attitudes Adjust Annually, So What?

30 08 2007

As Congress debates changes to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act with an eye to maximizing the achievement of all students, the following findings from the 2007 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools highlight potential improvements in our nation’s education policy and identify the public’s interests and concerns. Now in its 39th year, the PDK/Gallup poll is the only authoritative source of longitudinal data on the public’s views on the nation’s schools and education policy.

This latest poll seems full of good news — but after 39 years, mainly just old news to me. I’ve followed this poll as an education “expert” myself for almost 30 of those years. Here’s the poll news from five years ago, if you want a post-millennium snapshot to compare the newest news with.

Talk about public education, seems this year’s “public” has finally learned its lesson about why standardized testing isn’t learning at all. A critical mass of the citizenry seems ready to begin a thesis on why No Child Left Behind should be left behind, if not expelled.

So NCLB and testing is out of favor, and change (in the form of public charters at least) is still gaining ground.

Good news, I guess.

But now what? School governance by political polling and corporate camel-nosing into school tents is what’s WRONG with public education in the first place, not right answers and certainly not well-thought-out reform. So we can’t just go by the public polls.

If we’ve learned anything by now as a people, surely it should’ve been that changes based on public polling aren’t progress so much as evermore good will and tax money sacrificed to the twin idols of “what all kids should know” and “what all teachers should make.” I find the education experts’ interpretations and policy advice accompanying the poll to be self-serving, self-congratulatory and in a few places, downright offensive.

A few “Lessons for Leaders”: Read the rest of this entry »

Favorite Daughter: See You in the Funny Papers

29 08 2007

With two whole days of class under her belt, Favorite Daughter has nailed college sociology

(If not classical drawing techniques –)

as a series of cartoon illustrations, direct from the campus honors computer lab to her fans, just for the price of clicking over . . . 🙂


Ancient History Lessons for Homeschool Hegemonists

28 08 2007

Always unschooled (and always ashamed of homeschooler hegemony) Favorite Daughter started her honors sociology class this week, with yet another Ph.D. prof who interests and inspires her.

Go, community college as real education, no matter who is “paying” for it!

Their first class discussion was about the complex meaning of identity, thinking critically about how (and why) you define who you are as an individual within any society — or mob — relentlessly pressing individuals to conform with (often quite radical) norms.

Stubborn symbolic belief in “who we are” beyond all reason and science is all some folks have, the only story with any power to put them on top of a social group, and so they are willing to turn the sciences of larger society upside down, on the basis of that belief.


High school is a universal example, I guess, but my own high school memories are history, almost as old as modern homeschooling! So let me be more current. A social norming eddy of enforcement that I lived through since the turn of the most recent century, but still can’t quite believe is “real” rather than just Internet fantasyland, is the Young Earth Republican fundamentalist homeschool hegemony, whose persecution complex defines their own little “activist community” with special moral and legal status as a sub-sub-society apart from the rest of us homeschooling heathens (on the strength of a self-proclaimed “history” of oh, 50 years or so??)

They so tightly clutch their own historic roles as the faithful and steadfast, the chosen leaders of their cult– whoops, I mean advocacy group — that maybe it shuts off the circulation of blood to their brain cells. They obsess over a fantastical identity so derailing to their train of thought, that it causes them to misread real history, science, humanities, economics and politics, constitutions, dictionaries, and the hearts of parents and children across the land. Their own holy writ and society’s best interests, too.

But that insulated little society of identity politics claiming to be grassroots activism based on “facts” and “research” is old news today. We have a new example to contemplate today, in news both newer and much, much older. Back to Favorite Daughter and real education:

Read the rest of this entry »

Back to School Take-Home Quiz: The Ethics of Teaching and Training

25 08 2007


People want to do the right thing.
What the right thing is, however,
depends on what you value.

Michael Pollan in The Sun Magazine, May 2006, in which he says our cognitive and cultural tools have been turned against us by industry.

COD has a head-scratching thread about how we treat puppies and snakes (all animals, actually) and how we justify it ethically. It all connects in my mind to whether compulsion in educating and “socializing” children is ethical — puppies are socialized too, “schooled” by responsible owners in standard behavior taught with standard methods — and then to Dr. Anne Foerst, theologian of robot learning, as a better philosopher on moral-ethical education riddles than Rob Reich, and finally, to ways we all could “progress” in the ethics of compulsory schooling and training, rather than devolving:

About Rob Reich, disingenuousness is one problem he doesn’t seem to have, unlike most liberal critics of home education. I really do believe he believes it is an ethical problem to teach any captive audience, and if he would extend that to all education — as we propose to do here — instead of limiting it to homeschooling, it could be a GREAT discussion, maybe groundbreaking. Read the rest of this entry »

Virtual Home Invasion Regardless of School Choice

24 08 2007

I just got a big kick out of this, after all the homeschooler angst about
technology at school and virtual school at home subsuming our family lives as we’ve known them. Turns out we were indeed being subsumed by the Borg, but School or Unschool had nothing to do with it!

That was my first inkling of how the vastly expanded electronic and informational needs of houseguests would flavor our time together. Soon guests were positioning themselves to get dibs on one of the three computers in our Long Island house the way they would otherwise line up to jump in the shower.

By the next morning, “I wonder if you could do me a favor?” was a question I fielded every few minutes . . .

“Just need to have something faxed, and maybe I could scan this to a PDF and e-mail it, too, if it’s no trouble?”

No trouble indeed, but such requests began to mount. . .

Nance told our pde list a good day-in-the-life story that brings “home” the point:

OK, so you are a 14-month-old houseguest and you are presented with:

Pretty — I think — blue and white chopstick holders (you never know when you might need them! 🙂 )


A silvery indoor-outdoor thermometer, complete with buttons that beep.

Apparently, the correct choice is the thermometer!   I was surprised, thinking I needed to be cautious about the china (cheap but I like them) thingy,  when it was the electronic thingy that was the real attraction.

Kids today! And apparently everybody else! 🙂

Fencing And Football: Level Playing Field, Ha!

24 08 2007

JJ’s Disclaimer: I was a college fencer at UF, once a southeastern champion in women’s under-19 foil, qualified for a few nationals and once the Olympic trials (for a quick first round exit!) The whole thing was out-of-pocket, no support from the university except for that trip to the Olympic trials, when we got involved enough in student government politics to make a successful pitch for a few hundred bucks each out of the activity fees. No coaches, no trainers.

We used to drive ourselves around the state to weekend tournaments in a Datsun, and sleep in front of the gym because we couldn’t afford motel rooms. Sometimes we bunked in the local locker rooms. The resulting kinks and stiffness on the strip the next day were all part of our thrill of victory and agony of defeat! 🙂


One Sunday morning every fall, members of the Penn State fencing team spend hours scraping nacho cheese, chewing tobacco, peanut shells and cigarette butts off the floor of the university’s 107,000-seat football stadium.

Cleaning after a home game is an annual fund-raising ritual for the team, a coed varsity program that is one of the most successful in national competition. Unfortunately for Division I athletes in sports like fencing, winning championships does not guarantee financial stability. . .

“Expelled”: Another Comedian Craving Credibility of Drama?

24 08 2007

Will his upcoming issue movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” seriously cast ID-ealogues as champions of academic freedom, the persecuted victims of evil scientists and power-mad professors in super-atheist academe? Has Ben Stein, once the out-of-touch teacher in Ferris Bueller’s coma-inducing high school classroom, now typecast himself in the same role for real life? Are we teetering on America’s Rational Edge being pushed into the abyss by legalistic scrambles of sophist distortions served up to put us back in our divine place as mere creatures?

See trailers here.

The movie’s official website compares Expelled to Fahrenheit 9/11 and An Inconvenient Truth, but on a “controversial” scale rather than a “credibility” scale. I think maybe the credibility comparison will prove apt.

Here’s what the Discovery Institute thinks.
Here’s what the Skeptic Friends Network thinks.
Here’s what first came to my mind.
What do you think?

Real-Life Education Minister Rivals Evil Schoolmarm in Harry Potter Movie

23 08 2007

or so says Australia’s National Union of Students.

The student union says federal Education Minister Julie Bishop is like the character in the latest movie [Dolores Umbridge] who takes over the wizard school and implements a series of ideological changes.

Upon which Umbridge-Bishop retorted tartly that students couldn’t be trusted to know what was good for them and they were a bunch of negative whiners (I’m paraphrasing but still) so ungrateful for their nationalized education, that they should be called the National Union of Slytherins.


Hey, maybe she should hook up with Old Lady Wheelwright?


And don’t even get me started on NCLB-spellcasting control freaks like Clinton and Pelosi. If there’s anything feminists should disavow rather than flaunt imo, it’s this all-too-real, all too evil fiction of empowered schoolmarm as liberal, democratic or any kind of social progress.


(More Umbridge-Wheelwright-Bishop mocking here and here.)


22 08 2007

Dear Deer,

Yes, seeing you outside the other day was wonderful. But seeing your fellow native wildlife INSIDE my house this morning was decidedly not. It was unacceptable! Suddenly happening upon a very alive and plenty big enough snake inside my house has never happened to me, not in a half-century of Florida living.

Now that it has, I’m not sure I will ever feel really comfortable in my own little habitat again.

You know that maladaptive deer-in-the-headlights frozen thing you did in the middle of the road? That was me, in the middle of my own kitchen. It took me half an hour to get off the stool — and now what?

Dealing With Snakes in Florida’s Residential Areas – Introduction
Steve A. Johnson and Monica E. McGarrity

This is not academic, it is PERSONAL!

As Florida’s human population continues to grow, remaining green spaces continue to be fragmented into even smaller areas of natural habitat. The outcome of this insidious process is the creation of small pockets of wildlife habitat in an otherwise urban or suburban landscape. As a result, encounters with snakes in residential areas are increasingly likely to occur.

When you say residential areas, I thought you meant towns and developments, like in the bushes or on the roadside. If you mean where I reside, as in IN MY HOME, that’s a whole different kettle of, um, tolerance for the environment, way past the reach of what I (until today) liked to congratulate myself for cultivating . . . Read the rest of this entry »

Death to the SAT?

22 08 2007

If the SAT has been statistically shown to be nothing but a shiny distraction, a mirror reflecting what we already know rather than a window to a brighter future of knowledge and wisdom and social progress, then are we smart enough to NOT show how smart we are with a shined-up test score?

The ever-controversial Charles Murray argues that society would be smarter, happier and most just if none of us had these shit-for-shinola scores in our heads in the first place.

The cognitive stratification of American society—for that’s what we’re talking about—was not a problem 100 years ago. . . (consider that in 1907 roughly half the adults with .high intelligence were housewives) . . .Because upper-middle-class families produce most of the smartest kids, there is no way to reform the system (short of disregarding intellectual ability altogether) to prevent their children from coming out on top. We can only make sure that high-ability students from disadvantaged backgrounds realize . . . that the system is not rigged.

The most immediate effect of getting rid of the SAT is to remove an extremely large and bright red herring. . .

Read the rest of this entry »

Rationality Can Rise Above Anti-theism

20 08 2007

Dawn at Day by Day Homeschooling admires Michael Shermer for advancing the cause of calm rationality and quotes his open letter to “antitheists” in the September Scientific American:

Rational atheism values the truths of science and the power of reason, but the principle of freedom stands above both science and religion.