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. . .