Miscalculating Political Price of “Free” Speech

29 09 2007

“I’m a supporter of abortion rights, but I could be a Christian-right person and still be in favor of free speech,” Mr. Hoag said.

“If they think they can censor what’s on my phone, they’ve got another thing coming.”

So the Word “Is” Are Correct . . .

27 09 2007

At a dinner with broadcast journalists in 2001, Bush poked fun of himself for his “Is our children learning?” statement.”Let us analyze that sentence for a moment,” he said. “If you’re a stickler, you probably think the singular verb ‘is’ should have been the plural ‘are.’ But if you read it closely, you’ll see I’m using the intransitive plural subjunctive tense.

So the word ‘is’ are correct.”

So — I can has cheezburger??

Gift of Effective Education Advocacy for Thinking Parents, Kids, Homeschoolers Too

27 09 2007

Through the National Home Education Network, homeschool advocates collaborated on a handy-dandy legislative advocacy self-education project, lessons gleaned from our real efforts and experiences in the public square:

“Home Education on the Legislative Stage:
Wisdom Gleaned from the NHEN Legislative List”

It’s still great stuff imo. AND, now from “Unwrapping the Gifted” comes similarly practical, proven education advocacy advice from the schooling side of child-led education change. I’m thinking we all — schooling or not, gifted or not — 😉 — can learn a thing or two from these excerpts:

My goal today is to offer some hope and some strategies.
Wherever you are, and no matter the laws and policies that may govern your state/locale, there are little things we can each do that can add up to make a big difference.

Thus began my struggle to find ways to effectively advocate for my charges, gain appropriate accommodations for them, and do so all without rocking the boat and sinking it again.

. . . I learned the hard way that sinking it doesn’t do anyone involved any good – and the goal gets lost in the depths.

Suggested strategy #1: Observe. Rather than pound down the front door and force your way in, sneak in the back door and simply sit and observe for awhile. In the meantime, your presence will become part of the fabric, part of the scenery, part of the norm.

Observe the culture – not just the “school culture,” but also the broader culture of the community, county, state. . . search for answers to questions such as these: How does change happen here? What philosophies drive the people to do what they do, think what they think, and resist what they resist? Who is really in charge? Where do you see glimmers of hope? Which little piece can you change easily? And then go from there.

Suggested strategy #2: Subtle blitz. . . a “food for thought” campaign. About every three weeks, I put a little something into everyone’s mailboxes to gently encourage some reflection or thinking about gifted students. . . . keep in mind that not everyone may appreciate it at first. Read the rest of this entry »

Unity08 and Sam Waterston On “Colbert Report” Tonight!

26 09 2007

Sam Waterston, Emmy-winning actor and Unity08 spokesperson,

will be on The Colbert Report

Wednesday, September 26 at 11:30pm ET.



Right Thinking About Parent Rights: Polygamy and Homeschooling

26 09 2007

With the Warren Jeffs guilty verdict in the news today, you might have your synapses stimulated by the provocative discussion last summer (August 2006) at Tad the Rational Mormon Dad’s.


I ask these questions not because I support polygamy (one wife at a time is more than enough for me, thank you!) but because I want to explore where the lines are with regard to the state’s power and responsibility to protect children and the parent’s right to control the child’s upbringing. Does the same reasoning apply here that supports our right to homeschool? If not, then why not?
Here is the scenario: A fourteen-year-old girl is “married” in religion that believes in plural marriage. The girl’s parents, who are also members of this religion, consent and even encourage the arrangement.

Here are the questions:

Does the state have a right to prohibit this religious group from practicing plural marriage (polygamy), or it the practice protected by the “Free Exercise” clause of the First Amendment?

Does the state have a right to override the parental consent and intervene to prevent the child from entering into this arrangement? Is there a legitimate state interest to protect the child?

Have the parents or the “husband” committed an act of child sexual abuse?

Is the girl competent to make her own decision in this matter?

Then here’s a mash-up of my three comments, that might (or might not!) make a sort of stand-alone sense taken together:

We Talkin’ Ethics or Law?

Are we mainly talkin’ right-wrong, or right-left?
Religion, politics, or only the intersection of the two?

Or just sort of mixing and matching?

What’s been wrought against women and children historically has been in the name of almost everything. Hard to know where to jump in. . . Read the rest of this entry »

How Education Produces Health: A Hypothetical Framework

26 09 2007

Columbia University – Teachers College Record
Date Published: September 12, 2007
ID Number: 14606

by Peter Muennig — September 12, 2007

Background: High school graduates live six to nine years longer than high school dropouts. Those with less education are more likely to die prematurely of cardiovascular disease, cancer, infectious disease, diabetes, lung disease, and injury than those with more education. Although there is growing evidence that the education-health relationship is causal, and some mechanisms linking education to health have been proposed, there is no gestalt for thinking about the health production function of education.

Purpose: The purpose of this article is to outline the mechanisms through which education may produce health.

Design: I explore the health risk factors that are more prevalent among those with lower educational attainment to ascertain whether such risk factors plausibly cause the diseases for which the less educated are at risk. To examine these relationships, I conduct a review of the public health, economics, endocrinology, sociology, neurosciences, and other literatures.

Conclusions: A remarkably clear path can be drawn between what we now believe to be the risk factors for disease and the primary causes of death among those with lower attainment. Although hypothetical, the pathways outlined in this article can be used as a basis for thinking about the health production function of education.

These mechanisms may better allow policy makers to understand the relationship between education and health. They may also be used to guide future research on the health benefits of education.

Finally, although the proposed pathways are hypothetical, there is good overall evidence that education produces health. Therefore, health benefits should be included as core outcome measures in future education research.

Junk-Free Schools Video Contest

25 09 2007

Calling All Young Filmmakers

The first Junk-Free Schools Video Contest is underway from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. This consumer advocacy group seeks short videos that will help bring healthier foods to schools.The grand prize is a $100 gift certificate for iTunes and the winning video will be showcased at the CSPI school foods Web site.
Deadline is Nov. 1.
(via WaPo food/health columns)

God Bless America: School Fight Song for Our Times

25 09 2007

What an odd mix of politics, prejudice, socialization, schooling, private ignorance and public religion! Dawn found some real power of story in this one . . .and I feel a song coming on!

Perhaps in response to Rob Sherman’s atheist activism or his daughter’s recent (successful) campaign to get God Bless America off of the Homecoming Dance song list at her high school, the family evoked a response from the suburban Chicago community.

Their home was vandalized Friday night . . .

It’s a curious sort of counter-melody, isn’t it, for schoolkids to transpose GBA into this fight song key? God Bless America has been playing “good cop” to The Star-Spangled Banner’s bad cop, the song nobody can sing or wants played at their school dance or baseball game.

I learned as a schoolchild to sing gospel as popular music and not in church, while my guitar gently weeps: “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” Singing and dancing, too. So if there has to be just one song, something like this would make the most sense to me.

But if we must fight over god and country songs for the public school dance and make God Bless America a winner or loser, it seems to me that even between “believers” and ‘atheists” the discor-dance (pun intended) is more politics than religion. More about purposes of war and peace than heaven and hell. Flag and country today, not ancient prophecy of kingdoms to come in the end times.

God Bless America hit the charts as an armistice song celebrating peace, while The Star Spangled Banner was inspired by war — bombs bursting in air, rockets’ red glare, the Flag was still there — so which really suits the purpose of school “homecoming” — defending the homeland or homecoming for the troops, both, neither?

And sing out right now if you believe it’s unAmerican that we teach kids to believe in the lyric, “school homecoming” which surely is unworthy here in the Land of the Free. Maybe what homeschooling freedom fighters really need for their time and purpose, is a stirring and easy-to-sing anthem about coming home, rather than those droning responsive readings from the dictionary. . .

Guess what happened to my senior prom? It never happened at all, canceled by song-fighting. We the diverse and contentious student body of a recently desegregated public high school, couldn’t agree on which band would play what kind of dance music (white or black, basically) and the obvious compromise of having two bands — one at each end of the ballroom as we’d done for the junior prom — hadn’t solved anything and wasn’t any fun. The one thing it turned out our schooling gave us in common then, was learning that lesson the hard way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Schools Re-forming Into Substitute Families

24 09 2007

“His plan is to have the schools be more than schools. They have to be substitute families . . .

It is an all-fronts, total-war strategy on what is certainly this city’s most deep-rooted social problem . . . “Insofar as one can accomplish anything in the New Orleans public school system,” said Mr. Bankston of Tulane, “he probably can accomplish something.”

So who is this transform-society-with-school-over-family hero, here to save New Orleans from itself? Maybe no surprise that it’s the same “school leader” who pioneered parent report cards, first in Chicago and then Philly — MisEducation critiqued that overreaching administrative conceit in 2003, for the parent-directed education website and NHEN.

She called her commentary, “Should Schools Decide Whether Parents Make the Grade?”

From the CNN story at the time:

. . .No other Pennsylvania school district conducts parental evaluations and it is a rare practice nationwide. The Chicago school system started a “parental checklist” program in 2000, but it was dropped a year later under a new administration.

Paul Vallas, the former Chicago schools chief who now heads the Philadelphia district, said the program was voluntary and each of Chicago’s 600 schools was given discretion to develop its own format.

“They weren’t report cards as much as they were parental advisories” he said.

The idea drew some criticism. . .

The “idea” of government grading parents drew “some criticism”?? Imagine that.
To quote Rizzo in the musical Grease, upon being caught disrespecting the heroine — some people are so touchy!

“Banned Books Week” Needs More Than Celebration This Year

23 09 2007


“Free People Read Freely!”


Last year Snook the Blog sprang into being just in time for the silver anniversary observance of Banned Books Week.

At my house we love banned books, read them and champion them every chance we get. I’m not just talking Harry Potter and stuff that sets conservative churchfolks’ hair on fire. I mean book language that liberal pc-speak tries to censor by just changing a few words here and there too, in Mary Poppins and Huck Finn, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. (Wonder if that was supposed to be ironic?)

Considering what’s afoot in the real world as this year’s Banned Books Week approaches, for 2008 maybe we should worry about all public repression of expression — and invading privacy in its service — throughout schools and whole communities, in the news and on the campaign trail, not just in libraries and Bowdlerized textbooks.

Stage and screen, Don Imus on radio, Dan Rather and Swiftboat veterans on TV, the school play canceled just for having a vaguely offensive name like “Urinetown.”

“Playing to the Puritans” by Marc Acito
. . .three members of a local church objected to the high school’s fall production of the musical “Grease,” even though one of them hadn’t even seen it. In a response that would have made Joe McCarthy proud, Mark Enderle, the school superintendent, then proceeded to overturn the choice of “The Crucible,” Arthur Miller’s indictment of McCarthyism, as the spring play.

Instead, the students in Fulton [Missouri] just finished performing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” that wholesome frolic about youthful rebellion, pagan magic and bestiality. As Dr. Enderle told Wendy DeVore, the drama teacher, her actors “shouldn’t do anything on stage that would get a kid in trouble if he did it in a classroom.” Read the rest of this entry »

School’s Out — of Control

22 09 2007

“Johnny’s parents don’t want his first-grade teachers packing heat.”

A Medford high school teacher is arguing she has the right to carry a concealed semiautomatic pistol to her classes to protect herself from a violent ex-husband in a case certain to set off alarm bells in schools across the state. . .

And if it’s a dad? At a school football game? Or a janitor exercising his civil rights to pack heat in the elementary school little kids are forced by law and rule to attend?

Portland Public Schools has a rule that no one can bring a concealed weapon on its property, even though the district has been forced to acknowledge state law trumps its rule. That was proven when a parent brought three guns to a Lincoln High School football game in 1999. School security officers were outraged and took him into custody. But ultimately the district conceded the law was on his side.

Silly me, I always thought the law was on the side of kids entrusted to the school for education’s sake. But the kids and their education are barely an afterthought in such stories.

The gun-seeking teacher story is well-blogged here but seems to have gotten precious little attention as an education story — maybe we’re all too busy thinking about school police tasering that mouthy UF student, for felony abuse of a campus microphone?

Read the rest of this entry »

Civic Literacy Best Learned at Home

21 09 2007

. . .informally, among family!

So much for public school defenders like Professors Reich and Apple, with their perverse theories about home education jeopardizing American civics and citizenship. (to open and read any NHEN forums, just hit “printer-friendly” in the upper right of screen.)

Forget theory, let’s look at the hard data. Your child is so smart and so good at taking multiple choice tests like the SAT that, schooled or unschooled, the Ivy League beckons — say Princeton or Yale.

But what you’ll get for that sky-high tuition and possibly a crushing debt load for the whole family, may be civic and economic “unlearning” (no, not unschooling — unLEARNING, schooling that literally takes one’s education backward, growing less learned with each year you spend with your face buried in the Ivy.)

That’s the opposite of value added — call it value subtracted.  Too bad the most thoroughly schooled folks will have trouble understanding this basic economic principle!

COD has more on the Civic Literacy Report. Take the 60-question quiz yourself; if an overblown university didn’t sabotage your actual education, you too may outscore America’s college seniors. . .