Regulate Home Education? Yes and No

30 01 2009

From the UK Times Online business section (??) comes pro and con arguments we’ll all recognize on this side of the pond too, no doubt a bit wearily.

Here’s the nut graph imo:

It appears that the Government is not getting the answer it wants, so keeps asking the question. There is a confusion between child welfare and education.

Meanwhile another article in the same section makes it painfully clear that “Government” isn’t just asking wrong questions but lacks the right answers for child education AND welfare, of anybody’s children anywhere, anyway:

” Why . . . use physical intervention, including inflicting pain, on children so frequently? Is it as simple as poor management, or that they do not have the skills to defuse conflict and get good behaviour from the children?”

And this blogpost is interesting. Note the argument that legalese meant to mandate home educating parents will act in the interest of their own child’s welfare, can be similarly construed to make schooling parents legally responsible to save their kids from bad schools. . .

So I Loaded This New Chess Program for Kids. . .

29 01 2009

and Young Son is doing other things but *I* can’t stop playing, just can’t leave it alone, taking back and trying different moves to see what happens next and how it changes the game. Endlessly, without exhausting my ever-patient computer opponent. Autodidact Delight! (and why my posting here is suddenly light.)

This is probably addictive behavior. . .

Should Anybody’s Daughter Aspire to Academe?

26 01 2009

I have a daughter drooling over doctoral programs in English, so this definitely caught my eye:

The Chronicle of Higher Education
January 30, 2009
Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go

It’s hard to tell young people that universities view their idealism and energy as an exploitable resource . . .

Nearly every humanities field was already desperately competitive, with hundreds of applications from qualified candidates for every tenure-track position. Now the situation is becoming even worse. For example, the American Historical Association’s job listings are down 15 percent and the Modern Language’s listings are down 21 percent, the steepest annual decline ever recorded. Apparently, many already-launched candidate searches are being called off; some responsible observers expect that hiring may be down 40 percent this year.

What is 40 percent worse than desperate?

. . .As things stand, I can only identify a few circumstances under which one might reasonably consider going to graduate school in the humanities:

* You are independently wealthy, and you have no need to earn a living for yourself or provide for anyone else.

* You come from that small class of well-connected people in academe who will be able to find a place for you somewhere.

* You can rely on a partner to provide all of the income and benefits needed by your household.

* You are earning a credential for a position that you already hold — such as a high-school teacher — and your employer is paying for it.

Those are the only people who can safely undertake doctoral education in the humanities. Everyone else who does so is taking an enormous personal risk, the full consequences of which they cannot assess because they do not understand how the academic-labor system works and will not listen to people who try to tell them.

Bad news all around. OTOH, this same English professor (who himself writes under a pseudonym) suggests in a less brass-tacks column, that Favorite Daughter’s name rather than her field, might determine her academic destiny:

I haven’t done a study, but I’ve noticed that “a disproportionate number of academics have long, peculiar, and nerdy names.

. . . I have to wonder whether I was helped in elementary school because I didn’t have a name with working-class, ethnic associations that might have destined me for manual labor or the police department in the eyes of my middle-class teachers. My name was distinctive, and so they often noticed me in positive ways that only reinforced the negative attention I sometimes received from my peers.

. . .If your name is Hussein, are you likely to get a job teaching English? Have you ever met a Seungyoung who teaches phys ed? What if your name is MistyMarie? Could you ever work as a biochemist? And what if you’ve invested decades in a name that belongs to Read the rest of this entry »

How We Argue

26 01 2009

I don’t know if Paul Krugman knows everything even if he is popular on the left right now but he had a good column up yesterday about how we argue about the economic stimulus plan. The phrase that caught my eye was “arguing in good faith.”

This was a point I tried to make a few days ago at another blog — that what the country voted for was, in part, this very thing — that we want people to argue “in good faith.” We are tired of “cheap shots” and “bogus talking point[s]” and “nonsensical argument[s]” and time being wasted refuting “arguments and assertions that are equally fraudulent but can seem superficially plausible” and “old arguments” that don’t mention current circumstances.

Obama is polite and bipartisan and all that good stuff. Krugman is a bit less so — citing the “I won” quip — and I am sure I will never be close to bipartisan.

But that is a separate issue from truth. Facts. Straight information. The full picture. Context. Moving beyond playing games and addressing serious issues seriously. Rising above our personal biases and arguing in good faith.

It’s harder than falling back on soundbites but, as Krugman wrote, anything less will be and should be disregarded as “huffing and puffing.”


Answering the President

23 01 2009

There’s a new President with a pretty old-fashioned idea — that we should help our neighbors.

I think a lot of us do things already that fit in that category but the new thing that I am going to start is volunteering as a tutor in our library’s adult literacy program.

I’ve never done anything like this but they say that’s OK. I’m scheduled to attend a workshop to get started and then to meet with the literacy coordinator at the library to match me with someone who needs help learning to read English.

In Florida that might mean someone who speaks Spanish as much as it could mean someone who speaks English. I was told not to worry about that even though my Spanish is pretty much non-existent.

Another good thing the library does is to provide the space for this program. They don’t ask people to meet in their homes but have meeting rooms set up for the literacy program.

Why now? Well, we are in the library at least once a week and there is a big poster in the lobby asking for volunteers


and DD and I have looked at it and nodded and mumbled that we should find out about that for at least a year. But we all know how that goes. Life intervenes and it gets pushed down the list of things to do.  But then Obama kept talking and talking and talking and it finally clicked that I could probably find a few hours a week to help someone. What about that literacy program? I’m at the library anyway. Why not call? So I did and aside from not knowing how to fill out the application where it asks me what “skills and abilities” I have, it seems very manageable.

So, that’s my response to the President’s calls to service. Whether you are doing something similar or hate the whole idea, you can write about it and link your thoughts at the Thinking Homeschoolers wiki.


Thinker Pinker on Stickler Stinker

22 01 2009

I just love words.
And thinkers.
And especially thinkers thinking about words.

So you could say Steven Pinker really speaks my language with his cognitive language-psychology view of why Roberts ironically mangled the Constitution as a “strict constructionist” — this is your brain on the conceit of strict constructionism:

In his legal opinions, Chief Justice Roberts has altered quotations to conform to his notions of grammaticality, as when he excised the “ain’t” from Bob Dylan’s line “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” On Tuesday his inner copy editor overrode any instincts toward strict constructionism and unilaterally amended the Constitution by moving the adverb “faithfully” away from the verb.

President Obama, whose attention to language is obvious in his speeches and writings, smiled at the chief justice’s hypercorrection, then gamely repeated it.

Roberts can disagree with Pinker, of course, and so can you, but who is qualified to discredit Pinker’s expertise about how words work in the brain?

(10 years ago)
. . .with the publication of The Language Instinct in 1994, he took the mass of ideas and research that had been going on into the different branches of language and linguistics and explained them clearly, which was miracle enough, but also with a brilliant and witty eye for illustration. Keyser says “He was a careful worker, obviously a player. Then came The Language Instinct and he suddenly found a voice that may have been buried in his work but which I hadn’t seen before. And it was superb. It was the perfect tone about a really complicated field to an intelligent lay audience that had not been adressed.”

In the book, Pinker good-naturedly demolished the arguments of those he terms the “language mavens”, those guardians of correct speaking, and presented language as vibrant, flexible and constantly evolving. He also gave a transparent explanation of Chomsky’s notoriously difficult ideas about the evolutionary development of language and how it is represented in the brain – while remaining level-headed about their usefulness. . . Read the rest of this entry »

At Last

21 01 2009

Passing on this beautiful dream meme from Dale, because at last it’s real and I want it here at Snook for easy access, to enjoy over and over. Heck, to wallow in! SO soul-satisfying. . .

Openness, Public Service, Real Freedom of Information?

21 01 2009

Can he possibly be serious about change, with all these new executive orders on ethics and swearing in senior White House staff to serve and solve, rather than profit from playing us against each other? Yes, he CAN! 😀

Think literal disclosure instead of literal undisclosed location, for instance, or functional transparency as opposed to dysfunctional parent complex —

On This Day

20 01 2009

we gather to proclaim hope over fear. . .

The time has come to choose our better history. . .
ALL are free to pursue their full measure of happiness!

Jesus Christ and So Many Bows!

20 01 2009

Malia and Michelle are both wearing big bows, and now Aretha has a giant, very-Aretha bow on her hat. Bows are the surprising wardrobe theme for the ceremony I guess, hopefully not for the whole administration! 🙂

Same goes for Rick Warren’s “Jesus Christ controls this administration and the new president and all nations and all history” theme.

“Foul Play” in Church Tax Subsidies

20 01 2009

Lynn at Bore Me to Tears has a feisty discussion going about the mega-appeal of mega-churches as full-service communities. Made possible by the MONEY, of course.

I posted a comment there awaiting moderation (probably because it has too many links) so I’m putting it here too, in case it gets eaten somehow before approval.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an old Chevy Chase-Goldie Hawn movie, Foul Play — remember it? It’s a comedy with the premise that a lunatic fringe group is trying to assassinate the Pope to force attention to their cause. Which is (drumroll please) the Tax the Churches League.

When I saw that movie I was working in the real world of journalism, education and public policy, and I just laughed too, what a ridiculous faux cause worthy only of screwball comedy. How silly, because churches are humble and good, just doing charity work, helping people, and religion isn’t political! (I was young and idealistic 30 years ago — and churches didn’t seem rich or powerful or politically active to me back then. At least not the protestant ones I knew, and I didn’t know much about political hardball in modern Catholicism yet.)

It’s funny the wikipedia entry for that movie cites its only controversy as the use of an albino as a villain! What about its prescient fingering of religion to take over the world through taxfree power?

I just Googled “tax churches” and there’s a real group here. Hey, I could be a believer!– of these ideas:

1. We love our country, and we believe strongly in its founding principals [sic]. . .

2. Second, we do not want to live in a theocracy. . .

3. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing religious institutions.

A couple of things since I submitted the above at Lynn’s —

First, I should email the website and let them know they misused “principals” when in context they must mean principles. Then in musing about whether I should actually bother to do that, I discovered this group is connected to my hometown! Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking of All the Bigots and Rednecks. . .

20 01 2009

. . .he’s met along the way all over America, take that!

— Tom Brokaw to Joe Scarborough just now, reflecting on the history he’s witnessed as news leading to this historic morning.