What’s in the Word “Education”? Not a Single Consonant From J-O-B or G-O-P

12 10 2011

“You know, we don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state. It’s a great degree if people want to get it, but we don’t need them here. I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, math degrees.

That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on.”

Think of it as electoral politics, not education policy or even jobs policy. Have you learned to translate rhetoric for reality yet? Mother Jones is getting the hang of it. This is no different than voter suppression laws masterminded by R-think tanks and pushed through R-dominated states all over what’s left of this once-great union. (“union”=ironic term in itself, these days.)

Rick Scott to Liberal Arts Majors: Drop Dead | Mother Jones

Florida’s unpopular tea party governor, Rick Scott, wants more of the state’s youths to pick up college degrees… but only if the degrees are useful to corporations and don’t teach students to question social norms.

. . .As opposed to conservative-friendly disciplines like economics and business management, liberal arts produce more culturally aware and progressive citizens, inclined to challenge ossified social conventions and injustices.

Eliminate cultural and social sciences from public colleges, and you’ll ultimately produce fewer community organizers, poets, and critics; you’ll probably churn out more Rotarians, Junior Leaguers, and Republican donors.

Then those “conservative-friendly disciplines” can be sold off piecemeal to the Koch brothers and other corporate titans, which has already started to happen here at FSU:

The debate is only starting over FSU (is it Florida State University or For Sale University?) and its decision to embrace a $1.5 million pledge from . . . one of the conservative billionaire brothers at Koch Industries, to be used for hiring in the economics department. In exchange, Koch’s representatives get to “screen and sign off on” the hires, essentially winning the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university.

Not just here and not just the Koch brothers, of course. No, that would be something the rest of you could blow off. But this isn’t:
Read the rest of this entry »





Wanna Help Think About “The Help”?

31 08 2011

I was up past 3 am reading in bed and couldn’t quite finish, but I’m ready to talk and it seems worth its own post if not several posts.

Already I’ve been swamped by outrage from my African-American female friends, particularly those who didn’t grow up in the Jim Crow South themselves, and I’ve heard (and felt myself) some reverse-outrage from “white women” in response, particularly those who DID grow up in the South and resent being lumped together and set apart by people insisting that the lumping and setting apart by race is wrong, especially after a half-century when we really believed the woman part of that phrase had taken precedence over the white part — but there’s plenty more power of story to this story than race and region to think and talk about, too.

So consider this an open thread for all our friends, to discuss The Help.

The Upside of THE HELP Controversy:
I thought about my own power and class privilege. Seeing The Help has made me even more committed to challenging racial disparities in Hollywood. And it has reminded me to keep encouraging people of color to write, produce, and direct films—to keep fighting for our stories to be told through our own eyes, not through others’ fantasies.

Mostly, seeing The Help made me want to hear my own grandma’s experiences. I have a plan for the next time I visit her in North Carolina. I’m bringing my Flip Cam, sitting next to her, listening to her story, and recording it—on my own terms.





Three Power of Story Stories . . .

5 05 2011

to help JJ celebrate this National Day of Reason:

1) You’ve seen this picture.
“It is an image unimaginable 30 years ago. . .”

Now see three reasons it’s worth not only a thousand words but worth more than every history textbook in Texas, and then some.

(If you saw the evangelical Christianist self-styled as an authentic history expert on Jon Stewart last night, you’ll know what I mean. If not, watch this.)

Update – the Jon Stewart interview moved one author to action, reports the Friendly Atheist. She decided to give away for free download her book, Liars for Jesus:

The whole thing is just infuriating. Barton goes on and on (and on), talking over Stewart, saying that Christianity is under attack. Stewart calls him out on it. Barton changes the subject, cherrypicks court cases to prove some obscure point, and acts like he’s victorious. . . .

She’s going to give away her book for free in the hope that the truth can spread.
. . .So download it, read it, spread it, and help put a dent into Barton’s influence. Better yet, buy it if you can so future volumes can be published.

2) THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! Only reason will beat it back into the Dark Ages. (Do we need a presidentially commanded special ops strike force of REASON?)

3) Edge dot org has an intriguing new conversation up on “The Argumentative Theory.”

Edge is the perfect place for some Day of Reason reading:

EDGE
To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.

Read first, feel the sudden warmth of human cognition exciting your synapses, then talk later.
I’ll be here. 🙂





“High Attainments in Liberal Scholarship”

10 04 2011

Florida’s oldest chapter of Phi Beta Kappa (older than I am!) inducted Favorite Daughter this afternoon, followed by a reception at the President’s Residence. Her certificate sports the embossed gold Phi Beta Kappa key and recognizes her “high attainments in liberal scholarship.”





Old Ideas Won’t Win the Day

5 04 2011

Ben, the problem you have is that JJ is smarter than you. She is miles smarter than you, me and the next six people combined. JJ develops ideas and new thinking about life and education as she experiences them. You fall back on shopworn phrases — being taxed is having your money stolen, there’s nothing wrong with vouchers going to religious schools, JJ’s tone is elitist, etc. And you hide behind religion and deny its importance as it supports your argument.

The sad part of all of this is that JJ is not the one being injured. She’s a strong woman, capable of thinking about what you write without getting upset about it.

The people being injured are those who are stuck on the treadmill with you, rehashing old ideas which were never very good and have soured with time.

And those liberals, like me, who agree with you. At least in part. I think, once I get past the tax bluster and the vehement anti-public school rhetoric, you have a few points to make. And they will never make it into anything like a productive discussion. They are weighed down to the point of sinking under the old notions, the ones that are all about taking the tack that ends up supporting your politics, right or wrong. These ideas are not about learning and changing and growth. They are about making sure the other political wing is demonized.

Me? I’m a bleeding-heart liberal born and raised to value unions and everything government does to help those in need. I vote Democratic.

And yet I have wondered why teachers weren’t protesting in the streets until their rights and income were on the line. Public school has sucked for a very long time. Teachers complain about it as much as anyone. And yet. . .

I don’t see the same fights you do. I don’t see people still not acknowledging that charter schools are public school. Just as I don’t see homeschoolers contending that virtual schools will be the end of homeschooling as we know it. Maybe I don’t move in the right circles.

What I see are very wealthy people manipulating our system of government to get their way. Over and over again. Among their preferences, like you, is that they pay as little in taxes as possible. Now, they don’t spout off about theft. They hide behind the old chestnut that tax money in their hands will trickle down and all will prosper.  And they have the lobbyists and the clout and our collective taxes decrease along with the government’s ability to function properly.

Maybe some of them hope to starve the beast. You know that line. The impression I get is that they just don’t care. It isn’t changing anything in their life if my child doesn’t have access to a quality public school. At least in the short run. And that’s as far as they seem to look. Or they feel they will be safe, no matter what. Let them eat cake!

Try really seeing that middle class people and working people and poor people are constantly set against one another and feeding into that fight is just as wrong as starting it in the first place. Urging people to vote against their own interests, to battle over scraps, to encourage anger instead of  “doing unto others” as JJ advises, this is only helping those wealthy members of our society who are happy to fund the fight and pick up all the pieces while everyone is distracted.

We can do better than this. It will be very hard work and we may even need some help from an “elitist” or two. But we can do better.





Monsters and Men in Morals of Money and School

3 04 2011

“There’s nothin’ worse than a monster
who thinks he’s right with God.”

–Firefly captain Malcolm Reynolds, episode 13,
seen on Netflix last night with Young Son

Closing the computer down for the night later, I spotted this in my feed reader:

“I guess all I want at this point in the debate
is a little intellectual and moral honesty.”

–Conservative Christian homeschool dad Ben Bennett,
Admit It, Liberals, You Hate School Choice

And this morning the Sunday NYT business section has just given me Cornell economics professor Robert H. Frank’s thoughts on gauging the pain of the middle class with The Toil Index:

Context matters because the brain requires a frame of reference to make any evaluative judgment.

Yep, just like a frame of reference to define the difference between monster and man.

Rising inequality has shifted the context that governs. . . the cost of achieving basic goals, like sending one’s children to a good school. School quality is an inherently relative concept, too, and good schools tend to be in more expensive neighborhoods.

The toil index rests on the positive link between a neighborhood’s average housing price and the quality of the school that serves it.

This link implies that the median family must outbid 50 percent of all parents to avoid sending its children to a below-average school. Families that failed to rent or buy a house near the median of the local price range would have to send their children to below-average schools. The only alternative to seeing their children fall behind is Read the rest of this entry »





Latest Tea Party Target: Methodists?

21 12 2010

Superman won’t like this, and neither would Little JJ’s grandmother!
Read the rest of this entry »





Does Michelle RHEE-ly Put Students First?

10 12 2010

Michelle Malkin’s Siamese twin Michelle Rhee (can’t separate them looking or listening) is being interviewed on my small screen this morning, called a “hero” and a “revolutionary” by conservative non-educator white guys on Morning Joe’s set, for what she’s supposedly doing as the real deal children’s advocate, the only one “fighting” for students against their bad old public schools.

She defends her Wicked Witch of the East treatment of DC parents and schoolfolk (see Time article quotes below) saying the one thing she regrets is seeming so mean and angry and imperious.

She claims she wasn’t all that angry, not all the time at everyone at least, and SHE’s the one on the kids’ side against everyone else in education and in their communities, so she will continue mocking and undermining and firing and fighting for unilateral control — except she wants to sound less bitchy, and therefore more bankable, as she does it.

This belated image adjustment apparently is meant to befit and benefit her new personal-public-private Rule the Schools front, dubbed “Students First” because as I hear her, our nation’s students aren’t first in public policy priority so they’re not first competitively, but she can put them first in both senses if we let her run things:

December 08, 2010 posted by Michelle Rhee
International study finds U.S. students far behind those in other countries [read ASIAN students]

Shanghai is first; the U.S. is not. One reason I started Students First is because I know that we can only compete with China and other leading countries if we transform our schools. If we were to grade the academic performance of the world’s industrialized economies, Singapore, South Korea, and now Shanghai would get an A — the United States would get a C, at best, and in math we’d get an F.

But how exactly will she accomplish all this winning? Her education-school reform ideal sounds like little more than inflicting her own poorly-understood dramas and traumas from Korean and American schooling on us all:

Her parents immigrated from South Korea several years before she was born so that her father could study medicine at the University of Michigan.

. . .After Rhee finished sixth grade, her parents sent her to South Korea to live with an aunt and attend a Korean school, a harrowing experience for a child in a strange land with limited skills in its language. When she returned a year later, her parents sent her to a private school because they found the public schools lacking.

And she never explains, or even acknowledges the question of, how the chaotically individualized and nearly ungovernable USA, by emulating Asian schooling for homeogeneous Asian children in ancient Asian cultures, will magically out-Asian them and jump to first again. (What would true original Western education reform look like, hmmm? Radical unschooling?)

I wrote pretty kindly about Colin Powell and his wife, coming at school reform from their own subculture’s education power of story. I can’t and won’t do that with Rhee’s Read the rest of this entry »





Dream or Nightmare? Is Nothing Left of What’s Right on Left or Right?

7 11 2010

Maher went on to poke holes in Jon’s arguments, saying “Martin Luther King spoke on that Mall in the capital and he didn’t say, ‘Remember folks, those southern sheriffs with the fire hoses and the German shepherds, they have a point too.’

No, he said I have a dream, they have a nightmare…Liberals, like the ones on that field, must stand up and be counted and not pretend that we’re as mean, or greedy, or short-sighted or just plain bat-shit as they are.

And if that’s too polarizing for you, and you still wanna reach across the aisle…try church.”





Helping Real Kids in Their Real Lives, Right Now

27 10 2010

This teen reporter underlines a key point as we try to help all kids, not just those bullied at school — that their real lives are right now. Today matters utterly.

Dear Husband and I both were the oldest children in our families, and both my parents were firstborn as well. Talk about delayed gratification! — we were masters.

Fortunately for my own children, I was able to change or grow out of this mindset or learn its limitations at least, after the painful epiphany of losing both my parents much too young. I saw the gratification they’d so conscientiously delayed and delayed, denied to them forever . . .if you’re a Thinking Parent, that really makes you appreciate the people you love and the life you can live fully with them NOW.

Sayre Quevedo, 17, is a reporter with Youth Radio, a youth-driven production company based in Oakland:

I love the “It Gets Better” videos as much as the next gay kid. But I worry that the campaign makes it seem as if gay teenagers need to stow away in a time capsule until adulthood, when we can feel fulfilled and safe.

. . .I don’t think we should have to wait to live happily. . . Kids don’t change because we realize we’re gay. Our opportunities to be happy shouldn’t either.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a gay issue or a girl issue or about sex at all. Upper-crust universities have bullies. They just tend to make it about money as power instead of sex as power (well, except for the Duke Lacrosse guys who one might reasonably observe, combine both and don’t ever defer or deny gratification!)

By the end of the month, only a handful of students hadn’t given.

. . .”There was a huge push,” she says, which included knocking on the doors of those who had not yet donated. The student interns who ran the drive encouraged volunteers to ask about a student’s personal reasons for not giving but to accept no as a final answer.

With 24 hours left, there were, serendipitously, just 24 students who had not donated. One volunteer, an honors student in sociology, sent out a list of those students’ names via BlitzMail that was passed along to many people.

Candais Crivello was on that list. A former fund raiser for Dartmouth’s annual fund, she was surprised that some of the tactics her peers were using . . . In the end, the lone holdout was Read the rest of this entry »





Tea & Crackers, or Tea-Partying as Crackers

29 09 2010

. . .not to mention unchristian and unconstitutional.

Rolling Stone Magazine
October 15, 2010

Tea & Crackers:
How corporate interests and Republican insiders built the Tea Party monster

by Matt Taibbi
(Pinky-crooked cock of the snook to Rolfe Schmidt for the link.)

The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about . . .

So how does a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations get a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street? That turns out to be easy.

. . . A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.

Belief in gods isn’t being served up for tea, but isn’t that the real issue as always? I’m a American southerner raised on the Christian Bible and church suppers rather than tea and crackers, and I remember a verse that explains both the economic crisis and our crisis of faith that America can overcome it:
Timothy 6:10.

Three out of 10 children in the nation’s capital were living in poverty last year, with the number of poor African American children rising at a breathtaking rate, according to census statistics released Tuesday.

Is there anything in anybody’s holy book condemning willful ignorance and useful idiocy? If there isn’t, there oughtta be.

Tea Partiers expound at awesome length upon their cultural victimhood, surrounded as they are by America-haters like you and me or, in the case of foreign-born president Barack Obama, people who are literally not Americans in the way they are. . . they’re shockingly willing to believe . . .white people in the age of Obama are some kind of oppressed minority. That may not be racism, but it is incredibly, earth-shatteringly stupid.

. . .You look into the eyes of these people when you talk to them and they genuinely don’t see what the problem is. It’s no use explaining. . .

But if public education hasn’t COMPLETELY failed our nation, not this dramatically and dangerously at least, then surely even the earth-shatteringly stupid can grasp and employ the ecumenical ethic of “do unto others?” And if not, well, we Americans of any religion and no religion, of much and little intelligence, we’re all still okay as a people, yes? — we’re united by the unbreakable bonds of Read the rest of this entry »





Education Nation Thinking: School is a Social Network

27 09 2010

UPDATE: “Governing requires a humanism that we find largely absent in the business world of today. It calls for skills that the business world often overlooks or shuns. Governing requires the ability not to follow spreadsheets and marketing advice but to weigh all of the relevant information and decide what is best for all . . .”
******************
School is a social network but that’s not on the menu for this week’s Education Nation. I didn’t hear the phrase “liberal education” this morning either — but could that ideal be what we lost first, that led to America losing everything else?

What if, after a couple of generations of not really educating in the public schools, too busy exploiting them as captive consumers for our competing political causes and business opportunities instead, there’s no longer a critical mass of leaders and citizenry well-enough educated themselves to think productively about how to educate the next generation any better?

We’ve all heard the phrase “liberal education” and those of us of a certain (ahem) age, probably got a passably broad one somewhere along the way to this dystopic ruin of the House Our Liberally Educated Founders Built for us.

Folks with a liberal education, for example, are supposed to understand that “liberal” in this sense isn’t necessarily the opposite of conservative but it is the opposite of narrow, literal, training-and-conditioning-focused schooling, education drilled in to spec at the local mass-production public factory. Certainly liberal education is the opposite of for-profit Big Business and the cutthroat corporate mindset. Liberal education fosters intelligent, higher-order problem-solving and complex moral thought, humanist politics. And it’s not merely technical, not even at the MIT and NASA level. Math and science alone can’t put the liberal in a liberal education.

Devoutly Catholic William F. Buckley for example, had an extraordinarily liberal education as the debate-dominating wind in his arch-conservative sails. OTOH the Governor of Texas and his education makes one weep for education: Texas Governor Treats Colleges Like Businesses [as]
Regents promote his agenda, to faculty members’ chagrin

But Americans now get little education of any kind, much less a true liberal education. It’s all schooling and all to factory specs: tough, increasingly nationalized standards, radically mind-numbing regulations, authoritarian rewards and punishments for knowledge workers (both teachers and students) meted out by principal overseers in all school systems? More of that is hardly a new education idea nor a liberal one.

Anthony Seldon, Wellington College:

“good education should be the opportunity for each child to discover who they are, how they should relate to others, and what they love about life.”

Engaged liberal education vs. “Mass-Production Factories
of the Mind”
:

I’ve been anxiously following the news about the new National Governors Association initiative, Complete to Compete,  and the recent announcements about states competing for Race to the Top funding, and I continue to worry about reductionist models of education driving our reform agendas.  I think that many of our policy makers and government officials at both the state and federal levels actually do believe in the full promise of liberal education, but somehow forget what that really means in educational practice when they get down to developing actual policy proposals.

Here are my notes typed in as I watched all Monday morning. They’re in Maimi-Dade with Arne Duncan and student questions this afternoon. I’ll keep listening and thinking and be pulling from these notes for blogging later:

NBC Universal
EDUCATION NATION

Morning Joe and Today Show

Public survey on who’s to blame for what’s failing in schools, top two get more than half the public blaming them:
elected officials
parents

Then the very bottom group, teachers, gets only one-third of the public blaming them:
teacher unions
principals/admin
teachers

LA Unified Sch District has about one-third of all kids suffering from PTSD, biggest identified problem is violence

NJ Republican Gov Christie says it’s all about breaking the unions, forcing them to admit they’ve created the problem by making everything about their money and not caring about kids. Reward and punishment is his Read the rest of this entry »