Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Educational Fraud, You Need Not Look Far

Today, Valerie Strauss of  the Washington Post reports on a set of fraud cases that are but the tip of an iceberg in secondary education.

This has long been one of my special interests as the undeserving leap-frog the deserving systemically with open eyes and welcoming hospitality.

A few years ago, a fellow BOE member once whispered to me, "So what if her Dad gave her a helping hand, why not!"

Here's an excerpt from the Post,

"Following are excerpts from the explosive 204-page criminal complaint charging more than 30 wealthy people — including Hollywood actors and college coaches — in a years-long scheme to bribe and cheat to get their children into exclusive colleges and universities.
The Washington Post story on the complaint says:
The alleged crimes included cheating on entrance exams, as well as bribing college officials to say certain students were coming to compete on athletic teams when those students were not in fact athletes.
The criminal complaint paints an ugly picture of high-powered individuals committing crimes to get their children into selective schools. Among those charged are actresses Felicity Huffman, best known for her role on the television show “Desperate Housewives,” and Lori Loughlin, who appeared on “Full House,” according to court documents.
According to the criminal complaint, the schools targeted included Georgetown University, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University and Yale University.
The complaint says that many of the children involved did not know what their parents had done to get them into school."
I think that list is short a school or two.

The system remains gamed to favor the sons and daughters of entitlement, privilege, wealth, and political pull.  Critics of educational reform usually have a vested stake in this game.  These occasional speed bumps will do little to change it.


Saturday, February 09, 2019

The Tech in Schools Debate

"In a recent NPR report, writer Anya Kamenetz notes that clinicians are debating whether technology overuse is best categorized as a bad habit, a symptom of other mental struggles (such as depression or anxiety), or as an addiction."
From:  https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-02-07-former-google-design-ethicist-relying-on-big-tech-in-schools-is-a-race-to-the-bottom

Unschooling American Education

When I was in college, I became a fan of the de-schooling authors and followed their work enthusiastically.  John Holt, Ivan Illich, Paulo Friere, and others found a warm place on my bookshelf.

Some 50 years later, those concepts have evolved.

see: http://reason.com/reasontv/2019/01/24/these-unschoolers-say-children-dont-need

Monday, December 24, 2018

Goodbye 2018

Since letting go of the School Board position I've turned my attention elsewhere.  I just noticed I had no new posts for the year and that didn't seem right.

This year I've discovered that inexpensive online learning is very good stuff.  I took a Udemy course for $10 and it was worth every penny.   

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Beware the Entitled and Entitling Parents


Sunday, June 17, 2018


This should be of interest to everyone:


Friday, November 17, 2017

Twelve Years, So Much Time, So Little Progress - A Postmortem

After twelve years on the Board I decided not to run again.  With the recent election I'm no longer a Region 19 Board member but I've been offered the opportunity to continue participating on the EO Smith High School Building Committee as a citizen participant. Having attended all of the previous architectural studies and proposals for the school is some institutional knowledge that I'd like to keep alive for at least the short term.

I also plan on keeping the blog alive. I haven't written much lately but when I get the urge, I get the urge.

For twelve years I spent my energies in advocating for the students, the taxpayers, and the soul of the institution. And not blindly.  *Everyone* associated with public education has an agenda. To the degree that I could contribute to good things that were accomplished, it was to the credit of a coalition of the willing and they know who they are.

The establishment of the Reynolds, Big Picture inspired satellite program, the realization of an artificial turf sports field (I had advocated for all the fields to been renovated), the establishment of "Bring Your Own Device" internet access, and a few more Board stretch goals were largely the work of Bruce Silva, Lou DeLoreto, and a handful of Board members who rolled up their sleeves.

I mention these things because two of the three mentioned are NOT the way the system typically works.  In fact the system is hardwired to self-insulate itself from anything innovative or different.

This bears some explanation because most of the critical rhetoric of public schools will condemn the institution for being dysfunctional.   In my experience that simply isn't true. Public education is a highly evolved set of self-serving ecosystems that complement each other's comfort zone so as to eliminate every and all outside disruptive influence. Rather than being dysfunctional, these ecosystems are highly refined and ruthlessly efficient.

Obvious and self-evident as it sounds, schools should prepare students for a life of learning, constant change and reexamination of the status quo. And public school teachers and administrators exercise a vernacular of words and phrases that sound exactly as if this is what they do. But the fact of the matter is that they cannot do for students what they cannot do for themselves.  One of the last things an administrator said to me at my last meeting was, "This place isn't built for change."

The teacher's Unions, the administrative unions, the local Boards of Education, the State Board of Education, the commercial education interests, the lobbyists, the status quo parents of college track students, and the armies of sub-professional employees all act in the interest of the system. The system being a paper mill that certifies public school seat time. The system prefers being a monopoly.

Is there anyone out there who would not roll their eyes when someone mentions that "a fox should not be allowed to guard the henhouse"? Yet in education, most School Boards are populated by former teachers, teachers from a district away, vested interests, government unionists, and  so on. School Boards negotiate personnel contracts, curriculum, and much more.  Board members who don't fit that profile are considered incompetent outsiders. You're expected to be a fox to know a fox.

These days I think that public school alternatives may be the only thing that can save humanity.  The public schools need competition.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Congratulations Betsy DeVos

Now do something about this stuff: http://region19.blogspot.com/2010/06/random-stuff.html

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Miracle at the Connecticut State Education Department - Somebody Woke Up!

This news was unreported and buried by Connecticut's MSM. CT News Junkie seems to be a sole source.  This is the kind of news the State government wants to keep buried. Business as usual. Hide the racism.  Hide the incompetence.Let's all be polite because that's what its all about.

I've been watching Connecticut do everything in its power to ignore, slow, and kill any attempt at closing a racial and class divide that keeps generations of children and young adults on a treadmill to early death, povrty subsistence, or a life in prison. We don't call it that.  We call it an education gap.  the gap being that the poor and urban populations of color must understand that there's nothing here for them - no college track, no snowflake, entitlement  treatment - no future except that their children will rinse and repeat this same cycle.

So yeah, a miracle of sorts happened. A State of Connecticut Board member aroused from a bureacratically induced coma;

State Board of Education member Malia K. Sieve listened for close to an hour Wednesday as her fellow board members and professionals in the field discussed Connecticut’s disappointing results on a well-known nationwide science test.She listened to speakers and watched slide-after-slide on an overhead projector of other states surpassing Connecticut in the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress science assessment.< She listened as some said the “good news’’ was that the achievement gap between minority and white students has shrunk since the last testing period in the state.
When she finally spoke up, her words captured the full attention of her fellow board members.“I’m so fired up, not in a good way,” Sieve said. Sieve is a director at HCM Strategies where her full-time job is to work with institutional leaders on education policy. “I’m tired of us all talking so politely,” Sieve said. What the test results clearly indicate, Sieve said, “is we do a better job with one population. We’re doing a whole lot better by our white kids.”Apologizing for getting emotional, Sieve went on to say that, “We act like if we talk politely — it will all be fine.”But by doing that it means “we have not decided that we have to do anything differently yet,” Sieve said. Sieve’s passionate words came after a presentation about nationwide science tests taken by fourth and eighth graders in 2015 that showed Connecticut is falling behind other states, though Education Department Chief Performance Officer Ajit Gopalakrishnan and Renee Savoie, an education consultant, termed the state’s performance as “stagnant.’’

Yeah, "stagnant" is one way of putting it. Maliciously racist might be another. we've been engaged in this dance of irresponsibility for many, many decades.  The State Board of Education has been as worthless a bureacratic body as any in government. Hickups such as this one are a rarity and as you an see, you'll never hear about them unless you look hard.

Truth is that the high stakes testing is a lousy metric for evaluating our schools.  CT is mired in the Orwellian double-speak OF No Child Left Behind and all its draconian successors. All these programs dumb-down educational experiences for kids, Even by this poor metric iyt becomes obvious that CT schoolchildren can be reduced to incompetent parrots when subjegated to generations of comformity indicing brainwashing.

"Stagnant". Brain-dead is closer to the truth.  Malooy needs to flatten these organizations and repeal all the idiotic legislation that has so poisoned the system that we no longer recognise it. making it all go away is the best remedy for this nonsense.

Renditioning Teenagers

In a recent article in the Vice digital  magazine entitled "The Legal Industry for Kidnapping Teens" by Serena Solomon we are given a tour of one of the more controversial aspects of the never-ending "tough-love" industry.

The recipe for finding consumers for this business is simple.

"A critical aspect of the whole operation is gaining parental permission through an affidavit or power of attorney agreement. These agreements temporarily transfer parental rights to the youth transport company, giving workers permissions that include authorizing medical attention or restraining the young person. 
"In general, parents have enormously wide discretion with respect to decisions regarding their children. They can decide to leave their children with people and give them parental rights and no one can interfere," Philip Elberg, an attorney who has worked on cases involving the troubled teen industry, told me.
Elberg added that the large number of abuse complaints triggered by the troubled teen industry isn't matched by the small number of lawsuits because, among other reasons, unless there is a serious physical incident such as injury, sexual abuse, or death of a young person, there isn't much legal ground to stand on after authority has been handed over by the parent."Parents are often the victim," said Bush. "They are desperate to help their child and someone who is supposed to be a professional tells them that this is what they are supposed to do.""
So what happens to the teenager when their parents sign over parental rights?

The troubled teen or "tough love" industry is made up mostly of for-profit companies that promise to fix drug addiction, mental illness, and attitude problems. At the center of this industry are the behavioral programs, some accused of abusive practices and even causing the death of teen clients. If the behavioral program is the entrée, then the transportation service is the appetizer, often setting the tone for the treatment the young person will endure for the months or years to come. 
"They can be abducted against their will and this meets all the criteria of trauma," Dr. Nicole Bush, an associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, told me. Bush helped found the Alliance for the Safe, Therapeutic, and Appropriate Use of Residential Treatment (A START) to help protect young people from negligent residential programs and youth transport services.
Several of her teen clients who attended residential programs attribute their post-traumatic stress disorder to the youth transport services that picked them up. One client said she was taken when an SUV pulled up next to the family car. Another described two large men escorting her from a restaurant where she was eating with friends."They talk about nightmares, not being able to sleep alone, or needing a night light," Bush told me. "These are people are in their 20s and 30s, more than a decade after the event."
Bush is quick to point out that not all youth transport services are equal. A 2015 article in the Child and Youth Care Forum found after surveying 350 young people who attended a wilderness program (where nature expeditions are used as a type of therapy) that whether young people were transported or dropped off by a parent had little impact on the treatment outcome.
As far as I can see, "tough love" sure looks a lot more like "rough love" than anyone cares to admit.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Compromising National Security Through Public Schools

One of the most pernicious and successful ways in which cybernetic systems can be compromised is through the act of social engineering.  In other words, a human who has secure access to a system or systems is duped or is compromised by misplaced trust in a third party to granting access to the otherwise secure system.

In recent weeks, at least two public announcements have given me grave concern that the EO Smith School systems may have been compromised  in the recent past.

Most recently, the FBI issued the following;

"Targeting Activity Against State Board of Election Systems Summary 
The FBI received information of an additional IP address,, which was detected in the July 2016 compromise of a state’s Board of Election Web site. Additionally, in August 2016 attempted intrusion activities into another state’s Board of Election system identified the IP address, used in the aforementioned compromise.
Technical Details The following information was released by the MS-ISAC on 1 August 2016, which was derived through the course of the investigation. In late June 2016, an unknown actor scanned a state's Board of Election website for vulnerabilities using Acunetix, and after identifying a Structured Query Language (SQL) injection (SQLi) vulnerability, used SQLmap to target the state website. The majority of the data exfiltration occurred in mid-July. There were 7 suspicious IPs and penetration testing tools Acunetix, SQLMap, and DirBuster used by the actor, detailed in the indicators section below. "
The document goes into further detail of system contagion;

"Conduct vulnerability scans on local government and law enforcement websites and promptly remediate any vulnerabilities (or contact your hosting provider to do so on your behalf). Particular attention should be paid to SQLi vulnerabilities. Website hosting providers should also pay attention to vulnerabilities on other websites on the same server, which may provide a back-door into the local government's website."

Earlier ARSTechnica reported the existence of a previously unknown attack vehicle;

 ""Once installed, the main Project Sauron modules start working as 'sleeper cells,' displaying no activity of their own and waiting for 'wake-up' commands in the incoming network traffic," Kaspersky researchers wrote in a separate blog post. "This method of operation ensures Project Sauron’s extended persistence on the servers of targeted organizations."
Kaspersky researchers said they discovered the malware last September after a customer at an unidentified government organization hired them to investigate anomalous network traffic. They eventually unearthed a "strange" executable program library that was loaded into the memory of one of the customer's domain controller servers. The library was masquerading as a Windows password filter, which is something administrators typically use to ensure passwords match specific requirements for length and complexity. The module started every time a network or local user logged in or changed a password, and it was able to view passcodes in plaintext.
The main purpose of the malware platform was to obtain passwords, cryptographic keys, configuration files, and IP addresses of the key servers related to any encryption software that was in use. Infected groups include government agencies, scientific research centers, military organizations, telecommunication providers, and financial institutions in Russia, Iran, Rwanda, China, Sweden, Belgium, and possibly in Italian-speaking countries."
A number of years ago, some EO Smith students claim to have installed software (thought to be a for-credit school project) onto EO Smith, Town of Mansfield, CT and Mansfield Public Schools. Recent events have disclosed that the software was not written by the students but was outsourced to an eastern block country's software development firm paid for and sponsored by the student's parents in one form or another.

An internet search reveals numerous claims by the students about the scope and effectiveness of the software that appear to have no basis in fact. School officials claim the software was never allowed to co-exist with legitimate school systems.

Further discussion of this issue will be conducted at the September 20th curriculum meeting.

The revelations introduce disturbing questions about the academic veracity of the school's program, the ethical veracity of the claims of the students, and serves as a wake-up call to all public schools when it comes to their system relationship to broader government systems.

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Winds of Change

I received an email from CABE, the Ct Association of Boards of Education, a few days ago. It contained some surprising news in a deja vu kind of way.

"Over the course of 3 hours, Judge Moukawsher read his decision in the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell case. While the Judge did not see it as the role of the court to order specific additional state funding, he issued a series of orders requiring the state to come back within 180 days with plans to revise many aspects of Connecticut’s education system. 
The state must submit proposed reforms consistent with this opinion on the following subjects:
  •  the relationship between the state and local government in education.
  •  an educational aid and school construction formula that is rational, substantial and verifiable
  •  a definition of elementary and secondary education, including an objective and mandatory statewide graduation standard
  •  standards for hiring, firing, evaluating, and paying education professionals;
  •  funding, identification, and educational services standards for special education.
Once the state submits its proposed remedies, the plaintiffs will have 60 days to comment on them and propose alternatives. 
A hearing will then be scheduled."
At face value and assuming we haven't done this dance a few times before, this looks promising.  Then again, considering the principals involved, it can become a cluster-muck of frightening and expensive special interest featherbedding.

Whatever good comes of this will likely manifest itself as one or more unintended consequences of the measures adopted.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Unethical Uses of Psychological Expertise

I'm becoming increasingly interested in the ethics of psychology specifically when it concerns digital media.

A particularly interesting debate has been sparked by the post-911 torture and abuse controversy.

"For Dr. Bradley Olson, who is past president of APA Division 48, which studies peace, conflict, and violence, using one’s training to assist in a mission like JTRIG’s, which involves the deception and manipulation of unsuspecting targets, is inherently problematic. Using one’s “expertise, research, or consultation to guide deceptive statements, even the statements of others, when the deceptive intentions are clearly documented … that is against psychological ethics,” according to Olson, who has collaborated with Soldz, including as a co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. “This is a terrible, terrible violation of psychological ethics” and a violation of the APA’s ethical standards, he added."

Another point of interest, selective publishing: 

"In psychology research, there is a particular problem with researchers who selectively publish some of their experiments to guarantee a positive result. "Let's say you have this theory that, when you play Mozart, people want to pay more for musical instruments," says Simonsohn. "So you do a study and you play Mozart (or not) and you ask people, 'How much would you pay for a piano or flute and five instruments?'"
If it turned out that only the price of a single type of instrument, violins, say, went up after people had listened to Mozart, it would be possible to publish a research paper that omitted the fact that the researchers had ever asked about any other instruments. This would not allow the reader to make a proper assessment of the strength of the effect that Mozart may (or may not) have on how much a person would pay for musical instruments.
Fanelli has examined this positive result bias. He looked at 4,600 studies across all disciplines between 1990 and 2007, and counted the number of papers that, after declaring an intent to test a particular hypothesis, reported a positive support for it. The overall frequency of positive supports had grown by more than 22% over this time period. In a separate study, Fanelli found that "the odds of reporting a positive result were around five times higher among papers in the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry and economics and business compared with space science"."

And, of course, there's money and entitlement that drive certain unethical behaviors;

Whether affluenza is real or imagined, money really does change everything, as the song goes — and those of high social class do tend to see themselves much differently than others. Wealth (and the pursuit of it) has been linked with immoral behavior — and not just in movies like The Wolf of Wall Street. Psychologists who study the impact of wealth and inequality on human behavior have found that money can powerfully influence our thoughts and actions in ways that we’re often not aware of, no matter our economic circumstances. Although wealth is certainly subjective, most of the current research measures wealth on scales of income, job status or measures of socioeconomic circumstances, like educational attainment and intergenerational wealth.

Hmmm. Some of this sounds all too familiar.

Edit: I located the UConn Ethics hotline for any of you out there who may have questions about any local activities that come to mind;

"You may use the University’s confidential reportline at 1-888-685-2637 to report any compliance concerns you may have. Individuals who report in good faith possible compliance issues will be afforded confidentiality and/or anonymity to the extent possible under the law. Also, you may file a complaint directly with the Office of State Ethics."

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Return to American Free Speech

There's a tendency to believe that high school students graduate into the adult world but anyone who is a parent knows better.  Today the exposure to mass culture is saturating and a large part of that saturation is an exposure to the most exotic and raw aspects of human nature and behavior.

But the victim mentality has crept into every aspect of life and the easiest way to deny free speech these days is to claim that the speech of another is offensive to just one. And if the one happens to have the resources to threaten lawsuits the silence is absolute.

It is blissful to hear that the University of Chicago is making an attempt to steer America back to its cultural soul.

The University of Chicago recently made it clear to its crop of incoming students that academic freedom and inquiry remain pillars at the institution, and that the university does not support "so-called" trigger warnings or offer safe spaces that allow students "to retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own. Here is how the university welcomed its incoming class of 2020:
Welcome and congratulations on your acceptance to the college at the University of Chicago. Earning a place in our community of scholars is no small achievement and we are delighted that you selected Chicago to continue your intellectual journey.
Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression. … Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.
And then, the coup de grace:
Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.
You can read the entire letter below. (CLICK HERE to see how students and alumni responded.)

Love it!.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Republic of Mansfield (The Prequel)

On June 13, 2016, Cory Sipe a reporter for The Chronicle, a Willimantic, CT newspaper contacted me via email saying;
"Frank,  I would like to talk with you about a letter sent to the BOE referencing a story you wrote referencing a graduate on the Keep EO Smith Downtown Facebook page and other comments. I tried to call you at the number listed on the District 19 page but it just keeps ringing. I can be reached at 860-423-xxxx ext. 3339 or you can e-mail me back with a written response if you would like."
Later that day, I responded,

I am unaware of a letter referencing an EO Smith girl. The last thing I posted on a Mansfield site was a fiction piece that contained composite characters; two helicopter parents, a girl (e.g. Suzy Creamcheese), a boy (e.g Andy Ambitious), and a narrator. The setting is Mansfield, the kids graduates of EO Smith.

The garbage can manufacturer based on any number of CT start-up companies making a better mousetrap. There obviously is no space garbage can.

It was in response to a conversation with a fellow who didn't know who Salman Rushdie was to demonstrate that their constituency are more likely to take fiction seriously than factual documents.

Why?  What's going on?


Frank Krasicki"
My assumption was that Cory would circle back with more questions. My current contract is a profoundly time and energy-consuming R&D effort so when Cory did not get back in a timely manner I decided to annotate the story to clearly identify its allusions, metaphors, and so on to provide Cory and any other media or interested party a place to find the information without interrupting my work day or trying to contact me otherwise.  I do a 4-5 hour round-trip commute each day.

That annotated version was posted here and its purpose was simply to provide a public place to access the information.

Since then, the story has apparently taken on a life of its own. Like a scene from a Cheech and Chong comedy skit, numerous individuals claim that they know exactly who these fictional characters *ARE*.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Defining Academic Fraud and It's Consequences

A topic that recently has come to my attention and that I haven't written very much about lately is academic fraud in it's many guises. Some recent research into the subject happened upon an excellent definition from the 2010Academic Fraud Today: Its Social Causes and Institutional Responses by Richard A. Epstein journal article.

"Academic Fraud involves a deliberate effort to deceive and is distinguished from an honest mistake and honest differences in judgment or interpretation. Academic fraud is defined as plagiarism; fabrication or falsification of evidence, data, or results; the suppression of relevant evidence or data; the conscious misrepresentation of sources; the theft of ideas; or the intentional misappropriation of the research work or data of others."
A related article from The Prospect titled, "Why not to exaggerate on your scholarship applications" by Katlyn Tolly includes a section called Don’t Commit the Crime if You Can’t Do the Time.

"When it comes to scholarship or college applications, lying is taken very seriously. According to the Voice of America website, Kara Jo Humphrey, an admission counselor at Truman University quoted, “If an outright lie is detected, the student has already agreed through signing the application for admission that they accept the grounds for dismissal from the institution and the inability to participate in any and all other privileges that go along with attendance. Other consequences may bar them from ever applying/being accepted to attend the school at a later date.” In other words, if you’re caught lying, the school has the right to expel you from the university or worse. You now have a permanent label attached to your name and record as “the student who lied on their application.” It may be difficult for you to make a comeback in the college scene."
And in a fairly recent case reported in The New York Times, Yale Student is Accused of Lying on Application by Karen W. Arenson the consequences can reach from beyond mere academia.

"To Yale admissions officials, Akash Maharaj was an appealing prospect: He had earned straight A’s at Columbia University. Now he wanted to transfer. Yale not only admitted him; it gave him a $32,000 scholarship as well.
Since then, however, much of his application information has turned out to be false, Yale said, and he is facing charges in Connecticut of larceny and forgery. "

We're going to explore this topic in much more detail in the coming weeks.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Higher Education Statistics

About a week or two ago, I got an email from the Courant that illustrated an interesting statistic, the national average of students attending higher education (for 2013).  It says 66% of ALL students who graduated in 2013 attended an institution of higher education.

For EO Smith that number was 71% for 2013 and over time we average 69%.

Now, some people will claim we are marginally higher because of our proximity to UConn.

Others might compare our costs to national averages and attribute it to that.

Yet others might look at it and call it an anomaly.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Annotated Republic of Mansfield

Decomposing "The Republic of Mansfield" Microfiction

It's been many years since I last published a Microfiction.  Most were published in a Xerox magazine that I co-published in the mid-eighties in NYC called "Silicon Daze".
Every once in a decade or so I attempt resurrecting the Daze in digital formats but soon get overwhelmed by time and circumstance.

The Republic of Mansfield, unlike previous stories, is more complex and political than anything I've written before.

These days I sit on a Regional High School Board in Connecticut and I sit on a sub-committee that has been evaluating school building needs.

After years of study and unaffordable architectural proposals, the committee is pursuing selling and swapping  the Regional school assets to the University of Connecticut.
The existing school and property sit in downtown Mansfield right next to UConn.  It once belonged to UConn and these days, due to University growth the property and assets hold real value.

At this point in time, we're just doing due diligence in attempting to find out if UConn and Region 19 have something feasible enough to take to voters to approve.

Behind the scenes, two University psychology lecturers organized a Facebook webpage group opposing the Board's initiative to bring the matter to a vote assuming such a negotiation were feasible.

At stake for the citizens of the Region is an opportunity to afford a state of the art new high school as opposed to affording little more than routine maintenance on the existing school.
And clearly the existing facility has exhausted its mission as a viable 21st century high school which will be costly once the reality becomes obvious.

In very short order, the website critical of any attempt to vacate the existing school for a new one began manufacturing FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] at an alarming rate.
Furthermore, the tactic was truly affecting the community at large. In an attempt to simply eliminate as much of the disinformation as possible, I (citizen me) answered as truthfully and bluntly as possible whatever concerns were being raised.

In equally short order, the responses I was getting was that everything I refuted with fact or reason was either a lie, propaganda, or proof I [and the Board] had surreptitious and self-serving motives.
It was not only obvious that few if any of this cohort were interested in facts but they began to behave like traditional hate groups who have no interest in community good at all. Nor were they interested in eliminating rumor, innuendo, or red herring arguments from the discussion.

As a fan of Daniel Kahneman, I was aware that his prescription for attempting to talk sense to say Climate Change deniers is to change the story or provide a different narrative that clears the intellectual -cough- constipation.

My thought was that this group was as likely to treat pure fiction [satire] as an opposing truth that they were compelled to reject because they rejected everything from the outside. Just such a story needed to be hatched.

I spent a week or so constructing a framework loosely inspired by the David Foster Wallace book, Infinite Jest but instead of a massive volume the story would fit on a single sheet of paper as my previous stories had been done.

The Republic of Mansfield was the setting, a self-entitled set of fascia characters representing a typical Mansfield family. Beneath that, Mansfield could be any well-to-do white American town.
One [serious] theme on the Facebook site warned of ghosts. I used that idea to create subliminal doppelganger character counterparts who remain invisible to the casual reader are those who live in the community who are unrepresented and who assume no entitlement status.
The STEM reference was based on another criticism. The cadence of the story - one dubious act after another intended to suggest objection while reading like business as usual. 

The pivotal theme of the story hinges on the double-entendre phrase "role model" or "roll model". It refers to an obscure scholarship once earned by a couple of EO Smith students for creating clothes made out of duct tape. The actual students have nothing to do with the story except as archetypes nor does the scholarship - the duct tape roll becoming the story 'glue'.

I liked the idea that the authentic students we graduate are often metaphorically duct-taped together enough to survive high school and move on. And the students of entitlement need the same metaphorical duct tape as reality catches up with fantasy.

With that in place the rest of the story is little more than a composite of character sketches and cut-up rumor segments exaggerated to fit an entitlement mentality. The fascia parents - helicopter parents showering money and favor on their children.

And  their, "mirror, mirror on the wall... who's the fairest of them all.. " children to become the royalty of academic nations.

The subliminal characters enjoy no such special treatment, borrow to get ahead, and get no special attention.

The "space garbage cans" are loosely related to yet another rumor found on the Facebook group page that alluded to UConn chemical spills in the town of Mansfield. For the story, what better solution than imply such things could be shot into outer space instead of dumped locally?  But why stop there? In a world of IPOs, why shouldn't everyone on the planet shoot their toxic garbage out to distant worlds?

And the EO Smith "special place" is being forever stuck in EO Smith as if in a Twilight Zone episode where the wish of never leaving and never changing is granted. 

By now you're probably wondering why I bother deconstructing the satire. Well, the story apparently *was taken seriously" in some fit of literal interpretation. So, in fact, the fiction - a satirical rumor construct wrapped in mock science fiction wrapped in first person narrative has taken on a life of its own.

Here it is:

"So the other day, I hear a story about an EO Smith graduate that is a bit entertaining that I'd like to share. It's about a young lady who graduates from EO and goes off to a big University and winds up in a STEM program or something like that.
In pretty short order, her dad, a cynical guy who thinks money can corrupt the system proves that he's not so cynical after all. Maybe her mom from what I hear is quite the charmer all on her own, is involved as well.
Anyway, the dad. Well he and the girl cook up a cock and bull narrative about sending a garbage can into outer space and the whole world can throw something into the garbage can for a price. The garbage can is special because dad may have a financial interest in the manufacture of the can.
So the family invents a special academic grant that they self-fund and the University that cannot say no to cash... well... graciously devours. So far so good.

And wouldn't you know it that the academic grant could apply to just about any worthy student in the University Department and is a glove fit - believe it or not - - wouldn'tcha know it- - son of a gun - - for the daughter.

Before you know it, the daughter is now given a special title because of the entanglement of the garbage can's very special interest to a government agency dedicated to sending junk into space! Who cares if the narrative reads like the back of a Fruit Loops box.

By now the spin is out of control. The media picks up on the daughter as if she's running a government agency program! She becomes a cover model for a magazine celebrating the hard earned achievements of women everywhere. What else can the poor girl do but unfriend everyone she went to high school with? Now she's a *role model*.

By now, what started out as an insider nod-and-wink "family assist" has taken on a life of its own. Kids all over the world want to put their trash in the garbage can and pay money to do it. Dad is in heaven. So the family entangles the younger son in the garbage business to manage finances.
So I say to the guy telling me this story, "So what happened? I have some trash I'd like to throw into space and crash into a planet too."

The fellow just shakes his head and says, "Nobody knows. The evidence was thrown into the garbage can. But what we do know is that they love garbage and they love EO Smith just as it is."
Heartwarming stuff. Kind of choked me up when I thought about the special place EO Smith has for this family.

I love inspiring stories."

Sunday, April 24, 2016

AntiDisciplinary Learning and High School Curriculums

The term "21st Century School" has become an empty catchphrase for the architecture and construction of schools that are still stuck in Carnegie Seat time classes and business as usual in a fashionably decorated child warehouse.

There's an unholy political dance that has subsumed intelligent discussion about public education and for the purposes of this essay we'll not revisit that topic.

At EO Smith, the Building Committee is now engaged in performing due diligence in gathering and formalizing ideas about the potential for  developing a new facility. Potential is the key word because getting from here to there is a complex process.

A month or so ago MIT announced a new magazine that it called antidisciplinary ( a Joi Ito original phrase - see: http://slice.mit.edu/2016/03/25/pubpub-and-jods-meet-antidisciplinary-design-and-science/).  That conceptual framework for a magazine got me  to thinking about educational possibilities.

I wrote this email to the stakeholders at EO Smith today;

"At our last Building Committee meeting I made a comment about anti-disciplinary learning without enough context to make it sound like anything more than a guy blowing smoke.

So let me clarify and offer a phenomenal video that illustrates the concept.

The interdisciplinary concept sounds good and has been tried over and over with occasional but fading success.  It's largely a dead-end. And its a dead-end because it continues to to try to union together two subjects as if they were autonomous stovepipes of guarded knowledge. 

So at EO we have successfully implemented Big Picture that allows individual students who have a personal calling to pursue that.

But what the world increasingly looks like is something different and we catch glimpses of it with kickstarter and open source projects.  It is this. The problems individuals are expected to help solve are no longer can be solved by the sole individual. And so for high schools, this means a new kind of Big Picture (maybe Broad Picture) - one in which a semester of learning no longer has to do with "subjects" but of the learning involved in examining [tho not necessarily solving] a very complex problem like the one presented in the video.  You don't have enough fingers and toes to count the instances of math, art, history, critical thinking and so on involved in the presentation.

Okay, so "why would we do this in high school? Isn't this for post high school?  The answer is that of the students who do go on to college, fewer than a third ever graduate by age thirty or so. take into consideration the number who never attend and it becomes obvious how critical sophisticated high school learning is. 

One last note. the Long Now Foundation is Stuart Brand's follow-up to the Whole Earth catalog. His wife is attempting to clone a Woolly Mammoth in addition to other extinct animals and this presentation by Jane Langdale is shockingly accessible and interesting throughout.  The Q and A at about 2/3 through is great. Try fitting this into subject-based learning. 


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Arne Duncan Is Finally on His Way Out



I tried this comment with the the Times;

"So the reign of terror is being reigned in. Rather than be allowed to resign and collect a fat federal pension, Duncan should be put on trial for child abuse. Good lord get the federal government out of the Education business. Close the Department of Education forever."

Haven't heard a word since.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

School Bus Technology

One of the subjects of interest that the Region 19 Digital Learning Committee will be discussing this year is School Bus Technology.  We talk a lot about school technology but the most tragic headlines seem to involve high-risk students and school bus incidents.

And given the high-tech advances in automobiles its time to examine school bus technology.

The following video is a useful, indirect start;