Friday, June 30, 2006

John Kerry on Net Neutrality

From [in part];

Stopping the Big Giveaway - by John Kerry

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest blog for by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.):

I voted against this lousy bill for two reasons: because net neutrality and internet build-out are crucial to building a more modern and fair Information Society, and both were pushed aside by the Republicans.

Everyone says they don’t want the new world we’re living in to be marked by the digital divide — the term is so clich├ęd it’s turned to mush — but yesterday was a test of who is willing to ask corporate America to do anything to fix it, and the Commerce Committee failed miserably. Why are United States Senators afraid to say that companies should be expected to foster growth by building out their broadband networks to increase access?

Free and open access to the internet is something all Americans should enjoy, regardless of what financial means they’re born into or where they live. It is profoundly disappointing that the Senate is going let a handful of companies hold internet access hostage by legalizing the cherry-picking of cable service providers and new entrants. That is a dynamic that would leave some communities with inferior service, higher cable rates, and even the loss of service. Not to mention inadequate internet service — in the age of the information.

This bill was passed in committee over our objections. Now we need to fight to either fix it or kill it in the full Senate. Senator Wyden has already drawn a line in the sand — putting a “hold” on the bill, which prevents it from going forward for now. But there will be a day of reckoning on this legislation soon, make no mistake about it, and we need you to get engaged — pressure your Senators, follow the issue, demand net neutrality and build-out.

Enough said.

School 2.0; Confront the Boy's Education Crisis

We're being lied to again. It matters very little. In the reign of terror that the Bush administration has been, few people care. Politicians believe that Americans will believe anything because we so often do.

For instance, the other day Joe Lieberman accused Ned Lamont of being a Republican! Could Lewis Carroll have written anything more absurd? Yet, we are daily bombarded with news that 40 years ago would have been described as nothing less than a bad acid trip requiring psychiatric observation. Today, this is typical Fox/MSM news - nothing shocks, nothing is obscene, humiliation is the order of the day.

The other day I posted a study indicating that there was no 'boy crisis' and another indicating what wonderful [by government standards] graduation rates students have today. The pieces smelled funny.

A few months ago the LA Times [as posted here earlier] reported that graduation rates, drop-out rates, and post-secondary statistics were very dubious. First, bad statistics mean trouble for school administrators so excuses like, "the dog ate the data" are not unusual to disguise troubled school practices. Secondly, fudging this data to look better has become a national education priority to artificially prop up the NCLB elixar being shopped by the federal Department of Education.

Let's re-examine whether or not there's an anti-boy bias in education. Click on the title link to read more. Here's a discussion point or two;

The Problem with Boys by Tom Chiarella
Esquire Magazine, July 2006, Volume 146, Issue 1

There's something equally forbidden about arguing the ongoing boys crisis. It's a loser. It doesn't sell. It doesn't translate as much more than a hobbyhorse for conservative think tanks.

But here's the deal if you are a boy in this country right now: You're twice as likely as a girl to be diagnosed with an attention-deficit or learning disorder. You're more likely to score worse on standardized reading and writing tests. You're more likely to be held back in school. You're more likely to drop out of school. If you do graduate, you're less likely to go to college. If you do go to college, you will get lower grades and, once again, you will be less likely to graduate. You'll be twice as likely to abuse alcohol, and until you are twenty-four, you are five times as likely to kill your self. You are more than sixteen times as likely to go to prison.

"As long as ten years ago, we started seeing the data that showed boys were slipping behind," says Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, an advocacy group for low-income and minority students. "People were still arguing: We don't have a boys problem, we have a girls problem. It just didn't match what these data say. There's still a lot of resistance among rank-and-file educators."

The growing achievement gap between boys and girls has landed in our laps. Fueled by slim percentages in some cases, the numbers are stacking up over time. We're faced with the accrual of a significant population of boys who aren't well prepared for either school or work. "The problem," says Haycock,"is what this will add up to in twenty years."


In the classroom, there's ample evidence that certain changes could help boys prosper. They like to do their work in bite-sized chunks. They need differing levels of activity, often tied to some element of competition or short-term goal. They tend to gravitate toward nonfiction in their reading—more facts, shorter pieces. They need physical activity, too, up to four recesses a day, to stay focused.

We also have to think about the way boys put the world together outside the classroom. In England, gaps in achievement have been attributed, in part, to what is known as laddishness. Since boys tend to run in packs, their values are defined by the boys who lead them. There's a sort of antiestablishment disaffection passed from boy to boy, a sense that school doesn't matter. Educators there used that pattern as a means to reinvent it. They used intensely focused mentorship, aimed at the pack leaders, to break down these attitudes, cracking into the structures that keep boys distant from school.

Women forced the issue with girls. Men have to do the same with boys. As it is now, men don't even have the language to discuss what it means to be male. Forget the Right and the Left. I am as skeptical of character training, championed by conservatives as the answer to the crisis, as I am scornful of sensitivity training, which put our classrooms in their current posture. We don't need a new orthodoxy. We need a deeper sense of involvement.

Men have to be willing to care about the way boys are being treated, taught, and cared for in this country and advocate for them. Find the books that boys read—they are out there—and make sure they are in the libraries and under the Christmas trees. If the classrooms don't work, men must be in the schools—at the PTA meetings, at parent-teacher conferences, in front of school boards, in classes teaching or just talking about their jobs. Young men, men without children, must take a stake and volunteer to coach, to counsel, to read to kids. You can't wait for fatherhood to hit you in the face. Men whose children are grown must mentor a new generation of children. Select two boys, the ones who need it, the ones you know are hurting. Take a lesson from Joel Klein and convince two more men to do the same. Two more men: That's your assignment.

Go talk to boys. You don't have to use baby talk with them or buy them things. You just have to listen to them. Ask them who they are. The answers they give may not always make sense, but talk to enough of them and you will surely realize that boys themselves are not the problem. And it sure as hell isn't women or girls.

The problem is men.

Powerful stuff. Read the entire article, it is very worthwhile.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Action Alert: Help Preserve Internet Freedom

Wyden to Block Telecom Bill Without Net Neutrality
June 28th, 2006 by tkarr

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has placed a “hold” on major telecommunications legislation recently approved by the Senate Commerce Committee until clear language is included in the legislation that prevents discrimination in Internet access.

Immediately following the Commerce Committee’s vote against a Net Neutrality amendment, Senator Wyden marched onto the floor of the Senate to demand that the legislation include stronger safeguards against phone and cable company discrimination.

“The major telecommunications legislation reported today by the Senate Commerce Committee is badly flawed,” Wyden told the Senate, according to the transcript of his speech:

“The bill makes a number of major changes in the country’s telecommunications law but there is one provision that is nothing more than a license to discriminate. Without a clear policy preserving the neutrality of the Internet and without tough sanctions against those who would discriminate, the Internet will be forever changed for the worse.”

Click the links to see where you can contact a Senator to advocate for net neutral communications legislation. This is as important as the Bill of Rights. No kidding.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Good News; Only 10% of CT Children Living in Poverty.

Yeah, isn't that great news. The national average of children living in poverty is a whopping 18%.

The good news doesn't end there either. I received a CABE document saying that Connecticut [and you have to be sitting down for this news] passed a new law allowing state funds to be spent to fund NCLB. Can you stand it? That's right, not only are the feds underfunding this steaming pile of legislation but the State of Connecticut has just empowered the feds to further underfund Connecticut schools. Yep, Connecticut already underfunds local school districts but has found money in their magic taxpayer-funded giant wallet to support NCLB.

Now if the State would simply fund the local schools for trivialities like, um, education.

From the Courant;

State's Children Better Off This Year, Study Says, June 27, 2006, By MAYA RAO, Courant Staff Writer

The study reports that 10 percent of children in Connecticut are living in poverty, better than the 11 percent reported last year. The national average is 18 percent.

But 25 percent of Connecticut's children live at income levels that are twice the federal poverty level or less. Even at the higher income level, the families are considered low-income because of Connecticut's high cost of living, Carroll said.

Sue Wilson, a researcher at the Child Health and Development Institute of Farmington, said families in the state generally are not considered self-sufficient until their incomes rise to at least three times the federal poverty level.

"We are a high-income, high-cost state, so the national poverty level is really magnified ... and it falls heavily on families with young children," Wilson said.

I only mention news like this because Joe Lieberman and Rob Simmons contimue to blow smoke up our pant legs about what they've done for Connecticut. With representation like this in Washington, who needs enemies?

And the State legislators need to have their heads examined as well. The teacher's pension fund is being raided, NCLB is being funded but local schools are still begging voters for funding, and tax relief is nowhere in sight.

Hopefully the voters will wake these people up in the coming election.

Beatles Mutation

I don't know who the sacred cowboy is but these tracks are worth a summer vacation listen. File them under musical education. [Click on the link and beware the Blue Meanies]

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Reactionary 'Boy' Crisis?

Just when we thought the education dialogue between government and local school districts couldn't get any more absurd comes this new report that turns everything we worry about on its head. Reading crisis? Math crisis? No.

This generation is smarter and better prepared than their predecessors. I'm not kidding.

Study Casts Doubt On the 'Boy Crisis', Improving Test Scores Cut Into Girls' Lead by Jay Mathews, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, June 26, 2006.

According to the report, reading achievement by 9-year-old boys increased 15 points on a 500-point scale between 1971 and 2004, and girls that age increased seven points, remaining five points ahead of boys. Reading achievement for 13-year-olds improved four points for boys and three points for girls, with girls 10 points ahead. Among 17-year-olds, there was almost no change in reading achievement, with girls up one point, boys down one point and girls 14 points ahead.

In mathematics achievement between 1973 and 2004, 9-year-old boys gained 25 points and girls gained 20 points, with boys ending up three points ahead. Thirteen-year-old boys increased 18 points and girls 12 points, with boys three points ahead. Among 17-year-olds, boys lost one point, girls gained four and boys were three points ahead.

The report notes that boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities. Two-thirds of students in special education classes are male. But, it notes, "the number of girls with disabilities has also grown rapidly in recent decades, meaning this is not just a boy issue."

Some of today's focus on boys might be backlash to legal remedies such as the 1972 Title IX law set up to ensure equality in education for girls, critics say. For several decades, school systems have worked to steer girls into more skilled math and science classes. Now girls in high school appear to be better prepared for college than boys, the report said. But, it adds, both sexes are taking more college-level courses, such as calculus, than ever.

More men are enrolling in college, and the share of men ages 25 to 29 with a college degree, 22 percent, is significantly higher than that of older men. The study did note that women are enrolling and graduating from college at higher rates than men.

The "boy crisis," the report says, has been used by conservative authors who accuse "misguided feminists" of lavishing resources on female students at the expense of males and by liberal authors who say schools are "forcing all children into a teacher-led pedagogical box that is particularly ill-suited to boys' interests and learning styles."

"Yet there is not sufficient evidence -- or the right kind of evidence -- available to draw firm conclusions," the report says. "As a result, there is a sort of free market for theories about why boys are underperforming girls in school, with parents, educators, media, and the public choosing to give credence to the explanations that are the best marketed and that most appeal to their pre-existing preferences."

It occurs to me that legal mandates like Title IX, NCLB, and others are historical artifacts that do more to distort education, parents, and children than they do to remedy whatever perceived social ill they're intended to resolve. Education needs a break from the manufactured issues that currently pollute our understanding of how children learn.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Up by 40 Points, Time for the Full Court Press

My son plays summer league basketball and he and the rest of the EO Smith squad enjoy it for what it is - an opportunity to play together, get some exercise, and hopefully hone some skills as a team.

But last night only five players showed up meaning there were no substitutions available. Usually this is a good thing. The fellows who show up get the minutes they each want. And it's a great opportunity to show what you can do.

But last night Windsor's team showed up with ten players, enough to substitute every player so that the player was fresh every five minutes. Again, no big deal.

But by five minutes into the game Windsor pressed EO and by that time the lead was commanding and would do nothing but increase all game long. The final score was a fifty point differential.

By the end of the game I was curious as to the number of fouls each team had committed because Windsor had run the full court press against EO SMith the entire game even after a comfortable and insurmountable lead.

In my book this is unethical and unconscionable and quite frankly I think the coach should be removed. Here's why.

First, this is poor sportsmanship. No sportsman one plays any game to humiliate or to be humiliated. Period.

Secondly, this is a summer league activity. The gym is hot and the league has certain rules that are intended to prevent injuries. For example, you can't dunk. If you do it's a technical foul that awards the other team four points [if memory serves me correctly] and the ball.

Yet, no such rule is applied to overwhelming the other team by sheer numbers and force. This is not the first time I have watched opposing coaches press a full game against another team that is clearly overwhelmed for one reason or another. And I've seen this happen in very young leagues where small town teams play rabid bigger town teams. Often the kids are not natural athletes but that's beside my immediate argument.

My argument is not about the winning or losing because that is truly inconsequential in a pickup game. And a team that's short of players is not inferior to a team rich in bench strength so better and worse are not the issue either.

And EO Smith players are very well conditioned so that is not the issue - they played, took a humiliating loss, and walked away humbled but it didn't kill them so hopefully they got better.

I talked to one of the referees after the game questioning why with such an obvious mismatch they didn't call the game to control the action a bit more - one team's players playing every minute under continuous duress and the other freely substituting everybody every four minutes with the expressed intent of running the undermanned team ragged.

I was told that a.) "This is just summer league, B.) "Don't worry, we wouldn't foul out anyone from your team, C.) "What do you want me to do call the game differently?", and D.) "I can't let what happens on the sidelines effect my calling of the game."

I was put in a logical and ethical bind myself. Point D is true and self-evident. The ref can't weight bad coaching, undermanned teams and over-manned teams into consideration. They can't.

But my answer (after sleeping on it) to Point C is that I do expect referees to call a game differently in certain circumstances. These games are meaningless. Would Windsor have suffered winning by 40, 30, 20 instead of 50 because a referee slowed the game down a bit allowing a five man team a breather occasionally? I doubt it.

Besides, the referee already was using Point A to disarm my protest, "Who cares?" But with Point B, he already admitted that the game was being called "differently". By calling fewer fouls on both teams the five man team HAD to play the full game but the other team was also commiting fouls that were not being called. In reality this exascerbates the plight of the under-manned team. They have to play and they have to play without hope of getting a call to slow the tempo of the game.

And honestly, I listen to NBA games where the announcer says unapologetically, "the referees are taking control of this game early to keep it from getting out of hand". Are the NBA referees out of line? No.

Someday, I'll read that kid collapse on the court because a rogue summer league basketball coach "is just practicing the fast break" for a full game against an overwhelmed team. I'll remember that a player isn't allowed to dunk because he might get hurt but he can be run ragged by misguided coaches in a hot sweaty gym and nobody raises an eyebrow.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Anyone remember the The Middle Class?

The Washington Post ran an article the other day that talks about a study examining the disappearing middle class neighborhoods in American cities.

We all know New Orleans was and maybe still is America's poorest city but few know Connecticut's big cities are not far behind. Under Bush, we all make believe we need more data to identify "failing schools". Presumably this is a mystery despite over fifty years of knowing full well exactly where these schools are.

Yet our participatory Homerism prevents us from any objectivity here. We are living in the dark ages of belligerent belief systems that can call into question every obvious scientific and sociological truth we hold dear. So America pretends that No Child Left Behind metrics will somehow reveal more desirable truths than the fact that poverty and poverty neighborhoods cheat those children.

The manufactured truth America, white, black and otherwise want to prove is that their child is being shortchanged as though learning to read was a biological truth like growing a head. NCLB trivializes learning, children, and diminishes the professionalism of teachers.

So, out of the blue this article reports that:
"No city in America has gotten more integrated by income in the last 30 years," said Alan Berube, an urban demographer at Brookings who worked on the report.

"It means that if you are not living in one of the well-off areas, you are not going to have access to the same amenities - good schools and safe environment - that you could find 30 years ago," he said.

Let's repeat the important assertion that the Brookings Institute makes. That is if you are not living in one of the well-off areas, you are not going to have access to the same amenities - good schools and safe environment.

If Brookings doesn't need NCLB to establish this fact why is the Department of Education confused? After all, this is OBVIOUS. I mean it. You don't need NCLB or Brookings or some Libertarian think tank to figure this stuff out. This is remedial 7th grade social studies.

That is, except to the current regime.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Globalization Steamroller has No Brakes

Today the Courant reports that Connecticut teachers who could have had their jobs put in jeopardy by new bureaucratic educational quality metrics are safe.

U.S., State Reach Accord, Feds Approve Local Procedures For Evaluating Educators, June 21, 2006, By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer

Earlier this spring, Sternberg said she feared the federal law might require teachers to undergo testing or further training to demonstrate their competence. Now, however, U.S. officials have agreed that they can establish their qualifications in job reviews conducted by local school districts.

Betty Sternburg did a nice job with this as she continues to impress me with the job she's done. She's recently resigned and I will miss her because it may go downhill from here at the State Department of Education.

Of course this crisis in teacher qualifications is wholly manufactured by a Federal Department of Education that's being run like Abu Ghraib prison. The idea is to punish older teachers by creating a bureaucratic double-standard that essentially puts their jobs at risk [you know, to save money].

In Connecticut this is a nasty business. Teachers are required to teach after death to receive their pensions, so harassing twenty and thirty year veteran teachers is about as low as the Federal government can stoop. Actually, they've stooped much lower but I get sick thinking about that part.

A subplot to this story is Margaret Spellings's Magical Mysterty Tours to our global competitors. When she is not acting as Laura Bush's hand maiden, Margaret is learning about -cough- improving education. More and more states are importing inexpensive teacher stand-ins and implementing virtual classes delivered from overseas.

Teachers should be afraid. Be very afraid. Ask anyone who works with computers. When a Washington politician says they want to learn something in India, China, or a third-world competitor they come home with cash sticking out of their shorts and a new plan for outsourcing in their legislation.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Students Stuck Up at the Prom

Please take a minute to vote for two EOSmith students who participated in an aristic endeavor called "Stuck at the Prom". Holly Nelson designed and created matching prom outfits made of duct tape.

In this contest EO Smith can be awarded a cash prize to honor Holly's creativity, hard work, and courage (they attended the prom wearing these creations).

I've made the voting link easy (title link or):

Bing Xu and Holly Nelson's entry appears on PAGE 9 and is entry # 3781.

Enjoy the site and give them your vote. There are tons of enties so every vote counts! All the site requires is an email address after you make your selection.

And if the voting makes you feel good spread the word.

Monday, June 19, 2006

School 2.0, American Education on Learning Steroids

The latest ruling in Colorado that allows common law marriages for 15 year olds underscores an important phenomenon in American teenager's biology and cultural reality. Children are maturing faster than ever before.

This is not to imply that they're smarter or more capable of succeeding on their own - simply that they are different. Add to this reality the acceleration of technology that they swim in and we are looking at an entirely different sociological phenomenon.

Yet our schools haven't changed aside from cosmetic arguments and methodologies intended to obfuscate the shame second-class education being delivered on silver platters to the poor.

School needs to change forever.

First, the Jr high school years need to be recalibrated from grades 7 - 9 to 7 - 8.5. Teens should start high school in mid-year of eighth grade. They are old enough for it and the senior-itis that afflicts these teens will diminish due to the necessity of learning the new high school environments.

For the high schools, this half-semester is an opportunity to recalibrate the curriculum to learn about this class of students intimately with testing and guidance.

At the high school level, the same metric will apply. Second semester seniors will need to leave the building to perform their last semester. This means a semester of earning college money, directed study, or volunteerism. Again, senior-itis is eliminated, local businesses and non-profits acquire an inexpensive talent pool, and students get a taste of real life.

And, as long as we're re-inventing school, let's make NCLB testing optional. Those parents who want it for heir children can request it, those who don't can eliminate the headache, schools will save money and regain some interest. The true finding of NCLB testing is this: the more emphasis schools put on learning the so-called core competencies, the worse the result.

There's a good reason for this effect. Learning isn't an exclusive function of compartmentalized knowledge nor do children learn in a linear, progressive fashion.

The School 2.0 movement (I'm feeling my oats today), instead recognises that all children are unique and learn in symphonic harmony with the maturity of their biological and environmental stimuli. For curriculum this means eliminating hierarchical curriculum schemes with right-sized learning.

School 2.0 will require as much intensive upfront learning as communities can provide. Head-start programs, healthy eating initiatives, recommended entertainment venues, and nap time opportunities must become standard fare. Arithmetic will be mastered by grade 7.5 or remedite in the first year before taking higher math courses.

In the high schools, cross-departmental and cross-grade level learning initiatives must become at least 50% of every student's curriculum. And here, I can already hear the groan of teachers who will say, "We already TRIED that and it didn't work so get off our asses." Sorry, try it again, this time in harmony.

We'll develop School 2.0 together. Let's think and talk. The future's rushing this way.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Want an Educational Revolution?

I ask the question because here it is, Father's Day, and the household is obsessed with final exams.

I cannot help but think if we schedule testing the day after Mother's day that this country would finally wake up to the insanity of all this testing and so little payoff.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads cruising the internet instead of being served a cold beer.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Act to Preserve the Internet

The politics of big business can only destroy a good thing. The above link gives you all the information you need to know about what Congress is attempting to do to the internet. Don't let the internet become wholly manipulated by business interests.

What little Freedom of Expression that exists, exists thanks to the brave voices using the internet to keep Main Stream Media honest.

Here's an overview from Act For Change;

Fortunately, Senators Snowe (R-Maine) and Dorgan (D-North Dakota) have introduced S. 2917, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2006. This bill will encode network neutrality into law by prohibiting telephone and cable companies from charging information providers premium fees on content. It will also prohibit preferential pricing for access tiers, and has a meaningful enforcement mechanism to deter network discrimination.

This is our last, best chance at preserving net neutrality -- so take action today!

Call to action
Tell your Senators to support S. 2917, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2006.

Deadline: June 20, 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Project Gutenburg - 18,000 Free eBooks

For schools who operate on razor thin budgets and in poor communities where household incomes are also tight, the books offered here for the reading are a treasure.

The fact that people read web pages 25% slower than paper print may also incrrease a child's ability to grasp context and content - an experiement worth measuring by any educational specialists looking for a graduate thesis.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Technology Void in the Classroom

When Americans look for FAILURE, they need look no further than the myopic stupidity of No Child Left Behind. The national delusion that NCLB will somehow magically correct the social ills of public schools is no less insane than a half-dozen other Bush initiatives. The difference being that NCLB experiments not only with a few generations of children but does so at the expense of America's well-being.

There are still a few of us who care about the health of the nation and cringe at the self-destructive practices in American high schools. In my experience the following report is no exagerration. NCLB legislates a testing of teachers and students that emphasizes silo content specialties. Yet the modern world is expanding information theory in precisely the opposite way.

American school teachers need to understand information retrieval mechanisms, information organization and dissemination mechanisms, and dozens of other technical and organizational skills and methodologies far more urgently than they need to worry about becoming content specialists. There is neither time, money, or incentive for teachers to lift a finger.

NCLB is a toxic educational waste dump. Teachers are so buzy fretting over perpetual testing and frivilous factoid exercises that the students never learn how to learn, value information, think, intellectually breathe, follow their bliss, or become a real person. We are creating a Pinnochio generation of micro-managed, Fox News terrorized young people who are devoid of initiative, as technically illiterate as their teachers, and treated as easy pickings by credit vultures (the federal government being one of the hungriest predators).

A report in Information Week merely confirms the obvious.

Report: High Schools Fail To Meet Needs Of Tech-Driven World

Roughly only a quarter of U.S. high schools require students to take computer science courses, due in part to a misperception that computers are for video games and surfing the Internet, says a new report.

By K.C. Jones,, Jun 12, 2006 12:10 PM

"The United States cannot ignore the fact that there will be a shortage of qualified candidates for the 1.5 million computer and information technology jobs by 2012," co-author of the report and CSTA President Chris Stephenson said in a prepared statement. "This report provides a call to action for a variety of audiences to help others acknowledge computer science as the fundamental field that it is."


CSTA issued a statement saying the report should serve as a "wakeup call to the United States on how far behind it has fallen in treating computer science education as a core knowledge requirement for all educated citizens."

There is no doubt in my mind that sounding wake-up calls to the "What Me Worry" administration will produce little more than more really bad ideas, so I'm looking to responsible citizens to vote hard come November. Don't just send these political idiots a message, boot them the hell out of office like you mean it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Unions are getting smarter

If Connecticut and Connecticut's schools are going to improve, the Teacher's Union needs to step up. The rate of technological change will not wait for teachers who think the future is a linear progression of missed opportunities that are of no consequence. Change matters.

When I'm begging that we embrace change, become masters of our school's destinies, and evangelize the benefits of technological change I often am greeted by indifference. Teachers, administrators, and too many others assume that there are no consequences for watching the world go by. They misread the historical trajectory of the world's wealth and our critical need to move.

Today's younger generation is being financially squeezed into a life of indenture to credit companies at the very time when our president and his band of merry buffoons are draining our ability as a nation to maintain our financial stability.

Within a single generation we may experience a generational political blowback that will include the outsourcing of teaching positions to foreign virtual education suppliers. The cost of education at every level is beginning to exceed the benefit. Teachers have to get the message. And that message is to row, to add value to education so that these kids are the world's best prepared thinkers.

We cannot afford to bicker or pass the buck. Let's work together instead of looking for handouts, five-year plans, or special dispensations. The future is here now. Let's embrace it, teach it, and own our destiny. The alternative is unacceptable.

There is hope in that the UAW is beginning to realize that unions must begin to exercise responsibility for making success happen here. Teachers should take notes. The national treasury is a bank vault full of debt.

From today's Courant:

UAW Chief: It's Time To Fight
Says Industry's Woes Require New Solutions, Union Involvement
1:35 PM EDT, June 13, 2006
By TOM KRISHER, Associated Press

In a speech to about 1,300 members at the UAW's 34th convention in Las Vegas, Gettelfinger seemed to be preparing the union for a different relationship with the troubled domestic automakers as they face challenging times.

"Like it or not, these challenges aren't the kind that can be ridden out," he said. "They demand new and farsighted solutions - and we must be an integral part of developing these solutions."

POP QUIZ: What kind of thinking must unions do?

The View from the Titanic or is it the Hindenburgh?

Art Skerker alerted us last week [click the link to see his blog entry] that the Federal House of Representatives eliminated the Enhancing Education through Technology (NCLB Title II, Part D) program that is “a program that provides teachers and students with the technology resources that are improving teaching and learning and allowing our nation to compete effectively in the 21st century workforce.”

Before we go any further let me just vent a little - WHEN WILL CONNECTICUT STOP VOTING FOR WORTHLESS REPRESENTATION LIKE ROB SIMMONS AND NANCY JOHNSON? WHEN? Oh wait, as long as we're mentioning worthless representation let's not forget, Joe Lieberman. Let's put it this way, students need not learn arithmetic to count what all these politicians have done for Connecticut. The answer is zilch, nada, "I don't know", or "None of the above".

Okay, I feel better now. But that leaves a giant yellow elephant standing in the national living room.

America is in real trouble people. The utter insanity of the Bush administration has so comprehensively dibilitated this nation's priorities, national wealth, and ability to compete that the future is looking grim as we slide head first into an abyss of bizarre psuedo-conservative politics.

MSNBC recently ran this story:

How Long Will America Lead the World? by Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek

It is not just writers like Prestowitz who are sounding alarms. Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, reflects on the growing competence and cost advantage of countries like China and even Mexico and says, "It's unclear how many manufacturers will choose to keep their businesses in the United States." Intel's Andy Grove is more blunt. "America ... [is going] down the tubes," he says, "and the worst part is nobody knows it. They're all in denial, patting themselves on the back, as the Titanic heads for the iceberg full speed ahead."

Much of the concern centers on the erosion of science and technology in the U.S., particularly in education. Eight months ago, the national academies of sciences, engineering and medicine came together to put out a report that argued that the "scientific and technical building blocks of our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many nations are gathering strength."

Oh. And that quote is from the optimists. I bolded Andy Grove's comments in case you're speed reading. The sociopaths in the House of Representatives would do well to get their heads out of the political -cough- "troughs" long enough to to start funding education like it needs to be because the nation's welfare is truly at stake.

And if you're a voter, you damned well need to write these people, call these people, and run these people out of our government [and out of this country as far as I'm concerned] before they do any more real harm. We have got to take back the schools and regain our nation will to lead before it's too late.

And the hour is already late. Sound some alarms. We need better schools, better priorities, and better politicians. Business as usual is killing the country.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

More Free School Tools: Google Calendar

You'll notice a new Region 19 Calendar on the left panel that will hold region 19 Committee dates, agendas and notes. The calendar will never be comprehensive but this is a vast improvement over the closed software solutions schools usually pay for expensively.

You'll notice that meeting places are mapped directly to Google Maps providing driving directions and so on.

By using Google Calendars, you can compare multiple calendars against each other listing as many events as you want to prioritise.

Meanwhile CABE is promoting a State of Connecticut boondoggle that can't do half as much and is costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands. Oh well, it's only money to burn.

Try the Googgle Calendar out. It will import your existing school Outlook calendar in a snap making it available to everyone in the community not just those on a local network.

Oh, and you can examine these calendars from your cell phone.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Technophobia in the Classroom

The rage today is to be lectured by corporations, politicians, and educationalists about the importance of students being 'exposed'to technology, learning the latest computer jargon, and so on. One would think that those doing the lecturing were technologically saavy themselves. They usually aren't.

This game of aggressive language that oozes the progressive vision of technological prowess has a sad underbelly of passive acceptance and even outright stonewalling when acts of conviction are required.

What most of these loud advocates for technology education usually are saying is that they want somebody else to teach, use, and learn something new - "we're 100% behind you all the way!" In practice many of these people will not raise a finger to help themselves or anyone else introduce new ideas, techniques, or classroom methods. Floating downstream, attending meetings, and arguing pointless bullet agenda items is filling enough for their palates.

This is too bad. The tsunami of changes rushing our way will consume us if we are incapable of understanding and coping with their consequences. What is coming in just a few scant years is nothing less than centuries of change compressed into years and months recursively. For the Federal or State government to legislate quaint political homilies as these waves of change crest is sinful.

Schools need to stop testing factoids and begin preparing students for dealing with massive streams of data, with an information society unlike anything imaginable, with enhanced human counterparts, and machines smarter than natural humans can ever be. Yes, curriculums need to begin to address learning in entirely different ways, emphasizing entirely different metrics. And it has to happen NOW.

The ability to skim and assess information quickly is more important than memorizing facts. The ability to be fungible is more important than conformity and comfortable familiarity.

And so teachers who don't practice open-minded attitudes toward innovations and who refuse to change or exercise new technologies are teaching the wrong lesson. Stonewalling, belligerence, and passive resistence are unacceptable role-models for students. We cannot preach our global preparedness while educating an intellectual labor force of technophobes. Teachers, administrators, and government need to be active partners in embracing change especially when it comes to school and curriculum innovations.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Free Software Preview: Google Spreadsheets

Click on the link to test drive Google's collaborative Spreadsheet.

This is where I want the Region 19 budget details to live, in a publicly readable spreadsheet that anyone can take a look at.

Also this is nice for math, science, and lots of other school projects and club accounting activities.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Virtually Integrating Our Schools

I take the persistence of poverty in America as a given. Those who care about eliminating poverty and classism in America are powerless to change its inevitability and ubiquity. And the consequence of poverty is racism, benign bigotry, and poverty community schools hopelessly mired in failure.

Our society continues to condone and tolerate this phenomenon with a vengence. NCLB pogram advocates only obfuscate the tolerance and further nurturing of a convenient underclass. The political invention of "failing schools" neatly skirts the fact that poor children are hopelessly trapped in urban social warfare reservations.

Recent studies uncover the lie that a child in a failing school can simply transfer across to the next school to get out of a failing one. Failing schools are clustered in geopolitical constructs that may as well be prisons of poverty and violence for those trapped in the confines of these ghettos. To call the recent rash of shootings and killings in Hartford a tragedy is not enough. Even tragedy mourns when one tragedy begets another and another. Any conscientious human being is numbed by the slaughter of children randomly shooting children.

In the one-upsmanship of American society, racism and classism observe no color lines. Those who empower racism and poverty are as likely to be black or spanish middleclass citizens as white. In every case, the same arguments are made. The shiftless and lazy arguments that forty years ago slurred minority populations are now exercised without question toward helpless and politically impotent child populations. The arguments are so compelling that arming poor kids with guns so that they can thin the ranks is de facto social policy.

My words will not change a thing so I resign myself to the same profession that Jonathan Kozol endeavors to be, merely a witness. I have rarely found truth to be a worthwhile virtue but I exercise the reckless honor anyway, usually at my own expense.

Assuming that nothing changes [and very little has in my lifetime] these violent urban operas will continue to persist and feed the nightly news broadcasts with a profitable fill of blood and tears and empty homilies.

However there is something that liberal educational evangelists can do to at least virtually integrate the classrooms of urban fortress schools and that is to advocate for the wide adoption of collaborative educational tools. There is little or no expense involved. Numerous online tools exist that can allow students in suburban school sto collaborate on a like assignment in an urban school.

For example, an English class reading the same book, might ask students to individually be teamed up with a counterpart at another school and write an essay or produce a dialogue about what they read. Recent studies indicate that a student is more likely to communicate with a person online than a student sitting next to them. while many lament this phenomenon, it offers opportunity to teachers to use it to broaden discussions beyond their school walls.

I created a writeboard here and sent it to some random educators. Let's see if they're saavy enough to respond.