After all what school system would be dumb enough to spend $4K+ on a fancy slide projector instead of investing in, say, 10-15 laptops/COW expenditure?
Some schools do and the this is somewhat understandable. In July 1999 Ignite, Inc. purchased a University of Texas incubator business, Adaptive Learning Technology, a company dedicated to individualized learning courseware.
Adaptive Learning founder Mary Schenck-Ross said the software's interactive lessons allowed teachers "to get away from the mass-treatment approach" to education. When a student typed in a response to a question, the software was designed to react and provide a customized learning path. "The original concept was to avoid 'one size fits all.' That was the point," said Catherine Malloy, who worked on the software development.
"It breaks my heart what they have done. The concept was totally perverted," Schenck-Ross said.
Mary Schenk-Ross left Ignite! in September of 2001 and the remarks are worth paying attention to not for their hyperbole but for their factual basis.
Neil Bush's proclamation that, "Ignite! is designed to make learning fun for "hunter-warrior" kids who don't like reading." could make any person concerned about education wince. And recent studies that question the educational effectiveness of presentation style slide shows like Microsoft's PowerPoint only serve to legitimize the concern.
Coupled with quality of content and methodology concerns is the bottom line cost of buying/pushing such a product into cash strapped school districts.
At a standard price of $3,800-$4,200 per unit, the COW is a very expensive device with limited use. A recent New York Times article about the use of the COW in Spotsylvania, Virginia, put the cost into perspective: each school in the district receives $1,000 "to cover all the lab supplies, equipment and other expenses connected with science for an entire year." Adding to the initial expense, schools must pay an annual $1,000 licensing, upkeep and upgrade fee in order to retain the COW for more than one year.My guess is that the $1K/year cited in actuality is $1K per subject per COW per year expense.
But here is an actual lesson that should make every American alarmed. The subliminal message of this one is that the loss of a republic to an emperor is no big deal - in fact, things are good for centuries.
This unit on American and Canadian Art manages to completely avoid actually taking about any artists, attributing abstract expressionism to Canadians, and talking more about arts funding than art.
Viewing the YouTube vault of sample lessons shows us exactly why critics are alarmed. By basing an entire curriculum on lessons such as this, reading is minimized and middle school learning material is reduced to near moronic levels of understanding. This is bullet-point information that may reflect the testing industry's idea of high expectations but clearly this represents a dumbing down of American children, teachers, and society.
Numerous videos in this series celebrate war, war spending, and the suspension of human rights simple as that. Media Mindfulness expresses concern about the Habeas Corpus video, "...view the sample lesson from their COW (Curriculum on Wheels) system in the above video. It’s on the history of “Habeas Corpus”; you may agree the lesson is in dire need of some media literacy. It’s curious how it repeatedly justifies the suspension of the law."
The subliminal perversions do not stop there. The content and delivery intended to educate Jr. High school students is more appropriate for an elementary grade student struggling with reading or having a learning disability. But to treat entire Jr High school social studies, science, and math classes to a steady, unrelenting battery of this stuff is to believe these kids are all morons or worse. Neil Bush's dream of developing graduating classes of "hunter-warriors" who "hate reading" may be fulfilled in Houston before too long.
Another aspect of Ignite's presentation that I find disturbing is the implicit racism of the characters who narrate the information. Instead of intelligent, well-dressed teachers presenting the information children are treated to sugar-coated, hip-hop, jive-talking and singing characters who not only distort the content into labored jingoisms but promote an idea that minorities in America cannot be viewed by white America as anything more than modern-day caricatures of persistent, racist stereotypes.
The Adaptive Learning Technology courseware was dedicated to individualized learning, adaptive learning, multiple intelligences, and so on. That continues to be the marketing rhetoric despite the bleaching out of any such high-minded educational development ideals. By September of 2001, Ignite!'s business model first pursued selling itself as an aide to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) and more recently as a political NCLB compliance testing inoculation.
One Size Fits All is Back!
Individualization and self-pacing are gone except as cosmically co-incidental mishaps. Ignite's agenda is NCLB's agenda. And that agenda is best summarized by Gene Hickock, the under-secretary of education, "One of the virtues of NCLB is leverage, leverage at the state. . . at the local level . . . We don’t mind being the bad guys... I am very concerned that we will . . . underestimate the potential that we have to redefine everything."
And "redefine everything" means writing laws compliant to the testing and educational lobbyist's desire. Education is no longer driven by the needs of children or the desire of taxpayers to provide a cost-effective public education.
As Bill Gates discovered at Microsoft, he who writes the specifications can near monopolize the procurement of product by consumers who must comply. The perfect storm of corrupt politics and more corrupt corporate interests is creating a manufactured market for ineffective but highly profitable testing monopolies and accessories.
That the Bush family has a hand in that multi-billion dollar tax swindle is no surprise.
next - soon
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