Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

The ivory echo chamber

Monday, June 9th, 2008

a self-described anarchist and a professor of philosophy at a small liberal-arts college in Pennsylvania, speaks the truth about academia:

Within the academy, conservatives really are an oppressed minority. At the University of Colorado, for instance, one professor found that, of 800 or so on the faculty, only 32 are registered Republicans. This strikes me as high, and I assume they all teach business or physical education. … [B]ecause there’s a consensus, there is precious little self-examination; a slant that we all share becomes invisible.

Academic consensus is a particularly irritating variety of groupthink. First of all, the fact that everyone agrees and everyone has a doctorate leads to the occasionally explicit idea that all intelligent people think the same thing — that no one could disagree with, say, Obama-ism, without being an idiot.

That the American professoriate is near-unanimous for Barack Obama is a problem on many levels, but certainly pedagogically. Ideological uniformity does a disservice to students and makes a mockery of the pious commitment of these professors simply to convey knowledge. Professors are as herd-like in their opinions as other groups that demographers like to identify — "working-class white men," for example. Indeed, surely more so. …

That this smog of consensus is incompatible with the supposedly high-minded educational mission of colleges and universities is obvious. But academics are massively self-deceived about this, which makes it all the more disgusting and effective.

(Hat tip: my dad.)

“It’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool rather than open it and remove all doubt.” Mark Twain

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

In a case of “my bigotry is better than your bigotry,” a young woman is suing because she got sent to the principal’s office. Why? Because classmates teased her about her LDS status, and she responded, “‘That’s so gay.”

I agree with the retired teacher in the article. Educate; don’t punish. But I don’t feel like emphasizing that part of the story. I feel like emphasizing the fact that this girl is an idiot with a limited vocabulary. Probably spoiled, too. Every time I hear that phrase, I can pretty well rest assured that the person who used it is quite shallow, somebody who doesn’t like thinking much and who doesn’t care to learn how to express themselves in clear and articulate fashion. I wonder how she’d feel if the most common way for morons to express contempt for an idea was to say, “Man, that’s so Mormon!” or “What are you, Mormon?”

Ah, well. As H.L. Mencken said, when you defend free speech, you must inevitably defend bastards.

Study: laptops are a distraction in class

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

Apparently students use laptops in class to play games and surf the web. I’m shocked, SHOCKED! (Hat tip: Sean.)

News flash: not everyone is smart

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

Today’s obvious article that will doubtless be controversial despite its obviousness is brought to you by Opinion Journal, which points out that intelligence may have some impact on education.

P.S. In fairness, to the extent that the article cites The Bell Curve to support its conclusion, that may be legitimately controversial. But the basic premise seems solid to me, with or without the support of that particular book. That 50% of people are below average (well, technically 1 less than 50%) is pretty much indisputable. And that this imposes some limit on the extent to which people can be educated also seems pretty obvious. I particularly liked this point:

What IQ is necessary to give a child a reasonable chance to meet the NAEP’s basic achievement score? Remarkably, it appears that no one has tried to answer that question. We only know for sure that if the bar for basic achievement is meaningfully defined, some substantial proportion of students will be unable to meet it no matter how well they are taught.

Student shot, killed in Tacoma high school

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

Earlier this morning, on the first day of classes in the new year, a student was shot and killed at Foss High School in Tacoma, WA. Reports indicate three gunshots were fired, and although a group of students were in the area only one student was hit leading to speculation that this was a targeted act. Police later apprehended the alleged shooter in a neighborhood a number of miles away. The school was immediately placed in lockdown and students were later bussed to another local high school.

Foss has approximately 1700 students in grades 9-12. Reports via local radio have indicated that there are no metal detectors in use at Foss.

Students and intellectual property rights

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

I was reading in today’s Washington Post about a group of students who are fighting the administration of my old high school over their intellectual property rights. Now, anyone that has been to McLean High School knows two things, it is one of the smallest high schools in Fairfax County, and it has the student body most likely to go to the mat fighting against, well just about anyone over just about anything. I think this has something to do with the number of parents who are also lawyers and a general feeling that the law applies to us too god dammit so stop trying to screw us.

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Student sues school district for nixing wind ensemble performance of Ave Maria

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

A recent graduate of Jackson High School in Everett, WA who was a member of her schools wind ensemble is suing the Superintendent of the district for refusing to allow the group to perform an arrangement of Ave Maria at their high schools graduation. The Superintendent said that the song is too religious. Although the group performed the song without incident at their winter concert, the issue seems to be that graduation is not a truly volunteer attendence event like the concert was. However the group maintains that the song wasn’t chosen (seniors vote which song they would like to perform) for religious reasons but because it was a dificult piece they had mastered and they thought it sounded good.

Have we really reached the point in this society where even being exposed to music that is of a religious nature is considered some sort of violation of our freedoms? Are we that sensitive? I’m sorry if you are one of those people who feel so threatened by even the exposure to something that goes beyond your belief system, but if you think we should ban all music from schools that has religious roots we are going to be banning a significant swath of music that holds great historical and cultural value. Look i have no problem with schools not allowing a minister to give a blessing at the ceremony or something like that, but this is just plain ridiculous.

No high-school diploma? No problem! Just go to college!

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

This is pretty much the ultimate proof of what I’ve been saying for years: that “college has become the new high school.” At the risk* of sounding ridiculously elitist, if the doors of college education are open so wide that virtually anyone can get in, regardless of their intellectual acuity, doesn’t that at some point devalue the very notion of “higher” education?

*Okay, okay, it’s not so much a “risk” as a “certainty” — but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m wrong!

P.S. My dedicated-server-mate Texasyank blogged about this before I did.

Lots of people are blogging about it, actually.

Secret to tolerance? Religion in schools

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Six years ago the Modesto school district did something practically unheard of. They introduced religion into the school curriculum. Not only did they introduce it but it was a required class.

No they weren’t indoctrinating students, the class is a world religions course, developed with the help of an interfaith religious council, and the results have been a success. Survey results of the students conducted by two profesors, one from Stanford, the other from the College of William and Mary, have shown an increased level of religious liberty and tolerance as well as increased understanding of First Ammendment rights among students.

Proffesors Lester and Roberts conclude their above linked piece with the following quote, which I think everyone should read:

Limiting deeply held beliefs to the private sphere breeds suspicion and tension. True religious liberty prevails not only when people feel comfortable expressing their beliefs, but also when they learn to discuss religious differences with civility and respect.

One of these days…

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

I’m going to write a note asking that several students be excused from sports, as they have Spanish class.

Unconventional Learning

Monday, April 24th, 2006

As I set myself up to go back to school to earn (another) Master’s Degree, this one in Special Education, I find myself strangely attracted to the unconventional learning that our friend and frequent commentator Sean holds dear. Today the Washington Post printed an article (on Page A1, above the fold, no less) about the Fairhaven School in Prince George’s County, MD. Sean, having applied to work at this school, is likely more capable of writing about it, but I found the article staring me in the face at 5:30 this morning when I left for work.

Students follow no curriculum other than curiosity and whim. Sometimes they seek out a class or workshop, but they are not compelled to take English, geometry or any other subject. Often they just hang.

But the point is that at this school, like at all other Sudbury schools, students get to choose what they learn and when.

Isn’t this the purest form of education? I have always tried to model my teaching method in a way such that students make their own discoveries. Which is better? Being told about something in a lecture or actually going out and experiencing it? Most educational theorists will tell you that it is the latter.

The biggest drawback, IMHO, of Sudbury schools is that students do not (necessarily) fulfill all state requirements for education. Of course, you can make the argument that the requirements are pointless, too, but getting into college after attending one of these schools usually requires something more…

Students at Fairhaven earn no course credits toward a state-recognized high school diploma. Without conventional transcripts, graduates who aim for college rely on SAT scores, essays, letters of recommendation and interviews.

I’m going to step back for a while and let other folks comment … I’m really trying not to preach here on the main page…

The insufferable arrogance of the math illiterate

Monday, February 20th, 2006

Guest poster: Mike Wiser

Dane sent along this link, in an apparent attempt to raise my blood pressure. Congrats, Dane. It worked. Sorry about the length of this one, all, but the whole “after the jump” feature isn’t currently available.

[UPDATE: It’s available again, so here goes…]

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Teach the children well…

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

First-grader suspended for sex harassment.

Commentary would be superfluous.

(Hat tip: Nick.)

Intelligent Design and Dover’s Intelligence

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

Guestblogger: Josh Rubin

OK, so that’s a lame title … But the Dover, PA School Board has recinded its landmark decision to allow Intelligent Design to be taught alongside Evolution. Of course, this is in response to the decision handed down by the local District Court. But then again, most of the board members who voted to put this policy into place last year were defeated in the November Election, so we’re talking about new folks sitting on the board …

Take that, Kansas!

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

Guestblogger: Josh Rubin

OK, so this won’t affect Kansas (yet), but it’s a start.