Entries Tagged 'Media Reviews' ↓

The Divide

Here is John Dewey’s description of what Americans are taught to believe about democracy:

We have been taught not only in the schools but by the press, the pulpit, the platform, and our laws and law-making bodies, that democracy is the best of all social institutions. We may have so assimilated this idea from our surroundings that it has become an habitual part of our mental and moral make-up.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan, p. 34.

More than 80 years have passed since Dewey described this quintessential American belief. The fact that we have rarely (if ever) challenged that belief is proof that it has become “part of our mental and moral make-up.”

And that belief relates to my suggestion for addressing our current political divide. Everyone, who writes about the divide, or who defends one viewpoint against the other, must start with one of the following sentences:

  1. “My side is not corrupt, but the other side is.”
  2. “My side is corrupt, but the other side is more corrupt.”
  3. “Both sides are equally corrupt.”
  4. “My side’s corruption is a good thing; the other side’s corruption is a bad thing.”

By starting with one of those sentences, writers/commentators put their argument in the context of what is true–that our system is corrupt in various ways; instead of what we cannot know to be true–that “democracy is the best of all social institutions.”

For more than 200 years we have failed to live up to the ideal of a fair, democratic system of governance. One reason is that we are in denial about systemic corruption. If we start by recognizing that every system of governance is corrupt (even American democracy), we could start building a more fair and just system of the people, by the people, and for the people.

If we don’t, our divide will grow as powerful actors continue to enrich themselves at the expense of those with less power, which is the definition of corruption.

Improving education starts with understanding teaching

Chapter 8 of my book argues that education won’t improve until our improvement paradigm coincides with the essence of teaching. The social science improvement paradigm assumes teachers improve their craft by applying techniques and strategies that educational research has found to be effective. The aesthetic improvement paradigm assumes that teachers improve their craft by looking inside themselves and finding new and better ways to deliver their content and relate to their students?

Unknowingly, Malcolm Gladwell weighed in on this question in Blink: The power of thinking without thinking (2005, p. 52):

Our world requires that decisions be sourced and footnoted, and if we say how we feel, we must also be prepared to elaborate on why we feel that way . . . I think that approach is a mistake, and if we are to learn to improve the quality of the decisions we make, we need to accept the mysterious nature of our snap judgments. We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that — sometimes — we’re better off that way.

I hope someday school leaders, administrators, and policy makers will understand that this is how all good teachers teach.

It’s social science, not science

The internet headline reads:

Science says parents of successful kids have these 11 things in common

Let’s go over this one more time:

  1. “Science says” does not mean a study found cause and effect. It means a social scientific study found correlations.
  2. “successful kids” means what the study says it means – nothing more, nothing less. Therefore, the findings (11 things) depend 100% on the study’s definition of “successful.” We don’t know how much they pertain to your personal definition of “successful.”
  3. “these 11 things in common” – If you have worldly experience, you don’t need to read them. If you have no worldly experience, you don’t need to read them either. You need to get some worldly experience.

Update

In case the point about social science research is not obvious, here is the first paragraph from Does Your Child’s Name Influence Whether They Grow Up to Be Smart?

Want to give your baby a head start on becoming a genius? You might want to consider nixing those unique, hipster baby names from your list. Genealogy research website MooseRoots compiled the names of nearly 15,000 philosophers, writers, mathematicians, scientists, inventors, artists, composers, Nobel laureates and MacArthur fellows to make up a list of the most common names of geniuses — and none were the kind of trendy names celeb babies have been given recently.
Of course the answer to the headline question is, “No.” As I finished reading, however, the real purpose of this “research” was clear. The last paragraph has links to websites (which I removed).
If these names don’t exactly appeal to your sensibilities, you could always look at new baby-naming trends, most popular baby names around the world, most popular baby names by decade or baby names inspired by global cities for more ideas!
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Just follow the money.

UNC Chancellors get raise

This morning’s Asheville Citizen-Times (11/20/2015) reported the salary increases granted to Chancellors across the UNC system. According to Lou Bissette, acting Board of Governors (BOG) chairman,  “We looked at our chancellors’ salaries as compared with chancellors across the country and very frankly we were so far below the median it was a little embarrassing for all of us.”

I met Mr. Bissette many years ago. He is a good, generous man who gives to his community in many ways. I shudder to think how embarrassed he and his colleagues will be when they realize salaries of faculty are also far below the median. Feeling such enormous embarrassment, they will hardly be able to sleep at night.

Update on embarrassment:

I just received my WCU salary increase letter. The university gave me a 1% increase because my salary is 86.6% of the “market value”at my rank and professional responsibilities. Now I make 87.5% of market value ($10,000 annually below market value). Thanks WCU.

And to Mr. Bissette:

I am sorry my salary is such an embarrassment to you.

Cut the Crap

Nobody is embarrassed over my salary because I get paid fine for what I do. And nobody should have been embarrassed over the Chancellors’ salaries because nobody put a gun to their heads when they were hired and accepted their salaries. Apparently Mr. Bissette is embarrassed about the poor salary bargains made by our Chancellors.

I thought Chancellors and BOG members were supposed to be smart people. They are not, when they make these kinds of judgments:

1. (Chancellors) accepting embarrassingly low salaries.

2. (BOG members) granting salary increases because of Chancellors’ embarrassingly bad judgment.

Capitalists and school administrators

Providers of educational training and materials sell products. I understand that. They are businesses.

What I don’t understand is how educational administrators know what to purchase without a definition of what it means to be educated? For example, here is an Education Week advertisement for “The Evolving Role of the School Leader” (a free webinar on March 19, 2015):

The role of the school leader has never been more important or more challenging . . . Successful principals embrace and fully understand the vision and direction of the system, empower staff to collaboratively raise the achievement of all students, and build the instructional focus at every level of the organization.

How do educators know if this webinar is worth their time, if they don’t have a clear definition of what it means to be educated? Without a clear definition, how does anyone know if the webinar is worth their time?

According to the first sentence, school leadership is important and difficult. According to the last sentence, it involves: (1) understanding the system’s mission, (2) empowering staff to raise student achievement (which really means test scores), (3) building an instructional focus into every level of the organization (which really means emphasizing higher test scores).

But there is more to be learned, so administrators should attend the webinar to discover the rest. Providers of training and  materials make money by convincing administrators that their work is difficult AND complicated. In this case, practicing administrators should hear the lessons learned by others who accomplished difficult things in their schools.

So, the advertisement goes on:

Join Phee Simpson, Mike Oliver, and Sue Gendron (moderator) in a discussion of successful school leadership and Q&A centered on the challenges they have faced and the solutions they have implemented in their schools.

I did not attend, but I know what they said. They described difficult situations created by ignorance, intellectual incompetence, weakness, fear of truth, pride and selfishness. Then they described how understanding, imagination, strength, courage, humility and generosity made things better.

In spite of what providers of goods and services tell administrators, leading schools is difficult, but it is not complicated or expensive.

Educators: The choice is ours

This morning’s newspaper (1/28/2014) had a “tech quote” from Knightscope CEO William Li, whose company sells robotic security guards:

There are 7 billion people on the planet, and we’ll soon have a few billion more, and law enforcement is not going to scale at the same rate; we literally can’t afford it.

Li wants people to (1) imagine how to live more safely on a crowded planet, and (2) invest in his company.

Modeling and teaching what it means to be educated is another way to live more safely on a crowded planet. For those of us who are educators, the choice is ours. We can continue to ignore the six virtues, or we can make them the foundation for graduating a more educated citizenry.

If we ignore them, Li will be wealthy and his robotic security guards will be happy (if properly programmed). The rest of us will live in fear. I love irony.

 

Defining “effective” teachers

For three reasons I was drawn to the article, “For better North Carolina schools, link teacher pay to effectiveness.

  1. I want better NC schools.
  2. Paying higher salaries to “effective” teachers is a good idea (if it can be done).
  3. It can be done only if we define “effective” teaching.

We all want #s 1 & 2. The hard part is #3. It is not enough to describe “effective” teaching. Paying higher salaries for all those descriptions would increase spending, not keep it the same or lower it. Continue reading →

Are the six virtues ever vices?

Naturally, I was drawn to the September/October, 2013, Psychology Today article entitled, “When Virtue Becomes Vice” (by Mary Loftus). The author should have read my book, where I explained that the greatest of all social science truths is, “In all situations, it depends on the situation.” That was her main point, although she didn’t state it in the article. Continue reading →

Are they smart or not smart?

A school board member wrote an email to his friend about taking the Florida tenth grade standardized test:

I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62%. In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

The friend is Marion Brady, who wrote the blog (updated by Valerie Strauss). Continue reading →

Poll: “Parents back standardized tests”

When pollsters question people who know very little about the topic of the poll, we say they are polling an “uninformed population.” This poll is an example.  Although parents don’t know the difference between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests, and they don’t know why we give the first and not the second, they “back standardized tests.”

From hearing policy makers talk about test scores, I already know uninformed people back standardized tests. I love irony.