Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ed Beat: PBS on Poverty/School Relation; Charter Rebuttals; Zombie Functionalism; Textual Rubbish

Poverty Is The #1 Impediment to Success in School: The socio-economic status of a student's family is by FAR (on orders of magnitude) the largest determinant in the achievement of ANY student on the standardized exams which more and more determine success in school. 

Family SES accounts for just about 65% of the variance in scores on standardized tests. The zip code in which the child lives exerts a more significant effect on performance than does IQ. Poverty is the KEY consideration in evaluating school performance.

So, good on PBS for bringing their powerful spotlight to bear on the problem of poverty in schools and its effects on kids' growth, development, and success.

Watch Poor Kids on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

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Charter Facts Rebut Hype (Via Americans United For The Separation of Church & State): Charter schools in Washington, DC, the ONLY federally mandated system of it's kind in the country, show no better results than "traditional" public schools. Plus, the funds appear to be unaccountable, and many parents are using the funds to send kids to religious (Catholic) schools.
Congress allocated $20 million for the D.C. voucher program for this year, The Post reported, and since 2004 the federal government has set aside $133 million for the program. Students who meet the household income requirements can receive about $8,000 per year for elementary school and around $12,000 per year for high school. And yet, the schools are not accountable to the taxpayers who are forced to fund them. No government official has say over the curriculum, academic quality or management of the schools.
And (just to make shit interesting) the name of former DC schools chief, the feculent and failure-ridden Michelle Rhee, is being bruited as a possible replacement for the detestable (it works both ways!) Arne Duncan, Obombster's asshole, hoops pal, if he steps aside from the DoE post.

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Zombie Functionalism and the Return of Neo-Instrumentality in Education

As If I were NOT going to respond to that title!

Not only is the attack on public education one aimed at destroying teacher unions and the public commons in general, but it is also an attack on what is to be taught in classes, the actual methods of instruction, what students are to be thinking about and the educational theories behind a ‘neo-functionality’ that reduces students to mere depositories of pre-masticated thinking."

The attentive among you may detect echoes of the liberationist pedagogy of Paolo Freire, resonances of Freirean rhetoric and passion, in Danny Weil's prose.
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It's In The Book: Every good teacher will tell you that a dictionary doesn't DEFINE a word, but presents the most common usages. The textbook, like the dictionary, does NOT "define" knowledge, but presents the most common, most agreed upon versions of events and content. High school textbooks SHOULD be read the same way, but they're not.

Folks fight over the contents of books because (it is justifiably assumed) these will be the only guided encounters with these facts that the average student will ever have. So it matters what is included and not included in discussions in the text of significant matters. Connor Friedsdorf of the Atlantic chose to examine
"The American Vision by Professors Joyce Appleby, Alan Brinkley, Albert Broussard, James McPhereson, and Donald Ritchie. It's one of the most popular American history textbooks aimed at eleventh grade students. As I understand it, the 2003 copy I hold in my hands would've been used in a typical classroom for five to eight years. In other words, this is the American history book that shaped a lot of the young people who've recently joined the ranks of adult society, or at least eligible voters."
His general findings from the presentation of "History" in the text:: the threat of terrorism can be eliminated, the Patriot Act was not controversial and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

No, really!
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Education Beat: Goals Are For Hockey; Bill Gates Is No Friend Of Schools; Diane Ravitch's Penance;

Education Beat: Goals Are For Hockey; Bill Gates Is No Friend Of Schools; Diane Ravitch's Penance; Florida in Virginia

He'll Be Ba-ack: America's chief school executive, charter-school tool, privatizing maven, and hoops-shooting pal to Sir Barry, the Compliant, bankster-buddy Arne Duncan apparently will be staying on as head of the Federal Department of Education. In consequence, there will be no measyrable diminishment in the regime of high-stakes test score 'achievement' measures, and/or test based teacher accountability, and/or the shameful tactic of waving Federal "development" dollars in the faces of financially strapped, local School Boards to entice them into the Obama/Duncan paradigm.
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Public Schools Under Assault:
“Public education today is the target of a well-coordinated, well-funded campaign to privatize as many schools as possible, particularly in cities. This campaign claims it wants great teachers in every classroom, but its rhetoric demoralizes teachers, and reduces the status of the education profession,” Ravitch told a Los Angeles audience in February 2012. “There is no historical comparison to the current movement for privatization and de-professionalization.”
I have had issues with Dr. Ravitch in the past. As a member of the Raygun Education "team"--which included lamar Alexander, Bill Bennett, and Chester ""Chucker" Finnm she was at one time one of the foremost advocates of the policies which she now criicizes.
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 Betting ON Poverty: This is pretty disgusting.
In Detroit, in keeping with the national efforts top de-skill and de-professionalize teaching, the School Board is going ahead with plans to further commodify students in 'at risk' circumstances and 'sell' them to private corporations as eyse on the screen.
Interestingly, the CorpoRats have learned to coopt the discourses of Freirean resistance to make it seem as though these reactionary pedagogies are 'best practices.'  + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

My Sweet, Indebtable You!: Recently, the Department of Education released new guidelines and rules covering the repayment schedules for certain student loans. Via Adam Minsky, the "Boston Student-Loan Lawyer":
  • The "new and improved" IBR program, as I've been calling it, will be called the "Pay As You Earn" program. This new repayment plan option for "new borrowers" will allow for monthly payments of 10% of discretionary income (as opposed to 15%) and a 20-year repayment term (as opposed to 25 years), with forgiveness of the remaining balance thereafter. As I've written about previously, this is a great repayment plan option, but it won't be available to most borrowers who have already graduated and are in repayment now. The regulations confirm that the Dept. of Education will exclude most of these borrowers from the "Pay As You Earn" program.
  • The regulations also attempt to streamline the process for applying for a discharge of federal student loans on the basis of Total and Permanent Disability. Specifically, the regulations allow for some Social Security Disability determinations to support discharge applications, and the regulations make it easier for a representative to assist the borrower in the discharge process.
  • Finally, the new regulations try to address some of the ongoing problems with federal loan servicing by offering simpler IBR recertification forms.
Ultimately, these new regulations are a mixed bag. They certainly include some positive changes for federal student loan borrowers, but they do little to aggressively address systematic problems with the federal loan borrowing and servicing system. To read all the details on the new regulations, click here.

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As Goes Florida:We mentioned in a column a litle while back that the Great State of Florida had decided to confront educational, socio-economic "realities" NOT by addressing poverty, homelessness and other social ills which directly impact children in poverty, but instead by lowering standards for Hispanic and Black students. Now Virginia, another historic hotbed of progressive education reform appears to be joining the bandwagon.

Meanwhile: Studies show that charter schools in Florida are NOT out-performing regular, public schools.

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 From the Smoldering Fingers: Bill Gates is not a "good guy." He is, as far as his interest in education goes, at best a well-meaning, blundering, clumsy, bullying fool. At worst, he is what I call a "Zombie Capitalist," whose philanthropy is tainted--POISONED--with self-interest and delusion. The Gates foundation is body and soul behind a "national, standardized curriculum."
Primarily, because it will fit well with the business of selling Microsoft shit to the schools.
Attention people who care about children in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
You’ve been snookered.
The truth of the matter is that we’ve all been snookered by the U. S. Department of Education, working in cahoots with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but the release of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium sample assessment items makes the flimflam obvious to people in the above states. Their leaders gave promissory notes to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
 Susan Ohanian is as fiercely rabid a critic as there IS of the official, corpoRat/charter "reform" movement, whether called No Child Left Behind or Race To The Top. Follow her blog, if this stuff --and especially criticism of the Common Core, interests you.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Education Beat: Message to Obama; University, RIP; Not Again?; The Muslim Test

Dear Mr. President: Via my favorite source for fact and interpretation of info from the ol' school-house, Susan Ohanian, this missive to the re-elected President, from an unimpeachable source, beseeches Obummer to at least back off a LITTLE from  the concerted drive by his DoE director to privatize, and charterize the schools and standardize the curriculum.
"In a recent interview for NBC’s “Education Nation” President Obama said, “You know, I’m a big proponent of charter schools, for example. I think that pay-for-performance makes sense in some situations.” Later in the interview, he said, “What we have to do is combine creativity and evidence-based approaches. So let’s not use ideology, let’s figure out what works, and figure out how we scale it up.”

I want to believe the president’s statement about ideology. But, frankly, I am not reassured. What logic and evidence is behind his support for scaling-up charter schools, merit pay, or for sanctions that require the firing of administrators at struggling schools typically inhabited by poverty-stricken students? Mr. President, are you open to the possibility that maybe your assumptions are wrong?
 This appeared on Valerie Strauss's Washington Post Answer Sheet, Nov. 7, 2012.

Arthur H. Camins is director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

It is more than pertinent that this criticism of Obama education policy is written by someone with innovation and science credentials. Read his previous Answer Sheet commentary here.

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The Death--or at least the serious illness--of the University:
With tuitions rising into the price of middle-class housing, and students clamoring as never before for more and more opportunities to do "higher education," it is ironic that the institution itself is under renewed attack from forces inimical to the epistemic mission of the University.
“In 1920 H.G. Wells wrote, ‘History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe.’ I think he got it right. Nothing is more important to the future of the United States and the world than the breadth and effectiveness of education, especially of higher education. I say especially higher education, but not because pre- school, elementary, and secondary education are less important. Success at every level of education obviously depends on what has gone before. But for better or worse, the quality of postsecondary education and research affects the quality and effectiveness of education at every level...Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty. There are movements to control tuition, to forgive student debt, to create more powerful “assessment” tools, to offer “free” university materials online, to combat adjunct faculty exploitation. But each of these movements focuses on a narrow aspect of a much wider problem, and no amount of “fix” for these aspects individually will address the real reason that universities in America are dying.
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Separate, but Equal, Again? From the Department of Don't Raise The Bridge, Lower the River comes "intelligence" that the Florida Board of Education is bowing to "reality" and instituting different sets of standards for student achievement base on race.

The board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities.
More than ANY OTHER variable, the family's socio-economic status affects the performance of students on student achievement measures. But, since it's not feasible to raise the income levels of people, we'll lower the standards. It won't matter that much, anyway.

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Creative Teaching Update: The "Muslim Test": I wonder it you recall the case of the fanatic, Creationist, high-school biology teacher who got in trouble--fired, actually--for ignoring repeated warnings to cease the direct advocacy of creation contra evolution, and later branding some of his students with crosses via the application of a so-called 'tesla device?" It was first litigated in 2008.

His name is Freshwater, and he's filed a First Amendment suit alleging his right to academic free speech had been violated by the (public) school denying him the right to teach, e.g., Creationism.

Courts have ruled for "academic freedom." It remains to be seen whether they will support such a claim under these circumstances.

What is the Muslim test?

Ask yourself if what your child's teacher is telling them would be acceptable if it were a Muslim teacher talking to them in school, and surreptitiously supplying materials about the need to follow Shari'a.

Monday, November 12, 2012

WWH/CGE Soap-Box: Campaign 2012, A Post Mortem

Hola! L&G, B&G, Hippies and straights around the  world, this is your ol' pal, John Konopak, Citizen Journalist in Albuquerque, New Mexico, clambering up onto the WWH/CJE soap-box today to bring you my own 'post-mortem' on our recenly concluded Presidential electoral follies.

As I had predicted, fearlessly and repeatedly, over the last two or three years,  O'Barry's got his second term as our First "novelty" president (not counting the utterly cynical installation of the Chimperor Bush in 2000).  No, Hillary won't be elected in 2016, though she may run. But, from now on, for wa good while, ONLY GOPhux, preferably White AND Male, will hold the Executive Office of the USofA after 2016, and until the White majority demographically dissolves...

 Also, as I have also repeatedly declared, despite protestations and aspirations to the contrary, there will be NO significant changes, either in Obomber's governance or in Govt. policy in the second term. There WON'T be a "second-term turn-around." He already got re-elected. He doesn't need you anymore.

Still: If there were going to be ANY sort of transformation, here are the FIRST FIVE THINGS Sir/St. Barry, the Pale, should do to PROVE his reelection will bring the "second-term miracle" which the Obotomized followers proclaim they expect.

If Sir Barry, the Capitulator, wants to conclusively demonstrate that his second term will be REALLY different, what he needs to do TODAY, very first thing, or THIS WEEK at the latest, is:
 1) RELEASE BRADLEY MANNING... Manning's imprisonment should be a bell-weather by which Shamwow's other 2nd term "accomplishments" should be measured. Nothing ELSE he could do would reveal his willingness to respect individual rights of conscience

 2) FIRE ARNE DUNCAN...the Corporatist/Charterist Ed. Sec.,and prove he's not out to bust the teachers' unions and privatize the schools.

3) FIRE Treasury's Banksta-punk/towel-boy Geithner AND his alleged replacement, Erskine Bowles--the Catfood Commissioner--and PROVE he's not going to fuck with entitlements.

 4) ANNOUNCE a cease-fire in Afghanistan and a steady withdrawal schedule.

5) PUT solar technology BACK on the WhiteHouse and on ALL Federal buildings nationally. If none of those are forthcoming, well you can decide what it means.
We could decide on others, substitutes, etc, but any ONE would be a lkandmark, and all five would INDEED signal a change. But no chjange is forthcoming.

After opining in like manner, I was accused today of being a "fundamentalist," by a couple of triumphant Obots:
 "If you were a Latino, a woman, a black person, a gay person, you would know better," one said. "...or a teacher, or a union worker, or someone with an illness and no job, or a parent with a disabled child, or an elder who needs medicare, or..... um, Woody, do you realize that you are being a fundamentalist? You may have different opinions from those who rail on Fox but your style of thinking needs help..."

I was told. 

I am self-evidently NOT a female, a Latino, a Black; you have to take my word that I'm not gay (usual disclaimert included).  BUT I  WAS a teacher, and a union worker, I have a couple of (serious) illnesses, and am retired so have no job, and am an 'elder" with medical needs and who will (probably) need "care" sometime. Shamwow's triumph changes NOTHING for me. But more importantly
  • It changes nothing in the way of Imperial military adventurism. It won't stop any civilians--omen, children, etc--from being slaughtered by US drones in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, or Pakistan. 
  • It changes nothing with regard to further eviscerating the tattered Social Safety Net. 
  • It changes nothing in the power that Wall Street banksters exert, the perqs they accrue, or the bail-outs they expect.
  • It won't REDUCE the influence of parasitical private insurers on your medical coverage. 
  • It won't reduce the wealth/income distribution gap, or reduce the power of the One Percent.
  • It won't prevent further job off-shoring through Trade Agreements  (cue "Great sucking sound").
  • It won't change anything at Gitmo or Bagram or the 'black sites.'
  • It won't change anything in the way the USofA produces energy--"Clean coal" is CROWING today; the Nuke folks are glowing, and the exploiters will drill and spill with impunity, still.
  • It won't repeal the Indefinite Detention clause of the NDAA.
  • It won't change the policy of extra-judicial execution/assassination of citizens without due process.
  • It won't unsign the bill making it possible to detain protestors in the buildings under Secret Service supervision. 
  • It won't repeal the PATRIOT ACT or the myriad OTHER assaults on citizens' civil liberties.
  • It won't even necessarily change the political complexion of the SCROTUS (Dims COULD have prevented seating ALL FOUR of the Opus Deist wing, if they'd possessed even one single cojone among the whole feculent lot.
I'm TOTALLY okay with the fact that Rmoney was thwarted, and that that's the end of his political career. I'm glad the country rejected the cult leader and his Objectivist stooge.

But Remember: Sir Barry promised, during the campaign, to work HARDER to reach "compromises" with the GOPhux on matters that would "piss off his base? Get ready for all that great stuff he promised--cuts to education, Medicaid and Social Security, more drone attacks and bombings in the Middle East, more uncritical support for Israel, more poverty and mass incarceration, more attacks against labor unions and undocumented immigrants, etc., etc. 
Now the electoral dust is settling, there comes the usual, predictable rash of suggestions that our politics is too divisive, and that we need more "national unity."
So I have just a couple of questions for those holding those sentiments, who bemoan the "divisiveness" of politics and claim to want to see more "Unity":

Just exactly WHAT part of the GOPhux agenda would you be willing to cooperate with in the name of "unity"? What part of the Dim/Leftish agenda would you sacrifice?
Tell me what you decide, when I see you at the beach, chers...PAZ!

Monday, November 5, 2012

WWH/CJE Education Beat #4: Critical Thinking, Bogus "Reforms,"

 WWH/CJE Education Beat #4: Critical Thinking; Bogus "Reforms;" Tennessee; Assisted.

Critical Thinking: All parents would claim they want their kids to think critically...Just not til the little bastids leave home!

Probably the one person who has had the greatest impact on the development of a "radically" critical curriculum in the USofA was Paolo Freire.

Paolo Freire ("Frer-rey") was a Brazilian educator who developed and tested theories of the relations among pedagogy, learning, and social conditions in the barrios and favelas of Rio and other Brazilian cities in the days--beginning in the early 60s--when Brazilian authorities were offering bounties on street kids. The titles of his two earliest publications to see light in the US were "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" and "Cultural Action For Freedom," reveal his inclination towards a "liberational" theory of education; both in different ways were landmark (weighty, albeit slender) volumes in the emerging field of critical educational studies and critical pedagogy.  Freire was the point-man.

These were followed by a plethora of further books, articles, institutes, and seminars, as Freire's ideas caught on among guys like Bill Ayers, and Henry Giroux, and Peter McClaren and scores of others.

But what is Freire about? Prof. Shirley Steinberg, an early and ardent acolyte of Freire's from near the begining, produced this video, which is both explanation and testimonial.

My old Curriculum Theory pal, Bill Reynolds, down at Georgia State, found and posted this. It's WELL worth the 15 minutes or so that it occupies.

Seeing Through Paulo's Glasses: Political Clarity, Courage and Humility
Directed and Produced by Dr. Shirley Steinberg, and Dr.Giuliana Cucinelli

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Reform Rubric/Rubbish:I don't know what you know about Race To The Top, the Common Core Curriculum, and the rest of the CorpoRat juking and weaving the Obomber/Duncan Ed. Bureaucracy are trying to pull off, in plain sight, under the rubric of  "modernizing." But a lot of it has to do with the plunge into standardized, corpoRat, test-based schools the purpose of which is the production of complacent, incurious, uncritical, consenting drones. And it is being led, by and large, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has invested almost 100 MILLION dollars in the corpoRat take-over of public education.

Schooling has ALWAYS contained and conveyed an orthodoxy, but hitherto, regionalisms, and localism, and other, often ethnic variations kept the control more in local hands. The corpoRat "reforms" would virtually erase ANY significant local variations. PLUS they are already huge sumps with which greedy corpoRats already suck BILLIONS of dollars of public money for dubious services:
"The corporate imperative has hijacked the narrative--and the substance of public education. It's about herding teachers and students into obedience.
And money. James Arnold reveals: The June, 2012 Georgia State Board of Education minutes listed over $25,000,000 in state contracts for testing and test development for 2013."
Twenty Five MILLION dollars for TESTING, alone. In Georgia, alone. By the way, do you know what business Neil Bush got into, after Savings & Loans? That's right. Education and testing.
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Tennessee? You Couldn't PAY Me Enough: From the desk of one of the most assiduous critics of all things educationally assinine, Susan Ohanian, here is this account of the indignities and professional humiliations to which teachers in Tennessee must suffer, all the while the number of homeless kids in Tennessee's schools has grown by as mych as 75%.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee saw the number of homeless public school students increase by 74 percent between 2007 and 2010.
That number was well above the national average of 38 percent, but the true number may be even higher.

According to a report from the state Comptroller's office, several neighboring states have a larger percentage of homeless students. That could be a clue that Tennessee's numbers are an undercount.

Also, some districts in Tennessee with high foreclosure and jobless rates did not identify any homeless students.

The comptroller's report says the dramatic increases in Tennessee �" from 6,565 in 2007 to 11,458 in 2010 �" may be a consequence of job losses and the economy. They may also be the result of some school districts' improved efforts to identify homeless students.

But what do the state's and regions major news sources focus on? Teacher evaluation, of course.
I defy you to read this through and try to persuade a young teacher to take a job there.

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Computer-Assisted:I was doing my graduate work in education in the mid-late 80s, when computers were still pretty much new technologies both in the university and in the classroom. I wrote my dissertation on an Apple IIe. I was an early and enthusiastic flame warrior on Use-Net. I finished ALL my degrees before there were computers able to scan millions of documents in three-tenths of a sentence. I walked to school. Barefoot. Up hill. Both ways.

One noted educational critic said (at the time, in the 80s) he'd rather have a working automatic transmission on his desk than a computer, that the transmission would be a more useful pedagogical tool.

So we learn, now, that the measurable effects of using computer-assisted research are evanescent.
The teachers who instruct the most advanced American secondary school students render mixed verdicts about students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies.
Some 77% of advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers surveyed say that the internet and digital search tools have had a “mostly positive” impact on their students’ research work.
But 87% say these technologies are creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans” and 64% say today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.”
According to this survey of teachers, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the College Board and the National Writing Project, the internet has opened up a vast world of information for today’s students, yet students’ digital literacy skills have yet to catch up.
While I am unsure precisely what is meant by the term "digital literacy skills," I do not doubt the finding about the attention span.

Dr. Woody's Fascinating Factoids: The Pain of Algebra

Fewer school subjects in the modern curriculum elicit as much discomfort from most students that ALGEBRA!!!!
And, though they don't know it, their mental discomfort is an echo, in a far far different context, from what horrifying shouts, bellows, and even screams of PAIN which were associated directly with the word "ALGEBRA!"
when it first appeared in somewhat different form on signs hanging over doorways on London's streets sometime toward the end of the 15th century.
of course, is an Arabic term, and it was most meaningful when associated with an ancient Arab term which together described the "science of completing and equilibration." That title is drawn from an ancient Arabic book probably composed some time in around the 10 Century, Common Era, in Bagdhad by an eminent scholar, mathematician, and philosopher named Al Khwarizmi.

I can't do justice to the Arabic, but here is whole book title translated from Arabic into the Latinate script:
al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr w'al-muqabala
In English: The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion [or Restoring] and Balancing.

This book is an explanation of the solution to quadratic and linear equations of six varieties. Al-jabr refers to the process of moving a subtracted quantity to the other side of an equation; al-muqabala involves subtracting equal quantities from both sides of an equation. Hisab al-jabr w'al-muqabala was translated into Latin in 1140 as Liber algebrae et almucabala, from which we have the word "algebra" for the whole process.

Incidentally, Al Khwarizmi's name reappears in our contemporary technical vocabulary in the increasingly common English word "algorithm."

Al-Khwarizmi's al-jabr looks NOTHING like our algebra.
The  book is written entirely in prose, and includes none of the abstractions with which we are familiar in our current understandings or algebraic practices. Here is an example:
If the instance be, 'ten and thing to be multiplied by thing less ten,' then this is the same as 'if it were said thing and ten by thing less ten. You say, therefore, thing multiplied by thing is a square positive; and ten by thing is ten things positive; and minus ten by thing is ten things negative. You now remove the positive by the negative, then there only remains a square. Minus ten multiplied by ten is a hundred, to be subtracted from the square. This, therefore, altogether, is a square less a hundred dirhems. (Source: HERE)
In such forms, the Arab flowering across the southern Mediterranean during the European "Dark Ages" preserved much of the knowledge of the Ancients of Greece and Rome and swept them up onto European soil in Spain and later in France where they provided the intellectual power of the Renaissance.  Indeed, it may be projection on my part, but I like to think I can hear echoes of Latin and Greek in the Arabic term "al-muqabala."

(Aside: Back during George The First's Gulf War, in the midst of a lot of Arab-bashing and jingoism, I heard part of a debate between some fat, fatuous, toffey Brit and Edward Said, the now deceased, but justly famed Palestinian scholar in which, in reply to the Brit's observation about the deficiencies of Arab culture, Said reminded the fellow that "we Arabs were solving quadratic equations while your ancestors were still painting themselves blue to make it rain"...A fair point, I thought...but I digress...)

Back to England and the 15th Century, and the screams emanating from the doors over which hung the sign reminiscent of "ALGEBRA!"

The Brits of the time apparently were literalists when it came to "foreign" words, and they took "ALGEBRA!" (SCREEEEAM!) at it's word, so to speak. The Arab term referring to completing/restoring, "al jabr," they applied to the necessary art of BONE-SETTING--that is, literally, RESTORING the broken bone to it's former place. This, in an age without anesthetics of any kind, must have been an EXCRUCIATING experience.

Perhaps as bad as the pain of considering two trains leaving different cities at different times at different rates of speed, and predicting where and when they'll collide...AIIIEEEEEE!


Education Beat: Week #3

As Goes California...:
California is the land where democracy's dreams are tried, and often found wanting.

This was particularly true of the Progressive-era, pro-democracy expedient of the Initiative. It was supposed to be an expedient by which the voice of the people could find its way onto the ballot. And it worked okay for a while.

Until, that is, the Owners/Oners/Oligarchs figured out that, through astro-turf organizations, they could play the roles of citizens and get onto the ballot measures which they couldn't get through the legislature, but could cozen, manipulate, bribe, or intimidate the yokels into supporting, if they spent enough money.

As every election cycle, the Cal ballot is replete with measures, ranging from mandatory labeling of GMOs, ending the death penalty and three-strikes sentencing, and this year, the Billionaire's Bill of Rights. HERE is a link to a "Progressive's Ballot Guide for the California Initiative ballot. And here is an intelligent, reasonable video explaining two important measures.

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Mungo Play PeeWee Football!
Mungo get brains rattled, early and often.. Dr. Woody think--if must play "football" at all--nobody should play "organized" tackle football before 16th birthday. And should stop after FIRST concussion.

Seriously. I saw a foto the other week of an 8th grader who was ALREADY 6'5" and 250 lbs dreessed out in helmet and pads to take on OTHER 8th graders of the standard, 5'6, 100-125 pound variety. This report from the NYTimes highlights what are the (hopefully unintended) consequences of submitting pre-teens to repeated, concussive head trauma.
It took just one play on Sept. 15 to suggest the game between the Southbridge Pop Warner pee wees and their rivals, the Tantasqua Braves, could mean trouble. Two Tantasqua players were hit so hard that their coach pulled them off the field. An emergency medical technician on the sidelines evaluated the boys, grew worried that they might have concussions, and had them take their pads off.
The life spans of life-long foot-ball players is more fraught with disabling injuries, and on the whole, is a lot shorter, than that of non-ballers.

(RIP, Mungo.)
Old News: Three Stooges

This is an older (2009) essay, from Black Agenda Report, on the apparently (allegedly) inadvertent, but surprisingly similar projects begun at the beginning of the Obomber regime to further standardize and corporatize America's schools. A decade ago,
Quite separately from each other, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Rev. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich have long ago forfeited whatever credibility they may once have had. Taken together, they are simply a bad joke: three grown men publicly eye-poking and slap fighting each other while they all come together to sell us high-stakes testing, charter schools, educational privatization and the whole package of corporate “school reform.”
...Duncan now pledges to extend the Chicago model of high stakes testing and massive school closings to create opportunities for what he calls “innovative” charter schools ... Even now (2009), the Obama administration is withholding federal education funds from states and school districts to force nationwide implementation of these so-called “reforms.”
Sharpton and Gingrich fare no better, of course.
But the truly fascinating thing is that, along with Billionaire meddler Bill Gates (whose ulterior motives for an IT-based curriculum mainly supplied by Microsoft SHOULD make him toxic), between them, ALL the high-profile school/teacher CorpoRat school-reform and charter school advocates have exactly ZERO HOURS teaching in ANY classroom ANYWHERE ON FUCKING EARTH!@
This is one of those remarkable RSA videos in which the pen traces and expands the words of the speaker. If you're unfamiliar, either with the work of Robinson, or with the genius of these RSA illustrators, take a seat and get ready for a treat.

This animate was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA's Benjamin Franklin award. For more information on Sir Ken's work visit: http://www.sirkenrobinson.com