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.

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