Education Or Programming?

“A student, Kenneth Ye, gave a rousing speech before the Knox County school board urging it to drop the Common Core standards because they make learning joyless and, in fact, turn American schools into something approaching Chinese sweatshops.”  Please read this:  http://news.yahoo.com/watch-another-high-school-student-down-common-core-220042713.html

We constantly talking about education and ways to improve it.  But how?  There are differences of opinions – like making a school year longer, encouraging kids to study harder, better preparation for tests, concentrating more in math and sciences at the expense of other disciplines.

Continue reading “Education Or Programming?”

Nate Silver’s Truth Serum

Nate Silver, the New York Times’ statistical election forecast wizard, really saved my sanity these last six months. The election for me, and I’m sure for many others, was a vindication that right (fair, just thinking and action) makes might, and that “doing the math”, the alchemy of making gold from an expanding rainbow, really counts.

My friend Sherry Laten has captured the essence of Nate in this beautiful piece.–Ed McManus

Correct predictions
Science works.

Nate Silver, the New York Times’ statistical election forecast wizard, really saved my sanity these last six months. The election for me, and I’m sure for many others, was a vindication that right (fair, just thinking and action) makes might, and that “doing the math”, the alchemy of making gold from an expanding rainbow, really counts.

The election was my Passover Process, feeling the repression personally and politically, having taken many quicksand laden steps over several decades to finally reach another horizon toward the promised land. Nate Silver was my hefty staff, my divining and dividing rod, that pointed my heart and mind toward the mountaintop, giving me strength and calming my spirit during my daily journey.

Nate’s great statistical mind, sculpted by his parents’ commitments to political science and activism, became the guiding light for many anxious liberals like me. Every day, like others living underneath the cloud of financial and civil rights uncertainty, I sought his truth serum, my Valium, his carefully crafted dose of hair-splitting sunlight.

Relief and optimism after Obama reelection.
Hew hope

Then finally, several weeks before most pundits and politicians woke up from their long, loud, snoring snooze, I sighed. . . . Electricity tingled throughout my spine, raised the hairs on my head, and settled my mind. I knew from Nate’s analysis that President Obama had a very high probability of being re-elected. Nate’s rich, mellow, salty, barbecued, baked, refried, stir-fried, boiled, black, brown, green, red, white and navy statistical bean count told me so. These beans sprouted up from all over the swinging cities and states of Cleveland, Charlotte, Detroit, Des Moines, Denver, Miami, Madison, Minneapolis, Nashua, Norfolk, Nebraska, and Nevada.

I knew that some of the cloud would now be lifted. I knew that, again, Obama’s presidency would bend the arched rainbow just that much closer toward a more inclusive, just, economically stable and perfect union. And I knew that, again, I would feel safe and loved–and that politics is really personal.
–Sherry Laten, L.C.S.W., Ph.D., clinical social worker, special educator & advocate

Article on Nate: http://news.msn.com/pop-culture/he-called-it-and-now-silvers-a-pop-culture-star

I don’t wanna, but I gotta

Opportunity is not opportunity unless people have had events and people in their lives to enable them to take advantage of opportunity. Open doors are not enough to assure social mobility. We gotta do more.

 
this coulda been me

I don’t want to be composing this blog, but I am.  If I was born in Utah, I’d probably be a Republican, a Mormon, and a Romney supporter.  Thank you, Mr. Silverman.  “Makers” please admit you were fortunate.

In response to a friend’s request, I just read the New York Times Article, “Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gain.” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/education/big-study-links-good-teachers-to-lasting-gain.html?_r=1  The article summarizes a scientific investigation which concluded that kids who have had the luck to be taught by “good” teachers, have increased earning capacity, more college degrees and a lessened chance for teenage pregnancy.

Since I worked as a teacher in public schools for 20 years, and I brazenly consider myself a “good” teacher, this article made a great read. You ask, how do I know I was a good teacher?  Well, parents, administrators and lots of students have said I was, and I immodestly have decided to concur.  Note:  Accolades will be sent on request. 

Though, this article made me puff up a bit, obviously, I know that there is a lot more to becoming a successful, good human being than having a good 7th grade science teacher. Where you are born, who your parents are, your DNA, every life experience molds us into who we become.

If you were fortunate to have had the right genes, lived in the US and had a basketball coach for a dad, you might be Michael Jordan.  If you had had George Romney for a dad, you’d most likely be a Mormon and a Republican.  Personally, I’d prefer to be Michael than Willard (aka Mitt).

I don’t want to get into a discussion of self-determinism and free will, but since, I have no choice, I strongly concur with B.F. Skinner’s words as follows:

“In the traditional view, a person is free. He is autonomous in the sense that his behavior is uncaused. He can therefore be held responsible for what he does and justly punished if he offends. That view, together with its associated practices, must be re-examined when a scientific analysis reveals unsuspected controlling relations between behavior and environment”

I thank and blame my life experiences for making me who I am. Thanks Mom and Dad.   Likewise, a bit of the good stuff about me is due to my 7th grade science teacher.  Thank you, Mr. Silverman.

Apparently, many in this country sincerely believe that each person decides who he/she is  and what he/sh will become.  They believe that individuals are solely responsible for their success or failure.  If you are a billionaire, it is because you earned it.  If you are a panhandler on the mean streets of Dubuque, you earned that too.  Take the credit! You did it or you blew it.

It is the belief of this writer that if we are affixed to an immutable concept of self-determinism, we lose our empathy, our compassion and the impetus to help the less-fortunate.  Note; the word “fortunate” itself conflicts with the concept of self-determinism.

Recently, a well written comment was posted on Facebook in reference to my last blog, The-Makers-Takers-and-Fakers.  It read,

“We see Obama supporting equal outcomes and not equal opportunity.  That is a loser for everyone in the long run.”

To this I respond as follows:  Opportunity is not opportunity unless people have had events and people in their lives to enable them to take advantage of opportunity.  Open doors are not enough to assure social mobility.  We gotta do more.

Interactions between humans affect humans.  I wish there was a Mr. Silverman out there to help the “makers” of our society look into their being and credit all the people and events which enabled them to be “successful” and then see what they can do to enable others to a good life, or perhaps they just want to live in gated enclaves.

Ya Gotta Earn the Key

Posted By Matt 1/14/2012

I Want to Believe

In the world with so much suffering and injustice, it was wonderful to meet these kids who grew up in a free society. It is hard for them to understand how it can be any other way. How fortunate these young people were to be born in a free country. And at the same time, how vulnerable these kids are.

Our relative and  friend, a middle school teacher invited us to meet with students in her Problem Solving Class and to speak with them about our lives,  and our experience living in the former Soviet Union.

We were a little nervous, but soon relaxed and enjoyed the interaction with her 6th grade kids.

World of opression
Childhood and child labor

We talked to them about the repressive regime and times when people disappeared or were sent to Siberian concentration camps.  I could see that it was hard for these kids to comprehend how it is possible to be accused and put away without a trial and without legal representation.

In a world with so much suffering and injustice, it was wonderful to meet these kids who grew up in a free society.  It is hard for them to understand how it can be any other way.  How fortunate these young people were to be born in a free country.  And at the same time, how vulnerable these kids are.

They did not grow up in a  dictatorship and logically take their freedom, their life in a free society as a given.  They do not realize that democracy and  freedom cannot be taken for granted.  Our freedom was won by millions of people sacrificing their lives for this wonderful idea – Democracy and Freedom for All.

And the struggle continues.  And we, The People, have to be vigilant because democracy by its nature is dynamic and always in flux.  It is easy to get complacent and allow that democracy to slip away.

The word Freedom these days is overused.  It is used as a slogan in mindless politics and in election campaigns.  But this word “Freedom” has real meaning.  It should and must not be minimized by the political hypocrisy and popular slogans.

I look at these students, free of fear, free to ask questions, free to doubt and free to disagree with the authorities.  I am very happy for all these young people.  But that joy has a tinge of bittersweet.  I have a  heaviness in my heart and I worry about their future, the future of this Democracy, a democracy threatened by reactionary forces in our country.

Young generations
Our Future

How I want to believe that this new generation, our kids and grandkids, are wiser, more tolerant and free of old dogmas.  I want to believe that they are not as judgmental as we are, and are accepting of other cultures.  I hope that our kids, our future, will not be arrogant and condescending toward other countries and peoples.

My wife and I, we think that our relative, the teacher,  is doing what needs to be done to help assure that kids know and appreciate the meaning behind these wonderful words: Freedom and Democracy.

I want to believe that evolution is working and for humanity’s sake our kids will succeed where we are failing.

I want to believe.

Shame

But there are times that I do not want to be calm, logical, and polite. I feel shame, sadness and anger.Anyone who has seen the “Waiting for Superman” and the segment on “60 Minutes” should listen to their feelings, attend to their emotions – they should feel something.

I just watched the documentary “Waiting for Superman”, and “Sixty Minutes” about inner city schools and our homeless citizens.I tried to analyze my feelings during and after watching this documentary and the “60 Minutes.”

Homeless in America
Homeless in America

I basically felt  sadness and shame…sadness for the people falling on hard times and shame that this is happening here in America – the richest and the most powerful country in the world.Some of my readers claim I am too emotional and not analytical enough.  They say that I need to tone it down and be less emotional when I write about issues and people – use more facts,  less feelings.

But there are times that I do not want to be calm, logical, and polite.  I feel shame, sadness and anger.Anyone who has seen the “Waiting for Superman”  and the segment on “60 Minutes” should listen to their feelings, attend to their emotions – they should feel something.

People are motivated to take action and to work toward change, not by logic or rational thought, but by their guts, their emotional reactions, their feelings.

Homeless children
American children

We should all feel shame and anger when good, decent people become homeless; that innocent children, American children, do not have a chance in this country, cannot go to a decent school because their number isn’t picked in a lottery.

Reaction to Sixty Minutes: “People just can’t believe it would happen here, in this country. But it is happening. And one of the children that Scott spoke with said, and this I’m sure you deal with a lot, she said she kind of feels like it’s her fault that her parents are going through this and the family is struggling with it.”

Yes it is happenning in our country.

We are playing lottery with our childrens lives.

A lottery!

A lottery decides if a child shall have a future and or not.

A lottery decides who will be able to succeed in  American society and who is destined to fail.

A lottery decides the fate of these children.

A lottery decides the fate of the American future.

I try to imagine how these kids feel when their number is not picked.

What do these kids feel toward a country that treats them as a prize in a raffle?

What did they do wrong?

Charter School lottery
Lottery of life

I could see tears in their eyes when their numbers were not called.

It was as if the door opened and, for a brief second, they could glance at a different world, a happier and brighter world .

And then the door slams shut!

And the light is gone.

And the hope is gone.

And the hope for our country is gone.

A country that shuts the door of hope on its children does not have a future.

Who Flunks

Repeatedly, we hear talking-heads debate why our schools are failing. Usually the cause is either the students (not motivated and rude) , the parents (disinterested, unskilled, poor), or the teachers (lazy, bored, unskilled)

Assignment:  Answer the following question: Why are our schools failing our kids?

(A) Rotten teachers (B) Unprepared, unruly kids (C) Lousy parents (D) Poverty (E) None of the above

After 15 years of being in the business world, I realized money is good, but time is absolutely irreplaceable.  Being financially secure enabled me to change professions.  I became a grade school teacher and later a middle-school science teacher. After dreading every Monday morning, it was a delight to look forward to work.  I was a teacher, I was proud of it, and I did my best.

Continue reading “Who Flunks”

Not About Unions

I just want to add that when some politicians in our country bragging that they are not Harvard educated and are playing to the lower common denominator (Joe the Plumber) we as a country are in deep doodoo

It seems that all priorities are inside out or backwards in our country.

Where the most valued and highest paid people are not the ones keeping our society healthy and ready to meet today’s and future challenges but the ones that perfected the art of repackaging useless crap and selling it for huge profit and bonuses while the rest of us have to pull them out from the crap they got them selves  into.

Considering the level of uninformation and the amount of stupidity in America we should all send daily prayers (and money) to Teachers for their daily sacrifices and headaches while trying to ensure that we as a country have a Future.

I just want to add that when some politicians in our country are bragging that they are not Harvard educated and are playing to the lower common denominator (Joe the Plumber) we as a country are in deep doodoo

Allowing Guns on Campus

More than half the members of the Texas House have signed on as co-authors of a measure directing universities to allow concealed handguns

Concealed guns on campus
Back off!!

Associated Press

AUSTIN — Texas may be preparing to give college students and professors the right to carry guns on campus, adding momentum to a national campaign to open this part of society to firearms.

More than half the members of the Texas House have signed on as co-authors of a measure directing universities to allow concealed handguns. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2009 and is expected to do so again. Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who sometimes packs a pistol when he jogs, has said he’s in favor of the idea.
Bills are still in committee so nothing has come up for a House or Senate vote yet.
Texas has become a prime battleground for the issue because of its gun culture and its size, with 38 public universities and more than 500,000 students. It would become the second state, following Utah, to pass such a broad-based law. Colorado gives colleges the option and several have allowed handguns.
“There is no scenario where allowing concealed weapons on college campuses will do anything other than create a more dangerous environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Oklahoma Chancellor of Higher Education Glen Johnson said in January.
University of Texas President William Powers has opposed concealed handguns on campus, saying the mix of students, guns and campus parties is too volatile.
The majority of adult Texans, 70 percent, surveyed in a poll in December and January opposed allowing guns on campus. The poll for The Dallas Morning News and other large newspapers in the state had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
Guns on campus bills have been rejected in 23 states since 2007, but gun control activists acknowledge it will be difficult to stop the Texas bill from passing this year.
Guns for all
Texas college

Matt suggests:

As for guns on campuses in Texas,  I think they really should start with guns in preschool, it is never too early to shoot straight, I also think cars and buses should be replaced with horses and stage coaches…. let us truly go back to the wild west.