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The Hell With That!

Published on August 20, 2012 by in Uncategorized

So Oklahoma’s Prague High School valedictorian hasn’t gotten her diploma yet because she used the word “hell” instead of “heck” in her speech. Apparently the version of the speech she submitted had “heck.” But when she delivered the speech, she said “hell.”

Now the poor offended school officials want her to apologize. Supposedly she blurted the word out accidentally, spur of the moment style. But even if she changed it purposely, who could have imagined the poop-storm that would ensue? It boggles the mind that the word “hell” would elicit such a harsh response in the year 2012. It is also silly that she hasn’t just sucked it up and written the silly apology. But perhaps the most ironic aspect of this whole story is that the Prague High School mascot is the Red Devils.

 
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Writing on Desks is Cool Now

Published on August 7, 2012 by in Uncategorized

So I just received this note on behalf of IdeaPaint. If you don’t know them, they are a “creator of dry-erase paint products that can transform any surface into a functional ‘whiteboard’ or ‘colorboard.’

They have a partnership with Evernote, which is a creator “of productivity/organization and information-capture apps.” Together, they have announced a contest that will allow one school to win Evernote Premium Codes for a classroom of students for one year (up to 250 students), an exclusive webinar with an Evernote Education Specialist, 250 sq. ft. of IdeaPaint CLEAR, three dozen IdeaPaint WRITE dry erase markers, six IdeaPaint ERASE microfiber cloths and IdeaPaint CLEANER and refill.

All I can think of when reading this and looking at their videos (like the one below) is that I used to get yelled at for writing on my desk at school. Oh, how times have changed.

 
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One Nation?

Published on August 1, 2012 by in Uncategorized

When I read things like:

“President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced an initiative he said will give African-American students greater access ‘to a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born all through the time they get a career.’” (CNN report)

and:

“At a time when U.S. Latinos are looking to advance personally and professionally in ways that come most naturally to them – universities and corporations must take measures to be more culturally sensitive if they want to leverage how Latinos think, act and innovate. They must become more mindful of the educational requirements that will better prepare and enable Hispanics in the classroom and in their work.” (Huffington Post blog)

I understand the underlying reasons why culturally specific measures are put into action to attempt to address our social problems. But they always make me wonder: when will we truly be one nation, diverse in appearance, but unified across elements such as racial traits and national backgrounds? Will we ever truly be one nation? Or are we destined to be stuck in a never-ending cycle where our shared humanity takes a back seat to our superficial differences? I doubt I’ll live long enough to know the answer.

 
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Play Time

Published on July 10, 2012 by in Uncategorized

I hated gym class. Oh sure, in elementary school, even in middle school, when we were all little firecrackers with energy to burn, gym was FUN! But by high school, forget about it.

I remember the term “gym class hero” being tossed around at the people who actually tried at any of the games we played. I also remember those who were too cool to even participate, conveniently forgetting their gym clothes and spending the class lazily walking a track and awaiting their incomplete at the end of the term.

I remember that almost all of the gym teachers at my school were old and obese. It was laughable that some of these people were considered physical fitness experts. I played three sports for my school, and soccer year-round outside of school. I didn’t need physical education, which was a contradiction in terms at my school.

I don’t claim to have any special insight on whether or not these conditions are different at other schools. I also recognize that today’s kids live in a different world than I did when I was a high schooler in the early- to mid-1990s. I also grew up in a safe suburb, and there were plenty of parks and nearby woods.

We spent loads of time playing video games and watching TV, but we also spent as much – if not more – running around, playing pickup sports and building forts in the nice weather, throwing snowballs at cars and running away…I mean, sledding and skating in the winter.

So when I read an article like As Schools Fight Obesity, Physical Education Is Cut in The New York Times, I have to admit that my blood boils for several different reasons.

When the author talks about those who are “making childhood obesity a public cause,” I applaud. Childhood obesity is a cultural epidemic that we need to address. When the author says, “as virtually every state has undertaken significant school reforms, many American students are being granted little or no time in the gym,” I frown. Physical education classes may have been meaningless to someone like me who was physically active, but to those who lacked the active gene, it was important.

But what drives me crazy is the notion that physical education classes in school can magically save us from the scourge of childhood obesity. If a child eats too much crappy food and spends all their time lounging around, they are going to become obese unless they have super genes. The same is true for adults. If gym class is the only time a child gets any physical activity, they will never be physically fit and run the risk of becoming obese.

Schools need physical education classes. Not all students need them. Those who follow a nutritious diet and participate in plenty of sporting/physical activity, either with school teams or outside of school, should be exempt from participation. Then the dollars that are allocated toward public school physical education efforts can go toward serving those kids who don’t get enough activity outside of the school day. And, perhaps some of those dollars should go toward outreach programs that motivate parents to get their kids eating healthier and off of their lazy butts.

 
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College Cost Craziness

Published on June 13, 2012 by in Uncategorized

I remember thinking when I was in school that $25,000 per year was an awful lot to pay for an education. Fortunately, I received an ample amount of scholarships and matching grants along with a reasonable loan, something I had paid off by the time I was 30. I can confidently say that, for better or worse, I own my brain.

But what I paid for a college education in the late 90s is freakin’ peanuts compared to what today’s students and families are shelling out. Higher education prices have soared at an unacceptable pace. According to an article in USA Today, “the average tuition at a four-year public university climbed 15% between 2008 and 2010, fueled by state budget cuts for higher education and increases of 40% and more at universities in states like Georgia, Arizona and California.”

That increase is outrageous. Where do these institutions get off raising their prices so much? It is especially insulting when you consider that the average inflation rates in the United States during the same time period have been far lower than the inflation that is running rampant in higher education.

Why is this happening? Simple. Public colleges and universities are too reliant on public funding. If public funding drops precipitously, as it has in recent years, much of the shortfall has to be made up through tuition increases. Or does it?

If colleges and universities are serious about keeping rising tuition costs in check, they need to do three things: cut costs everywhere they can without harming the educational experience, expand usage of technology everywhere it can be employed to help control costs, and turn over every possible rock in search of new revenue streams.

Now, the number of students who actually pay full price for schooling can vary, but we know there is a crisis in terms of the amount of debt students are taking on. Colleges and universities that don’t take every step they can to control their own costs, get the most out of technology and create new revenue streams are effectively stealing from students, and forcing young people to think about alternatives to traditional four-year higher education.

 
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Is Evolution Intelligent Design?

Published on June 7, 2012 by in Uncategorized

Apparently, Kansas just loves to be at the heart of education controversy. It was almost 60 years ago that the famous Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case ultimately struck down state-sponsored segregation. And Kansas was at the heart of the evolution vs. intelligent design debate, and now it appears, according to an AP article, that “Kansas is headed toward another debate over how evolution is taught in its public schools,”

As a non-religious – yet spiritual – individual, I personally feel that both hard-core religious people who read the story of Noah’s Arc as if it were taken from a newspaper, and dyed-in-the-wool atheists who think the entire universe and our place in it is a happy atomic accident, are misguided. I don’t think there is no place for a creationistic aspect of education, in fact I believe spiritual, philosophical and religious studies are part of a complete education experience. But they do not belong in a science class.

Personally, I feel that without purpose or intelligence behind existence, there is no reason for being. There would be no real right and wrong, and we might as well just devolve into a state of total anarchy where the only law is kill or be killed. That would be true freedom, but it would also violate a set of ethics that clearly separates humankind (well, most of us, anyway) from all other known species. At the same time, however, it is extremely hard to argue against the evidence that details the age of our universe and how science explains the way that life grew from lifelessness.

Maybe, just maybe – evolution IS intelligent design. And maybe we’d all be better off if we left science to the scientists and philosophy to the philosophers, provide our young people with all the points of view on how science works AND the existential questions of existence, and let them make up their own damn minds.

 

 
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Contrasting Viewpoints

Published on May 24, 2012 by in Uncategorized

November 6, 2012 will be here before you know it, and America will have to make a choice. Stick with President Obama for another four years, or hand the keys to the car over to Governor Romney. Of course, the presidency won’t be the only office up for grabs in November, but the presidential election will dominate the headlines as each man tries to make a case for himself, one for four more years, the other for a new direction.

For the education industry, this election will have a significant impact on how we go forward with efforts to improve student learning, control costs and prepare young people for higher education and careers. Now that Mitt Romney has released his education plan, let’s take a look at what each candidate aims to bring to the education table.

The Incumbent – President Barack Obama

In his first term, the president has spoken a lot about education funding and reform as one of his administration’s priorities. His calls for investment in education have come along with doubling investment in scholarships and financial aid, signing a new law meant to facilitate student payback of federal college loans. His administration has doubled funding for Pell Grants, cut the middlemen out of the college loan program and extended the American Opportunity Tax Credit designed to help families afford higher education.

Much of the ARRA stimulus funding has gone to school systems, which used that funding for all sorts of purpose – paying for teachers, funding construction programs and investing in educational technology among them. Earlier this year, the president gave No Child Left Behind waivers to 10 states, ostensibly to provide more local control and freedom from federal mandates. Meanwhile, the Race to the Top initiative has been the administration’s attempt to provide funding to high performing states.

President Obama has also touted his efforts around community colleges. It is the president’s contention that competitive grants can help spur positive reforms in the community college system. In February, the president announced an $8 billion Community College to Career Fund, meant to help spur new partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train millions of workers.

We know that President Obama has his sights set on college affordability in his prospective second term, aiming to use campus-based financial aid programs as a carrot by rewarding colleges with low net prices and penalizing institutions with high net prices. His plan will also likely include finding ways to reform No Child Left behind and looking for avenues for getting whatever federal funding is available into the local school systems.

The Challenger – Mitt Romney

Romney’s plan around K-12 schools is to allow low income and special needs students to choose which school to attend, making Title I and IDEA funds portable. States would be required to adopt open-enrollment policies for students receiving Title I and IDEA funds, and to eliminate caps on charter and digital schools. The federal Charter School Program would be amended to provide funding to successful organizations so they can replicate their efforts. Romney would also expand the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Around the reformation of No Child Left Behind, federally mandated school interventions would be replaced with a requirement for states to create public report cards. As president, Governor Romney intends to consolidate federal teacher quality programs and offer block grants to states as a reward for policies that have a positive impact on teacher quality. Romney also thinks it is necessary to eliminate unnecessary certification requirements.

On the higher education side, the governor thinks the financial aid system should be strengthened and simplified. Some Education Department programs would be consolidated, and private sector participation in the student loan market would be expanded.

Romney also believes he can reduce regulations and foster innovation and competition. His plan claims that many regulations do nothing more that drive costs up. His plans for reform would replace those regulations and encourage new education models, tailoring federal regulations and aid rules to support educational models that favor measured competency instead of time to degree.

There you have it, Obama vs. Romney on education in a nutshell. Take your pick.

 
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We’re number one!!

Published on May 11, 2012 by in Uncategorized

For all the griping and complaining and moaning and groaning that goes on in the United States about the dire state of education, we’re still somewhat good at it. In fact, according to Universitas 21, the United States is No. 1 in its ranking of higher education systems.

The authors of the study are from the at the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. They analyzed data from 48 countries and territories across 20 different measures, which were grouped into resources (investment by government and private sector), output (research and its impact, as well as the production of an educated workforce which meets labor market needs), connectivity (international networks and collaboration which protects a system against insularity) and environment (government policy and regulation, diversity and participation opportunities) headings. The study also took population size into account.

And when all was said and done, there was the good ol’ US of A at the top, almost 17 full points clear of Sweden in second place. How ya like them meatballs, Sweden?

This report might not be cause for a national celebration, nor should it take our focus off of the very real problems that exist in education in the United States, like the achievement gap or affordability. But the doomsday-ers and naysayers would have everyone believe that American education has fallen so far off a cliff that we’re forever doomed to mediocrity. It hasn’t, and we’re not. News like this should at least be good enough for a momentary bit of sunshine, even if the state of education in America remains a little cloudy.

 
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Stop Throwing Money at the Problem

Published on May 4, 2012 by in Uncategorized

I found it interesting to note that author and Texas Tech University Rawls College of Business Professor Shelby D. Hunt, Ph.D., recently earned the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science Sheth Foundation Best Paper Award for 2011. He’ll be presented with it later this month.

It wasn’t that he won the award that caught my eye. It was what he says in his paper, “Sustainable marketing, equity, and economic growth: a resource-advantage, economic freedom approach,” that really stood out.

Hunt’s view of market sustainability doesn’t agree with what he calls a “static” approach to economic growth – meaning an increase in society’s investment into new plants and equipment, which then leads to economic growth. Hunt takes a “dynamic” approach.

“My dynamic theory of competition, on the other hand, maintains that most growth results from the process of dynamic competition, rather than from increasing investment,” he said. “By policies that encourage the process of competition, societies experience economic growth, which then results in increases in investment. In the past, much public policy has been based on the ‘static’ view that investment causes economic growth- and that’s simply not so.”

So what does this have to do with education? Well, it inspires a thought. If the “view that investment causes economic growth” is wrong, then why should we believe that simply throwing money at education haphazardly will cause improvement to the education system? Perhaps Hunt’s assetion that “most growth results from the process of dynamic competition” will could hold true for education, as well as economics.

 
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Betraying Trust

Published on April 25, 2012 by in Uncategorized

Teachers have a very difficult, very important role to play. That last sentence could qualify as one of the biggest understatements ever typed, but it is necessary to say because of what I am going to say next. Just because teaching is critical to our society, and just because it is often a hard and thankless task, no teacher ever has the right to turn into a bully. Last night, I read this story by Lylah Alphonse, a senior editor at Yahoo! Shine, and I watched the video embedded within it. It tells the tale of Stuart Chaifetz, who secretly taped his autistic son’s experiences at school and ended up with some disturbing information. I’ve embedded it below so you can see it here.

In the age of modern technology, teachers have a lot to worry about. All it takes is one punk with a cell phone recording the wrong moment and posting it on YouTube to end a career and ruin a reputation. Teachers need to know that they have the right and ability to discipline the students they are charged with educating. When students get out of line, they need to be held accountable. But, judging by the information we have, this is not a case of an unruly student who deserved to get yelled at. It was cruel behavior from teachers who berated and bullied a special needs student, apparently just because they could.

Teachers are everyday heroes. They have to put up with a lot of crap. But they don’t have the right to abuse their students, and those that do shouldn’t be shielded from consequences by union protection, school system rules or legislative loopholes.

 
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