"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Traitors or Heroes: Ben Franklin

Today is birthday number 315 for Benjamin Franklin. He was born in Boston on January 17, 1706.

Franklin is the only founding father to have signed all four of the key documents establishing the U.S.: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris establishing peace with Great Britain (1783) and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

Most people know about Franklin, the statesman and philosopher. Here are some relevant Franklin quotes for today...


Apology for Printers
If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.

Queries and Remarks Respecting Alterations in the Constitution of Pennsylvania
Has not the famous political Fable of the Snake, with two Heads and one Body, some useful Instruction contained in it? She was going to a Brook to drink, and in her Way was to pass thro’ a Hedge, a Twig of which opposed her direct Course; one Head chose to go on the right side of the Twig, the other on the left, so that time was spent in the Contest, and, before the Decision was completed, the poor Snake died with thirst.

Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One
[A] great Empire, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges.

Referring to private hospital funding alone:
That won't work, it will never be enough, good health care costs a lot of money, remembering 'the distant parts of this province' in which 'assistance cannot be procured, but at an expense that neither [the sick-poor] nor their townships can afford.' … '[This] seems essential to the true spirit of Christianity, and should be extended to all in general, whether deserving or undeserving, as far as our power reaches.'

Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor
Printed in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1755-1756 (Philadelphia, 1756), pp. 19-21. [November 11, 1755]
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Letter to Mary Hewson
All Wars are Follies, very expensive, and very mischievous ones. When will Mankind be convinced of this, and agree to settle their Differences by Arbitration? Were they to do it, even by the Cast of a Dye, it would be better than by Fighting and destroying each other.

Letter to Thomas Jefferson (March 16th, 1775).
In 200 years will people remember us as traitors or heroes? That is the question we must ask.

Franklin was one of the most well known and well-respected scientists and inventors of his day. We have him to thank for (among other things)...


Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

VIDEO (30 minutes): Walter Isaacson: "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life"

NOTE: This is an edited version of an earlier post celebrating Franklin's birthday. I've added some quotes and information and corrected some links.


Friday, January 15, 2021

DeVos Still Haunts Indiana


Betsy DeVos is gone...and her boss will be gone in less than a week, but that doesn't mean that the party of low taxes for the wealthy has forgotten what Princess Betsy stood for...the advancement of God's Kingdom in the battleground of "educational reform."

The Indiana General Assembly for the 2021 session already has thirty-seven bills dealing with "school." Most notable among them is House Education Committee chair, Bob Behning's HB 1005 which would...
...create state-funded Education Savings Accounts that certain K-12 students could use for various educational services, including private school tuition.
Just a reminder...in Indiana "private school tuition" means parochial schools more than 99% of the time. Advancing God's Kingdom, indeed.

Remember when Governor Mitch Daniels told us that it was important for anyone using vouchers to attend a public school for at least a year? Remember when Governor Mitch Daniels told us that vouchers were for poor kids to "escape" from "failing schools?"

You probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that fewer than half of 2019-2020 voucher recipients ever attended a public school.

And that thing about kids in poverty escaping "failing schools?" That was never the actual intent.
...the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes.
This year, the "advancers of God's Kingdom" in our legislature want to offer more voucher money to more, and wealthier, people. Steve Hinnefeld in his School Matters blog, explains...

Legislators propose expanded vouchers, ESA’s
Under HB 1005, families that make up to three times the limit to qualify for reduced-price school meals – which is over five times the federal poverty level — would become eligible for vouchers in 2022-23. For a family of five, that’s $170,274 a year, more than three times the median household income in Indiana.
Meanwhile, the legislature will likely neglect schools filled with poor kids who need extra help.

And will standardized tests, which are good for only one thing -- identifying which schools enroll children of poverty -- still be given this year of the pandemic? After all, that's how schools are labeled "failing."

Betsy DeVos still haunts Indiana!


Friday, January 8, 2021

2021 Medley #1: Bye, Bye Betsy and other stories

DeVos Resigns, End wasteful testing,
COVID and education, Choice for schools,
Blaming teachers, The "Science of Reading"

Betsy DeVos Resigns

I was ready to publish the rest of the articles in this post on Wednesday, but I got sidetracked by the horrible events in Washington D.C. Since then I have paused, while I figured out what I wanted to say. Then, last night, Betsy DeVos resigned...

I am against nearly everything DeVos has done during her term as Secretary. She has pushed her agenda of privatization and has rejected pleas to support students overwhelmed by debt. She has ignored racist education policies and neglected the students who need the most help. She hates public education and public educators. I doubt that she cares much for public school students, either. She was never qualified for her job. She never attended a public school. She never worked in a public school. She never sent her children to a public school. She's an elitist billionaire who cares only about what she can control with her money.

I'm sure she will now return to private life and continue to wreak havoc on public education by buying legislators and using her billions to support private, religious education.

There are a lot of articles discussing DeVos's resignation -- the nation's worst Secretary of Education appointed by the worst President. Mitchell Robinson verbalizes how I feel about her. After all the terrible things her boss has done over the last four years, she has finally had enough, apparently...
I wish I could find more satisfaction in something I’ve hoped would happen for 4 years.

But as usual, Ms. DeVos did the absolute least she could do (resign), well past the time when it could have made a difference (with 13 days left in her lamest of all duck terms), and is probably only doing it to avoid doing something she doesn’t want to do (invoke the 25th Amendment).

DeVos resigned, allegedly, because her boss’ insurrection attempt was an “inflection point” she simply couldn’t ignore.


The Tests Are Lousy, So How Could the Scores Be Meaningful?

If anything good can come out of the devastating pandemic still terrorizing the nation, then it's that there is absolutely no reason to continue our overuse and misuse of standardized tests. Alfie Kohn pens another excellent, thought-provoking piece...
Standardized tests are so poorly constructed that low scores are nothing to be ashamed of — and, just as important, high scores are nothing to be proud of. The fact that an evaluation is numerical and the scoring is done by a computer doesn’t make the result “objective” or scientific. Nor should it privilege those results over a teacher’s first-hand, up-close knowledge of which students are flourishing and which are struggling.

Sadly, though, some educators have indeed come to trust test scores more than their own judgment. One hears about parents who ask a teacher about problems their child is having in school, only to have the teacher reach into a desk and fish out the student’s test results. Somewhere along the way such teachers have come to discount their own impressions of students, formed and reformed through months of observation and interaction. Instead, they defer to the results of a one-shot, high-pressure, machine-scored exam, attributing almost magical properties to the official numbers even when they know those exams are terrible.


COVID and Schools: The Data and Science Then and Now

The conventional wisdom is that it's safe to send kids back to school. The need for students to be in face-to-face school situations is so important that we should not worry about adults in the building and their susceptibility to COVID, but send the kids so they can get an education (Note: this is often said by the same people who lobby for online charter schools!).

It turns out that the conventional wisdom is wrong. Schools are not always the safest place for kids or adults.
...internationally, they have already figured out in the public consciousness that schools are platforms for superspreading. It is very clear that Covid has taken advantage of some of American’s most challenging traits— denial and hubris— in the debate about reopening schools.

So what does the national data reported in early December by US News tell us about the situation with communities, schools, and Covid?
  • Their analysis of their national data shows that the high school student case rate (13 per 1,000 students enrolled for in-person classes) is nearly three times that of elementary school students (4.4 per 1,000).
  • They observed that the higher the community case rate, the higher the school district case rate...


Can charter schools pick the best students? No, but many believe the myth.

Jay Matthews, the reformist Washington Post education writer without any educational training, writes this article about how it's not true that charters can pick and choose their students...and then proceeds to tell us how charter schools pick and choose their students.
So it’s wrong to say that charters are allowed to pick whatever students they want. But that’s not to say some of them haven’t skirted those rules.

In 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Public Advocates civil rights law firm found that at least 253 of California’s roughly 1,200 charter schools maintained policies that illegally prevented students from enrolling or remaining at their schools.

A school in Hemet, Calif. said that to apply as a sophomore a student “must be earning an ‘A’ or ‘B’ in both Geometry and Biology.” A school in Redlands said “only students who show steady academic progress . . . will be eligible for enrollment.” Within a few months of the report’s publication, more than 100 charter schools contacted the authors to say they were correcting their policies to get off the bad list...


The New York Times Adds One Plus One And Gets Three

When the pandemic hit and schools closed, teachers were lauded for their heroism...changing their entire jobs overnight and taking care of their students online. As the public has tired of the pandemic, however, the inconvenience of not having all schools open -- despite the danger to those who work in education -- has opened teachers up for derision. The very fact of teachers as essential workers has given many the opportunity to blame teachers for inconveniencing their lives.

Peter Greene, in the following two posts, explains some things about education and teaching...
...what the heck do people think teachers do every fall? Seriously. Do they imagine that teachers just assume that all their new students know X, Y and Z because it's in the curriculum. Do folks imagine that teachers spend the weeks before school poring over BS Test results to learn where their students are? Because, no-- mostly the test results aren't available yet and because teachers are forbidden to see the actual question, all they get is the test manufacturer's "analysis" of the results, which is mostly hugely broad and unhelpful.

No, in the fall, teachers use a large array of formal and informal assessments to figure out student's individual weaknesses and strengths. Teachers do this daily, and then they keep doing it all year. This remains one of the great, silly fictions of the BS Test--that the results are useful to teachers who would be lost without them. In reality, the BS Test is like a guy who shows up at the office of a general who is commanding thousands of troops on dozens of fronts and this guy--this guy shows up with a pop gun and announces, "I am here to win this war for you."

Another Round Of Teacher Bashing
The level of bash, of demeaning insult, in this "selfish teachers close our schools" argument is huge. Because there are only a couple of possible explanations for the picture critics like FEE [Foundation for Economic Education] paint:

Teachers are stupid people who don't understand the settled science.

Teachers are stupid and also lazy people who went into teaching hoping they would have to never actually work and the pandemic shut-downs are their idea of a gift from God, and they want to stretch out this paid vacation for as long as possible.

Teachers are big fat liars who are pretending not to understand the settled science so they can milk the taxpayers while providing nothing in return.

Teachers should be martyrs who want to give up their entire lives for their students, and if they don't want to do that (or, incidentally, want to be well-paid for it), they're lousy teachers and terrible human beings.

Note that all of these include the assumption that distance learning is a big fat vacation. Also, people who chose teaching as their life's work don't actually want to teach. Also, as FEE makes explicit, teachers do not have students' interests at heart. They don't care about the kids at all (which adds to the assumption of their stupidity, because if you don't care about children, teaching seems like a pretty dumb career choice, but hey--maybe you became a teacher because you couldn't manage a real job).


The Critical Story of the “Science of Reading” and Why Its Narrow Plotline Is Putting Our Children and Schools at Risk

Last one for today, an essential article for teachers of reading and literacy.
#1. Hijacking Terminology
Words have power. The term science connotes credibility, but it also represents evolution and diversity. The “science of reading” has stripped away the dynamic interplay of experiences that grow a child into a reader and a writer and centered the literacy process solely atop phonics. This narrow plotline disregards the impact of writing, comprehension, culture, play, mentor texts, family, and the power of a teacher-researcher to individualize instruction...

#2. Reframing the National Reading Panel...

#3. Attacks on Higher Education and the Problems with NCTQ...

#4. “The Sky Is Falling” atop Declining NAEP Scores...

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Isaac Asimov, January 2, 1920

On the occasion of Isaac Asimov's 101st birthday, I offer some quotes relevant to today's political and cultural environment.


A Cult of Ignorance by Isaac Asimov. Newsweek, January 21, 1980
It’s hard to quarrel with that ancient justification of the free press: “America’s right to know.” It seems almost cruel to ask, ingenuously, ”America’s right to know what, please? Science? Mathematics? Economics? Foreign languages?”

None of those things, of course. In fact, one might well suppose that the popular feeling is that Americans are a lot better off without any of that tripe.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
The complete article, A Cult of Ignorance, by Asimov, may should be read here.


From The Gods Themselves
The easiest way to solve a problem is to deny it exists.

From Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations
It is the easiest thing in the world to deny a fact. People do it all the time. Yet it remains a fact just the same.


From Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations
The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.


From Combatting U.S. Scientific Illiteracy in The Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1989
Increasingly, our leaders must deal with dangers that threaten the entire world, where an understanding of those dangers and the possible solutions depends on a good grasp of science. The ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, questions of diet and heredity. All require scientific literacy. Can Americans choose the proper leaders and support the proper programs if they themselves are scientifically illiterate? The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion—but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance?


From Foundation
Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.


From Foundation
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.


From an Interview by Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers' World Of Ideas
Science doesn't purvey absolute truth. Science is a mechanism. It's a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature. It's a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match. And this works, not just for the ordinary aspects of science, but for all of life. I should think people would want to know that what they know is truly what the universe is like, or at least as close as they can get to it.

From The Roving Mind
I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.