"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

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

2021 Medley #2 - Privatization, the Free Market, and Propaganda

Privatization and the Free Market
Truth, Lies, and Propaganda
PRIVATIZATION, AND THE FREE MARKET

Betsy DeVos might be gone from our federal government, but she and those who support her privatization schemes for public education are still around.

It’s “School Choice Week” & I Choose…

Stu Egan, who blogs at Caffeinated Rage wrote this about school choice week. In it, he reminds us that "Our public schools are better than many lawmakers and 'pro-choice' advocates portray them to be – many of whom have never spent time as educators." The privatizers define the parameters in order to place public schools in a poor light...and then claim that public schools are "failing."

Supporters of public schools must change the narrative.
With the constant dialogue that “we must improve schools” and the “need to implement reforms,” it is imperative that we as a taxpaying public seek to understand all of the variables in which schools are and can be measured, and not all of them are quantifiable.

And not all of them are reported or allowed to be seen.

Betsy DeVos’s March, 2018 assertion on 60 Minutes that America’s schools have seen no improvement despite the billions and billions of dollars thrown at them was a nearsighted, close minded, and rather uneducated assessment of public schools because she was displaying two particular characteristics of lawmakers and politicians who are bent on delivering a message that public schools are not actually working.

The first is the insistence that “they” know education better than those who actually work in education. DeVos has no background in statistical analysis, administration, or teaching. The second is the calculated spin of evidence and/or the squashing of actual truth.

The premise of DeVos’s argument was the performance of US students on the PISA exam. She was trying to control how the public saw the results. She framed the context to promote a narrative that her “reforms” were the only solutions.

Legislators propose expanded vouchers, ESA’s

What is the purpose of America's public schools?

Privatizers believe that education is an individual choice. They claim that all parents must be "in it for themselves" to get the best education for their child. Education, looked at this way, is a consumer good...something that one must shop for. If that's true, then there will be winners and losers. As a society, we can't afford to maintain an education system in which a large portion of our children end up as losers.

In the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said [emphasis added], "...I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone has a fair shot. They get as much education as they can afford..." What about those who can't afford any education? Will we, as a society, have to support them if they're unhireable? It's in society's interest to make sure everyone is educated.

Public school advocates believe that public education is a common good. Let's change "in it for themselves" to "we're all in this together." As the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone said, "We all do better when we all do better."
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.

Families would also receive more generous voucher funding under the legislation. Currently, only the lowest-income families receive a full voucher, worth 90% of the per-pupil funding that their local school district gets from the state. Higher-income recipients get 50% or 70% of that amount.

Under HB 1005, all families with vouchers would receive 90% of local per-pupil state funding. In effect, families that make several times as much as the average Hoosier household could get about $5,500 per child from the state to pay private school tuition.

Constitutionally enshrined schools deserve our ongoing protection

The Indiana Constitution, Article 8, Section 1, states that,
...it shall be the duty of the General Assembly...to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.
The only tuition-free schools, open to every child in the state, are the public schools. Private/Parochial schools can refuse students for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, gender identification, sexual preference (as well as the sexual preference of the parents), and religious beliefs.

Charter schools can, and sometimes do, choose their students based on socio-economic status, academic achievement, physical/academic disability, and the ability to provide their own transportation.

Until charter schools and private/parochial schools accept all students regardless of academic ability, economic status, or any other limiting factor, they should not receive state support. Public education dollars should go to public schools.
I have no problem with parents choosing which school their children attend. They have the right to send their children to the school of their choice, be that public or private. I willingly pay taxes to support public school education.

However, I vehemently object that my taxes also are providing vouchers to pay for non-public schools. Every dime that goes to the non-public schools takes money away from education for public schools. At the expense of public schools, taxpayers are paying for a multi-education system instead of the one system, open to all, established by our Indiana Constitution.

These Textbooks In Thousands Of K-12 Schools Echo Trump’s Talking Points

In the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote,
...to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness; and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal[ry] rewards...
So why are our tax dollars going to support schools which teach a "skewed version of history" and religion as science?
Christian textbooks used in thousands of schools around the country teach that President Barack Obama helped spur destructive Black Lives Matter protests, that the Democrats’ choice of 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton reflected their focus on identity politics, and that President Donald Trump is the “fighter” Republicans want, a HuffPost analysis has found.

The analysis, which focused on three popular textbooks from two major publishers of Christian educational materials ― Abeka and BJU Press ― looked at how the books teach the Trump era of politics. We found that all three are characterized by a skewed version of history and a sense that the country is experiencing an urgent moral decline that can only be fixed by conservative Christian policies. Language used in the books overlaps with the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, often with overtones of nativism, militarism and racism as well.


Free Market Facts And School Choice

"...the free market doesn’t foster superior quality; the free market fosters superior marketing."
...the last two months of U.S. history are more than sufficient to demonstrate why allowing citizens to make a free market selection of their own preferred facts is bad for us as a country. Free market fans like to argue that only the best products win in the marketplace. But the free market doesn’t foster superior quality; the free market fosters superior marketing. And in the free market of ideas, sometimes the most effective marketing is simply, “Wouldn’t you rather believe this?”

There is no benefit to society in encouraging parents to choose post-truth fact-impaired education for their children, certainly not enough benefit to justify spending taxpayer dollars to pay for it. Choosing your own preferred facts from a wide open marketplace simply enables willful ignorance, and that is never good for society as a whole.

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL

Our founders were not perfect. The US Constitution excused slavery. The Civil War ended the legal practice of slavery, but was followed by a failed "reconstruction" which ushered in an era of Jim Crow laws, punishment, and death for former slaves. The "second reconstruction" yielded some relief, but law and social pressures still worked against the advancement of political, economic, and social equality.

The first century and a half of the country's existence were also dedicated to the subjugation, through lies and deceit, of the people native to the land. The so-called treaties made in the name of the United States were ignored. The payment for the land taken was often reneged upon. Entire communities were uprooted and moved, often at the cost of human lives.

Now, nearly 250 years after our founding, we're still grappling with racism, inequality, and white supremacy. Should we lie to our students and tell them that nothing has ever been wrong with the nation or should we tell them the truth?

The following three articles from Kappan deal with teaching students the truth, how to differentiate the truth from lies, and how to protect themselves from propaganda.

The silence of the ellipses: Why history can’t be about telling our children lies
In September 2020, President Donald Trump stood in the great hall of the National Archives to denounce what he called a leftist assault on American history: “We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms,” he said, and teach our children a kind of history that will make them “love America with all of their heart and all of their soul.”

Love built on a lie is false love. It achieves its mirage by making truth its victim. The goal of historical study is to cultivate neither love nor hate. Its goal must be to acquaint us with the dizzying spectrum of our humanity: lofty moments of nobility mixed in with ignominious descents into knavery. When history’s mirror intones a single phrase — that we’re the fairest of them all — it freezes us in childhood and stunts our growth. History that impels us to look at the past, unflinchingly and clear-eyed, does not diminish us or make us less patriotic. The opposite, in fact, is true: It makes us grow up. Understanding who we were allows us to understand who we are now. Only then can we commit to doing something about it.

That should be the goal of history education. Our children deserve nothing less.

Taking a reasoned stance against misinformation
In this time of widespread dissemination of alternative facts and misinformation, teachers have a responsibility to turn classrooms into spaces where reason and inquiry trump ignorance and hyperbole. But doing so often requires teachers to take a stance regarding what issues are worthy of deliberation and what information warrants consideration, and the decisions teachers make may be risky, as teachers are generally expected to be politically neutral, and expressions of their political beliefs can expose them to accusations of bias (Journell, 2016). That’s why it’s important for teachers to follow established criteria for making pedagogical decisions.

Having a clear framework that enables them to justify their decisions to students, parents, and administrators will hopefully mitigate the risks that come with opening the floor to discussion of controversial topics. More important, modeling thoughtful discernment and being transparent about which topics are open for deliberation and what information is acceptable to bring to a discussion is a valuable lesson unto itself, one that students can use outside the classroom and into their adult lives.

Understanding propaganda: A conversation with Renee Hobbs
Renee Hobbs is professor of communication studies at the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island...

...when I started offering college courses about propaganda, many years ago, a lot of students thought this meant I’d be teaching history classes. In most secondary schools, the only time anybody talks about propaganda is in the context of the Second World War, so students tend to associate it with the Nazi era. I often have to explain that propaganda isn’t some bygone issue from long ago and far away. Actually, it’s something we’re all swimming in every day...

In 2019, for instance, the National Council of Teachers of English passed a resolution calling for a renewed emphasis on teaching ”civic and critical literacy,” including efforts to “enable students to analyze and evaluate sophisticated persuasive techniques in all texts, genres, and types of media” and to “support classroom practices that examine and question uses of language in order to discern inhumane, misinformative, or dishonest discourse and arguments.” Well, that sounds like propaganda analysis to me.

Plus, I think we’re seeing a lot of young people becoming more eager than they have in years to embrace civic life — whether they’re interested in politics, racial justice, the environment, you name it. And to participate in civic life effectively, they need to be able to speak persuasively, activate emotions, simplify information, appeal to people’s deepest values, respond to attacks from opponents, and so on. In short, they need to learn about rhetoric and propaganda. So, our students are certainly ready for this kind of instruction, and they may begin to demand it, too.
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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...

THE NEWS MEDIA

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.
ON COMPROMISE

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.
THE EMPIRE DIMINISHED

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.
HEALTH CARE

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.'
LIBERTY

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.
WAR

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.
TRAITORS OR HEROES

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)...


FURTHER EXPLORATION

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.

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Friday, January 15, 2021

DeVos Still Haunts Indiana


ADVANCEMENT OF GOD'S KINGDOM

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!


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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"
BYE, BYE BETSY

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.

TIME FOR TEST WITHDRAWAL

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.

SCHOOLS AND COVID-19

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...

THE MYTH THAT TURNS OUT TO BE TRUE

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...

IT'S ALL THE TEACHERS' FAULT

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).

A TAKE ON THE "SCIENCE OF READING"

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...
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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.

ON IGNORANCE

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.



ON DENIAL

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.

ON WISDOM

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.


ON SCIENTIFIC LITERACY

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?

ON RIGHT AND WRONG

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

ON VIOLENCE

From Foundation
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.


ON SCIENCE, EVIDENCE, AND TRUTH

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.


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Friday, January 1, 2021

Another set of New Year's Resolutions


The New Year is a time for reflection and planning. Many people enjoy reading top ten lists from the past year as well as making New Year’s Resolutions. Last year I suggested some New Year’s Resolutions for teachers. This year I have a few more to suggest...only this year they're resolutions for legislators and education policymakers (and even billionaires who think their money qualifies them to pontificate on education).

RESOLUTIONS FOR INDIANA LEGISLATORS AND POLICY MAKERS

#1 Learn Something About Education, Standardized Testing and Teaching
...more than 50% of the state budget goes to education!
The first and most important is to take some time this year to learn something about education before you start making laws, pronouncements, or restrictions for public schools. Indiana politicians -- especially those who don't know anything about public schools -- love telling us that "more than 50% of the state budget goes to education" though I've never heard any add that the "more than 50%" includes ever-increasing amounts for religious and private school vouchers as well as money for privately run charter schools. If we're spending that much money on education, then shouldn't the people who are passing out the cash know something about what it's going to be used for?

Since 2011, a lot of the legislation passed in the Indiana General Assembly and signed by Indiana Governors has had the side-effect of changing what goes on in Indiana's public school classrooms. If you, as a policymaker, are going to continue to change classrooms and the job descriptions for educators it would be helpful if you learned just what it is that goes on in a public school classroom and how Indiana's professional educators make it happen (and no, just because you WENT to school when you were younger doesn't mean you know how education works!).

...because I'm sure that you, dear legislator or policymaker, wouldn't want someone to tell you how to do YOUR job, right? I'm not talking about your job as a public servant [sic]...I'm referring to the job that's listed as your occupation on your official bio page.
 
For example, if you used to be a corporate executive at a company with several billion dollars in annual sales, you probably wouldn't appreciate a group of primary grade teachers telling you how to increase profits. Or perhaps you're a financial planner. Would you want a bunch of middle school English teachers telling you how to choose investments for your clients? Or how would you feel, as a furniture store owner, if the P.E. teachers and coaching staff from the local high school came into your store and took over your ordering and inventory? The same goes for those of you who are auctioneers, attorneys, career politicians, and former florists.

No one likes someone else telling them how to do their job...especially if someone else doesn't know what they're doing.

So, now that you've resolved to learn something about education, where can you go to do that learning? That's Resolution #2...

#2 Invest Time in Your Local Indiana Public Schools

How about if, along with talking about how much money is spent on education, you...
...spend more than 50% of your legislative (or policy based) research time on education.
If the state spends that much money in one area, isn't it worth the time to learn about it?

Sure, I know that quite a few politicians make appearances at one or another local school and some, like former Governor Mike Pence, love to visit private schools. Since the vast majority of Indiana kids attend district public schools, maybe you ought to see how things are going in those schools

...the public schools...

...the ones that are mandated by the Indiana Constitution.

When you spend time in a school, make sure you give yourself enough time to really get to know something about the students, teachers, and the community. Don't just drop in for an hour and a photo op with the administration. Spend a week in one school...several hours a day.

Sit in the teachers' lounge and talk to the teachers about how things are going. Ask them how much time they spend on their job outside of contracted hours. Ask them how testing has impacted their classroom.

Visit the parent workroom -- if there isn't one, why not? -- and ask the parents about the school. What do they think about the administration? Ask them how they like their child's teacher. Ask how testing has affected their child.

Most of all, sit in classrooms and watch the teachers teach. Help them out. Volunteer to teach a lesson. Take the daily quiz. Take cafeteria duty...recess duty...bus duty...

It might be nice to spend some time in public schools on special days to really get a feel for the teaching experience. Try the day before Christmas vacation in a fourth or fifth-grade classroom. Halloween in Kindergarten or first grade. Testing week in third grade (I'm an elementary teacher...perhaps some secondary teachers have suggestions for days special in high school or middle school).

Repeat the same experience in more than one school. Make sure you choose one of the schools in your local district with a low A-F score. Why do you think the students in school A, for example, score higher on state tests than the students in school B? See if you can figure it out. How can you help increase learning?

Before you leave the district, have a talk with the business manager and see if there's anything you could do to make their job easier and improve the district.

#3 Help Your Local Schools, Don't Punish Them

Once you finish goals #1 and #2 you'll have a pretty good idea of what's behind student test scores, teachers' frustrations, and administrator/school board headaches.

Now, go to Indianapolis and spend more than 50% of the rest of your career doing what career teachers do...help to improve public education in Indiana.

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