I’ve just passed 392,390 visits to this blog!

I know it’s not a nice round number, but it is a number, and I’ve never actually added up the total quantity of visits before.

I hope that over the past six or so years of researching and writing this blog, I’ve been helpful to the general argument that the rich and powerful are perverting education as we used to know it. I hope that my research has helped people realize that my former Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, has been nothing but a lying self-promoter and charlatan. Fortunately, there are now more and more other folks making much the same points that I am, and if I don’t have the time to take on issues, there are generally quite a few other writers doing a bang-up job.

Likewise, my wish is for my readers likewise keep up the work in trying to make American public education once again democratic and actually somewhat equal for a change.

As usual, there is an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny ‘comment’ button hidden way down in the bottom of the fine print at the end of this column.

Published in: on September 28, 2015 at 8:07 pm  Comments (6)  

Remember the check a father supposedly wrote out in “Common Core” math symbols?

You may have seen the check to a school supposedly written out in Common Core number boxes.

Speaking as a retired math teacher, I agree that the check-writer indeed does not know what he is talking about. I mean, he didn’t even bother to try to make sense of his kid’s math worksheet – it’s really not that hard [i previously wrote”simple” – my bad] ; it’s aimed at something like 1st – 3rd graders (I hope) to help them be able to do math in their heads. The methods are a bit on the heavy – handed side, but they are not inherently evil. Read the article to see some of the errors that the check-writer made.

The correct criticism, in my opinion, is to force kids to write out stuff that they should be doing mentally. IN. THEIR. HEADS. That’s the point, it’s supposed to be done mentally, not written down. Kids should learn a bunch of methods for mental math, but just as you don’t learn basketball or canoeing primarily by writing sentences and reading books, you do it by dribbling or shooting a ball or getting out on the water with a paddle and a canoe. That’s the correct criticism of this stuff, and the idea that kids aren’t given a range of choices of methods to pick from. Many methods work. Why be forced to use just one?

Also as a retired math teacher, let me go further and say that there are aspects of, the Common Core math standards that do have some real merit, especially the parts that ask students to explain why and how what they are doing makes sense. HOWEVER, in most public school systems, the linkage of the CCSS and the ever-increasing testing regime means that all students do is fill out zillions of worksheets. Some of the worksheets are from sources older than me, and some are incoherent pastiches of gobbledy-gook filled with mathematical errors, and some, I assume, may be OK. However, I haven’t seen very many of the last type as I have recently been tutoring students or volunteering or mentoring in DC public schools over the past few years.

And now speaking as a long-term student of history, I would also say that there are some similarities between what we are doing in education today and the extreme nuttiness that occurred under Stalin and Mao. Here is the similarity I see: A lot of the ideas in the ‘process’ section of the math CC are lovely.The idea of “from each according to their ability, and to each according to their needs” is lovely. (By contrast, there is NOTHING in Mein Kampf that is lovely, or not in the first 85 pages that I could stomach. He is all about lies, racism, German nationalism, mass murder.) But when it comes to practice, while Stalin and his closest confidants waxed lyrical about building a classless society of plenty, they were in fact randomly arresting and sending to the Gulag and executing or beating to death or starving to death hundreds or thousands or millions of people, almost randomly chosen, because any logic to those mass murders escaped even the people it happened to or their friends or relatives — i.e., everybody. No, I’m not going to claim that the perversion that is happening with public education today, as a direct result of people like Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, the Walton family, the Broad family, and a bunch of other billionaires and acolytes, is causing mass murder. No. However, the education that is being imposed on our poorest kids, attending some of these “No Excuses” charter schools, is such a violation of kids’ rights that it’s nothing that Nazis, Fascists, or Communists of any stripe would tolerate except in their own concentration camps. Where does any civilization require their youngsters to be utterly and continuously silent, from about 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, even during breakfast and lunch and when moving from one room to the next? Only (a) here in certain types of No Excuses charter schools or (b) in concentration camps – but in (b) there, the overlords don’t care about their charges’ lives. But wait a sec….

So we have those who want to liberate poor and underprivileged kids of color from the tyrranny of their zip code and the evil teachers’ unions – and what do they do? Put those kids under an education that consists of all-force-feed mindrot, all the time, no talking permitted, ever. As one commentator remarked, Stalin would have been appalled.

Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 7:21 pm  Comments (1)  

Merit Pay for Teachers Doesn’t Work (2011 study) … In case you had forgotten

A lot of Rhee-formers have bet that they can improve test scores in school districts by paying good teachers bonuses. 

In DC, Atlanta, and many other cities, we now know from Eraser-gate scandals in the news that paying money for good test scores and firing teachers with low student scores will cause a significant number of teachers to cheat.

But a large, three-year study in Nashville, TN, involving hundreds of teachers, and large bonuses, showed that even if everyone is honest, it doesn’t work either. What’s more, even Roland Fryer found it didn’t work in NYC, and that paying students to be good and do their work wasn’t successful, either (“Capital Gains” experiment). Unfortunately, my own blog is one of the few places you’ll find any mention of that.


Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 3:05 pm  Comments (4)  

Not Having Recess Is Really, Really Bad For Kids’ Health

The folks who have eliminated recess from most schools in the USA, in favor of more silent reading and studying while seated, are apparently going to be responsible for a large increase in serious diseases, according to this study.
“A Canadian study in the journal Experimental Physiology revealed girls who sat for three uninterrupted hours had as much as a 33% decline in arterial dilation, compared with those who broke up their sitting time with riding a stationary bicycle and had no vascular function decline. Researchers used nine girls ages 9 to 12. The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (9/23)”

Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 1:13 pm  Comments (1)  

Dr Carson Disqualifies Himself

Ben Carson sent me a mass email saying he wouldn’t back down from saying that Muslims should not be qualified to run for office unless they explicitly disavowed all the parts of the Koran that he, Ben Carson, disapproved of. Never mind the article of the Constitution (NOT an amendment) that specifically says there shall never be any religious test for any US office whatsoever. (So he (Carson) specifically wants to violate one of the best parts of our constitution.)


But what about Christian and Jewish candidates – the only ones Carson approves of? I’ve seen a bunch of lists of all sorts of offenses for which the penalty is death in the Jewish and Christian Bibles (chapter and verse cited, and many translations). I mean, like wearing wearing cotton/Lycra Spandex blends, getting remarried, eating bacon, and working on whatever day the Sabbath is on. Parts of the book specifically approve of genocide, rape, murder and slavery — just like the Koran.

Christians aren’t off the hook, either, unless they specifically disavow the part where Jesus says that he wasn’t going to change a single letter of the Old Testament. And what kind of evil sinners are most of us guys do a whole lot of lusting and coveting, bearing false witness (ie lying), becoming angry and wroth and generally being wicked. No way that Carson, Cruz, Trump, or any other of the dozens of people running for President don’t commit crimes every day that would justify their murders under some section of the Bible.

Fortunately, though they may not like each other very much, I haven’t heard any of the candidates – and certainly not Dr Carson – casting stones on the folks who work for them on the Sabbath — have you? I conclude, and so must you, that Carson disapproves of many of the nutty parts of the Bible, the ones in favor of slavery and stoning and most murders. But HE WON’T PUT IT IN WRITING! Sure, he may SAY he’s in favor of democracy and against genocide, but his sacred book upholds everything we fought against during our Revolution 240 years ago! So, he can’t be trusted, because his sacred book says most of us should be killed! (And the same for just about all of the other candidates) So he has disqualified himself, if you grant his premise!

My Cousin’s Bar-Mitzvah.

During his Bar-Mitzvah ceremony, one of my young cousins had to recite and discuss a section of Exodus or Leviticus where God ordered the Hebrews not only to murder all the Canaanites, but also to burn down or otherwise destroy all their enemies’ former sacred forests, rock formations and so on, in order to obliterate their entire memory. Truly a genocide in the literal sense of the word. My cousin recited the verses just fine, but in his own analysis, he said that while he considered himself a Jew, he could not agree at all with the wishes expressed in the verses.


Good for him! (Nobody should be advocating genocide!

(Recall, even Thomas Jefferson, the slave owning hypocrite, at least had enough honesty to do just that: cut out all the parts of the Bible he thought were evil or Bunkum, and bind the rest into a book. A very short book, I understand…)

I await a similar list of verses of the Old and New Testaments that Dr Carson specifically disavows. (And from anybody who agrees w Carson) Or else, both Dr Ben and any other Jewish or Christian candidate for office would — by this logic — not be qualified, because they had not specifically disavowed the bad parts of their sacred book, and those parts are really, really evil.


In fact, sounds to me like only Universalist Unitarians and pacifist atheists or secular humanists would likely hold religio-philosophical positions that don’t advocate a lot of murders and oppression… Not even Bernie Sanders would pass muster!


I probably shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for this to happen.


But until then, Ben Carson has just disqualified himself and any other self-professed Christian or Jew (or any other religion I am aware of) because they have not disavowed the horrible parts of the Judeao-Christian bible.

Published in: on September 23, 2015 at 3:55 pm  Comments (4)  

Even Schools in Fascist Countries Are More Humane Than This — The Nightmare That Is a No-Excuses Charter School

If you were under the impression that Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like A Champion” describes a great instructional method, and that “no-excuses” charter schools are the best way to educate our youngsters, you need to read this teacher’s description of the nightmare that it is to be either a student or a teacher at one of them.

Here is the interview. 

The practices at this school are horrifying and dehumanizing child abuse. Please read and disseminate.

Published in: on September 21, 2015 at 5:27 pm  Comments (2)  

The difference between Trump and Sanders

… is explained by the incomparable Peter Greene at Curmudgucation.

Here is the gist:

“That’s the difference from Bernie Sanders, who is not playing a game at all, but is simply trying to communicate a message. Trump, who is playing a game, has no message to communicate. Sanders is revealing the hollowness of the Presidential race by showing what substance looks like. Trump is revealing the hollowness by turning it into performance art, an exaggerated cartoon candidacy, a show that turns to the other candidates and says, “Look, if you really want to play this bullshit game, let’s really do it, and not just half-ass it like you bums are used to doing. If you want to be a bullshit slinging, woman-bashing, minority-abusing, ethically rudderless asshat, let me show you how it’s really done.””

Published in: on August 30, 2015 at 8:45 pm  Comments (1)  

Irony and education by Russ Walsh

He writes that Edu Deformers believe that 

“[…] we can solve the teacher shortage by loosening certification requirements, so that anyone who can prove s/he is breathing can teach. This seems to be the direction that states like North Carolina and Kansas are going. As I understand this argument, it goes something like this, teachers and their unions are the problem in education, so let’s solve the problem by putting even less qualified, less knowledgeable people in the classroom. I have to wonder how many reformsters go to a doctor who is unlicensed and received five weeks of medical training in the summer.”

Published in: on August 30, 2015 at 9:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Will Technology Fix Our Schools?

Peter Greene, a teacher in PA is by far the best and most original thinker and blogger on the crises of education in America today I have ever read.  And I’ve been reading stuff on education for a long time. Even my masters’ thesis was on the track record of what was then called “Compensatory Education” back in 1980-81.

Greene explains why the answer is No, in very common-sense and reasonable explanations of what actually happens in a classroom and the debates and behind-closed-doors negotiations between MegaBuck Tech Corp and Apple and Microsoft for required license upgrades, and plus the machines (which cost around a grand apiece) only are going to be supported for about three years and afterwards would be up to individual teachers to try to keep alive, while the others fall to pieces.
Textbooks — good ones, that is– don’t require batteries, won’t fail if you drop them hard or put on top of a loudspeaker or in the sun. And are seldom stolen for gain, and their pages are always in order unless somebody engages in wild and crazy vandalism.

Please read this column of his and follow him or bookmark or “Hi-Fleegle” him or whatever the new hi tek buzz app is this week.
(btw- this is one of two or THREE such posts just day from him!)

A typical quote so you can see how original Greene is:

“Technology Is More Expensive Than You Think” 

“Remember when we were all excited because instead of paper books, we were going to use electronic versions of texts. Instead of having to buy new copies of High School Handbook of Tedious Grammar every five-to-ten years at a cost of Good God They Want HOW Much For This Dollars, we would have awesome digital copies that would never wear out. It was going to save the district millions.

“But then it turned out that the company was going to make us license the e-copies of the text every three years for You Can’t Be Serious Dollars, and the savings from going to to e-books were going to be somewhere between Modest and Non-existent. And that was before it finally sank in that netbooks or chromebooks or tablets or whatever we were using would only survive a few years before either needing to be replaced or being abandoned by the company that provided them. So actual savings turned out to be negative dollars.”


(Parenthetically – I am not a Luddite. I had opportunities to learn about computers going back to the late 1950s, when an electro -mechanical calculator that took about 60 seconds to chug through a single long division problem – and your fingers better not get caught while it was working it out) to remote Time Share BASIC by WATS line to the mainframe at Dartmouth College. And learned BASIC COBOL FORTRAN Logo Pascal Vanilla Pilot IDL Linux 6500 family Assembly and machine languages, as well as English Latin French Spanish Hebrew and learned a few words in many others. And how many brands and models of word processors, spreadsheets, drawing and painting and image manipulation software, and database software … Not to mention games….

It’s annoying as hell when you take a long long time learning how to do or use something, and just as you begin to get really good at it, people declare that it’s obsolete?

With computers it’s always like that. Now with human languages it’s different — what you learned five or 20 years ago is still useful, even though expressions do change. (It’s no longer ok to call an adult with the phrase “garçon” or “boy” but the grammar still works. It is like riding a bike – you can get that sense of balance. And it’s largely free – you don’t have to pay someone a fee to speak Chinese or Arabic. And if you learned only Classical Arabic, it still can be helpful for street Arabic in any country. (Or so I understand….)

I was about to write, “The thing I like about human languages is that they never become obsolete.” But even that’s not true. The ones we study in school – English, French, Spanish, German, Latin, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, are all ones who have a bright future, yes, and are not likely to disappear any time soon. Even Latin of course lives on in new forms all across Europe, tho nobody speaks the old or even medieval forms in day-to-day conversation. (Pig Latin oesday otnay ountcay.)

But remember all the native tribes, languages and cultures that existed on every single continent, at various levels of technology and social developments, who were wiped out completely, with barely a place name recalling their very existence. Here on the East Coast of the USA, in Washington DC and vicinity, the physical DNA and RNA patterns may linger on (male explorers were not going to turn down a rare opportunity for inter-racial nookie, no matter who of their fellows they were secretly buggering on those multi-month-long expeditions… But the languages of the Paspahegh or Kiskiack Indians are utterly lost by virtue of the Amerindian Geonocide.

We have no idea how they lived or what they thought.

We know very little even about any of the tribes mentioned and fought with or against Julius Caesar in modern day Western Europe. We cannot decipher the language of the Etruscans or even the earliest civilizations of the Indus River (today’s Pakistan)– one of our very earliest settled, irrigated, urban center civilizations. (Mohenjo-Daro) and many small languages today are down to just a tiny handful of speakers, all elderly…

Other languages have been almost obliterated in living memory. Much more recently than the ancient Roman or Chinese or Japanese Empires, entire languages and cultures have been wiped out. When I was a young child in the 1950s, the US government forbade the speaking of native American languages in the reservation schools…

So indeed, genocide is possible, and has happened many times. And our ancestors and our governments are directly guilty of it.

Published in: on August 29, 2015 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rember when MOOCs were going to replace all of higher education?

Only 3 years ago the entrepreneurs peddling Massive Online Open Courses like Coursera were predicting the collapse by 2022 of 99% of all colleges and universities, to be replaced by those corporations, particularly among non-traditional learners.
No surprise: It isn’t happening. Completion rates are around 15% and those few who do succeed mostly seem to be those who already have college degrees.
But Thrun and other MOOC founders seem less than concerned about living up to their earlier, lofty rhetoric or continuing that tradition of bringing education to an underserved population. True, they haven’t entirely abandoned their rhetoric about equal access to educational opportunities. But they’ve shifted to what’s becoming a more familiar Silicon Valley narrative about the future of employability: a cheap and precarious labor force. That’s the unfortunate reality of “Uber for Education.”
– See more at: http://kernelmag.dailydot.com/issue-sections/headline-story/14046/mooc-revolution-uber-for-education/?ncid=newsltushpmg00000003#sthash.LZIXRBbU.dpuf

Published in: on August 24, 2015 at 9:52 am  Comments (1)  

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