Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
It’s important to note that there is a debate over what these ideological labels actually mean to voters. And polls that give respondents the chance of calling themselves “progressive” produce a substantially larger number on the left end of the spectrum, since many who won’t pick the “liberal” label do call themselves “progressive.” A study earlier this year by the Center for American Progress found that when progressive and libertarian were offered as additional options, the country was split almost exactly in half between left and right.
That discrepancy is key to the debate - and one that will never truly be addressed by what George H.W. Bush calls "the cables." [???] The reality is that whatever the parties want to say about the leanings of the country, the voters are choosing Democrats lately because the GOP just seems to have nothing to offer. This is more well articulated by David Brooks, but I get the gist of it.
Realistically, voters seek out what is real and valid in their lives. They support what works and they abandon what doesn't. That's pretty much the way it should be.
The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index, published on Tuesday and compiled by the Legatum Institute, an independent policy, advocacy and advisory organization, ranked 104 countries which are home to 90 percent of the world's population.
The index is based on a definition of prosperity that combines economic growth with the level of personal freedoms and democracy in a country as well as measures of happiness and quality of life. With the exception of Switzerland, which came in at number 2, Nordic countries dominated the top 5 slots, with Sweden in third place followed by Denmark and Norway.
Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity really ought to check this out. Of course, I remember an interview on the O'Reilly Factor years ago where Bill was discussing life with the Swedish Minister of Tourism. O'Reilly said, "OK, give me one good reason why I should move to Sweden."
The Swede responded, "Well, hopefully you won't."
Friday, October 23, 2009
Hartwick college, a small liberal-arts school in upstate New York, makes this offer to well-prepared students: earn your undergraduate degree in three years (six semesters) instead of four, and save about $43,000—the amount of one year's tuition and fees. A number of innovative colleges are making the same offer to students anxious about saving time and money. The three-year degree could become the higher-education equivalent of the fuel-efficient car. And that's both an opportunity and a warning for the best higher-education system in the world.
Finally, the word is spreading. With the average time for a bachelor's degree taking an astounding and baffling six year and seven months, a little shorter for some programs from on-line universities, it is time for a change. The acceptance of AP and IB scores for advance progress in degrees and the expansion of dual-credit, or concurrent enrollment, classes are imperatives. And schools who shun giving the credit where credit is due should be shunned and avoided at all costs.
Now, if we can get K-12 down to K-10, and the blending of 11/12 - 16, we will be getting somewhere.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Sadly, it's shocking to even acknowledge that President Obama's message of hope of change and a better America could be considered as a factor in this sort of scary, disturbing, despicable news. That this could somehow be his fault - that he has somehow asked for it - is a reprehensible idea.
What has happened to this country when a man's message of hope and change can be considered to be responsible for this sort of insanity? If that's the case - and the news seems to imply it is - then the thing that happens if some nut takes action is that America will have lost her soul. We will have met the enemy, and the enemy will be us. What have we become when a leader's attempts to reform a damaged system can be met with such vitriolic contempt, forecasting catastrophic change to America? What a terrible gut check to even consider that the Secret Service's fears are even possible in this day and age. If President Obama responds to this news by coming to a realization and changing his course, then we will have seen the victory of truly homegrown terrorism.
I don't listen to much of the "noise" these days as the anti-Obama atmosphere has reached such a toxic level that it has departed from rational discourse. And, it simply feeds on itself. It feeds on this absurd notion that America - as a nation and an idea - is at risk. The fact that every action and every word and every initiative seems to draw hysterical responses about the need to "take our country back" is completely baffling, and truly, truly sad. The sort of discourse that scares people into believing their way of life is threatened and they have no choice but rash actions is terrifying.
People calmly and publicly talking of "watering the tree of liberty" is a image I never thought I'd live with. Some people are outraged, some news reports it, and then nothing. The fact that we don't vehemently denounce such terror, the fact that we don't run from such craziness, is beyond my comprehension. That sort of environment contributes to a rising hysteria that could become the proverbial straw, and I am deeply saddened by that realization.
The Secret Service is facing "unprecedented" threats to the President's life. They may have to relinquish all other duties with the Department of Treasury so they can devote full resources to keeping our President alive?
Where are we? What have we become?
Monday, October 19, 2009
While I didn't know this phenomenon all too well when I first read Engh's book, I was somewhat familiar with the intense competition and the growing force of club sports in youth culture. Now, after working in coaching in high schools and raising two kids who are reaching the competitive levels, I am on board with Engh's criticism and concerns. As an advocate for restraint and common sense in youth athletics, Engh documents the anxiety kids are facing as they are asked to choose a sport and specialize by as early as sixth grade. As club sports expand all seasons into year round, a thirteen--year-old is threatened with losing his spot on one team because another sport has a tournament out of state during the tryouts for the first sport and .... ugh! It just gets that crazy. And Engh argues for a return to the good-natured fun of youth sports that focuses on the fundamental skills of the game, as well as the equally important aspects of teamwork, good sportsmanship, discipline, and fair play. Engh's book is filled with anecdotes and insights about the foundations of youth sports and the problems of "Coaches Gone Wild." In addition to this book, Engh is also affiliated with the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS), where he serves as president and spokesman.
Additionally, the issue has a new voice in Denver-area high school student Scott Martin who recently published a piece of commentary in the Denver Post, where he revealed "Why I Can't Stand Youth Sports Anymore." It is an honest and sincere plea for some sanity in the world of youth sports, and a very well written argument at that. Scott begins by sharing the tragic stories of high school students who were "practiced to death," and then offers detailed commentary on the culture that has led to such situations. He also comments about his own struggles with the culture and laments the fact that parents at pee-wee sports competitions have to be urged, "Relax, it's just a game."
I must admit, I don't hold out hope for change in this arena, as the sound of youth coaches screaming at children makes me cringe every time I hear it. The stories of long weekends and short summers traveling around with club teams make it even worse. Certainly, any one has the opportunity to opt out of these "optional activities." But that doesn't make it any easier, especially for kids who just want to play for their school. Perhaps with future leaders like Scott, generations down the road will figure out the madness and stop killing "the love of the game."
Perhaps, hope can be found in the direction coaching takes, as coaches would seem to be the best hope for a change in the culture, as noted in this New York Times profile. If more schools and athletic organizations would commit to the goals of the Positive Coaching Alliance, the focus and direction of our sports-obsessed youth could be redirected in a way that wouldn't lead to contempt and regret over that activity which once inspired joy and passion. The Positive Coaching Alliance is an organization of coaches and leaders in youth sports who recognize the imperative of a positive and uplifting message on the athletic fields.
Sports are a wonderful part of our lives and culture. The lessons learned on the athletic field as members of a team can be integral parts of character education, and we should take steps to guarantee that benefit. There should never be a reason Why Johnny Hates Sports.
Picnic Time Sports Chair
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The simplest solution would be for the government to issue a health-care credit card to every family along with the insurance voucher. The credit card would allow the family to charge any medical expenses below the deductible limit, or 15 percent of adjusted gross income. (With its information on card holders, the government is in a good position to be repaid or garnish wages if necessary.) No one would be required to use such a credit card. Individuals could pay cash at the time of care, could use a personal credit card or could arrange credit directly from the provider. But the government-issued credit card would be a back-up to reassure patients and providers that they would always be able to pay.
The combination of the 15 percent of income cap on out-of-pocket health spending and the credit card would solve the three basic problems of America's health-care system. Today's 45 million uninsured would all have coverage. The risk of bankruptcy triggered by large medical bills would be eliminated. And the structure of insurance would no longer be the source of rising health-care costs. All of this would happen without involving the government in the delivery or rationing of health care. It would not increase the national debt or require a rise in tax rates. Now isn't that a better way?
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
I’ve introduced you to my friends Mr. Bentham and Mr. Hume because they represent the choices we face on issue after issue. This country is about to have a big debate on the role of government. The polarizers on cable TV think it’s going to be a debate between socialism and free-market purism. But it’s really going to be a debate about how to promote innovation.
The people on Mr. Bentham’s side believe that government can get actively involved in organizing innovation. (I’ve taken his proposals from the Waxman-Markey energy bill and the Baucus health care bill.)
The people on Mr. Hume’s side believe government should actively tilt the playing field to promote social goods and set off decentralized networks of reform, but they don’t think government knows enough to intimately organize dynamic innovation.So let’s have the debate. But before we do, let’s understand that Mr. Bentham is going to win. The lobbyists love Bentham’s intricacies and his stacks of spending proposals, which they need in order to advance their agendas. If you want to pass anything through Congress, Bentham’s your man.
Brooks is just so damn smart that his allusions are often lost on many. But he is drawing from classic enlightenment history with astute nods to Jeremy Bentham and David Hume. It is these historical allusions that make his commentary so rich, but it is also what leads neo-conservatives to criticize him. For the reality is Limbaugh and Hannity and Beck and O'Reilly don't really understand Brooks or his allusions, and by association don't really understand conservatism.
David Brooks calls himself a Burkean conservative, and it is a definition and a pragmatic ideology I support. Sadly, most in the Republican Party don't really - and here's the irony because they use this charge so much - don't really understand their history. They don't understand the nature of their ideology and how to apply it to a changing world. Instead they rely on soundbites that simply become a rant about "low taxes" and "limited government." Yet, they don't understand how to take those ideas and actually "govern." Brooks, to his credit, tries to explain how the GOP needs to move beyond the "government is the enemy" idea of the Buckley and Reagan eras. For, while Reagan was absolutely right about marginal tax rates when they were 80%, his argument doesn't apply when they are 36%. Neo-conservatives don't get that, and they have never been able to reconcile their ideas with the social conservatives and the Religious Right. It makes for a mess of a message and a mess of a party.
One man who knows this - though sadly forgot it for about six months when his party needed him most - is John McCain. McCain had built an entire - and rather impressive - career on similar Burkean philosophy. This was effectively profiled in The Atlantic. Sadly, I think, few conservatives read that, and the noise machine couldn't understand it, so they dissed that type of thinking.
But there is hope. Brooks makes that clear. But you have to read it and you have to "get" it for that hope to have any chance.
Yes, we can. [sic]
Monday, October 5, 2009
At the same time, we must stop exaggerating the Iranian threat. By hyping it, we only provide Iran with "free power," in Leslie Gelb's apt phrase. This is an insecure Third World country with a GDP that is one 40th the size of America's, a dysfunctional economy, a divided political class, and a government facing mass unrest at home. It has alienated most of its neighboring states and cuts a sorry figure on the world stage, with an international embarrassment for a president. Its forays in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Gaza have had mixed results, with the locals often growing weary of the Iranian thugs who try to control them.
The country does not yet have even one nuclear weapon, and if and when it gets one—something that is far from certain—the world will not end. The Middle East has been home to nuclear weapons for decades. If Israel's estimated -arsenal of 200 warheads, including a "second-strike capacity," has not prompted Egypt to develop its own nukes, it's not clear that one Iranian bomb would do so. (Recall that Egypt has fought and lost three wars against Israel, so it should be far more concerned about an Israeli bomb than an Iranian one.) More crucially, Israel's massive nuclear force will deter Iran from ever contemplating using or giving away its own (hypothetical) weapon. Deterrence worked with madmen like Mao, and with thugs like Stalin, and it will work with the calculating autocrats of Tehran. The Iranian regime has amply demonstrated over the past four months that it is interested in hanging on to power at all costs, jailing mullahs and ignoring its own clerical elite. These are not the actions of religious rulers about to commit mass suicide.We should not fear to negotiate with these rulers.
Clearly, there will be many screeching voices from the right wing noise machine who oppose this "appeasement" and will liken it to Chamberlain and Hitler. But those voices have no real credibility in the foreign policy world, and they earn money by hyping fears and criticizing everything. By contrast, I have heard and seen support for Zakaria's view by people such as Pat Buchanan, Henry Kissinger, and Charles Krauthammer. In fact, as far back as the Bush administration, Krauthammer offered the rational conclusion that if Iran wants the bomb, they will get it. But they can and will be persuaded not to use it. For, they don't want to become a parking lot, as much as some like to paint them a national of suicidal maniacs. That's no more true than it is in Pakistan or Korea.
Thus, perhaps, as Iran slowly moves out from under its theocratic control - hints of which were revealed in the last election - the world will control its more unsavory elements without making it worse.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Lately the focus on Glenn Beck has challenged the "edginess" of these shows, arguing Beck does his job in a far more insidious manner than the others, or than he used to in his original show and first two books, which I read and actually enjoyed. That criticism is the focus of a piece of print commentary (generally more rational and not built on soundbites) that came from Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News. While Dreher is more critical of Beck than some others - and while he in my opinion goes on a bit of a tangent - there is much to consider about the increasingly dangerous world of (mainly) Fox News commentary.
From ridiculous charges of FEMA concentration camps to charges of Manchurian candidates to shameless accusations of subversive muslim congressman to a million people at the tea party in D.C. cited by a "university" that Beck "couldn't remember the name of to a "deep seated hatred of white people that one was a minute before Beck said "I'm not saying he doesn't like white people" to Vancouver losing billion dollars on an Olympics they hadn't held yet, Beck has fallen so far off the road of rational thought, that his anti-government fearmongering has actually become dangerous. And I would argue that I used to listen to Beck and agreed with much of his points. I've read all his books, and until his last one, had little criticism. However, his current arc is what leads Dreher to wonder where the William Buckleys of the conservative party are.
Well, they might be in South Carolina. At least that might be inferred from the recent statements - and consistent rational pragmatic conservatism - of Senator Lindsay Graham. From his evenhanded and just criticism (but ultimate vote for) Justice Sotomayor to his denouncement of craziness and cynicism in the conservative media, Graham is one of the few Republicans left that I could - and would - vote for on a national level. He might just be stepping up, in a Buckley-esque way to defeat the madness and extremism that has taken the microphone of his party.
This hope is, incidentally, supported in the New York Times today by one conservative voice I can trust and support, David Brooks. Brooks reminds us that, for the most part, the crazy voices of the conservative media aren't all that influential, as they'd like us to believe. While 15 million or so viewers and listeners will follow these guys each day, that doesn't turn into a reliable voting bloc for their far right, neo-conservative agenda. Instead, pragmatism still rules at the voting booth.
Or at least I'd like to hope.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
First of all, up until the late nineteenth century, the school year, especially in the cities, was actually all year long. This was driven by the desire to have the kids in school so their parents could work, especially in factories. In rural areas, kids were given release time in the spring and fall for planting and harvesting - not "summer vacation" to work in the fields. The "agrarian model" explanation is a myth, and up-to-date education researchers have known this for years. The school calendar was not set so kids could help on the farm. Most of the work on a farm is done during spring and fall - planting and harvesting. Clearly, that is when the kids were most needed. The summer vacation schedule was set to appeal to middle and upper class families (the ones who actually went beyond sixth grade) because these families wanted to get out of the hot, crowded cities (and classrooms) during the summer months, especially before the days of air conditioning.
The "myth of summer vacation" has been well-documented over the years, though misperception persists. Perhaps the most informative analysis of the history comes from a really good read by Kenneth Gold, entitled School's In: The History of Summer Vacation in American Public Schools.
While there are arguments for longer school, the agrarian model is not one of them. Additionally, the longer school day has shown a definitive impact in struggling, urban populations, but suburban middle and upper class populations have never shown the "summer loss," and they are well-served by a myriad of summer activities that enhance and add to their education as well-rounded citizens in ways that more classroom time drilling for standardized tests doesn't. If we are going to have effective discussion about education reform, we need to dispense with the perpetuation of myths by the misinformed. Additionally, the article I linked to noted that the belief that others countries' students spend more time in school is also not true:
While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it's not true they all spend more time in school. Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).
As I noted after watching the movie Two Million Minutes, critics have argued that by the time they graduate from high school, Chinese and Indian students will have spent twice as much time in school as American students. But that leads to the following questions:
Are their economies twice as large or powerful? Are their buildings and bridges twice as strong? Are their doctors and scientists twice as effective and efficient and innovative? Are their products twice as durable? Are their workers twice as productive?
The answer is, of course, no.
Arne Duncan and President Obama need to do a little more research before they start speaking of reform in education. Clearly, there is evidence that a longer school day, week, and year is helpful for struggling populations. However, my high school has a 90% school-wide pass rate on AP exams in nearly all subjects, and we have more honors classes than regular levels. And we do it with the current schedule.
If anything, our students can get through K-12 effectively in less time, not more.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
However, there is a growing trend in dual-credit courses where students can take core classes in high school, that if taught by a qualified teacher with appropriate rigor, can also count for college credit in associate degree programs. This concept is long overdue, and the Denver Post spotlights it in an article today about students who are moving more efficiently through the k-16 labyrinth. The story discusses several students who pursue college courses in high school. Notably there is Lauren Goh:
Goh, 18, fit the profile of the high achiever who was the traditional target of concurrent enrollment. For two years, she took most of her classes at Red Rocks Community College instead of Golden High — where she still was elected student body president.
"High school is definitely a unique experience, but I'd had enough of it," Goh said. "At Red Rocks, there were people in their 60s I'd make friends with, from all walks of life. That was the appeal to me."
She earned her high school diploma and associate degree on the same day. Eventually, she faced a choice: Transfer her credits and begin as a junior at any number of schools, or enroll at Harvard for four year.A high school diploma and an associate's degree on the same day. I know so many students for whom this should apply, as I regularly tell my AP Lang juniors at the end of the year that they "are ready for college." Sadly, the AP system is arbitrary, and many schools won't give them credit and will make them re-take classes for which they are already qualified. This is a ridiculous waste of time and money.
Dual-credit, also called concurrent enrollment, is precisely the type of reform that can alleviate the logjam of public education, and ease many of the funding problems in schools. We can get kids out of school and on with their lives in a much more efficient and effective manner.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
As far as a predictor of trends and guru of solutions, the books of Matt Miller are more detailed and prescient. But Anderson's book is a nice short meditation, strong on hope and belief in American's ability to respond to the current crisis and be the better for it. Granted, Anderson's book was written and published during Obama's honeymoon period - and notably prior to the rage of the town hall meetings and the audacity of Joe Wilson's "You lie." However, knowing the generally moderate views of middle America, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Anderson's insight and hope for a more rational and simplified future in America society is on the horizon.
As we decrease our "lottery-winner" expectations of an early retirement in our McMansion based on our unrealistic mutual fund projections, Americans may begin to downsize their purchases and simplify their lives. More rational plans for education reform and immigration reform and health care and finance and materialism could potentially lead to a calmer, happier society.
The book is a nice, easy read - big on hope and brevity. A nice reflection.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Perhaps Joe Wilson, Kanye West, and Serena Williams could all get together for an idiot party.
We all make mistakes ... and we all should be roundly chastised for acting infantile in our adult years. Hubris is a terrible thing.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
I teach this classic "coming-of-age" novel each year in my freshman English classes, and I often introduce it as "nearly the perfect book." While there is no book that I would say is "sacred" in education and that every American student has to read, this is one that I would put on the list of "If-you-only-read-one-book-read-this-one." The allegorical nature of the work, and it's deeply thoughtful look inside the issue of prejudice and the essential nature of man is awe-inspiring.
I am fascinated by the way Lee weaves such an intricate tale of mystery and social criticism, in which the reader joins Scout in peeling away layers of prejudice she never knew existed in her hometown and her own heart.
A truly masterful and heartwarming work. Great choice, Denver!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Because it seemed clear that wars were not made by generations and their special stupidities, but that wars were made instead by something ignorant in the human heart ....
All of them, all except Phineas, constructed at infinite cost to themselves these Maginot Lines against this enemy they thought they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way - if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
It will even survive fear-peddling "rodeo clowns" who are ignorant of its history.
** And for those of you who haven't heard the latest nonsense, Glenn Beck is at it again.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
As a child of the 80s, I am deeply saddened by this news. Perhaps no director in history has more accurately portrayed the lives of teens on film. He almost single-handedly re-defined cinema in the 1980s. Even today, when teens are polled about which movies most accurately resemble their lives, they quote such classics as The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. That's a pretty powerful testament for films which are almost thirty years old. A recent documentary-in-progress entitled "Don't You Forget About Me" was meant to be a call to Hughes to come out of retirement and again make films that speak to teens, honestly and without condescension. Sadly, that is not to be.
In the words of Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around sometimes, you might miss it." Hughes helped all of us do that, and his impact will not soon be forgotten.
Rest in peace.
Friday, July 31, 2009
The story generated quite a bit of reader response, which became its own follow-up column. The general consensus from many who had, at one time or another, lived in Denmark, was that the people truly are among the happiest, and they don't work that hard to make it so. It's simply the way they live their lives. The "lower expectations" seems to be part of it, only in that they are not generally motivated by the "keeping-up-with-the-Joneses" mentality, and rather than dreaming of the happiness they'll have when they get the house they want, they quite simply make the house they have as enjoyable as it can be. And for all the rabid capitalists out there, I don't think this means they don't aspire to greater success. They simply enjoy all the levels along the way.
A bit of research on Denmark turned up information like this:
Denmark, with a free market capitalist economy and a large welfare state ranks according to one measure, as having the world's highest level of income equality. From 2006 to 2008, surveys ranked Denmark as "the happiest place in the world," based on standards of health, welfare, and education. One survey ranks Denmark as the second most peaceful country in the world. Denmark was also ranked as the least corrupt country in the world in the 2008.
One writer to the Times thoughtfully said, "The Danes work very hard at living well, rather than pretentiously. They aren’t interested in displays of ostentation or status. But they are masters of genuine good living, and work very hard to achieve it."
Another posited, "The society and government there actually work for most of the people. In my first visit, I learned that “poor” and “welfare” were not economic terms used to demean people, and that teachers and physicians actually have the same incomes and respect. Those things sound “simple” perhaps, but they create a world of difference."
And another offered, "The Scandinavian countries have high taxation but can actually see their tax dollars working in better infrastructure, education, health care, etc. As a Norwegian American I can say that I find a level of happiness (or I should say contentment) in Norway that translates to every day life. They are healthy outdoors people who also revel in nature. And of course oil revenues help, but they are smart enough to keep many of the proceeds from revenues for a rainy day."
That is some pretty lofty praise, and worth considering whenever we feel compelled to spend some time in national self examination.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
As the country seeks school reform, and states scramble to qualify for more stimulus funding in the Race to the Top, I’d like to see Oprah regularly address "what works" and "what we should be doing" in schools nationwide. This should not be a one-time show, but a regular, even weekly, feature of her programming.
Oprah could organize a weekly segment entitled "Best Practice" - which is a buzzword for figuring out what works in the classroom. One week she could focus on literacy and reading instruction by featuring Cris Tovani's books, "I Read It, but I Don't Get It" and "Do I Really Have to Teach Reading." She could follow this with shows on Everyday Math and other controversial math programs, and the issue of a "national curriculum," as well as issues of standardized testing and how much they should matter. She could discuss teacher training, foreign education systems, the importance of arts and activities, and controversies like charter schools, voucher systems, and equality in funding.
Other shows could spotlight "college readiness" and the need for more associate degree seekers and career and technical education. She could feature Dr. David Conley, a Pew Center researcher and author of "College Knowledge" - another great Oprah Book Club possibility. Related to this, Oprah could highlight a reform study called Tough Choices, Tough Times, and spotlight the reforms happening in New Hampshire which may allow high school graduation at sixteen for students entering community colleges and technical schools.
With the theme of "Change" in America, Oprah offers an excellent venue for the regular emphasis that the system needs. If you agree, do me a favor and cut and paste this post into the "Show Recommendation" section of Oprah's website.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Mike Littwin of the Denver Post asks some good questions in this article:
This is not a new story. For whatever reason — skewed tests, too many failing schools, too many single-family homes, continuing effects of segregation, some other explanation short of a bell curve — blacks do not score nearly as well as whites on standardized tests.
If standardized tests play a key role in getting into college, in getting into law school, in becoming a lieutenant in the fire department, what are we, as a society that values opportunity, supposed to do if too few blacks and other minorities qualify?
One answer is to do nothing, except quote the Rev. Martin Luther King's line about the quality of our character — as if King wouldn't be on the side of affirmative action.
Another answer is to recognize the problem — as, say, the U.S. Army has done — and find a way to pick out otherwise qualified applicants.
New Haven clearly hadn't offered a test that was meant to discriminate. And yet, the test left the city, one with a majority-minority population, with a new class of nearly all white officers in its fire department. How do you resolve discrimination that isn't exactly discrimination?
There is validity to both sides. The white firefighters certainly don't deserve to have their results invalidated - we can and should be sympathetic to their cause. However, isn't there some pretty obvious problems with a test that seems to be systematically prohibitive to minorities.
Herein lies the problem with discrimination, affirmative action, and the use of standardized assessments.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Another comprehensive analysis from the NCEST was published in 2004.
Monday, July 13, 2009
FRANKFORT — High school students who complete required course work for graduation before their junior or senior years could enroll in college early and get state funding to help with tuition under a plan proposed by Senate Republicans. The bill also would reduce the 22 minimum credit hours for high school graduation to as low as 16, while candidates for early graduation would have to maintain a 2.8 grade-point average to go to a two-year college or 3.2 GPA to go to a four-year university in Kentucky. Students going on to a four-year university also would have to take at least two Advanced Placement classes, the bill says.
It sounds like some real reform is happening at the state level. Wonder what Arne Duncan thinks?
High-schoolers in Louisiana will soon be able to opt for a "career diploma" – taking some alternative courses instead of a full college-prep curriculum. The new path to graduation – expected to be signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) in the coming days – bucks a trend in which many states are cranking up academic requirements. The legislation puts the state in the center of a national debate about where to set the bar for high school graduation.
Advocates of the new diploma option say it will keep more struggling students in school and will prepare them for jobs, technical training, or community college. Critics doubt the curriculum will be strong enough to accomplish such goals and say it shortchanges students in the long run, given the projections that a large number of future jobs will require a college degree.
While there is much to discuss - and a wide margin for error - there is a lot of practical wisdom in this action. The most significant problems are students who might change their minds later - as well as the notion that sixteen-year-olds might not make the "best" or most mature decision. And, of course, there is a significant chance that this will be disproportionately pursued by - and even recommended to - mainly poor and minority students.
I'd like to see the option available while resources are directed toward making sure each student makes his/her own best decision, and all students are guaranteed equal access to opportunities in education.
This perfect economic storm will have untold negative impacts if nothing is done by Congress to address these issues now by truly investing in the Millennial Generation. due to recent layoffs, making finding a job exponentially more difficult.